Let's get one thing outta the way right now: I freaking loved Ren and Stimpy. For me, they defined the early 90s of my childhood. There was nothing else quite like them before, and afterwards, a host of imitators who thought Ren and Stimpy's formula could be reduced to "Insert random fart sound here."
I'm not really going to bother getting into all the history behind Nickelodeon firing John K from his own creation. We already kinda know what went wrong there, the history is all over the internet for any fan to find. John K himself certainly has some strong opinions on the topic, which can be found all over his blog.
After all the drama with Ren and Stimpy, John K has moved on to other successful and widely acclaimed projects, for example, The Ripping Friends, followed by the Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon on SpikeTV. I'm kidding, of course. Both of these cartoons sucked balls. So.....
What went wrong? They should have been comedy gold. Finally, the great John Kricfalusi, allowed to be in control of his own product for once! No one telling him to censor his jokes or water down his humor! But... Alas....
The Ripping Friends was a thoroughly forgettable show. Uncomfortable and somewhat creepily homoerotic, it was an awkward tryhard show desperately trying to recapture the ol' Spumco charm. I remember laughing at one or two funny bits throughout the whole series, and even they weren't that amusing. What went wrong there, Johnny? Well according to Kricfalusi, the foreign studios they were using kept watering down his 'hilarious' original drawings. "It would have been totally awesome," he basically tells us, "Except those OTHER GUYS kept screwing it up!" This seems to be a pattern with John K. There's always some other guys... animators or network execs or concerned parent's groups, ruining his original ideas and forcing him to produce shit! Of course it's totally not him, right? It's them.
Well, next came the Adult Party Cartoon. This has to be good, right? It's Ren and Stimpy! Back again! This time on an 'adult' network! No one's gonna try to censor them or tone them down! Great! I mean, Ripping Friends was a gamble, but we all already knew R&S was awesome! Finally, we get to see the brilliance of Kricfalusi, totally unleashed!
The cartoon sucked. I know Ren and Stimpy was originally 'shocking', but this was an era when you could get taken off the air for having a blatant fart joke (Son of Stimpy) or too much cartoon violence (Man's Best Friend). I guess John K didn't have much faith in trying to be 'clever', because with the Adult Party Cartoon he pushed the shock value for all it was worth.
Thus we get an entire episode where Stimpy appears to be pregnant with ren's child, culminating in a closeup of Stimpy's anus pushing out a large turd. We get a memorable scene where Ren and Stimpy cut wood in a way that makes it look like they're buttfucking. We get cartoon boobs and pantyshots galore (and John K claims to hate Anime. ha.) And lots and lots of uncensored swearing. It didn't last long, but I strongly doubt Spike took it off the air for being 'too shocking' (after all, they aired Stripperella). No, I suspect they found it just too stupid. (Yes, the same network that aired Stripperella.)
So, what went wrong?
I believe John K falls victim to what I call the 'George Lucas' principle. When you watch or listen to interviews with Mark Hamil and Harrison Ford about the original trilogy, you hear them mention that Lucas wrote really clunky, terrible, awkward dialogue for them, and they refused to read it, instead ad libbing their own more memorable lines (I won't list them, but some of the most memorable lines in the original trilogy were kinda make up on the spot by the actors). George Lucas mentions fighting and having to compromise with the studio on all sorts of things he originally wanted to do. The result was the Star Wars Trilogy, and I need say no more.
Fast forward 20 or so years, to the prequel trilogy. This time, George Lucas isn't some up-and-coming director with an ambitious idea, he's FUCKING GEORGE LUCAS, the guy who made Star Wars! Everyone hangs on his every word! Every idea is gold! George Lucas is the fucking god of star wars! I know having a rabbit eared jive-talking computer generated 'comic' relief sidekick character who steps in Bantha Poo sounds like a dumb idea, but this is George Lucas we're talking about! He fucking knows what he's doing guys! Thus we got the prequel trilogy.
The same principle applies to John Kricfalusi. Perhaps, the original Ren and Stimpy was great BECAUSE Nickelodeon kept censoring his 'shock' humor and forcing him to be more clever with his gags? Perhaps John K should have had more respect for all the other artists who collaborated on it? Could it be that a good cartoon is a group effort, dependant on input from many perspectives?
According to John K' Blog, no. No it's not. John K is a cartoon genius and everyone else is just a big ol anchor intent on holding him back. Ripping friends and Adult Party Cartoon sucked because STUDIOS, because NETWORKS, because OTHER ANIMATORS, etc.
I used to actually think John K was a genius, but reading through his blog, you'll soon see a man who no sane person would want to work with. John K hates Anime. John K hates Family Guy and South Park. John K hates Cartoon Network. John K hates everyone he used to work with. John K probably hates you. John K hates everything except the same old WB cartoons from that mythic 'Golden Age', those same old chestnuts he keeps trotting out as examples of animation that passes his rigorous standards of quality. Those same old WB shorts that were great 70 years ago, but are now only watched for nostalgia value. (I'm not claiming the original WB shorts weren't great, stuff by Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, etc, but come on, they're over 70 fucking years old now and animated and originally released in a totally different format through a totally different system. Let them rest already!)
I watched a video with him and one of his female animators a while back, where he was talking about R & S, and casually mentions that all the Nickelodeon execs were 'dykes' and that's why they censored him. Nice, John. With that, I'll wrap things up.
The original Ren and Stimpy series was a part of my childhood. That opinion will never change- it was a great cartoon and full of clever, hilarious weirdness. Just hearing that Dog Pound Hop music makes my nostalgia muscles convulse with joy. But the more I read about John Kricfalusi the man, the more I realize how important it is to separate the artist from his product in one's mind. So you made Ren and Stimpy. What else have you done, Johnny? There's an old saying... or maybe it's a line in a country song, I dunno. "You been married 9 times? Maybe it's you." Seems appropriate.