The Truth about the Powerpuff Girls Reboot

A week after Cartoon Network aired five days’ worth of new episodes of The Powerpuff Girls reboot, I wrote a post stating that despite the changes made from the original, the dynamics of the show remained the same. Here’s how I really feel about reboot now, over a month later.

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Courtesy: Cartoon Network

I take back anything I said about the PPG reboot, because guess what. Nothing in there is the same as the original. NOT ONE FUCKING THING! It’s like the producers who made the reboot took the most glorious, beloved work of art out of the vault, placed it underneath an outhouse in the lowest slums of India, and dumped the biggest shit on it in diarrhea form. That’s how bad it is.

Before you judge me for cussing Cartoon Network out, here’s how they gave The Powerpuff Girls the world’s ugliest makeover.

 

1. Animation inconsistencies

The animation in the PPG reboot is poorly executed in terms of speed and other technical issues that should’ve been addressed before the show reached our television and computer screens. To wit, the episode “The Wringlegruff Gals.” In a scene where Mojo Jojo berates the girls for looking old as hell while walking his dog–they implored Professor Utonium to concoct a potion that, when consumed, will render them as old as their middle school-aged classmates because they got teased for looking like babies–the dog leash disappears from view. Seriously? In the online short “Air Buttercup”, a title reference to Air Bud, Buttercup tries to throw a paper ball into a netted garbage can from as far a distance as the school cafeteria allowed. As the mean, green tough girl attempts to score more than three points, the paper ball flies through the air over the students’ heads as slow as a turtle. It should’ve flown at a higher frame rate than that.

2. Frequent usage of Internet memes

A network animated episode takes about 6 to 12 months to animate, and popular memes die out three weeks after they’ve made the rounds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine. The Simpsons, Family Guy, and other adult animated shows that have been airing since before the advent of social media can get away with employing Internet pop culture because they know when it’s appropriate to feature a meme and when it’s not. On a cartoon show intended for elementary-aged children, especially a reboot, not so much. There are a million memes thrown around in one single episode of the PPG reboot. Bubbles scrunched her face into the pointy-nosed “NO ME GUSTA” face in one episode, and shouted “YAAASSS!!” with the gusto of a 12-year-old girl who’s one year away from being legally able to use Facebook and other social media sites (if she hasn’t lied about her age to create accounts for them, that is) in another episode. The producers even had the audacity to paste in a Windows 7-style wallpaper of a desert as a backdrop for Buttercup’s meditation session in “Man Up” and leave it at that. No good taste whatsoever.

Oh, and they made the girls twerk with a panda who was high on something funky.

Thanks a lot, Miley Cyrus.

3. Balance of old and new villains, or lack thereof

The notorious villains from the original series, like fan favorite Mojo Jojo, doled out the greatest evil schemes that even the Joker and Lex Luthor would be proud of. In the reboot, they’re still there, but they don’t even do shit! We were lucky enough to see Princess Morbucks go at her attempts to include herself as a Powerpuff Girl on one occasion. Other than that, their villainous plots have been greatly reduced to real world humdrums, like Mojo delivering pizza to the PPG’s house. The new villains are… [disgusted groan] SO. FRICKIN’. STUPID! Packrat collects jewels and metal (?) for a solar-dancing doll, Man-Boy is as misogynistic as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and don’t even get me started on the pink-skinned fashionista wannabe duo.

 

4. Personality changes and character disappearances

The PPGs no longer seem to care much about the responsibilities accompanied with being superheroes, except on some occasions. They’re more focused on the normal side of girlhood–or, at the very least, girlhood in the 2010s–just as the Teen Titans in Teen Titans GO! are more focused on the daily life of normal adolescence than on crime-fighting. The narrator, an omniscient character, no longer interjects in the stories like any superhero TV show announcer–then again, no narrator was heard in Justice League. Ms. Keane’s breasts have somehow been sliced off. And Miss Bellum, whose face still leaves plenty to our imagination, has left her secretarial post at the Mayor’s office because the producers deemed her offensive. I’m sorry, but at what point in the original series did Miss Bellum offend the young viewers of the late-1990s and early-2000s like myself–or parents of said viewers for that matter? All she did was give reasonable advice to both the dim-witted Mayor and the Powerpuff Girls–and kicked Sedusa’s ass with flair! Whatever the reason may be, writing Miss Bellum out of the show was the stupidest decision the producers made.

 

And last, but certainly not least because this isn’t the top five list of reasons why the PPG reboot isn’t as good as I originally thought…

 

5. Poor handling of today’s social issues

Most specifically, issues concerning the transgender (or LGBT) community. The producers of the PPG proved that much in the subliminally controversial episode “Horn, Sweet Horn.” It centers around a white pony named Donny, who believes in his heart of hearts that he is a unicorn. Bubbles, a firm believer in the existence of unicorns, pressures Donny to undergo a transformation procedure so that she’ll prove to her classmates that unicorns do exist. The girls ask the Professor if he can change Donny into a unicorn. After giving a lot of thought and writing an exhaustive list of negative side effects that can come after the transition procedure for Donny to read and sign, he goes through with it. But instead of turning into a unicorn, Donny transforms into a scarlet bogeyman and terrorizes Townsville. The LGBT community took great offense with how the episode was written, calling it out as a great bias towards children and teens who have already come to terms with their gender identity or are still struggling to figure it out. I agree. Take a look at trans advocate Delia Melody’s “Trans People React to The Powerpuff Girls ‘Horn, Sweet Horn.'”

