“Powerpuff Girls: Power Pantsed” Review

The city of Townsville!

Townsville

…is very much intact. For now.

Monday night’s Powerpuff Girls special on Cartoon Network was, for many of us, an emotional throwback to the show’s heyday. While the original show aired from 1998-2005, this week’s rebooted special boasted the return of its original voice casting—Cathy Cavadini (Blossom), Tara Strong (Bubbles), and Elizabeth Daily (Buttercup), along with the help of a few other Townsvillians who’ve managed to retain their charm over the years—the Mayor, Professor Utonium, and Miss Bellum, to name a select few.

For all its similarities to the original, though, this week’s re-imagining of the series also offered some interesting updates. Among the more hyped of these changes was the introduction of Townsville’s flamboyant mathematician, Fibonacci Sequins (voiced by Ringo Starr).

Fibonacci

The identity and dialogue of Sequins were quintessentially Powerpuff in nature, seamlessly fitting into the Townsville schema and serving as an excellent bridge from past episodes to present. That said, however, Sequins’/Starr’s role in the episode was disappointingly incidental: Ringo or no Ringo, a character with that much potential surely merited a more substantial piece.

But that one misgiving couldn’t sink the mighty ship Powerpuff; “Dance Pantsed” had too much to offer. Monday evening’s special ushered in a revamped style of animation, employing a different set of CG techniques. This artistic decision ultimately communicated  an edgier, more realist feel. “Dance Pantsed” retained the fundamentally geometric look of the original PPG series, but followed in the steps of shows like The Simpsons, who now favor an enhanced sense of realism, incorporating elements such as shadow and lighting into their once (charmingly) elementary designs.

Powerpuff New

Change is tough, but also necessary. The Townsville of new was a striking departure from the lovable jumble of rectangles it once was, and this was a smart move on the part of the PPG team. If the visuals had remained the same as ever, this half-hour special would have invited critical comparisons to the original series, rather than being appreciated as a standalone venture. Ultimately, this creative decision made “Dance Pantsed” a fun re-ignition of a beloved franchise rather than a sad attempt at reclaiming some lost glory.

While Powerpuff creator Craig McCracken was tragically uninvolved with this week’s production, the show maintained its same spirited zest for punniness, funniness, and character. The fast-paced plot involves Powerpuff arch-rival Mojo Jojo in a circuitous plot to kidnap Fibonacci Sequins, an opera singer, and a badger. Mojo’s ultimate scheme, as always, is to steal Chemical X and take over Townsville. It was fun to see Mojo again. We all missed him—and his roundabout speech patterns (“phase two of my evil plan is commencing to begin the beginning of its commencement”).

Mojo Jojo

Naturally, the Powerpuffs thwart his plan (some things never change)—but only to be thwarted back, when Mojo capitalizes on their collective video game addiction by sending them an evil “Dance Pants Revolution” bootleg (“Dance Pants R-EVILution”). The girls promptly get addicted to the game, and Mojo manipulates the “Dance Pants” to control their minds and bodies. In a ploy lacking much in the way of specificity, he sends them to wreak general havoc throughout Townsville.

Robotized Puffs

It is at this point that we learn of Professor Utonium’s hilariously dark back story—a story conveniently involving his quashed dreams of becoming a dancer. We flash back to a mulleted Professor’s failed audition for “Soul Hayride”—and his subsequent chance meeting with Gregor Mendel, Isaac Newton, “Slim Jim Wellbody,” and Stephen Hawking, all of whom invite him to join “Team Science” (“but you will have to shave that mullet,” warns Hawking).

But enough of the past! The girls are dancing up a frenzy under Mojo’s control! And in order to save Townsville, the Professor must revisit his dark dance-charged past and outperform the Mojo-controlled girls in a dance-off (nobody really understands why, but isn’t that how cartoons work?). In the end—you guessed it—the day is saved.

Powerpuff Heart

On the whole, the plot of “Dance Pantsed” was rushed and, at times, confusing. The writers seem to have had a lot of great ideas, but only one half-hour to implement them. That said, it was a fun way to spend thirty minutes and was a nostalgic trip back a decade or so. If you haven’t seen the original series, be sure to catch the first three seasons, which are now streaming on Netflix. If you’ve already seen them, you surely don’t need convincing to watch again.

BONUS: Below is Ringo Starr’s short, strange music video for “I Wish I Was a Powerpuff Girl.”

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