How 'The Powerpuff Girls' Became SO Freakin' Great
Back in 1998, it's safe to day The Powerpuff Girls was revolutionary. In a time when American superheroes were expected to be cool, a show that focused on three kindergarten-aged girls in day-glo tunics was a real trip. They were in stark contrast to muscle-bound hunks like George Clooney, who had starred in Batman & Robin the previous year. They liked early bedtimes, milk and cookies, and sister time.
But perhaps this was because they weren't ever intended for a traditional superhero-show type demographic. Creator/animator Craig McCracken developed the characters for the annual student films required while studying animation at CalArts. In an interview with the A.V. Club in 2000, he explained he wanted it to work both for kids and for "people who could appreciate it as adults": "I thought I would get a college hit where 20-year-olds would watch it in their dorms when they're stoned... And it would be real fringe, and maybe rave kids would pick up on it." So given that it was created by someone with a real passion for animation and pop culture and that it was created for both adults and kids alike, you might expect there to be a fair few influences which shaped the piece of practically perfect animation that's with us today.
And you'd be right.
The Powerpuff Girls Was Influenced By Japanese Anime
I mean, obviously, right? Obviously, obviously. From their vast bug eyes to the fact that the show launched as part of Cartoon Network's Toonami programming, you're not going to win any brownie points for guessing this one. Back in 1998 (it's moved channels since), Toonami was Cartoon Network's programming segment that solely offered Japanese anime and American animation — most of which showed a strong Japanese influence, like Teen Titans and Samurai Jack. In the same A.V. Club interview mentioned above, McCracken conceded the influence, saying "The Japanese do the best action films in animation, so when you're studying animation, you look to the best sources you can for whatever you're trying to be inspired by."
You can see this influence in characters like Butch, one of the Rowdyruff Boys, who had hair just like Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z.
The Powerpuff Girls Were Also Influenced By Japanese TV More Generally
If you were wondering how Mojo Jojo came to be, McCracken explained in the same interview: "There's a character named Dr. Gori from a show called Spectreman that was on in the '70s, the Japanese live-action show. He was just this evil monkey guy." Dr. Gori actually seems like a pretty right-on sort in comparison to Mojo Jojo. Sure, he's a mad scientist, but after leaving his simian planet and landing on earth, he's shocked at humans' polluting of the planet. Basically, he's just a very overenthusiastic environmental warrior. SAME. Also, this is what he looks like:
He's a bit David Bowie, isn't he? With influences like this, it's no wonder Mojo Jojo was so strangely charming.
The Powerpuff Girls Were Influenced By... Socks
True facts: According to LA Weekly in 2000, our perfect trio's feet were "drawn to resemble, according to McCracken’s instructions, 'socks filled with wet sand.'" All together now: Awww.
The Powerpuff Girls Were Influenced By Batman
In the same A.V. Club interview, McCracken also let us in on a little secret:
The mayor's office is actually Commissioner Gordon's office from the Batman show. We designed it the same way as kind of a tip of the hat to one of my favorite shows.
And if you're wondering what that office looks like, you can see a tiny bit of it here:
In short, incredibly plush and fancy.
But, despite this multitude of influences, the most impressive aspect of the show is how totally itself it felt. Even with the rise of cartoon programming like Adventure Time, there's still felt like a gap in the animation market since The Powerpuff Girls left our screens in 2005. Thank goodness, then, that it's finally back, and a Powerpuff Girls revival has been commissioned. While there are new voice actors for Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, you can be sure the show will remain as committed as ever to educating a whole new generation of cartoon lovers about pop culture.
Images: Warner Bros. Television; P Productions; 20th Century Fox Television; Giphy (4)