 

From animation errors to change in cast of characters to the producers’ audacity to offend a marginalized community with a single episode in a time when they’re suffering interminable discrimination by the government–especially with the passing of House Bill 2 (HB2) in North Carolina–I have decided that I can no longer stomach any more episodes of the PPG reboot.

This is just the trouble with animated reboots. The people who create them wish to maintain the legacy of the original series and its creators, whether they’re alive or dead. Craig McCracken is still alive and well, but wasn’t involved with the PPG reboot because he’s invested his time in producing other shows for other networks. Nick Jennings and Bob Boyle should’ve watched the original PPG in its entirety to make the reboot exactly like that, but they watered it down in favor of the animation standards Cartoon Network has set today. It is, unfortunately, the price we pay for harboring nostalgia over the greatest cartoons of our generation.

Now, if you can grant me permission to recite this meme in two words: CHILDHOOD. RUINED.

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The Powerpuff Girls: Past vs. Present

Sugar, spice, and everything nice–plus an accidental large dose of Chemical X–are still the main ingredients chosen to create my generation’s favorite female superhero trio, the Powerpuff Girls. However, a lot has changed for the girls in the new reboot of the Cartoon Network series.

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Courtesy: Cartoon Network

The Powerpuff Girls originally aired on Cartoon Network for six glorious seasons–78 episodes, 136 segments–between 1998 and 2005, spawning two Emmy awards and an animated film serving as a prequel to the series. The show centered on three kindergarten-aged superhuman girls–Blossom, the pink-clad brains of the group; Bubbles, the cute and sensitive blondie in blue; and Buttercup, the feisty tomboy in green–as they protect their beloved city of Townsville from evil forces while also working out problems children their age and older face, including school, family squabbles, sibling rivalries, and even nutritional health. The reboot premiered Monday night, and it squashed some doubts of its commercial success I, as well as everybody else who watched the original show in awe, nostalgically harbored.

Here are some elemental changes the PPG reboot presented and how they differ from the original series.

1. Graphic design (including character design)

The original Powerpuff Girls employed hand-drawn animation techniques executed by Korea’s division Rough Draft Studios, with the characters designed by series creator Craig McCracken. Every character had thick outlines and the colors were dull for the first four seasons. The theatrical release of the full-length prequel in 2002 exhibited brighter colors, popping eyes, and the animation frames flipped twice as fast. This trend continued for the remainder of the show’s run. As for the girls’ design–Blossom’s hair bow was pointed, Bubbles’s pigtails dangled from her ears, and Buttercup’s ‘do is thin. In the reboot, not much has changed in the girls’ physical appearance except…Blossom’s bow is now rounded, Bubbles’s pigtails have been raised at least three inches above her ears and are tied in bulby hair ties I haven’t seen since 1st Grade, and Buttercup’s hair is thicker and now sports a cowlick just like Alfalfa. The outlines have waned thin, and the colors are now softer, although Bubbles’s blonde color has toned down a couple shades.

 

2. Voice-acting (especially for the girls)

Throughout the show’s original run, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup were voiced by Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong (Charendoff at the time the series premiered), and E.G. Daily, respectively. Cavadini provided Blossom with the voice of a young scholar, giving her an academically-inclined personality. Strong, the Sybil of Voices (my official nickname for her), breathed into Bubbles the cutesy and innocent squeal every time she spoke, making the character a joy and delight for fans. Daily supplied Buttercup with the voice of a tough tomboy.

Fans were expecting Cavadini, Strong and Daily to reprise their roles of the titular girls for the reboot, given their hyperactive nostalgia. But on June 8, 2015, everyone was shocked to learn that Cartoon Network hired three younger voice actresses, Amanda Leighton, Kristen Li and Natalie Palamides to voice Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, respectively, much to the dismay of the original VA’s. The news of the recast hit Strong especially hard, who tweeted, “I don’t remember ordering a stab in the heart today,” along with a Vine of Li announcing her voice role of Bubbles. She expressed no ill will towards the younger counterparts of herself and co-stars Daily and Cavadini, but rather sadness over the fact that Cartoon Network didn’t have the decency to call them back, even after the they announced they weren’t returning for the reboot to begin with.

The only characters who had their original actors reprise them were Mojo Jojo (Roger L. Jackson), Professor Utonium (Tom Kane), the Mayor and the narrator (Tom Kenny), and Ms. Keane (Jennifer Hale), but Kenny’s voice-acting on the Mayor is slightly off. (I love you, Kenny, but what happened?)

 

3. The universe

Cartoons may be timeless, but that doesn’t mean their universes aren’t allowed to age along with the current events in the real world. The universe of The Powerpuff Girls is no exception. To wit, the iconic clown nosed landline phone has been chopped and upgraded to one smartphone for each of the girls. Instead of a classroom kindergarten building, the girls now attend a regular elementary school, where they are mingling with older students. (While I do appreciate the producers’ thought of putting the kindergarten-aged superheroines together with students in grades 1 through 5 or 8, depending on the type of public school they’re actually placed in, I bet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was either behind this idea, or simply inspired it.) And, to the shock of absolutely no one, the girls are fawning over boy bands. Who doesn’t? Also, the Professor is minimally involved in the lives of his creations, leaving them to solve problems on their own. He does give them advice when given the opportunity to appear onscreen, though.

 

Despite the many changes to the animation style and voice staff, the elements of the show that haven’t changed are the personalities that each of the characters have and the female empowerment theme that girls can achieve in anything boys can. The Powerpuff Girls has been revamped for a whole new generation of kids, and as long as the reboot it imparts the same values and humor as the original, then I have as much faith as McCracken does that it will succeed.