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The Ren and Stimpy Show

The Ren and Stimpy Show is an American/Canadian animated television series created by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi. The series follows the adventures of the eponymous characters: Ren Höek, a neurotic "asthma-hound" chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, — a simpleminded manx cat. They wander around in nonsensical adventures in a style reminiscent of the Golden Age of American animation.

A series from the children's cable network Nickelodeon, The Ren and Stimpy Show had a reputation for subversive humor. The controversy mostly stemmed from imagery and cartoon violence. In 1992, Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi and production moved from Kricfalusi's Spümcø studios to Games Animation, where it stayed until its cancellation in 1997. Re-runs currently air on Nicktoons Network.

Characters

The main characters are Ren Höek and Stimpson J. Cat.

Ren Höek (first appearance: "Big House Blues", 1990) is a scrawny "Asthma-Hound" chihuahua with a fairly long, rat-like pink tail. Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman of Animation World Magazine described Ren as "scrawny," "dyspeptic," and "violently psychotic."

Kricfalusi originally voiced Ren. When Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi, Billy West, already the voice of Stimpy, took the role using a combination of Burl Ives, Kirk Douglas, and a slight "south of the border accent" for the rest of the Nickelodeon run. Kricfalusi returned to the voice for the Nickelodeon series and Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon on Spike TV.

Stimpson "Stimpy" J. Cat (first appearance: "Big House Blues", 1990) is a fat, tailless, red and white cat with a blue nose, purple eyelids, and flat feet. Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman of Animation World Magazine described Stimpy as "obese," and "brain-damaged." West voiced Stimpy for the Spümcø and Games Animation episodes, basing the voice on an "amped-up" Larry Fine. Eric Bauza portrayed the character in Adult Party Cartoon.

The show features a host of supporting characters, both recurring and single episode appearances, although Ren and Stimpy are the only characters to appear in every episode. Some of the supporting characters factor directly into the storyline (such as George Liquor) while others make brief cameos. Other characters, such as Mr. Horse, are exclusively cameo-based, appearing in many episodes in bits that have little bearing on the plot.

History

Conception

In a 1993 interview, Bill Wray stated that he believes that Kricfalusi created the Ren and Stimpy characters around 15 years prior, for Kricfalusi's personal amusement during his years in Sheridan College in Canada. Wray said that he had initially "forgotten about" the characters. When Nickelodeon requested new series, Kricfalusi assembled a presentation called "Our Gang", similar to a children's show with a live action host presenting various cartoons. Each cartoon parodied a genre, and Ren and Stimpy parodied the "cat and dog" genre. Vanessa Coffey, the producer of the show, said that she did not like the general idea but that she liked Ren and Stimpy.

Spümcø 1991-1992

In 1989, Kricfalusi pitched and sold The Ren and Stimpy Show to Nickelodeon. Kricfalusi's own animation house, Spümcø, finished the pilot in October 1990 and the first episode of the show proper aired on August 11, 1991, premiering alongside Doug and Rugrats. Spümcø continued to produce the show for the next two years while encountering issues with Nickelodeon standards and practices. Over the years a number of episodes were censored.

According to West, at one point Nickelodeon considered him for the voice of Ren. Spümcø says that Nickelodeon did not consider him for the part, however.

Wray stated that on some occasions Kricfalusi completed an episode in eight months, and on some occasions he completed an episode in "two or three" months. Wray described Kricfalusi's ideal production period per episode as four half-hour cartoons per year and added that the arrangement would not "jibe with our production schedule."

In his blog, Kricfalusi described The Ren and Stimpy Show as the "safest project I ever worked on" while defining "safe" as "spend a third of what they spend now per picture, hire proven creative talent, and let them entertain" in that instance. Kricfalusi said that The Ren and Stimpy Show cost around six million United States dollars to produce and generated "a billion bucks or more." in revenue.

Firing of John Kricfalusi

Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi in 1992. Without Kricfalusi, Nickelodeon moved production from Spümcø to Games Animation. Kricfalusi said that the main sticking points for the Nickelodeon executives seemed to be the level of violence in the show, and Kricfalusi points specifically to the episode "Man's Best Friend", which features Ren beating the character George Liquor with an oar, for his firing. Nickelodeon banned the episode from airing; the episode did not air in North America until Adult Party Cartoon began in 2003.

