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JOHN KRICFALUSI, or, What Went Wrong?

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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. 


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Comments

  • rowdycmoore
    rowdycmoore Sunday, 12 June 2011

    They had to get a different voice actor for Stimpy in the Adult Party Cartoon because Billy West refuses to work with John K again. Given his success as Philip Fry, I'd say that hasn't hurt West's career.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Sunday, 12 June 2011

    Apparently John K Hates Billy West too, but I didn't have any direct confirmation of it myself so I left it out of the article. Doesn't surprise me.

  • S-3
    S-3 Sunday, 12 June 2011

    John K. is a hack with no real taste or understanding of Western Industry standatds IMHO. piling on violence, sexual situations, and/or shock value like he did does not equal comedy/action-packed/dramatic gold of any kind.

    Peace.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Sunday, 12 June 2011

    While I can't deny that I do love the original R & S.... your comment and writing this article in general have got me wondering how much of the magic actually came from John K himself. How much credit can he actually claim, especially since he also claims most of his 'best ideas' ended up on the cutting room floor (where they likely belonged)?

  • ladydiskette
    ladydiskette Sunday, 12 June 2011

    I have the box DVD set of the classic Ren and Stimpy shows but I only got the first season, second, and third season and they were pretty good. Those were classics I grew up watching and remembering but when I saw some of the newer stuff it was like they were trying a bit too hard. I also watched the Ripping Friends thinking into the same mindset that it was going to be as fun as "Ren and Stimpy" but it didn't seem to appeal to my humourous side like Ren and Stimpy used to. Making it was the voice acting for the lines or maybe it was something else but to me the classic first parts of the series of Ren and Stimpy had a bit more humor and silly raunchy charm to it whereas later on I think he (John K) was just getting too much into a comfort zone regarding "shock" value.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Sunday, 12 June 2011

    Bit of trivia I desperately regret forgetting to add to the article for you all: The main reason John K hates Matt Stone and Trey Parker is that they apparently stole his idea. Which idea? Hanky the Christmas Poo! He was clearly a ripoff of John K's beloved original character, 'Nutty the Friendly Dump.' Remember that character? Wasn't he hilarious? Remember Nutty the Friendly Dump? Anyone?

    The story goes, when told how stupid an assertion this was, John K claimed "Well, they must have been fans of mine growing up, and at least somewhat influenced by Ren and Stimpy."

    To which the South Park pair replied "no."

  • Crocket
    Crocket Wednesday, 17 August 2011

    "I had a bunch of friends saying "Hey you got to watch this". My friends were all laughing and I just said "I don't get it". Then I slowly realized my friends were all stoned". - Trey Parker on Ren and Stimpy

  • S-3
    S-3 Sunday, 12 June 2011

    For the record - I just think R & S should have stayed a one-time effort at said humor. Western animation is plagued by these BS attempts ( and animated sitcoms that could have been live action and cancelled sooner if they turned out to be shit) at capturing what is clearly lightning in a bottle, in terms of its concept and kind of humour.

    And I hate this show! Especially now that I'm old enough to see how retarded it is IMHO. Also, this is coming from someone whose enjoyed some dumbass fare, even today... So sad similar fare like R & S is below me IMHO, but to each their own, right?

    Gppd article, BTW.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Sunday, 12 June 2011

    I actually like alot of 'western animation', and actually dislike most anime (fans, don't crucify me). But even in my dislike I can at least see that alot of effort and skill still goes into it, and the sheer numbers of Anime fans should be an indicator that there's something there. (John K often acts like Anime is the death of animation as an art).

    I also agree that after R & S came all the blatant attempts to capture the same audience. Some were good- like Cow and Chicken. Some were dumb. Sometimes, I remember the 90s as the "Era of the Gross Out Cartoon."

    One weird thing I noticed, post R&S, was this sudden tendency for cartoons to just insert random fart sounds here and there, seemingly for no reason (the other characters would almost never react to them). I dunno if it's just me or if anyone else remembers noticing it.

  • Zydrate
    Zydrate Sunday, 12 June 2011

    Would you say Seth MacFarlane suffers from the same creative affliction as John K.

  • Zydrate
    Zydrate Sunday, 12 June 2011

    And that should have been a question mark. My bad.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Sunday, 12 June 2011

    It's very hard to say. Seth MacFarlane is his own kind of douchebag, but he seems at least aware of things John K isn't. For example, how to get along with other people and and cooperate on a group project. The fact that he has multiple shows out right now that show no immediate sign of going away at least proves that. Perhaps more importantly for a guy who makes cartoons, he seems to understand the inherent stupidity of taking cartoons TOO seriously as an artform. Animation, even 'funny' animation, is an artform and a labor of love, but if taken too seriously it quickly becomes ridiculous and unfun.

  • Fluffyman
    Fluffyman Sunday, 12 June 2011

    I think John K hates the look of animation if anything, he believes everything should be spontaneous and wacky like Clampett or Avery cartoons. Fitting for animation that goes for the feel maybe, but not for something serious minded. As well I feel his designs at times go too far in the direction of exaggeration to the point where it's unwatchable.

  • Fluffyman
    Fluffyman Monday, 13 June 2011

    I also heard he was forced to be all "mature" in the Ren and Stimpy adult cartoons... I'd guess so but doesn't excuse his other insane work like some of his flash produced work.

  • Bango Skank
    Bango Skank Monday, 13 June 2011

    An entire episode that's just a pretext to show a closeup of Stimpy taking a huge shit doesn't exactly strike me as 'mature'. Also, it goes back to the original gist of my article, John K blaming everyone else for his crappy content.

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