Of all of Cartoon Network’s breakout hits, it’s curious that The Powerpuff Girls took this long to come out on DVD in a full season set. While there have been The Powerpuff Girls DVDs in the past, never have we gotten the complete first season in one package. Fans of the show may complain that the wait was too long, but they definitely won’t be disappointed by what we get in this first season set: not only is the entire first season in this beautiful packaging but there is nearly an hour (just six seconds shy) of bonus features, ranging from the original The Whoopass Girls pilot (both in full color and in line art) and The Whoopass Girls episodes that were never finished (and featured the debut of Mojo Jojo) all the way up to the original What A Cartoon The Powerpuff Girls episodes.
But before we get too far ahead and into the DVD portion, let’s focus on the show first. The Powerpuff Girls comes from the mind of Craig McCracken and was originally called The Whoopass Girls (instead of “Chemical X”, Professor Utonium accidentally added a can of “Whoopass”) and followed very much the same pattern that the show ended up following. In fact, watching the original pilot and then switching back to the actual series, aside from the differences in visual quality and the superior animation of the show itself, the characters didn’t vary too much from one incarnation to the other.
The Powerpuff Girls quickly dominated Cartoon Network and was set up alongside their other hits, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and the other breakouts from the “What A Cartoon” brand, as one of the networks heavy hitters. Not only did the series go on for many seasons and a feature film, but it attracted both a large male and female audience, spawned thousands of clothes, toys and eventually another series in Japan (I haven’t touched that one, so I don’t know how it compares to the original, if it even does). No other cartoon that was an original property for Cartoon Network created as much attention that was as long lasting as what The Powerpuff Girls property was, making the delayed DVD release even stranger.
The DVD release of The Powerpuff Girls first season is a welcome one and while it doesn’t contain my favorite episode (the broccoli invaders episode holds that spot), it was remarkable watching these cartoons again, if only because I can remember seeing everyone of these on Cartoon Network over the many summers I was addicted to the show. It also makes me pine for the yesteryears of Cartoon Network, where it was filled with original programming instead of acquired programming from overseas or Kids WB!. Seeing the “What A Cartoon!” intro again after all of these years put me right back in my old room, watching these shows on a little 14” TV.
I’m having a hard time keeping nostalgia from overwhelming my opinion of the show, but one thing’s for sure: The Powerpuff Girls is just as entertaining as it ever was and, in the vein of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain (which are arriving on DVD with new volumes on the same day that this The Powerpuff Girls DVD is being released), features writing that maintains that cartoons don’t have be written just for kids—there’s plenty for adults to enjoy in the show too.
Packaged in an attractive and colorful slip case (which I assume will feature a different girl on each set), the exterior gloss is lost when the interior turns into the papery-feeling foldout (think Venture Bros. Season Two) and then as you fold out the packaging, you will likely silently scream as you see the interior art. No, there’s nothing wrong with it, but the giant saucer eye discs is quite startling and I was quite literally freaked out by it upon first glance, something I never have had happen while opening a DVD. It’s certainly the most imaginative layout I’ve seen on a Cartoon Network DVD release (Adult Swim’s releases not withstanding) and I have to give kudos to whoever thought this design up—hopefully the next sets will follow suit!
Moving on, the menus are in 4:3 and are a bit haphazard looking. The menus feature images from the show as backdrops with black bars jutting out with the menu options. I know this is supposed to recreate the fast paced anime-like action the show has, but it just looks messy in some cases. Still, even with this, it’s easy to navigate and great to look at.
Audio and video on this release is a mixed bag. Video is really soft looking and while I know the show has some years on top of it, I didn’t expect it to look this blurry. Fortunately the audio is clean and clear for the most part, although I noticed on the original “What A Cartoon!” The Powerpuff Girls pilot, the music would make the dialogue difficult to hear at times. Aside from that and a bit of the usual interlacing/ghosting on the transfer, the audio and video department is up to par with other Warner Home Video releases.
Moving onto the special features we get a healthy wad for a Cartoon Network DVD release. Prefaced on both discs (although only the second disc has the extra features) that the special features are meant for an audience of the age 13 or over (due to the whole “Whoopass” thing and the single bit of censored language on the Space Ghost footage), the extras have no commentaries and very little from McCraken (aside from an intro to The Whoopass Girls episodes). We do get the original “What A Cartoon” episodes as well as a slew of Season One promos (though I could’ve sworn most of these ran later into the shows life).
One of the best extras is the CNN feature that took a look behind the scenes of the Hanna-Barbera studios at the time when McCraken and Van Partible (Johnny Bravo) were working there. There isn’t much here we didn’t already know, but it’s neat to see—and I had no idea CNN did such a report back in the day (then again when I was young I wasn’t exactly a big CNN watcher).
If the CNN news piece doesn’t satisfy your need for special features, then how about an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast? Not only is the full episode shown here, but the raw interview session is shown as well. I had no idea how they recorded the Coast to Coast episodes (not sure if they showed it on the DVD releases, as I don’t own them) and it was quite a treat to see.
Overall this release is a must own for fans. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but the packaging, hour of extras and the appeal of the show is more than enough to warrant a purchase. Highly Recommended.
The Powerpuff Girls: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD on June 19th.