Wray described the main issues regarding Kricfalusi's friction with Nickelodeon as stemming from episodes not being produced in a "timely" manner. Wray stated that Kricfalusi attributed the delays to Nickelodeon not approving "things fast enough" and the Nickelodeon staff members "changing their minds." Wray describes Kricfalusi's statements as containing "some truth." According to Wray, Nickelodeon would not have "minded" if the shows exceeded their budgets; therefore Wray did not see going over budget as the issue. Wray said that Kricfalusi believed that the product's quality holds more importance than meeting deadlines, and that he perceived Nickelodeon as "slowing him down." According to Wray, Kricfalusi believed that "every step after the storyboards weakens the process" and that he "fought for the integrity of the storyboards" and lengthened production time because he wished to salvage the quality of the series. Wray stated that the children forming the audience of Ren and Stimpy tolerated episodes when "things get gross" but that the audience did not want "a frightening, dramatic show." Wray cited a "father figure verbally abusing animals" in "Man's Best Friend." Wray disagreed with the sentiment formed after the firing that portrayed Kricfalusi as a protagonist and Nickelodeon as an antagonist, citing the fact that Kricfalusi sold the rights to Ren and Stimpy to Nickelodeon. Wray attributes the sentiment to people liking the show "wanting to look at everything in black and white." Wray believes that "everyone has not been perfect" regarding the Ren and Stimpy scenario.

Bob Camp stated in a USA Today article that Kricfalusi was not "really suited for TV because of the rigors of scheduling. He'll be much happier doing a feature film or some kind of special." The article stated, "Camp says no one is at fault. John Staton, writer of a 1992 article for The Daily Tarheel of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi for missing deadlines.

West also said that Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi for exceeding deadlines. According to West, when Kricfalusi asked West to leave Nickelodeon and join his team, West refused.

Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, a storyboard writer for Rocko's Modern Life, believes that Kricfalusi "got what he asked for." Describing the Ren and Stimpy creator as a "gifted animator with a great deal of genius" and that "his business skills are sadly lacking," Marsh reasons that Kricfalusi ought to have catered to Nickelodeon's demands and treated the network with respect since he chose the network as a client. Marsh says that Kricfalusi ought to have used a theater release for a short animated film, a direct-to-video release system, or "some pay-cable medium." Marsh describes his opinion as placing him "in the minority" after debating the issue with other animators.

Coury Turczyn, writer for PopCult Magazine, describes Nickelodeon as firing Kricfalusi due to "being too creative, too original, and too sophisticated.

Games Animation 1993-1996

Bob Camp wrote and directed the episodes for Games Animation when Nickelodeon took over the show. Since Kricfalusi previously voiced Ren, West took the role.

Wray said that the producers of the Games episodes did not attempt to "reflect John's vision. We can't - because we are not John." Wray answered "pretty much" to an interview question asking if the third season will "sort of wrap up John's ideas for the show." Wray added that the producers asked themselves "What can we do to make funny REN & STIMPY cartoons?" instead of "What would John have done?" In 1993, Wray said that the Games Animation episodes would "have the flavor of REN & STIMPY" since Camp had served as a writer for the show. Wray added that Nickelodeon wanted a "lighter, gut funny type of show" instead of "truly frightening" episodes.

The Games episodes introduced several characters, including Victor and his father and Mr. Cow.

Kricfalusi described the Games Animation team as having "spent way more money" to produce the series and having "killed" The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Nickelodeon canceled the show in 1996, ending its run with a Christmas episode ("A Scooter For Yaksmas").

Ted Drozdowski of The Boston Phoenix stated in a 1998 article that "the bloom faded on Ren & Stimpy.

Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon 2003-2004

In 2003, Kricfalusi relaunched the series as Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon". The new version was aired during a late night programming block on Spike TV and was rated TV-MA. The series, as the title implied, explored more adult themes, including a more explicitly homosexual relationship between the main characters and an episode filled with female nudity.

The show began with the "banned" Nickelodeon episode "Man's Best Friend" before debuting new episodes. Kricfalusi produced three of the ordered nine episodes on time. After three episodes, the entire animation block was removed from Spike TV's programming schedule.

