First Ms. Frizzle. Now the Powerpuff Girls. If the Spice Girls reunite to release an actual album, you’ll know, because the sound you’ll hear will be the simultaneous cheers of millions of 20-something and 30-something women reliving the girl-power iconography of their childhoods.
Cartoon Network announced on Monday that it is relaunching “Powerpuff Girls,” the 1998 show created by Craig McCracken. It was a series about three little crime-fighting superhero kindergarteners — Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup — who were created when their dad, Professor Utonium, was dinking around in his laboratory trying to create “the perfect little girls.” One “Chemical X” spill later, and he got the flying, laser-eyed, super-strong heroines of Townsville.
The series, which ran for 78 episodes and won two Emmys, was a huge hit for the network, eventually grossing more than $2.5 billion in retail sales. The girls had their own feature-length movie in 2002 and returned to television in a special in January. Delta painted them on the wing of one of their 737s. Even Christian Bale was a fan.
“As the original ambassador of ‘girl power,’ The Powerpuff Girls brand continues to resonate with people of all ages and there is tremendous excitement around introducing Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup to a new generation,” said Pete Yoder, Cartoon Network’s vice president of North American consumer products, said in a release. “With proven success and great content plans in place, there’s so much potential that we’re looking forward to explore with our licensing partners in the coming weeks.”
The network revealed the news in an announcement at the 2014 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.
The girls were emblematic of the somewhat mushy, ill-defined girl power of the 1990s and early aughts that was often criticized as Feminisim-Lite. But they were fun, and their show about girls actually drew boys in as well. Writing for The Washington Post in 2000, Megan Rosenfeld said:
To say that the Powerpuffs are a feminist answer to the Power Rangers or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be an overstatement. Nonetheless, it is unusual to have girls in the superhero seat, driving the action and landing the blams. A small change in the pop culture, perhaps, but noteworthy.
‘I just liked the contrast of cute characters being strong and tough,’ says creator Craig McCracken, 29. He designed the show originally for his film requirement at California Institute of the Arts. He called that first one ‘The Whoop-A– Girls,’ a name that was changed for television in 1998. While he admits to being a pretty liberal guy, with an artistic family and a feminist girlfriend, his inspiration was simply to find ‘a fun idea’ or ‘a cool concept,’ not to serve up role models for a new generation.
McCracken also said he was just trying to make something that interested him — not necessarily a show for 6-year-olds — which partially explained the broad appeal of “Powerpuff.” One of its villains, Him, might actually have been the first genderqueer cartoon villain on television. Him was a devilish-looking person who sported a tutu, dominatrix boots, a falsetto and a beard, with lobster claws for hands.
“Powerpuff Girls” returns in 2016. Cartoon Network has not said whether McCracken will be attached to the new project. If it really wants to round things out, someone at Cartoon Network should bring back “Dexter’s Laboratory” too, because the world just isn’t right without a put-out little genius bellowing: “Dee-Dee! GET OUT OF MY LABORATORY!”