Breakthrough Hit: John K. is well known throughout the animation world all thanks to Ren & Stimpy, which has both positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, John K. created a groundbreaking cartoon that ushered in a new era of Deranged Animation and Getting Crap Past the Radar. On the other hand, John K.'s later works haven't matched up or exceeded the success of Ren and Stimpy, most cartoons (the ones that aren't pre-school edutainment or gritty action shows) since the 1990s seems to be a clone of R&S, and, because of the show's success, the days of animators and cartoon writers trying to emulate the Looney Tunes (which are adult at times too, but actually have restraint and balance that with antics kids of all ages will enjoy) are pretty much dead. See "Creator Backlash" below.
Channel Hop: From Nickelodeon for the original series to Spike TV for Adult Party Cartoon.
Creator Backlash: John is actually pretty critical of the original show, and he warns his fans not to study his cartoons—"For everything we did right, there were a ton of mistakes." John even claimed once that he can't really enjoy watching his own cartoons, because all he can see are the mistakes he made on them. He also felt the original show in its initial seasons (sans the Carbunkle episodes) were very inconsistent from a drawing and animation perspective, and had many bad drawings in them (hence why he discourages his students from studying his own cartoons). Some episodes he singled out for criticism include;
"Nurse Stimpy" was an episode that turned out so bad, that John flat out disowned it and refused to put his name on it (crediting himself as "Raymond Spum" instead)—mainly for the cuts Nickelodeon wanted (who axed a good chunk of footage out of the cartoon) and many artistic failings.
John K:"The timing was bad. The drawings are bad. The colors are bad. From an artistic standpoint, to me, it's a really ugly cartoon."
"The Littlest Giant", mainly for its very slow pacing and sparse gags. He derogatorily nicknamed it "The Littlest Jokes".
"Marooned"; he felt that the premise had merit, but was undermined by the episode's horrible timing (which was freelanced to another company) and some artistic mistakes that came from having to rush aspects of the episode.
John K:"Marooned had great ideas, but the execution fell short; the timing was horrible. We freelanced the timing on that one and it was just way too slow...We just rushed through it, and so you see a lot of really bad mistakes. You see the aliens at the end, the giant brain guys. They're on overlays, but we were rushing through it so fast that you can see the tear lines around them—they're on cut-out pieces of paper glued to cels. It looks awful."
He also considered the episode "Black Hole" a failure for several reasons;
John K:"It's a complete failure. In every aspect it's bad; it's drawn bad, there's no direction to it at all, the timing's bad. It's a winner by default; somehow the premise managed to get through, even though the specific story points don't illustrate the premise very well. It was lucky."
Later on, he singled out the cartoon for criticism again, but this time for its poor structure;
John K:"I produced a cartoon that really suffered from poor structure: Black Hole. The premise of the story was simple. Ren and Stimpy get sucked through a black hole into another dimension where the physical laws are different than ours. Thus, they begin to mutate into weirder and weirder forms. Or...they should have. Instead they morph randomly and not in a building progression. The funniest morphs are early on, and then later they are less weird, so I considered that cartoon quite a failure. I've made other crap too, but my goal is always to have good solid structure and momentum."
"Monkey See, Monkey Don't". While the episode wasn't directed by him, he singled out this particular episode as "the worst Ren and Stimpy cartoon ever made" (of the first two seasons).
While he liked how "A Visit to Anthony" turned out, he was dissatisfied at how undirected the acting of Anthony's dad turned out, and he felt the sound effects and music (added by Games) were "clumsy and inappropriate".
"I directed the recordings of all the characters EXCEPT my Dad, ironically and was very disappointed when I heard it. It sounded like the actor didn't know the story and was reading it for the first time, so he didn't give it the meaning that the drawings conveyed. It was a professional live action actor and I think whoever directed him was afraid to actually give him any direction. And also didn't know my Dad." "I think the animation was done at Rough Draft and it was amazing. The fireplace scene was especially impressive with all the cool effects. The sound effects and music was clumsy and inappropriate as per usual in the Games episodes. That's something they just never got, even though I sent them a long treatise on how to make the sound match the moods of the story."
John stated in a web chat that he felt the early Games episodes had good art, background and story ideas, but were ultimately mangled by lousy direction. In the DVD Commentary for "Stimpy's Cartoon Show", he criticized some aspects of how the final cartoon was handled, namely for muddling it's "Artist Vs. Non-Artist" message by changing Ren from executive to producer—while he did submit it in the cartoon as that in an attempt to avoid executive scrutiny, he felt Games used it as a chance to turn the cartoon into a attack on him instead of meddling executives (although he was ok with that), and that there were weird expressions that didn't really work in context.