Development

Writing style

Kricfalusi said that he refined the "Director-Unit system" for The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Bill Wray said that he and Kricfalusi met to "sit around and discuss how really good cartoons died in 1961." Kricfalusi and Wray attributed the decline to the rise of parent groups asking for cartoons to take "educational" approaches. He added that the creators of Ren and Stimpy did not want to create an "educational" series and that the stance bothered Nickelodeon.

Wray added that the creators did not try to "be contemporary" regarding jokes. When Charles S. Novinskie, an interviewer for David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview, asked Wray if the show would not have "Waco, Texas, jokes or anything like that," referring to the Waco Siege, Wray answered that the show would rarely reference current events. Wray described a scenario involving a ration card reference in an "old Warner Bros. cartoon" as "confusing" to a 1990s audience.

Kricfalusi said that when he "got to do everything my way on Ren and Stimpy" the group "eventually" created storyboards with larger panels in order to allow for introduction of continuity and new ideas, alteration of the sequences of the stories, and to "sculpt the stories into shape" via input from "other good story artists" and feedback from pitch meetings.

Kricfalusi said that he created commercials for nonexistent products because the Federal Communications Commission would not allow for him to place real commercials in the series. (However, the FCC has no jurisdiction over cable channels such as Nickelodeon; he may have meant the channel's internal Standards & Practices department.)

Animation style

In Kricfalusi's words, "weird, blotchy" backgrounds on occasions replace the standard backgrounds. Kricfalusi said that this originates from "Baby Bottleneck," a Bob Clampett cartoon that lacks backgrounds. Kricfalusi said that, in The Ren and Stimpy Show, he altered backgrounds to evoke certain moods.

KJ Dell'Antonia, a reviewer for Common Sense Media, described the "evolution" of show as portrayed by the animation, which she describes as changing "from intentionally rough to much more polished and plushie-toy ready."

Editing

According to Kricfalusi, since he controlled the editing, he "patched up" the first group of episodes with sound effects and "music bandaids." He describes the alterations as causing the films to "play better, even though much of the animation and timing weren't working on their own."

Voice actors

Kricfalusi and West provided the majority of character voices in the series' first two seasons; After Kricfalusi was fired, West took over the voices of both main characters, as well as those of several supporting characters. Other voice actors in the show's main cast included Harris Peet, Gary Owens, Jack Carter, Alan Young, and Cheryl Chase. Many high-profile actors performed cameos on the show, including Phil Hartman, Rosie O'Donnell, Randy Quaid, Gilbert Gottfried, Frank Gorshin, and Frank Zappa.

Music

The Ren and Stimpy Show and Ren and Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" featured a wide variety of music, ranging from folk to pop to jazz. The opening and closing themes were performed by a group of Spümcø employees under the name "Die Screamin' Lederhosen as a comic reconstruction of German band Die toten Hosen. "Ren and Stimpy" have also released three albums: Crock O' Christmas, You Eediot!, and Radio Daze.

In addition to music written specifically for the show, a number of episodes utilized existing works by composers such as jazz musician Raymond Scott, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Alexander Borodin, Rossini (particularly The Thieving Magpie), and a host of "production music", which fans later compiled into an album.

Home releases

VHS

Throughout the 1990s, Sony Wonder distributed various collections of The Ren & Stimpy Show on VHS video tape in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Unconfirmed rumors state that some of the tapes were censored Nickelodeon versions, while others were uncut Spümcø versions. All videos are now out of print.

Eventually, the rights for Nickelodeon's programming on home video were transferred from Sony to Paramount Home Video. Paramount only released one video of The Ren and Stimpy Show, "Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas", which was actually a re-release of one of Sony's videos that had been released several years earlier. Like all of the other Paramount cassettes of Nickelodeon shows, they were recorded in the EP/SLP format. Tapes released by Sony were recorded in SP format.

Several tapes, mainly containing episodes produced by Games Animation, were released in the United Kingdom in the PAL format — which is not playable on conventional US VCRs. Several tapes were also released in Australia (featuring most episodes produced by Spumco and only some by Games animation) because of how popular the show was. Although the videos in Australia were rated G, there was one that was rated PG for violence. Bill Wray painted the covers for the UK-only cassettes, each of which was rated PG by the British Board of Film Classification. The earlier, Spümcø-based tapes typically received U (all ages) ratings from the BBFC, despite being more controversial with Nickelodeon's censors.

