Billboard Magazine recently announced the best selling musical act of the year 2000 was, believe it or not, The Beatles. According to the esteemed musical trade, the Fab Four sold $80 MILLION worth of music last year, whether it was the recently released #1 greatest hits package or reissues of other past efforts.
If that ain't enough, the film A Hard Day's Night is reported to have hit the $100-million mark through box office and/or VHS/DVD sales. Lord knows what that recently published Beatles coffee-table book did, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's equally huge.
Now think about this: Craig McCracken is a whopping 29 years old. He was born at least a full year after Lads from Liverpool had broken up. Yet guess what the subject of McCracken's next Power Puff Girls episode will be about tonight?
Move over Britney Spears, Christine Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, you ain't nothing when it comes to George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. And now McCracken's latest effort finds the Power Puff Girls can't beat his own parody of the Moptops; Mojo Jojo, Him, Princess and Fuzzy Lumpkin, aka The Beat Alls.
'We just all happen to be big Beatles fans,' McCracken admitted, when speaking of himself and the PPG production crew. 'The whole thing came together from us thinking of what would happen if these four villains teamed up. From there, the story just grew of the Beat Alls fame growing in a way parallel to the Beatles.
'The production of 'Meet The Beat Alls' was totally separate. It was basically me and my crew thought it would be really neat if we did this Beatles parody. [It was] long before the recent resurgence.'
Considering the animation process usually takes a year to a year-and-a-half (and sometimes much more), McCracken's comment does hold some salt. What's probably just as important is I'm old enough to say I'm old enough to remember seeing the Ed Sullivan first broadcast of the Beatles (oddly enough on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964), and have to admit that McCracken and hit the their parody target right on the money. The sheer number and accuracy of the puns, gags and references is so stunningly large and on target McCracken's love the Beatles should be considered frightening...if they also weren't so darn funny.
'I wrote the show,' McCracken admits. 'It took me about a few weeks to put the script together. We started counting the Beatles references and lost it. It was like we first counted how many were in my storyboards. But when we added all the musical references, we couldn't keep up with them anymore. Then the model and background guys started throwing all their references in. We never tried to count them after that point.'
That didn't mean McCracken's crew forgot that like most of their audience, they were born after the Beatles had broken up.
'We were kind of aware that when we were putting the story together we made sure we were doing a PowerPuff story first,' McCracken says. 'From there hopefully the kids in the audience will understand that it's also a parody of the Beatles. All we can hope is if they see their parents laughing at the references they will then ask them what was so funny. Maybe kids will start listening to the Beatles. That would be good.'
As for the references themselves, they range from the dead obvious--the snap shot sequence from A Hard Day's Night--to the extremely obscure. McCracken will be the first to admit that some do work better than others, but overall one has to admit he hits more than he fails. There are some that he's still particularly proud of.
'I particularly like a whole sequence, the one where the Professor gives the Girls a kind of pep talk using every Beatles cliche in the book,' says McCracken. 'I had this idea to see if I could do his entire speech using Beatles lyrics. It was a good idea in theory, but was a little more daunting to do than you might expect. I'm just happy that it worked. I'm pleased I was able to do it.
'There was another quote where the zookeeper says 'Someday monkey won't play piano song.' Most people won't get that reference, but it was a misquoting of a French version of a Beatles song. It's in a book of misquoted song lyrics and it's something I hope other people will get.'
The important thing is it's obvious McCracken had a great time producing this episode. For the record, the success of the series has been so tremendous that he and his crew have been keeping a moratorium on interviews over the last year. It was his love of both the Girls and the Fab Four that made him decide to come out of hiding in his studio in Burbank to talk about this one episode.
'Not that we're in the same league the Beatles were in, but they were given the ability to do what they wanted to do and be totally honest with us as artists,' McCracken philosophizes. 'We have been given pretty much that same freedom at Cartoon Network, only on a smaller scale. We are a bunch of guys being able to sit around and do what we love to do. So I guess where the Beatles and the PowerPuff Girls do come together is they both have that artistic honesty about them. I'm not saying we have the same talent, but we have been given the same amount of freedom.'
A look ahead
As for the future of the PPG's? Seems McCracken's got plenty to work on. 'We've probably done our one band homage episode,' says McCracken. 'One thing that we actually started before 'Meet The Beat Alls' was an episode based on the old rock operas like Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy . Now Genndy (Tartakowsky; McCracken's long time partner and executive producer of the PPG's...not to forget the creator of Dexter's Laboratory
and the upcoming Samurai Jack--ED) is a big opera fan. So we might do an episode that will be all opera, but it will probably end up being a rock opera. Right now it's on hold until we finish up writing the movie.'
That's right, there IS a PPG movie in the works. At present it's slated to hit the theatres in 2002. That's the main reason why McCracken and company usually stay in hiding.
'It's going really well. I'm busy writing and boarding it,' McCracken reports. 'We're going about the movie pretty much the same way we work on the show, except we're investing a little bit more and questioning things more often. We'll come up with a really great idea and then we'll explore it from everywhere to see if this is the best way to do it. There are five of us working on writing the movie, and we will often come up with a really great sequence and then we'll walk away from it for a couple of days to come back at it with fresh ideas. We are really trying to come up with the best thing we can. We are always challenging ourselves to push it further. 'The one thing that's happened from the show being successful is we proved to a lot of people that we were right. We were right to do things the way we did, so don't mess with what's already successful.'
'I'm still surprised at how big it's become,' McCracken concluded. 'I thought when we first came out that we would wind up with this small, hip cult following and maybe a stuffed doll in the store. I didn't think it would become this extreme.'
But, much like the Beatles took everyone by surprise nearly 40 years ago, the PowerPuff Girls have become an international phenomenon. If you still don't believe, check out this new episode and see for yourself.
The Meet The Beat Alls episode aired on the Cartoon Network on Friday, Feb. 9 and repeats tonight, Feb. 11. Check your local listings for exact time.