Q&A: David Smith on ‘Powerpuff’ characters’ new look for special
Television hasn’t really had a dose of sugar, spice and everything nice since Craig McCracken’s “The Powerpuff Girls” ended in 2005.
But the absence of pint-sized superheroes Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup ends Monday at 7:30 p.m. PST when Cartoon Network airs “Dance Pantsed.”
The network tapped David Smith to direct the new special, which features a familiar threat -- maniacal simian Mojo Jojo is determined to take over Townsville yet again.
Here’s an edited Q&A with Smith, 40, who previously worked on the series’ first three seasons in a variety of roles, including as a storyboard artist and designer:
Why did you get involved with the special?
The studio was planning on producing this special in celebration of its “awesomeness,” and they asked me if I would participate. The characters and concept are incredible. I have history and a love for it, how could I say no?
Because it’s a special, it didn’t have the same time frame as the series. We had such a luxury to make this as perfect as it could without getting stressed out.
So the cast from the original series came back for the special, such as Catherine Cavadini (Blossom), Tara Strong (Bubbles), E.G. Daily (Buttercup), Roger Jackson (Mojo Jojo) and Tom Kane (Professor Utonium). Who else came back? What was it like to bring the team back together after so many years?
Chris Mitchell, the story artist, came back for the special to help with the storyboarding and character design as well. As far as the artistic crew, everyone was new, like Kevin Dart, the art director, who is top-notch and a delight to work with.
I’m so glad there’s so much love for the characters. Having the original actors back, it was incredible. The first 10 minutes everyone was hugging and glad to be back again. Everyone knows their characters, loves their characters. There’s a passion to these characters.
The Powerpuff Girls are in CG for the special. What do you think this “new look” brings to the beloved series that was known for its iconic, flat 2D look?
It was a discussion from the get-go to explore the opportunity to execute a special in CG. When I met with Kevin and discussed the CG approach, it sounded like an interesting and creative challenge. The one thing I wanted to be strong about is keeping the backbone of the high-stylized design. [The characters] weren’t drawn with fleshy skin and hair in the first place. We were able to work with Passion Pictures in London, [which has created videos for the successful, virtual band “Gorillaz”]. I think it would be silly of me to re-create the old. For better or for worse, I’m super proud of it.
Talk about coming to the decision of the special’s plot, a spin on the popular “Dance Dance Revolution” game.
It’s silly and fun and embodies the image of “The Powerpuff Girls.” It seemed like a story that would be part of the entire [initial series] run.
As a fan of the villain HIM, I must ask, where is he?
He’s a fantastic character. In the big picture of “The Powerpuff Girls’” universe, Mojo Jojo is their archnemesis and his connection with Professor Utonium and his connection to the family. I wanted to incorporate all the villains, but it kind of got out of hand and it wasn’t feasible. We pared it down and went with the archnemesis.
What was it like working with Ringo Starr, who plays a “flamboyant mathematician” named Fibonacci Sequins?
Our jaws dropped. ... We came up with a character design to play the world’s most famous mathematician, we sent it his way and he passed. My heart kind of broke a little bit, but it was a polite pass. Then, I animated a four- to five-minute pitch cartoon we sent to him about how I was introduced to him in the 1980s when I saw him in “Caveman” and found out he was the Beatles’ drummer. I couldn’t believe he said yes. What an incredibly awesome dude.
Anything else you want to add, David?
Our heart and soul went into this project. It’s a love letter to the property and my experience with it back in the day. I hope everyone enjoys it.
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