LaserDisc

The Ren and Stimpy Show was also released on LaserDisc in the U.S. by Sony Wonder. There was only one release, "Ren and Stimpy: The Essential Collection", featuring the same program content -- in higher quality -- as the Ren and Stimpy Classics and Classics II VHS tapes. The double-sided disc is recorded in CLV mode, and has digital sound.

DVD

Several episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show were released by Time–Life as The "Best of" set in September 2003. This set is now out of print.

On October 12, 2004, Paramount Home Entertainment released the first two complete seasons in a three-disc box set. Although the cover art and press materials claimed the episodes were "uncut", a handful of episodes were, in fact, edited due to the use of Spike TV masters. One of the episodes from the second season, "Svën Höek", did have footage reinserted from a work in progress VHS tape, but with an editing machine time code visible on-screen. The scene was later restored by fans.

A set for Seasons Three and a Half-ish, containing all of season three and the first half of season four (up to "It's A Dog's Life/Egg Yolkeo") followed on June 28, 2005, with Season five and some more of four, completing the Nickelodeon series, on July 20.

On July 17, 2006, a two-disc set dubbed The Lost Episodes was released. The Lost Episodes set featured both the aired and unaired episodes from Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, as well as clips from unfinished cartoons.

UMD

On September 25, 2005, a compilation entitled The Ren and Stimpy Show: Volume 1 was released in the U.S. on UMD, the proprietary media for the Sony PlayStation Portable.

Controversies

As the show grew in popularity, parent groups complained that Stimpy was subject to repeated violence from Ren. The show often contained scenes where Ren would break down into fits of psychosis and gleefully plot to kill Stimpy. For example, in "Stimpy's Fan Club", Ren tries to break Stimpy's neck. Other sources for complaint were the scatological humor, language used, and the show's use of innuendo which was featured more in the Games animation episodes than the Spumco episodes.

Broadcast of the television show outside of North America

In the early 2000s Nickelodeon Japan marketed the show along with Rocko's Modern Life.

Ren and Stimpy in other media

Video games

Ren & Stimpy-themed games have been produced for Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, Sega Master System, SNES, NES, Game Boy, the PC, PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance. Most of the games were produced by THQ.

Additionally, Ren & Stimpy were included in several Nickelodeon-themed activity and crafts software for computers.

Ren & Stimpy were also created in full 3D for Microsoft's Nickelodeon 3D Movie Maker.

Comic books

Marvel Comics optioned the rights to produce comic books based on Nickelodeon properties in 1992. The initial plan was to have an anthology comic featuring several Nicktoons properties; Ren & Stimpy proved to be so popular the comic was instead dedicated entirely to that series. Marvel produced 44 issues of the ongoing series, along with several specials. Most of these were written by comic scribe Dan Slott. One Ren & Stimpy special #3, Masters of Time and Space, was set up as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' and with a time travel plot, took Slott six months to plot out in his spare time. It was designed so that it was possible to choose a path that would eventually be 20 pages longer than the comic itself. Issue #6 of the series starred Spider-Man, battling Powdered Toast Man.

The editors named the "Letters to the Editor" section "Ask Dr. Stupid.", and at least one letter in every column would be a direct question for Dr. Stupid to answer.

Reception

Terry Thoren, then the CEO and president of Klasky Csupo, said that Kricfalusi "tapped into an audience that was a lot hipper than anybody thought. He went where no man wanted to go before -- the caca, booger humor. It will be interesting to see what the next cycle will be like.

Reviews

KJ Dell'Antonia, a member of Common Sense Media who posted a review of The Ren and Stimpy Show on Go.com, gave the show three stars out of five. Dell'Antonia says that the humor is "too edgy and adult for younger children" and that "once-shocking take on classic cartooning is old hat" in the 2000s.

