The What?
"The Party" is the show's "pilot episode".  When a studio is interested in a show, the commission one episode to see what it would look like, so they can decide whether or not to ask for more episodes.  (The pilot to Rugrats is on the "Decade in Diapers" DVD (and video tape #1).)  Usually, a pilot is about half the length of what a normal story would be; "The Party" is about 13 minutes long.
Sometimes, a show's pilot becomes part of the series, although it may be slightly modified (examples include "Trash-O Madness" from Rocko's Modern Life, "Rudy's First Adventure" from ChalkZone, and "It Came from Next Door" from My Life as a Teenage Robot); other times, the pilot may be redone as another episode ("24 Hours to Live" from Hey Arnold!).

The Show's Opening
Instead of the theme song and pictures you're familiar with, it starts with Ginger talking:
Hi.  I'm Ginger Foutley (photos of Ginger coming out of a photo booth).  Every single thing that happens to me gets recorded in my journal.  I've been doing that ever since I, like, learned how to write (picture of a young Ginger writing in a journal in crayon).  These are my two best friends: Dodie keeps me updated on all the latest school gossip, and Macie keeps me updated on all the latest school health risks (pictures of Macie looking into a milk carton and examining a drinking faucet with a magnifying glass).  That's my little brother, Carl; he's a total freak.  "Mom, he's in my room!"  (Lois's voice: "Kids, stay away from each other, stop playing with each other".)  My mom - you know, she keeps telling me that these are, like, the best years of my life.  I'm thinking, who is she kidding?

The Story
It's just another day at Lucky Junior High School, as Ginger, Dodie, and Macie are in the cafeteria, talking about their usual Saturday night slumber party; Sloppy Jane burritos, performing a Pony Girls song, and then a midnight screening of The Little Seal Girl.  Suddenly, Dodie smells something.  Ginger thinks it's fish sticks.  Macie thinks it's fish stick vomit.  Dodie knows it's "the scent of total and extreme popularity".  Actually, it's "Teen Venom" perfume, according to Courtney, who's wearing it; she warns Dodie not to even think about wearing it until she's 23.  Courtney hands Ginger an invitation to her party (not a birthday party, and certainly not a "surprise"), then she and Miranda leave.  Miranda hopes that it's just one of Courtney's social experiments; Courtney repiles that she wants to know what Ginger is made of - "besides, they won't bite".  Miranda "wouldn't put it past the little one".
Speaking of little ones, Carl watches from his doghouse as Ginger, Dodie, and Macie stare at the envelope.  Darren walks by; he tells the girls (with his orthodontia squeaking at the end of every sentence - "only ten months until removal, unless there's another gum infection") that his brother will be at that party as well.  Dodie gets overexcited over the prospect of Ginger going to a boy-girl party.  Ginger worries about bailing out on their usual slumber party.  Darren says that he heard about a girl who turned down an invitation to one of Courtney's parties; she was transferred mysteriously to another school, at night, without even emptying her locker.  Dodie takes charge; she tells Ginger to meet her later that night so they can work on makeup and a dress.  Ginger tells Darren she's worried that she'll do something uncool in front of Courtney's circle of friends.  Darren offers to ask his brother for tips on what to do.   "I owe you big time...want my little brother?"  A voice comes from the doghouse: "I heard that!"
That night, Ginger asks Lois if she can go to the party; Lois says she can...if she takes Carl, as Lois is working that night.  Ginger tells Dodie and Macie she can't go, but Dodie will hear none of it.  Darren shows up in the window, with the news from his brother: "don't eat dip - it's uncool".  Oh, and Ian Richton will be there.  That clinches it for Ginger; she's going - if she can find someone to watch Carl.  Dodie says that she and Macie would do it, but Dodie's mother won't let Carl stay at her house without Ginger.
Ginger takes Carl to Courtney's house, and makes him a deal; if he waits outside during the party, she gives him three weeks' worth of her toenail clippings (as long as he doesn't eat them in front of her, like last time).  Just as Ginger is about to go in, a plaster duck head rolls by her; it was attached to a plaster duck on the lawn, before Carl kicked it off.  Ginger takes Carl to the garden, where she ties him up with the garden hose, and then goes into the house.  Courtney tells everyone to greet Ginger in a mildly convincing manner that makes it seem like they're close friends; they do, then go back to ignoring her.  Ginger grabs a potato chip; Miranda offers her some dip.  As everyone else watches, Ginger refuses.  "All right - who's the leak?"
Back outside, Carl tries to reach for the walkie-talkie in his back pocket, but ends up turning on the hose, which squirts the bushes, revealing a number of other young kids who are also bound and gagged.  At Dodie's house, she and Macie, in wigs and carrying pony dolls, perform a Pony Girls song, but when it's time for the Frisky Pony solo, there's only a doll without an owner.  Hoodsey's walkie-talkie comes to life; Carl needs his help.  Dodie also needs Hoodsey's help - as a third pony girl.  Hoodsey gets on a bike and rides to Courtney's.
Back at the party, Ginger is pretty much by herself, but her interest picks up when Ian arrives.  Miranda says that "Ian will so belong to me".  Courtney calls for the blinds to be drawn, the lights dimmed, and the mints to be handed out, as it's time to play Spin the Bottle.  Courtney offers to let Ginger spin first; she does, and it points to Ian.  Just as they're about to kiss each other, the lights come on, and a young boy in his underwear runs by, with just one thing to say: "Courtney stuffs her bra!"  Courtney has just one thing to say in reply: "BLAKE!!!"  The room is soon overrun with little kids.  Ian, waiting for his kiss, decides to kiss Ginger anyway.  Carl manages to get a bowl of dip dumped on Miranda.  In the middle of the mess, Ginger drags Carl out.  Carl wants to know if their deal is off...
Later that night, Ginger describes what happened to Dodie, right down to where Ian kissed her - "right between the lips and the cheek" (or, as Dodie put it, "the leek").  Ginger starts writing in her journal, but you don't hear what she says, as the closing music starts (which is the same music they use in the series).

