One of the most entertaining cartoons to come out of the 1990s features a trio of sweet little girls named Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup … and despite their cutesy names, they just happen to be some seriously ass-whoopin’ superheroes. Those girls–originally called The Whoopass Girls before being renamed as the more family-friendly Powerpuff Girls–were created by Craig McCracken, a familiar presence behind-the-scenes at Cartoon Network in the 90s as an animator for shows like 2 Stupid Dogs and Dexter’s Laboratory. The show was produced by Cartoon Network (after a brief stint under the Hanna-Barbera banner) and was a monster hit almost immediately out of the gate, spanning seven years, seventy-eight episodes, and a 2002 feature film. The cartoon is much in the same vein as the 90s Dreamworks cartoon Animaniacs in that its humor appeals not only to its target “kid” audience, but also to adults (witness, for instance, the third-season episode “Meet the Beat-Alls,” which is a hilarious tribute to The Beatles featuring dozens of puns centered around Beatles’ song titles–and even a simian character based on Yoko Ono).
PPG has long been a favorite of mine (seriously–my 21st birthday cake was Powerpuff-themed), and because Boomerang shows two episodes back-to-back every evening, I get to catch up on some of the best episodes every now and again. And last night featured one of my very favorites … so what better time than now to shine the spotlight on the girls for our Saturday Morning Cartoons series?
The episode is called “Silent Treatment,” and the bulk of this cartoon is a fond parody of silent films. While the other children in the city of Townsville attend the latest Hollywood movie at the giganto multiplex, the girls are forced to see a silent picture at a rundown theater across the street with Professor Utonium (their guardian/creator), who wants to teach them about the origins of film. The Professor leaves for a moment, and the girls loudly poke fun at the film, complaining about the lack of color and sound, and protesting the speed of the title cards. The film’s villain and star, Max Von Nitrate (of course), can hear their “commentary” and grows increasingly frustrated. He reveals that he has kidnapped the Professor and intends to steal his melodious voice for his own! The girls must enter the movie and get their Professor back before he finds himself (dun dun DUN) … VOICELESS!
Naturally, inserting the superheroes into the film leads to all sorts of complications–and some delightful cameos from figures representing silent movie stalwarts such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd (dangling from a clock a la the great 1923 comedy Safety Last!), and some Keystone-esque coppers. The “silent film” sections of the cartoon are beautifully done–the zany spirit of early comedy shorts is captured pretty well, and the scratches and dings added to the black-and-white film are a nice touch. All in all, “Silent Treatment” really is a delightful short, one that classic movie fans will likely find particularly appealing.
Can the girls save the day and escape the silent film? Will they ever learn to appreciate old movies? To find out, you’ll just have to watch the cartoon for yourself!