"Elinor Blake and I wrote Stimpy's Cartoon Show and I had planned for that to be an epic, but the direction was pretty bungled. I explain it all on the commentary. The first Games DVD is coming out soon. I'd say it's definitely worth getting. Lots of good artwork, great backgrounds and some good stories-alas, no discernible direction."
"Incidentally, this cartoon suffers from some piss-poor timing, because we had just started the new episodes and were trying out a new system of shooting storyboards and timing them to music. A lot of the gags would play better if I could go back and cut them tighter. I apologize in advance! (Just run it in fast forward!)"
Billy West does not like talking about working on the show and refuses to work with John Kricfalusi ever again, citing having a bad experience with him on and off it. In particular, Kricfalusi demanded West quit the show alongside him in order to force the network to hire him back even though West needed the job and could have been blacklisted alongside Kricfalusi had he done it and failed.
To a lesser extent Bob Camp, while he enjoyed working on the show, he has similar bad memories working with Kricfalusi and executive demands, and wasn't satisfied with a lot of his directed episodes during the Games Animation seasons.
Descended Creator: John K. as Ren for the first two seasons. Bob Camp was credited among The Players in a lot of Games Animation episodes.
Defictionalization: The LOG toy from Blammo, which initially only existed as a parody commercial, eventually did become a real Ren and Stimpy related toy.
John K. noted on the DVD commentary for Sven Höek that there was a Ren and Stimpy fan website dedicated to the Loyal Order of Stupids, Sven and Stimpy's "club", called "Members of the Loyal Order of Stupids".
"Ask Dr. Stupid" became the letters column for the Ren and Stimpy comic book by Marvel Comics. Just like in the TV skits, readers would send in silly questions and get equally silly answers.
Edited for Syndication: When R&S was rerun on VH-1 and Spike TV, there were commercial fades in the middle of a cartoon, which disrupted the action. There were also time cuts in some episodes. Sadly, these are the versions which made it onto DVD.
Executive Meddling: Nickelodeon messed about with this show extensively due to censorship issues and John K's inability to make deadlines. The later ending up being the final straw as he was ultimate fired for not getting the new episodes out on time
John K's firing is a controversial topic subject to much debate. For years, John K. claimed he was done in over content and portrayed himself as a martyr but when Adult Party was launched, former colleagues Billy West and Bill Wray came forward to call John K. out on lying and that his laziness was what really got him fired.
Characterization also was affected, since John K. was allegedly asked to place more genuinely heartwarming moments in the series as well as make Rena more ultimately kind intentioned character. Ironically these elements were mostly depleted after John K. left.
Flip Flop of God: John Kricfalusi seems to change his mind whenever people ask about the main duo's sexuality. He goes from saying that "it's none of his business", to saying that Ren is bisexual, to that they are canonically gay. Heck, even when he made them explicitly gay in the adult spin-off, he still beats around the bush regarding this topic.
Franchise Killer: The cancellation of Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon put the kibosh on the franchise.
God Does Not Own This World: Probably one of the most Shakespearean and operatic instances of this trope, since Bob Camp, Chris Reccardi, Bill Wray and other Spumco-ites from the first two seasons chose to stay with Nickelodeon and the show after Kricfalusi was fired.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The short "Chicken in a Drawer", which was absent from the second DVD set for some reason. A large number of episodes on all the DVD sets of the original series featured cuts, ranging from only a few seconds to a minute in some instances. This was due to Nickelodeon tampering with footage from the negatives after Kricfalusi's firing for the reruns of them. Although he got the episodes as close to the originals as he could for the sets, he couldn't get all of the original footage back.
Missing Episode: While all episodes are now on DVD, a few episodes from the Games era were banned after one or two broadcasts. And in the case of Adult Party Cartoon, "Naked Beach Frenzy", "Altruists", and "Stimpy's Pregnant" never aired on American TV at all.
"Man's Best Friend" also went unaired for years, until finally airing once on Spike TV in 2003. It can now be seen on the Seasons 1 & 2 DVD set as well on Netflix under the Adult Party Cartoon series. Allegedly, the censors objected to Ren repeatedly hitting George Liquor with a boating oar.
