ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.7 - OCTOBER 2000
The Powerpuff Girls' Phenomenal Merchandising Mantra
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Attracting a diverse audience, these key chains can be found on more than just little girls. © Cartoon Network. The Powerpuff Girls in their latest swim fashions. © Cartoon Network.
But why has this series captured the hearts and pocket books of so many? First off the cute look of the character design attracts female shoppers to buy Powerpuff Girls' key chains and what not. Look at Hello Kitty. It doesn't have a hit TV series or a rock CD, but it makes millions each year in merchandising. Frankly, cute sells and that's it. Then you add the action/superhero factor into the mix -- you have the boys. It's the visceral action like McCraken says that gravitates boys to play with half-plastic half-plush action figures. The Powerpuff Girls are superpowered heroes and boys from the dawn of human existence have played superhero. The Powerpuff Girls happen to be the superheroes for the 21st Century. Every boy has dreamed of saving the world at one time in his life and these young-aged superheroes give them the vehicle to embrace that desire. Moreover, The Powerpuff Girls encourage girls to embrace the same fantasy. Finally, one adds the series' retro-style and pop culture humor and one has the adult audience. Just like Ren & Stimpy re-envisioned cartoons in the 1990s, Powerpuff Girls is doing the same today. This time the superheroes are reworked.
Thus, the floodgates are opened for a merchandising bonanza. Bryant says that the initial intent to market The Powerpuff Girls didn't come from the network. "Retail stores called and asked for merchandise," Bryant says. As the show became more popular, the more the demand for merchandise grew. McCraken and his crew were involved in the creation of the initial style designs, sculpts and plushes. But the Powerpuff creator says, "There are so many things being made that Cartoon Network doesn't have the time to keep me abreast of every little notebook or pencil. The way I find out about a lot of products is looking on eBay actually. I'll go check it out and say, 'Oh, I've never seen that shirt or I didn't know they made erasers.'" Keeping with the 'it goes back to the show' idea, Bryant told of one particular marketing meeting, "About a week ago Craig and I were in a meeting and they wanted to make a T-shirt of the girls playing volleyball. And Craig says, 'You have to remember that they're superheroes and that when Buttercup spikes the ball there should be an explosion of sand."
The Powerpuff Girls. © Cartoon Network.
Cute girl crimefighters, who would have ever thunk it? But they are here and they are everywhere. When asked how you build a short into a mega-merchandised franchise, McCraken says, "My job is basically to make cartoons. It was never our intention to design a show that's going to be this massive thing. My goal is just to make a good television show. And the outside stuff is just extra icing on the cake. It would have been nice, I always wanted it to happen, but it wasn't ever the goal. My motivation to make a show wasn't to have a ton of products. It was just to make the best show that we could possible make." So if you ask yourself how the heck did a Powerpuff Girl key chain get onto the hardware store shelf, just remember the Cartoon Network motto it goes back to the show.
Rick DeMott is the Associate Editor of Animation World Network. Previously, he served as Media Coordinator for Hollywood-based Acme Filmworks. He holds a B.A. in Film/Video from Penn State University with a Minor in Comparative Literature.
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