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.

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.