Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Thoughts on The Powerpuff Girls 20th Anniversary: Dance Pantsed

20 years ago, a cartoon show known as The Powerpuff Girls premiered on Cartoon Network, and it soon became one of the network's most popular shows, even to this day.  It was about a trio of kindergarten superheroines, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, using their super powers to save the city of Townsville "before bedtime".  The show was known for it's clever sense of humor, as well as it's surprising amount of violence (which, in a sense, is also part of the joke).  In celebration for their 20th anniversary, Cartoon Network produced a half-hour special:

As you can see, it has a new art-style, and is also the first time the series had zero input from the show's creator, Craig McCracken, who is too busy working on another original show of his for the Disney Channel, Wander Over Yonder, which I've mentioned in previous posts on this blog.

I recorded this and saw it when I saw the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode, Three's a Crowd, this last Saturday, and as such, I probably don't have the best memory of what I watched as opposed to if I wrote about it then.  While I watched it, I tried to keep in mind the tone of the original show more then anything, but also tried to maintain an open mind about it...  Honestly?  I kind of liked it.  Find out what I mean after the break.

The biggest complaint about the special seems to be the visuals, and honestly, I don't think they're that bad.  Yeah, I kind of preferred Craig McCracken's original designs for the characters, but the thing about this special is that it does a nice job blending 2D designs and models in a 3D environment.  It's actually quite appealing to look at, I probably would have watched it just to watch the characters in motion.  Having said that, I do think there are moments, particularly with the mouth animations, that feel really jerky and work against the special, to the point where it feels really cheap.

Speaking of cheap, I'm tempted to say the writing and jokes are a little cheap.  I actually don't want to be too hard on this special because I don't think it's THAT much of a far-cry from the original series, but so many things just feel like pointless padding, and people just throwing random jokes out there without any proper build-up or pay-off.  The biggest, most glaring example of this is when Blossom and Buttercup tell Bubbles to stop playing Dance Pants Revolution, and Bubbles keeps saying no to them all night...  until she suddenly decides to say yes for absolutely no reason at all.  Other jokes, like the PPG's Gummy Bear attack, made no sense, not just in how they turn things into gummy bears (seriously, ice breath plus heat vision plus pummeling equals...  gummy bear?), but also why they decided to make THAT a running joke...  Also, I feel like this special is way too fast-paced.  Fast-paced comedy can be done well; Hell Craig McCracken's new show, Wander Over Yonder, shows that, but this special doesn't feel the need to just let things slow down even a little, it keeps throwing gag after gag, even gags that don't work or don't make sense, like it's got ADD or something.  Worst part is, the way the special "flows", as well as the way the gags are delivered?  It feels a lot like Teen Titans, Go!, and MAD, and Johnny Test, and pretty much all the bad shows on Cartoon Network, though Teen Titans, Go! came to mind specifically...  I wouldn't be surprised if the people on that show made this (I need to check the credits again, just to be sure).  It' shard to describe, but it all just feels really...  "cheeky" is the best word I can use to describe it.  It just doesn't take itself seriously, and doesn't seem to care of the jokes they tell are any good.  It's like how Dreamworks movies used to be.  Know what I'm getting at?

I find it ironic that the advertisements said they wouldn't "mess with the formula", when they messed with the formula on so many levels.  Not just with the visuals and the style of the humor, but even with the continuity of the show itself!  The characters...  well, they're not out-of-character, but they just don't act like how you expect them to act.  They're not even "Flanderized" or have their specific character traits exaggerated, they just act like however the plot says they should act like.  Bubbles is not that much of a girly-girl, Buttercup only seems to act tough and disagreeable half the time, I couldn't even get appropriate gauge on Blossom and Professor Utonium's personalities in this special, same goes for Miss Bellum, who hardly speaks in this special to begin with...  which is fair enough, considering that I think it's a different voice actor this time around.  Same goes for Buttercup, and...  I THINK Mojo Jojo, I'm NOT sure.  Ah well, at least Tom Kenny, Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, and Tom Kane reprised their respective roles for this special.

Then there's the continuity errors in this special!  For Heaven's Gate, BLOSSOM is supposed to be the one with Ice Breath, not Bubbles!  Not to mention, Professor Utonium has lived in Townsville since he was a child, and was inspired to create the Powerpuff Girls after they went back in time and saved him from Mojo Jojo; this special makes it out to seem that Utonium was a dancer at heart, and only turned to science AFTER people laughed at his dancing.  Failed gags are one thing, but gags (failed or no) that fly in the face of previously established continuity is just insulting.  Again, so much for not "messing with the formula"!

...But despite all that, I still enjoyed it.  Like I said, the animation is really intriguing and worth watching for that alone.  While the gags are hit-or-miss, some of them do hit home, and some aren't even THAT out of place from how the show used to be.  Specifics in my mind are when Miss Bellum tries to tell the Mayor there's a robot attacking, but he's too distracted by pickles and the robot keeps moving outside of his sight whenever Bellum tells him it's there, that mathematical guy voiced by Ringo Starr, with all the math jokes and his "Octopus's Garden", and of course, Mojo Jojo.

Oh Mojo, he made this entire special worth it for me!  Mojo Jojo was probably my favorite character from the original series, and every moment he has in this episode was pure gold!  They pretty much nailed the way he talks perfectly in this special; most people just go immediately for the repetitiveness and redundancy of his speech, but that only comes out every once and a while, as he's just as capable of talking coherently as anyone else.  His monologues are always just such a joy, and in addition to his speech patterns, I think, out of all the characters in this special, he's perfectly characterized to the point where he legitimately feels exactly like his old self!  Yeah, his ultimate plan is stupid, but come on, don't act like Mojo Jojo never came up with stupid and/or convoluted plans back in the old days; that was pretty much one of his defining traits!  Another one of his defining traits was how much of a card-carrying bad guy he was, to the point where he left signs and notes that he's responsible for what's going down at the scene of the crime.  Like literally, I can't say enough good things about Mojo in this special, he literally is the best part of this whole thing!  In fact, I'd willingly watch the special again just for him!

In fact...  I wouldn't mind seeing this show come back.  Like I said, the new art style isn't that bad, and I wouldn't mind seeing what other characters looked like with this new style.  The pacing, characterization, jokes, and respect for continuity needs work, but I think they could pull it off, if they really put their minds to it.  All and all, it was a good watch, though I can understand why some would be put off by it.  See it for yourself, if you ever get the chance!

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