Emmy winning animator, director and producer Craig McCracken was an instrumental figure in the rise of Cartoon Network as a dominant force in television animation thanks to his clever, alternative-minded programs ... Read more »
Emmy winning animator, director and producer Craig McCracken was an instrumental figure in the rise of Cartoon Network as a dominant force in television animation thanks to his clever, alternative-minded programs like "The Powerpuff Girls" (1998-2005) and "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" (Cartoon Network/Kids' WB/Boomerang 2004-2009). Like fellow animation creators Genndy Tartakovsky ("Dexter's Laboratory," 1996-2003), David Feiss ("Cow and Chicken," 1997-1999) and John R. Dilworth ("Courage the Cowardly Dog," 1999-2002), McCracken's work for Cartoon Network blended classic animation tropes with a heightened sense of self-awareness, resulting in programs that pleased both its intended audience - children - as well as young adult and grown-up viewers. After shepherding "Powerpuff" and "Foster's" for nearly two decades, McCracken left the Cartoon Network in 2009 for Disney Channel, where he debuted a new series "Wander Over Yonder" (2013), which reflected his signature style and comic approach. McCracken's efforts represented a high water mark for animated television that other programs strove to emulate.
Born March 31, 1971 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Craig McCracken developed an interest in animation and fantasy at an early age, inspired in part by the iconic Belgian comic series Tintin and TV's "Batman" (ABC 1966-1968), among other sources. Following the death of his father when McCracken was seven years old, he moved with his family to Whittier, California, where he graduated from California High School before attending the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). There, he decided to pursue animation as a career, and in 1990 created a series of short cartoons featuring a simple-minded character named No Neck Joe, who endured humiliations at the hands of strangers but also occasionally triumphed due to his misshapen form. The series was picked up by Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, a collection of short animated films that played film festivals and college campuses during the 1990s and 2000s and provided early exposure to such animators as Mike Judge, Trey Parker & Matt Stone and John Lasseter. In 1992, he created the short "Whoopass Stew!" a parody of superhero and anime tropes featuring the Whoopass Girls, a trio of adorable but formidable crime-fighting children. The short played the festival rounds as part of the Spike and Mike Festival while McCracken began working in a variety of capacities, including art director, storyboard artist and directors for several Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, including the Emmy-nominated "2 Stupid Dogs" (syndicated/TBS 1993-1995) and "Dexter's Laboratory" for fellow CalArts alumni Genndy Tartakovsky.
While working at Hanna-Barbera, McCracken participated in an animation incubator program that emulated the studio's early policies by placing the creative impact of a cartoon in the hands of the artists and animators. The showcase, called "What a Cartoon!" (Cartoon Network 1995-2001), consisted of 71 new, short cartoons taken directly from original storyboards drawn or written by their creators. McCracken re-tooled his "Whoopass Stew!" project for the program, and The Powerpuff Girls, as they were renamed for TV broadcast, made their debut on a 1996 TV special called "World Premiere Toon-In" (Cartoon Network/TBS/TNT). Positive critical and audience response led to a series greenlight in 1998, and "The Powerpuff Girls" soon became a cornerstone of Cartoon Network's programming, reaping two Primetime Emmys and a pair of Annies while also generating massive merchandising sales for the network. McCracken directed "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" (2002), a theatrical feature that received excellent reviews but drew low ticket sales. He then returned to the series for two more years before departing to focus on a new series, "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," which he created with his wife, fellow animator Lauren Faust. Like "Powerpuff," the series featured a visual style derived from Pop Art and mixed tropes from children's animation and more mature concepts in its plot about a young boy who works at the titular facility, a retirement home for imaginary friends. A critical smash, "Foster's" won seven Emmys and four Annies over its six-season run, which ended in 2009.
During this period, McCracken also oversaw "The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!" (Cartoon Network 2008), a tenth anniversary special for his original series, as well as "The Cartoonstitute" (2008), a short-lived animation showcase in the vein of "What a Cartoon!" He also contributed scripts and storyboards for C.H. Greenblatt's popular "Chowder" (Cartoon Network 2007-2010) series. After 15 years with the Cartoon Network, McCracken left the network in 2009 following its decision to shift programming focus to reality-based television. He then moved to Disney Television Animation, where he and Faust developed a new series, "Wander Over Yonder" (2013) for Disney Channel. The series followed an optimistic, planet-hopping figure (Jack McBrayer) and his cynical space horse Sylvia (April Winchell), who traveled to different worlds in a quest to help their residents have more fun.