It is a beautiful December night outside. The moon is big and bright. The sky is clear. It’s not too cold. It is the kind of night meant for layers, bonfires and warm drinks outside. Instead, I am inside, trying to figure out how to write about a villainous cross-dressing lobster who shares the same name with a Finnish rock band, and why it might not be so strange, after all, that I enjoy a show about certain equines meant for “little girls”. It’s not easy. The hardest part was figuring out what kind of drink this writing requires. The mead I’ll save for Skyrim, and the wine is too civilized for this type of work. I’m going with Wild Turkey. On the rocks.
I was watching television at a friends house On Monday, Feb 20, 1995. It was the night the show Space Ghost Coast to Coast, on Cartoon Network, broadcast the first full-length What a Cartoon! feature. Space Ghost Coast to Coast was an oddball of a show, and as far as I know, one of the first shows to using old cartoon characters, animation ripped straight from the cellulite, for modern comedy. What a Cartoon!, later to be known as the Cartoon Cartoon Show, was a showcase of about 48 different cartoons by American artists created by Fred Seibert for Hanna-Barbera as a vessel to run programing on Cartoon Network.
Not only did I think Space Ghost Coast to Coast was damn funny, but this particular episode featured a “contest” of sorts between new animators to see who’s fledgling show would be premiered on Space Ghost. While all of them ended up having their shows eventually aired on Cartoon Cartoon, Craig McCracken won by default, as he was the only animator to don a swimsuit for the final contest. His creation, The Powerpuff Girls, aired for the first time that night.
Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins.
We couldn’t stop laughing. Here was this show about preschool superheroes; little girls, to be specific, beating the sh*t out a redneck Muppet wielding a weapon that turned all to meat. It was so ridiculous. It had a kicking electronic drum-break soundtrack (we erroneously called it all Techno, back then). It was not really for children. We we so impressed, we stayed up another two hours just to watch Space Ghost again to see the Powerpuff Girls.
It wouldn’t be until 1998 when the first full-length episodes of Powerpuff Girls would air. I was in my first year of college then. The show was still funny, and we still watched it. A lot of people I knew watched it. Even then, the idea of watching a cartoon show about little girl superheroes didn’t seem weird at all. People talked like Mojo Jojo when they drank too much. That wasn’t weird either. It was just so, well, quirky, and really, still not for kids.
Aside from the Powerpuff Girls, many other shorts featured on the Cartoon Cartoon Show would become popular shows. Shows like I Am Weasel, Cow and Chicken, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
I’ve been catching a few episodes of Power Puff Girls on Boomerang lately. Just the other day, I caught an episode featuring HIM, a strange, cross -dressing lobster reminiscent of Satan with a strangely hypnotic voice. Apparently, he is so evil, his name cannot be mentioned (remind you of any Johnny-Come-Lately dark lords?). I may never have mentioned this to anybody, but I was reminded of HIM when the Finnish goth-rock band, HIM, formerly known as His Infernal Majesty, released the album Razorblade Romance in the states. The album cover featured an effeminate young man, lead singer Ville Valo, wearing a fur-lined coat and standing against a pink background.
At the time, I thought HIM, the band, was some corporate creation made for the ever-growing “goth” market. I didn’t know it was some Finnish creation of the early 90’s, before “goth” was a big thing here. It seemed a reasonable deduction that the lobster lord of evil and His Infernal Majesty might have something in common. It wouldn’t be until about an hour earlier tonight that I would find that HIM, the lobster character, looks a lot like a character from an old 1955 animated feature on how the “average Joe” can battle urban blight with proper neighborhood planning. In this film, entitled Man of Action, the average fellow meets the devil, or his envoy, who has a magic book with a schedule detailing when certain suburban neighborhoods were would turn into slums. This character, known only as “HIM”, has a face that matches HIM’s almost exactly. I’m convinced, though I have not found a definite link, that this is where our favorite tutu-wearing villain came from.
“Average Joe” beats ol’ black and white “HIM” by stealing his book, predicting the collapse of an industrial chimney, and then forming neighborhood planning groups with the city council. How very 1950’s.
What the hell does this have to do with my current obsession with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?
