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"Powerpuff Girls" Season 1 on DVD: Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

It’s odd that, of all Cartoon Network’s breakout hits, The Powerpuff Girls should have taken this long to get a season set release. As disappointing as the wait has been, there’s nothing disappointing about the release itself. Not only does it come in beautiful packaging, it also comes with more than fifty-nine minutes of bonus features, including the original The Whoopass Girls pilot (both in full color and in line art), unfinished Whoopass episodes, and the original What A Cartoon “Powerpuff” episodes.

In both its Powerpuff andWhoopass incarnations the show is about the adventures of three superpowered little girls. (In the original version, the girls were born when Professor Utonium accidentally added a can of “Whoopass,” not “Chemical X,” to his concoction.) It’s remarkable how little creator Craig McCracken had to change in order to get the later series out of the original. Aside from visual quality and superior animation, there’s very little difference between them.

The present release doesn’t contain my favorite episodes of the series (the broccoli invaders episode holds that spot), but it’s great to be able to watch these cartoons again, if only because I can remember seeing every one of these on Cartoon Network over the many summers I was addicted to the show. It also makes me pine for the yesteryears of the network, when it was filled with original programming instead of foreign acquisitions and Kids WB! reruns and rejects. 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 my 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 it proves that cartoons don’t have be written just for kids—there’s plenty in this show for adults to enjoy too.

The DVD
The season set comes packaged in an attractive and colorful slip case (which I assume will feature a different girl on each set) and papery-feeling foldout (think Venture Bros. Season Two). Try not to scream when you unfold the packaging: the interior art will have giant saucer eye discs staring back at you, and it freaked me out when I first saw them, and that’s never happened to me when I’ve opened 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!

The menus are in 4:3 and 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. Still, the menus are easy to navigate.

Audio and video are a mixed bag. The video is really soft looking, and while I know the show has some years on it, I didn’t expect it to look this blurry. Fortunately, the audio is for the most part clean and clear, although I noticed the music on the original “What A Cartoon!” pilot can make the dialogue hard to hear. 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.

Both discs come with prefaces warning that the special features are meant for an audience of 13 or over (due to the whole “Whoopass” thing and the single bit of censored language in some Space Ghost footage). There are no commentaries, and we get very little from McCracken, except for an intro to The Whoopass Girls episodes. One extra is a CNN news story looking behind-the-scenes at the Hanna-Barbera studios at the time McCracken and Van Partible (Johnny Bravo) were working there. There isn’t much here we didn’t already know, but it’s neat to see. We also get a full episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast as well as the raw interview session they used to make it. I had no idea how they recorded the Coast to Coast episodes, and it was quite a treat to see. The set also includes a slew of Season One promos.

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 itself is more than enough to warrant a purchase. Highly Recommended.

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