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The Powerpuff Valley Girls

The women behind the animated superheroes pal around in real life too.

November 24, 2000|MICHAEL P. LUCAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kids around the world may have their Powerpuff Girls fan clubs, but the Valley has the Powerpuff Girls themselves.

TV's popular animated preteen superheroes--

or rather, their real-life alter-egos--get together regularly now that Bubbles (a.k.a. voice actress Tara Strong, who is in her mid-20s) recently moved to Encino from Ontario, Canada. For instance, there was a recent morning when Buttercup (E. G. Daily, in her 30s) flitted over from her home in the Hollywood Hills and Blossom (Catherine Cavadini, also in her 30s) zoomed up from hers in Valley Glen.

There at Strong's hillside aerie, the real-life Powerpuff Girls nibbled a power brunch of muffins and bagels and talked about the same things girls chatter about everywhere.

"We talk about boys and relationships," Daily said coyly. She's the trio's tough kid.

"Babies," said Cavadini, whose character is kind of a mother hen.

"Decorating!" Strong said. The edgy, ultra-feminine Powerpuff in real life is the new homeowner and lone non-mom in the pack.

They also talk shop, autograph souvenirs and generally bask incredulously in the good karma that has made them quirky cultural icons of female empowerment as stars of "The Powerpuff Girls."

Now in its third season on Cartoon Network, the series is about three 5-year-olds with superpowers created by a friendly professor out of sugar, spice, everything nice and chemical X. They spend their days in school, playing hopscotch and fighting a bizarre array of evil-doers.

Airing in North America, Asia, Australia, Latin America and Europe--they're "Le Superchicche" in Italy--the show has fans worldwide, including celebrities such as hip fashion director Ellen von Unwerth, actor John Goodman, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes and TV personality Katie Couric.

They're a powerhouse in the marketplace, as well, with "Puffs" product licensing projected at more than $350 million this year--from a pink race car in the Daytona 500 to clothes and accessories for newborns and baby boomers.

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The show enjoys strong TV ratings among children under 12 and adults over 25, and Daily attributes much of the appeal to the writing.

"There's a lot of adult humor that reaches an alternative crowd," Daily said, as when the Puffs' arch-enemy, Him, shows up in fishnet stockings and pumps.

Or perhaps it's the animation.

"It has the feel of classic cartoons like we used to watch," Cavadini said. "But it's also very modern--Japanese anime meets Cartoon Network."

Or maybe it's the chemistry of the voice talent. Although their joint public appearances are rare, the actresses enjoy piling like kittens on a sofa and spending an hour joking, giggling and trading good-natured insults in their squeaky cartoon voices--at times breaking out in close harmony.

"We're a lot like our characters," Daily said, occasionally slipping into a familiar husky rasp.

Her voice gives soul to a whole crowd of varied TV and film characters, including the Rugrats' Tommy Pickles and Babe, the pig. She also is a dancer with feature film credits and a singer with CDs in record stores.

Strong was the lead voice in the latest Disney "Little Mermaid" movie and also voices Baby Dil, the newest Rugrat.

"And I'm the mommy," said Cavadini, who voices the mom in a new UPN animated series, "What's With Andy."

Their real-life kids--Cavadini's daughter, Alice, 1, and Daily's daughters Tyson, 2, and Hunter, 4--are all Powerpuff fans, and they also get to hear bits of dialogue in stereo when the show's on TV. Although voice actors' anonymity is a blessing in public places compared with on-camera stars, the burdens can be great when the secret gets out.

"It gets crazy," Daily said. "My cousin came over with his kids and they were like, 'Do the voice, do the voice.' I made up a new rule: What are you going to do for me? So they were singing and dancing and juggling. It's, like, I know you're my niece--so pay up."

Older kids are just as jazzed to know a Powerpuff. Cavadini recorded some answering-machine messages in Blossom's voice for a friend's college-age son.

They said they enjoy riding the pop culture tidal wave. "I collect bootleg merchandise overseas," Strong said. "I have a Bubbles with no ears."

"I got some e-mail from Japan and saw a girl the other day with a Buttercup tattoo," Daily said.

Cavadini furrowed a brow, mom-like, and said, "I hope she'll still be a Powerpuff Girl fan when she's 80."

BE THERE

"The Powerpuff Girls" airs Monday through Thursday at 8:30 p.m. and Friday at 9:30 p.m. on the Cartoon Network.

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