The Other Darrin: Billy West replaced John Kricfalusi as Ren when Kricfalusi was fired, which is funny because West originally auditioned to play both Ren and Stimpy when the show was in pre-production. West also took over as the voice of Mr. Horse and Mrs. Buttloaves following Kricfalusi's termination.note For the record, West began as Ren during season 2, as certain episodes during that time were finished by the Games crew (and thus, were in various stages of production, including voice acting). Examples of season 2 episodes where West voices Ren include the "What will we do till then?" sketch from the end of "Sven Hoek", "Monkey See, Monkey Don't", the oath segment in-between "Stimpy's Fan Club", "The Great Outdoors/The Cat That Laid the Golden Hairball", and a few random lines in "A Visit to Anthony".
Gary Owens replaced Darrin J. Sargent as the voice of Powdered Toast Man after the first PTM bumper.
Eric Bauza replaced Billy West as Stimpy in "Adult Party Cartoon" due to West being involved in other projects and wanting nothing to do with John K. or Ren and Stimpy after the 1990s.
Harris Peet originally voiced George Liquor in "The Boy Who Cried Rat" (in the short scene of George chasing Ren and Stimpy away from his trash) before being replaced by Michael Pataki.
In the Mexican Spanish dub of Adult Party Cartoon, Igor Cruz replaced Alfonso Obregon as Ren halfway through, and Stimpy was recast from Jose Luis Orozco to Jorge Ornelas.
Same Content, Different Rating: When America adopted the TV rating system in the late 1990s (when Ren and Stimpy reruns were more or less still going), the show was rated TV-Y7 for comedic violence and scenes considered too gross or scary for children under 7 (there was even an announcer who prefaced the show with this warning, only the comedic violence was called "silly slapping"). Years later, with the short-lived Adult Party Cartoon series and ramped-up concerns over content, you have Moral Guardians like Common Sense Media branding this series with a "Not Suitable for Anyone Under 15" and the UK's DVDs have rated this a 12 (not suitable for children under 12) for the same reason it was rated a TV-Y7 — and this was after they edited an episode to remove a Western song about the joys of hanging yourself ("The Lord Loves a Hangin'"). The censors finally saw how inappropriate the show was for small children and gave it the rating it deserved.
Schedule Slip: Word of God the reason behind Kricfalusi's firing. The Simpsons even made jokes about it with a bit where an episode of the show was up for an animation award but was not even finished yet...
Short-Lived Big Impact: At 5 seasons and a spin off (the last two of which and the spin off are barely talked about nowadays) this show did not last so long as the two other shows in the original Nicktoons line up, Rugrats and Doug, which continued in some form or another for the better part of a decade. And yet, R&S is among one of the most influential cartoon shows of the last twenty years, spawning dozens of imitators and being the Trope Maker for the Grossout Show genre.
Many of the season 1 episodes were massacred by bad outsourcing, due in part to work from the cheapskate, sweatshop conditions of Fil-Cartoons, who handled ink-and-paint work for the entire first season, and more often than not heavily ruined many scenes due to their all-around cheap Xeroxing, ugly colors and even "reworking" drawings or whole scenes of animation; there were even some unintentional (rather than purposeful) Off Model moments, such as Stimpy's eyes inexplicably turning black in the "Stimpy's Breakfast Tips" note It was supposed to be a placeholder for a separate level of animation photographed in front of it, specifically of Stimpy's actual eyes, but that bit of animation was thrown out and Ren accidentally having two elephant trunks on him instead of one in "Black Hole". note specifically, Ren's trunk is supposed to shift off to the side when he looks at his watch, but a mistake left the animated part of his trunk moving, but with a top drawing of his trunk kept static above it, making it seem like he now has two trunks . Carbunkle director Bob Jacques had to fight tooth and claw to get the studio to turn in acceptable work for episodes like "Stimpy's Invention" (and even then the sporadic error slipped in, such as Stimpy's eyes floating off his face when he's showing Ren his new socks), and described the experience of working with them as "all damage control".
