Born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania in 1971, cartoonist Craig McCracken had always loved to draw but after attending California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) he entered the world of professional animation.
In his first year at CalArts he created a series of animated shorts starring a character named No Neck Joe and a cartoon starring three superhero girls called Whoopass Stew! (1992) which would later become the basis for his TV series The Powerpuff Girls (the Chemical X was originally a “Can of Whoopass”) and both cartoons were picked up by Spike & Mike, the animation festival runners who were known for showcasing the early work of such talented animators as Bill Plympton, Will Vinton, Tim Burton, Nick Park, Mike Judge, Pete Docter and Don Hertzfeldt.
In 1993, Hanna-Barbera hired McCracken to do the art direction for the TBS series 2 Stupid Dogs, but when Hanna-Barbera president Fred Seibert created the anthology series What a Cartoon! as a way to find original pilots for Cartoon Network, McCracken repurposed Whoopass Stew! into The Powerpuff Girls with the pilot “Meat Fuzzy Lumkins” which first aired in 1995.
The first cartoon to be greenlit for a pilot was Dexter’s Laboratory which was created by McCracken’s CalArts classmate Genndy Tartakovsky and McCracken storyboarded and directed for that series, but The Powerpuff Girls was the fourth pilot to be greenlit and it premiered in 1998 and ran for 6 seasons until 2005 on Cartoon Network, becoming an Emmy and Annie-winning ratings hit that received very positive reviews from people who found the writing sharp, the art style creative and the characters endearing.
The superhero action series followed the exploits of Blossom (Cathy Cavadini), Bubbles (Tara Strong) and Buttercup (E.G. Daily), three little girls with superpowers who were accidentally created by Professor Utonium (Tom Kane) when he was trying to create the three perfect little girls but accidentally mixed the ingredients sugar, spice and everything nice with an explosive dose of Chemical X. The three girls usually spent each episode protecting the city of Townsville from a variety of supervillains including Mojo Jojo, Him, Fuzzy Lumpkins, The Gangreen Gang and Sedusa.
After working on the first four seasons and directing the 2002 prequel film The Powerpuff Girls Movie (which bombed at the box office and received a lukewarm response from critics) Craig McCracken left producer and director Chris Savino in charge of Powerpuff and began working on a new animated series called Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, which he developed alongside art director Mike Moon and his wife animator and fellow CalArts grad Lauren Faust. It premiered as a 90-minute TV special on Cartoon Network in 2004 and ran for 6 seasons until 2009 with McCracken responsible for directing every single episode (it also has the distinction of being Cartoon Network’s first series to be animated primarily with Adobe Flash).
This creative and witty series about a foster home for forgotten imaginary friends (which was inspired by McCracken and Faust’s real-life adoption of two foster dogs) featured the top-notch voice talent of Sean Marquette, Keith Ferguson, Phil Lamarr, Tom Kenny, Candi Milo, Grey DeLisle and Tom Kane and it was another highly regarded and critically acclaimed series from McCracken, who was inspired by The Muppet Show’s ensemble-driven sense of fun and the psychedelic art style of the sixties while creating the show.
McCracken briefly migrated over to Disney for his next series Wander Over Yonder, which followed an optimistic nomad named Wander voiced by Jack McBrayer (30 Rock, Wreck-It Ralph) and his best friend and steed (technically she’s a Zbornak) named Sylvia (April Winchell) as they travelled the galaxy helping various planetary residents learn how to have fun and live freely, all while the powerful Lord Hater (Keith Ferguson) tries to impose his rule with help from his Watchdogs led by Commander Peepers (Tom Kenny). The first season which ran on Disney Channel from 2013 to 2014 was episodic but the final two seasons which aired from 2014 to 2016 on Disney XD more closely followed a continuous arc.
Craig McCracken’s first fully serialized series and first foray into the superhero genre since The Powerpuff Girls is the Netflix series Kid Cosmic which premiered in 2021 and is being co-developed alongside Lauren Faust and Francisco Angones. Its art style is inspired by retro comics like Dennis the Menace and the story follows a kid named Kid (Jack Fisher) who discovers five cosmic stones in the wreckage of a spaceship and becomes a superhero himself, leading to the formation of his own superhero team. It has received a generally positive reception (making Craig McCracken’s record a perfect 4/4 in terms of positive receptions).
McCracken created the character in a comic book back in 2009 but he didn’t bother pitching an animated adaptation to any of the traditional networks since he knew they would not be interested, so you can thank the streaming giant and their strategy of fostering the most talented artists in show business for giving McCracken the chance to make the series a reality.
I suggest you catch all of his shows on streaming if you haven’t seen any of them yet. In addition to Kid Cosmic on Netflix, The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends are on HBO Max and Wander Over Yonder is on Hulu.