‘Powerpuff Girls’ Writers Haley Mancini And Jake Goldman On The Cartoon Network Staple, L.A., And Plenty More

A winner of Emmy Awards, Annie Awards and a Kids’ Choice Award, The Powerpuff Girls made its official debut within the Cartoon Network’s Cartoon Cartoons block in November 1998. The last episode of Powerpuff Girls’ original run, six seasons worth of shows, aired in March 2005. Popular one-off television specials followed in the United States in 2008 and 2014, with reruns on the Cartoon Network coming back in 2012.

2014 brought the announcement of a Powerpuff Girls reboot, which finally premiered in April 2016. Some of the voice-actors from the original series are still onboard, including Tom Kenny (the voice behind the title character of Spongebob Squarepants) and Tom Kane (the voice of the Walt Disney World Monorail System). Season 1 had 39 episodes — 40 if you could all of the shorts, which launched two months prior in February 2016 — leading to a Primetime Emmy nomination and a 2017 Gracie Award. Season 2 launched earlier this year, with new episodes premiering on The Cartoon Network on Sundays at 5:30 PM; the next one debuts on August 27.

To learn more about the current season of The Powerpuff Girls, I spoke to two of the show’s writers, Haley Mancini and Jake Goldman. Mancini and Goldman — who both also contribute voices to the series — spoke openly about their journeys from aspiring writers to working full-time on a hit television show. Goldman can be followed on Twitter via @TheDragoEffect, while Mancini’s Twitter handle is @HaleyMancini.

How did you wind up working on The Powerpuff Girls?

Haley Mancini: I was just wrapping up writing for a Disney project and had also just completed a freelance episode for The Loud House, when an old comedy friend from Upright Citizens Brigade moved into development at Cartoon Network. She asked for my sketch packet, which she passed along to our showrunners and that got me my first interview. There, I pitched our first ep, “Princess Buttercup,” and they gave me the chance to write it up, and then staffed me! Then Jake came and everything changed…for the better! Because we’re long-time friends through UCB, too.

Jake Goldman: It’s kind of a long and twisting tale full of danger and derring-do. Or rather, it was actually rather mundane. I was toiling away at another animation studio at the time when I caught wind of the project. Haley had already been hired at this point, and she was the one ultimately responsible for getting my hat thrown into the ring.

Did you two work together on any projects before winding up on the series?

Haley Mancini: Not really, we’d just done improv shows together and run in the same social/comedy circle forever and read each other’s work from time to time. I think what we liked about each other is that neither of us ever got upset at the notes the other would give.

Jake Goldman: Oddly enough, no. We met in 2010, I think. Both of us were heavily involved in Upright Citizens Brigade and clicked over our love of strange and weird cartoons. After that we started to exchange pilots and sketches we’d written for notes, but we never really jumped into working on a specific project together.

I assume that you both had to be a writer’s assistant and/or an intern before getting a proper staff writing job in Los Angeles. Was that your journey?

Haley Mancini: I kind of fell into writing. I started as an actor — and still am — and after an audition for National Lampoon the year after I moved here. They asked if I was a writer because they’d like to add me to a project they had. I lied and said “YEP! I’m a writer!” Then, I did my best, asked for help from nice people — shout-out to Mike Rosolio, my mentor — and studied the math of every show I could find. After that job, I started getting really involved in the L.A. comedy scene and took writing classes at UCB.

In terms of more jobs, one of the great things the comedy scene gives you is a great community where people are really invested in each other’s successes. I found myself in a terrific group of friends that constantly helped and recommended each other. The evidence is in how Jake and I ended up at PPG!

Jake Goldman: Becoming a writer in Los Angeles is a strange thing in that there really isn’t one right way to do it. Look at me, for example. Starting out, I worked on everythinpg I could, ranging from indie movies to reality TV to a Vietnamese talk show that was hosted by an escape artist. I took all these jobs for two reasons really: 1.) My cat needed food. 2.) When the right job came along, I wanted to have the resume and experience strong enough to get it. If I didn’t work on that award show for magicians, I wouldn’t have gotten hired on animated commercials. If I hadn’t worked in animated commercials, Futurama wouldn’t have hired me. If I hadn’t worked on Futurama, I wouldn’t have had the experience to get me in the door at Cartoon Network. It’s kind of a giant tangled web of wild and fun jobs.

Professionally speaking, how long did it take before you felt settled in Los Angeles?

Haley Mancini: Three years. My friend told me three years the first year after I moved here, and I didn’t believe her, but she’s right. It’s three years.