One of the biggest sources of friction was over censorship. Nickelodeon was always uneasy with the gross-out nature of the show's humor, and sent constant revisions to every single episode; "Nurse Stimpy" had a good chunk of footage axed before it got to air (specifically a gag involving a leech being used on Ren) and they even kept one finished episode, "Man's Best Friend", off the air due to its violent and scatological content. As a general rule, anything that had to do with religion, politics, alcohol, and tobacco was put under a microscope by Standards & Practices; the character George Liquor had his last name removed from one episode and made only sporadic appearances due to opposition from the network, right down to axing an entire scene with him from "Rubber Nipple Salesman", forcing Spumco to change a Liquor cameo in "Haunted House" into a parody of Doug Funnie (a scene that got edited out in reruns anyway) and rejecting an episode idea starring him (which prompted the crew to improvise the story for "Fire Dogs" in an afternoon), while "Powdered Toast Man", featuring The Pope, removed a cross from his hat and credited the character simply as "The Man with the Pointy Hat", and the ending scene of Toast Man carelessly using the Constitution and Bill of Rights as kindling for a fire got edited out after it's initial airing, which ironically ruined the episodes satirical message of how easily authority and power are abused.
The show suffered from severe Schedule Slip almost from the start, the result of, depending on who you ask, John Kricfalusi's perfectionism or the constant battles over what was acceptable to air. Nickelodeon had to rerun the pilot episode in order to have something to show in what would've been the second episode's time slot; this helped the show build an audience but killed any hope for syndication. This became a trend; the first season had only six episodes air between August 1991 and February '92.
Feuding between John K. and Nickelodeon over Schedule Slip and censorship came to a head in September '92, in the middle of the second season, when Nickelodeon fired John K. and took over production themselves via the in-house studio Games Animation. The exact circumstances of John K.'s firing are hotly debated to this day; John K. cites his refusal to censor "Man's Best Friend" as the final straw for Nick, while others blame the Schedule Slip. Regardless, this is the moment when many fans claim that the show took a notable downturn in quality, especially given that a good chunk of the staff left in protest at John K.'s firing. Ren & Stimpy finished its second season and ran for a total of three more before it was canceled at the end of 1995 (though one last episode aired on MTV the following year).
Later on, in 2003, John K. relaunched the show as Ren & Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon, part of an adult animation block on Spike TV. The show once more suffered from Schedule Slip, though the censorship fights at Nickelodeon were inverted at Spike TV; John K. maintains that Spike TV pressured him to turn up the adult content farther than he was willing to go. In any case, the show only lasted two months and seven episodes (the pilot being the previously-unaired "Man's Best Friend") before being canceled.
Un-Canceled: "Adult Party Cartoon" (though most disappointed fans wouldn't count this).
What Could Have Been: Obviously, if John K. and his team hadn't been fired. Word is that season 3, had Spumco been kept on, would've mixed in more dramatic outings (similar to "Stimpy's Fan Club" and "Son of Stimpy") with the comedic shorts. Given how good they got at visual acting towards the end of their work on R&S, that would've been interesting to see.
Episodes like "A Visit to Anthony", "Fake Dad" and the aforementioned "Stimpy's Fan Club" were only partially finished when Spumco was fired and were mostly completed by Games. How much better these episodes would have turned out if John K. had been able to finish them is unknown.
In 1993, Nickelodeon was planning on making a Ren and Stimpymovie, along with a movie of Rugrats and Doug. Only the Rugrats and Doug ones were made (Albeit the Doug movie being made after it was bought by Disney), with the Rugrats one being successful enough for a string of sequels.
Billy West was supposed to be the voice of both Ren and Stimpy when the show first started. He got his wish when John K. was fired and Games Animation came in to make episodes.
The show was going to be a song written and played by Kurt Cobain. Sadly, John K. rejected the music sheet (by tossing it in the trash just after Cobain submitted it to Spumco Studios) and decided an instrumental was better.
Had Spumco remained on the show Wilbur Cobb's role in "Stimpy's Cartoon Show" would have been taken by Raymond Spum, a sort of Walt Disney-type figure. Also, Stimpy's cartoon was originally going to be animated and designed like a short from The Golden Age of Animation.
Word of Gay: John K's confirmation on whether Ren and Stimpy are a gay couple is a bit flip-flopped. Answers from John K. range from "It's none of my business" to "Only when/if it's funny" to "Both of them are desperate and/or bisexual." There's no simple "Yes" or "No" answer and, knowing Kricfalusi, there probably will never be one.
The German translation of the show seemed to have caught wind of this as both the voices of the title characters in that version are quite clearly gay.
Write Who You Know: George Liquor is based on John Kricfalusi's father, while the fireman from "Fire Dogs" and the tenuous sequel "Fire Dogs 2" is based on Ralph Bakshi (Kricfalusi's animation mentor).
Written By Cast Member: Many of the early episodes were written by John K., who initially played Ren. Later, "Ol' Blue Nose" was partially written by Billy West, who initially voiced Stimpy, but later voiced both Ren and Stimpy.