Powerpuff Girls revolves around the adventures of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, three cute little girls with super powers. The plot of a typical episode is some humorous variation of standard superhero and/or tokusatsu fare, with the girls using their powers to defend their town from various villains, such as bank robbers, mad scientists, aliens, or giant monsters. In addition, Powerpuff girls also have to deal with normal issues young children face, such as bed wetting or dependence on a security blanket. The series is one in a long line of cartoons that derives a great deal of humor from pop culture references and parody. There is often a particular emphasis on cultural phenomenons and art styles from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. For instance, the characters' dialogue often contain allusions to various classic rock and pop songs from these eras; there was even an entire episode whose dialogue consisted almost solely of lyrics from Beatles songs, while the episode's plot was a loose retelling of the Beatles career (featuring the show's villains in roles alluding to the original band members).
The Powerpuff Girls has a highly stylized, minimalistic visual look, reminiscent of 1950s and 60s pop art. Movie critic Bob Longino of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution praised the style in his review of The Powerpuff Girls Movie by saying that "the intricate drawings emanate 1950s futuristic pizazz like a David Hockney scenescape", and that The Powerpuff Girls is "one of the few American creations that is both gleeful pop culture and exquisite high art".
The Powerpuff Girls has been hailed for showing young girls as active and capable heroines. However, it has also come under criticism for its rather excessive violence (including images of characters gushing blood from their mouths when hit), and for what have been perceived as morally questionable actions on part of the main characters, such as sometimes using more brutal force than necessary.
Powerpuff Girls mainly takes place in the fictional city of Townsville, USA. Townsville is depicted as a major American city, with an impressive cityscape consisting of several major skyscrapers. The physical location of Townsville has never been determined. Cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, London, and Tokyo have been shown throughout the Powerpuff series.
Craig McCracken, a student of California Institute of the Arts, created The Whoopass Girls in 1992 in his short film The Whoopass Girls in A Sticky Situation. Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation selected the short in 1994; McCracken submitted it to Hanna-Barbera's innovative What A Cartoon! shorts program (eventually to be produced for Cartoon Network as "The Powerpuff Girls in: Meat Fuzzy Lumkins" as part of World Premiere Toons) while working on Dexter's laboratory. As the word "whoopass" was deemed inappropriate for younger audiences, the word was replaced by "powerpuff."
The Powerpuff Girls TV debut in 1998 was the highest rated premiere in Cartoon Network's history. For several seasons, the series consistently scored the highest rating each week for the network across a wide range of demographics -- from young children to adults. In October 2000, Cartoon Network credited the Powerpuff Girls for its Friday night prime time ratings win among cable networks. By 2001, merchandising based on The Powerpuff Girls encompassed everything from T-shirts, toys and video games to lunchboxes and dishware. There was also a CD entitled Heroes and Villains, featuring original songs about the Powerpuff Girls characters by a number of artists, including the New Wave group Devo. Concerning the Powerpuff Girls success, Craig McCracken has stated "I thought it would get on Cartoon Network and college kids would watch it and there would be a few random T-shirts out there in the rave scene or in record shops. But I had no idea that it would take off to this extent."
In April 2005, plans for an anime version, Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z were announced and the series premiered in Japan the following year. The series deviates highly from its American predecessor in terms of style, storyline, and characterization. Cartoon Network in the US currently has no plans to air Powerpuff Girls.