Let me pour another drink, and I’ll tell you. Perhaps this will shed some light on the subject for my countless brony brothers out there, who might also be wondering how they got mixed up in this crazy thing.
Pencils ready? You might want to take notes.
I didn’t really pay attention to the names affixed to the shows I was watching back in the day. I just watched them. However, it seems like I was doomed (along with an unknown number of other guys my age) , right from that very evening in 1995, to become addicted to a show marketed to little girls in 2010.
Craig McCracken didn’t just create Powerpuff Girls. He made other cartoons. He worked on Dexter’s Laboratory (1996), 2 Stupid Dogs (1993), and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004) to name the important ones. I watched every one of these shows, either when they first aired or as re-runs. Dogs (“Isn’t that cute? But its wrong!”) was a bit sophomoric, but still kind of funny. Dexter’s Laboratory (which I have also seen on Boomerang a lot lately), was a bit more clever, and packed with fun little details like Dee-Dee’s squishy footsteps. Foster’s was just a clever concept; what happens to imaginary friends? It also had a neat new style of computerized animation. They were all, again, something kids could watch, but had a lot of things only mom and dad would get. They were all about kids, but adult audiences liked them too.
Did I mention Craig McCracken was married to Lauren Faust, creator of the 2010 reboot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?
Dramatic pause. More drinks, please. They’re going down faster at this point. A round for the two dogs on my bed. They don’t drink? Well, just give me theirs, I guess.
Lets look at Faust’s resume, shall we? Here is a common thread; she was a story artist on, wait for it, The Power Puff Girls, during the later years. She was also the head writer for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. The idea was based on her adoption of several puppies, and the character Frankie, human caretaker of the Foster’s estate, whom some have confided in me a they had a cartoon crush on, was based on her.
Yes, this could just all be coincidence. She was, after all, married to the creator of both shows. However, this isn’t even the good stuff. I was a fan of some of her work even before then, though I didn’t know it.
Does anybody remember The Maxx. The f*cking Maxx! The story of a crazy-ass giant purple bum who traveled between the “real world” and the Outland, a realm of our inner psyche? I loved the Maxx. Faust worked on that show when it was an animated series on MTV in 1995. Again, 1995 folks, the same year I saw Powerpuff girls for the first time. I watched the Maxx and the Powerpuff Girls on the same television at my friends house.
Oh, but that’s not all. She also worked as an animator on some of my favorite full length, non-Disney animated features. Lets start with Cat’s Don’t Dance, the not-quite-a-hit movie from 1997 about animals fighting stereotypical animal movie roles in a classical Hollywood setting. It was a pretty interesting film at the time, and definitely a bit more clever and inventive than whatever annual, romanticized junk Mickey Mouse was peddling that year. She also worked on the Iron Giant (1999), another really cool, non Disney, animated film. Holy cow, was that movie neat, with it’s fancy computer aided animation.
Then there’s Codename: Kids Next Door (2001), my favorite example of how a cartoon can be for kids and adults at the same time. No child would ever get half of the references in that show. I think she worked on the pilot episode, No P in the OOL.
Yes, I knew that Faust was married to McCracken when I first, fatefully looked into the whole modern My Little Pony craze. I knew they both worked on some of my favorite shows, But I didn’t know how many. I certainly did not know how long this has been in the making. I did not know how deep it went. 1995, folks. The God-damn Maxx and that first, fateful airing of the Powerpuff Girls on Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Dexter’s Laboratory and Foster’s. The oddball animated films. As a pair, I’ve enjoyed their work for 16 years; most of my adult life. Is it any wonder why I love a show, which features the combined quirks, pop culture satire, references only adults would understand and the talent of animators and writers who’ve been a part of so many shows I’ve enjoyed for years, even if it is called My Little Pony?
No.No it is not. I never stood a chance. It was destiny that I would stumble upon MLP researching internet memes and message board reaction faces. I could no more have stood against my fate then could Achilles.
Case closed. I have some drinks to attend to, thanks to those three, ungrateful dogs. I could have sworn there was only one when I started this thing. Did I mention I only wanted to write about that album cover I saw back in 2002.
Amazing how things turn out.