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Buy from Amazon

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Warner Home Video presents
The Powerpuff Girls: Season One (1998)

Blossom: We're the Powerpuff Girls.
Buttercup: We fight crime.
Blossom: It's what we do.
Bubbles: Duh.

- Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, Elizabeth Daily

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: June 25, 2007

Stars: Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, Elizabeth Daily
Other Stars: Roger Jackson, Tom Kane, Tom Kenny
Director: Craig McCracken

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (constant cartoon mayhem)
Run Time: Approx. 290 min.
Release Date: June 19, 2007
UPC: 053939674026
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BB-B+ B-

DVD Review

You probably recognize The Powerpuff Girls even if you've never seen the show. The Cartoon Network stars were nowhere in 1998, and then suddenly they were everywhere. It's not hard to fathom why—from the minute I saw a drawing of the large-eyed, anime-styled little superheroes, I wanted to own something with them on it (I remember bothering the manager of a local theater about the cardboard standup on display shortly before the series premiered). Craig McCracken's heroic kindergarten crime fighters are a triumph of pop-art design, simple enough to appeal to just about anyone, but unique enough to feel totally fresh.

The show itself? It's cute. But I remember feeling a little disappointed when I finally saw Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup in action, and I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

As the titles tell us, the girls were created by Professor Utonium when he accidentally introduced the mysterious Chemical X into a batch of sugar, spice, and everything nice, producing three charming little girls with the power to fly, shoot laser beams out of their eyes, and generally whoop ass (the original pitch, in fact, called them "Whoopass Girls"). By day, they try to keep their powers under control as regular kids at the Pokey Oaks Elementary, but when evil rears its head, they zip off to protect the city of Townsville (usually destroying a large chunk of it in the process).

This is one of those shows adults tend to enjoy as much as the kids it's ostensibly aimed at. The girls may be able to take on supervillians like Mojo-Jojo, a verbose monkey with a oversized, literal mind that's literally on display under some wrapped bandages, but they still have the characteristics of little kids, and adults will nod knowingly as bad guys trick the girls into fighting with each other over stuffed animals, boys, and attention from the professor. There's also something sublime in the way these small dramas play out against a backdrop of epic, brightly-animated violence (the show is bloodless but it's full of punches, kicks, and big explosions).

It's certainly clever, with a cast of supporting characters as memorable as the titular heroines—my favorites, aside from Mojo-Jojo, are the inept Mayor, named Mayor (election slogan: "Vote Mayor for Mayor!"), and his secretary, Ms. Sara Bellum (the brains of the operation), whose face is always obscured by a huge cloud of red hair. The rogues gallery includes the girls' opposites, the Rowdyruff Boys (made, naturally, out of snips, snails, and puppy dog tails, along with another dash of Chemical X), and the fearsome, androgynous figure to evil to be known as anything other than "Him," a baddie obviously inspired by the leader of the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine.

The series is filled with such pop culture references, riffing on anime, classic Hannah-Barbera cartoons, comics, and video games subtly enough that the little ones probably won't even notice. There aren't a lot of traditional jokes, and the humor is more clever than laugh-out-loud funny, but the series is consistently a lot smarter than you'd expect, considering the cutesy name and bright colors (which are, of course, part of the joke).

All that said, I must admit I find the manic energy tiring after a while. Most 22-minute episodes include two short cartoons, but even these brief bits occasionally overstay their welcome. The first season nevertheless includes more than a few episodes that mix up the formula a bit. My favorite is the Emmy-nominated The Bare Facts, in which each of the three girls recounts a crime-fighting incident from her own perspective, and the results are animated in a fashion reflecting their personalities (in a nice juxtaposition, hard-as-nails Buttercup paints a picture that's gritty and Frank Miller-esque, whereas sweet and innocent Bubbles' is drawn entirely in friendly crayon). Just Another Manic Mojo, meanwhile follows a day in the life of a bad guy, and it seems Mojo-Jojo lives a pretty mundane existence when he isn't trying to destroy the Powerpuff Girls, who keep managing to ruin his good moods.

Like a lot of pop culture phenoms, The Powerpuff Girls died a quick death (they were already over, at least as a fad, by the time their movie came out in 2002 and flopped). New episodes continued to air on the Cartoon Network until 2004, however, and still pop up from time to time even as the network skews toward more adult fare like Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Perhaps, now nearly 10 years on, this full season DVD release, including 13 episodes, will signal a reemergence. I hope so. I never did manage to find any merchandise I liked as much as that theater display.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The cartoon shows its age in the image transfer—colors look a bit dull and the prints tend to look slightly dingy. Detail is good, however, and I noted no heavy edge enhancement or artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 surround tracks are a lot of fun, with the jaunty music and frequent action played out across the front soundstage with decent stereo separation. The surrounds get into the action here and there, mostly carrying the score and some bleedthrough from the fight scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 52 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
11 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Cardboard Tri-Fold
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Craig McCracken's original student film The Whoop*ss Girls and animatics
  2. Space Ghost Coast to Coast interview with Craig McCracken
  3. What a Cartoon shorts
Extras Review: Previously released on a smattering of themed DVDs, Cartoon Network has finally seen fit to grant The Powerpuff Girls a season set, and they've done their usual bang-up job, at least where the packaging is concerned. The glossy slipcover gives way to a clever cardboard inner case, with the two DVDs serving as Blossoms' gigantic eyes and a brief note from series creator Craig McCracken.

The extras aren't quite as neat. There's a good volume of material, but most of it is a little dull. McCracken's original student-film-that-started-it-all, The Whoop*ss Girls, provides a first glance at a slightly rougher and tougher version of the show (obviously that name had to go). The brief short, available in full color or pencil test versions, reportedly tested as "one of the worst cartoons ever made," according to McCracken, and I can't say it's all that entertaining, but it's an interesting curiousity considering the Girls' brief stint as pop culture phenoms. A few animatics for the short are also featured.

Two early shorts, debuted on the What a Cartoon show, provide an early look at the girls: Meet Fuzzy Lumpkins and Crime 101. Running about eight minutes each, they feature somewhat cruder animation than the series proper, but serve as a nice bonus for completists.

A few brief video snippets offer only the barest hint of behind-the-scenes info. Craig McCracken appears briefly in a three-minute archive CNN piece focusing on the "new" Hannah-Barbera, then gets haraunged by Space Ghost in a fun 15-minute interview clip from Space Ghost Coast to Coast (also available sans animated antics).

Eleven promo spots will take you back to the show's premiere in 1998 (it's really hard for me to believe it's been nearly 10 years), when the phrase "saving the world before bedtime" swept the nation, or at least the bedrooms of young kiddies and anyone juvenile enough to still be excited about a new cartoon about crime-fighting little girls at age 17, I mean, really Joel, come on.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Kids still love The Powerpuff Girls, but this Season One collection is squarely aimed at those of us who appreciate the show more for its zany pop art designs and pop culture references. In that respect, it's as much eye candy as ever. Me, though, I just like Bubbles, who has all the cuteness and intelligence of a fluffy kitten. Plus, the power to kick butt.

 


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