Jake Goldman: I still don’t think I’m settled. I’m from New York and not to get all 80s stand-up comic about it, but there is a real difference. Even though I’ve lived here for over a decade, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly comfortable.

How much of a typical day at the office is spent writing or editing?

Haley Mancini: Our show is very collaborative, with multiple episodes in production at once. So usually three days a week Jake and I are with the team, breaking stories, watching pitches that our AMAZING storyboard artists create, and preparing record scripts. The other two days are for us to write the outlines for new episodes.

Jake Goldman: Pretty much all of it. Because of the animation process, we’ve got many episodes rolling at once. We’ll be writing a new one, and then duck out to work with our storyboard artists, then it’s off to listen to a VO record for retakes, then jumping into editorial to pitch a new joke, and then running back to meet with our showrunners to brainstorm some more. I burn a lot of calories running from one side of the office to the other.

What was the first writing or television credit of yours that you were very proud of?

Jake Goldman: The first Powerpuff Girls comic. By that point, I had been part of some really great shows and plays and I thought I was really cool, but after our first issue hit the stands, my grandmother called me. She told me how she remembered eight-year old Jake begging her to take her to the store to get Spider-Man comics and how proud she was to see how far I’d come. She was like “There you are. Right next to Superman.” Honestly, there’s no award I could win that would mean as much to me as that phone call with my grandma.

Haley Mancini: I’m constantly amazed that I get paid to write, so every one. When I was little, I loved writing, but I legitimately didn’t think it was an option for me because it was so intangible, coming from Denver, Colorado. It seemed like only something fancy people did.

When making a show like The Powerpuff Girls, how long does it usually take to make an episode? I ask because I have heard some animated episodes of The Simpsons being in production for about nine months, while South Park is known to take about a week.

Haley Mancini: From conception of an idea to going to air, it takes a while — a bit over a year.

Jake Goldman: Like most animated shows, it takes us just under a year to do one episode. But because we’re working on so many at once, all in different stages of the process, we’re never really sitting still.

Is there a Powerpuff Girls episode that you look at as a favorite? Or one that means a lot to you?

Haley Mancini: I really like “Poorbucks” and “Home, Sweet Homesick.” I think it’s because Blossom reminds me of Lisa Simpson, and I love letting her really have her moments there. “Musclecup” also cracks me up because of how far Kyle Neswald and Ben Carow pushed the storyboards visually. I think where they took it is hilarious. There’s also a few coming up that I’m really into for various reasons; some are sweet and deeper and some are just silly fun.

Jake Goldman: “Home Sweet Homesick” is one of my favorite things we’ve ever done. I spent a lot of summers going to sleepaway camp and it really shaped who I am today. Besides that, probably “Arachno-romance” for a lot of reasons both personal and professional. It was my first stab at creating a new character for the show that wasn’t a throwaway or a gag character. I may be incredibly-biased but I loved how Sapna turned out and Sonal Shah just crushed the performance. It was great having her back this season and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Sapna just yet.

What’s coming up for The Powerpuff Girls in the near-future?

Jake Goldman: A lot of weird and funny stuff. Bigger baddies. Larger explosions. Old friends. New foes. Danger. Doomsday weapons. Action. Adventure. Intrigue. And the best scene about mason jars that I think has been written for cartoons yet. Are there lots of scenes about mason jars in cartoons, you may ask? Well, maybe now there will be.

Haley Mancini: There’s a really “lovely” turn coming up for a super-intelligent monkey who may not see it coming. Also, Ms. Keane gets the spotlight in one episode that I’m very excited about.

Any projects outside of The Powerpuff Girls that you are working on and able to talk about?

Jake Goldman: The worst part about being in this business is having a bunch of really cool stuff, but not being allowed to say anything about it. But I’ve gotten to work with some people I’ve always wanted to work with which has been downright exciting.

When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?

Haley Mancini: Playing with my two cats, BB and Wu! I also still do lots of shows at UCB and the Pack Theater, and I also smooch my boyfriend sometimes.

Jake Goldman: This is the hardest question you’ve asked yet. Can I get back to you when I actually have free time?

Sure. So finally, any last words for the kids?

Jake Goldman: Life is meant to be fun. Be strange. Roll with the punches and the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.

Haley Mancini: Be kind to each other, be kind to yourself! If you fail, laugh at it, learn what you can from it, and get back up and try again. Also, kitties are cute!

[Featured Image by Cartoon Network]