The Details
Written by Kate Boutilier
Directed by Jim Duffy
Somebody asked me why I originally said that Mihály Sikur of Varga Animation in Hungary was the director; it's because the Varga site (the only other place I found any reference to "The Party") listed him as the director; I presume he was the overseas animation director (someone who usually isn't credited)
Art Direction by Laslo Nosek
Storyboard Artists: Rudi Berden, Louie Del Carmen, Kahee Yum
Overseas Animation by Varga Studios, Hungary
Closing Tag: (Ginger) Want my little brother?  (Carl) I heard that!
Most of the voices are the same (Ginger, Dodie, Macie, Courtney, Miranda, Carl, Hoodsey, Lois, Joanne (who isn't seen, just heard on the phone)): the only ones that are different are Bradley Pierce as Darren, Tara Strong as Blake, and Charlie Adler (using what sounds like his "Ed Bighead" voice from Rocko's Modern Life) as the (unseen and unnamed) school principal.  (Also, Ian doesn't speak.)
As for the characters, I'll let you decide how much they're different:

GingerDodieMacieMiranda and Courtney
DarrenCarlIanPony Girls
LoisHoodseyBlakeIan kissing Ginger

Top row: Ginger, Dodie, Macie, Miranda and Courtney (yes, Miranda is white in the pilot; I assume it came down to "make Miranda black or get a white actress to do her voice" for the series, although Cree Summer voices a white girl in My Life as a Teenage Robot)
Middle row: Darren (yes, he has purple hair), Carl, Ian, "Pony Girls" Dodie and Macie
Bottom row: Lois, Hoodsey, Blake, Ian kissing Ginger on "the leek"

"The Party" is available on the "Far From Home" DVD

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