Similar series

Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman of Animation World Magazine described 2 Stupid Dogs and The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show as "clones" of The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Parodies

  • In 1993, Parody Press Comics produced a one-shot comic book entitled Rank & Stinky no. 1; it starred a rabbit named Rank Hoax and a rat named Stinky who looked almost identical to Ren and Stimpy, and the three stories in the book lampooned (1) the battle between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon, (2) The Simpsons, and (3) consumer culture.
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures "Spring Break Special" features a scene in which parody versions of Ren and Stimpy (a rooster and squirrel also coincidentally named Rank and Stinky) try to hitch a ride with the Tiny Toons. The same episode also featured parodies of Beavis and Butt-head (Beaver and Big-head).
  • Ren and Stimpy was parodied on The Simpsons in the episode "The Front" where the Ren and Stimpy show was nominated for an animation award against Itchy and Scratchy. The viewing at the awards ceremony simply reads: "Clip not done yet", a comment on the slow production time of the show.
  • Issue #87 of the X-Factor comic book, written by Peter David, has Wolfsbane describing to the group's therapist (Doc Samson) a dream in which she was part of the Rahne and Simpy show (Stimpy being the mutant Feral).
  • Stimpy, in a slightly altered form is featured in two episodes of Drawn Together. A clip of this is also shown in the film Street Kings on a television in an apartment. Billy West who voiced him in the original series lent his voice to this character in his first appearance.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Brother From the Same Planet", a 15 second clip where Ren starts sampling some of Stimpy's soup, which turns out to be hairballs and stomach acid, which at that point Ren yells angrily at Stimpy, saying that he is trying to "kill" him, which then Ren's eyeballs pop out, spin a few times, and explode goo. Their voices were provided by Dan Castellaneta.
  • The Japanese Anime and Manga series Shaman King features two immature and immortal spirits, Ponchi and Conchi (one a tanuki that looks like Stimpy, the other a kitsune that looks like Ren) as spirit allies to Tamao Tamamura. Despite their roles as spirit allies, their personalities are perverted and nothing short of childish (they often joke about their enlarged testicles, and Ponchi even threatened to urinate on an opponent when he was captured), and are forced to wear mawashis for decency. They are drawn differently in the anime due to censorship and to avoid infringment.

Airing history

Episodes

TV channels

  • Canada
  • Belgium
  • The Netherlands
  • Nicktoons TV (Dutch Edition) (2007-Present)
  • United States
  • UK
    • BBC2 (1994-1997)
    • Nickelodeon (January 1994-2006)
      • The Ren and Stimpy Show aired in the summer of 2006 as part of the Hall of Fame block; they aired "Sammy and Me" and "The Last Temptation of Ren".
    • Nicktoons (2004-2007)
    • MTV One (2002)
    • MTV Two (2002)
  • Germany
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Romania
  • Israel
  • Ireland
    • TV3 (1998-2001)
  • Turkey
  • Australia
    • The Ren and Stimpy Show formerly aired on Nickelodeon Australia in the early hours of the morning (before this, it aired spontaneously and on weekend nights). It has aired on the channel ever since Nickelodeon Australia was created in 1995. The Ren & Stimpy Show is now aired on Nickelodeon Australia in the channel's 7pm feature "Nicktoon's at Night". The show used to air in the 1990s on free-to-air Network Ten's morning program The Big Breakfast in various timeslots, but the show was canceled many years ago, therefore The Ren and Stimpy Show was not shown anymore. The show was also minorly shown on the Nine Network for an amount of time before being taken off the air in late 2004.
    • Ren and Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" formerly aired on pay TV channel The Comedy Channel (throughout 2005), and on the free-to-air network Nine Network in the early hours of the morning (around the time that The Ren and Stimpy Show aired on the network).
  • New Zealand
    • TVNZ Channel 2 (1992-1996)
    • C4 (2003-2007; note: TV4 was renamed C4 on October 1, 2003)
  • Poland
  • Serbia
    • B92 (2003)
    • TV Ultra (2008)
  • Mexico
    • ZAZ! (1992-1994)
    • Nickelodeon (1994-1996)
    • MTV Latin America (1998-2006)
    • MTV Latin America (2006 - ran and off 'til present)
    • XHGC Canal 5 (1999 - 2001, return in 2003)
  • Czech Republic
    • TV3 (2000-2001)
  • Finland
  • Japan

Merchandising

Wray described the initial lack of merchandise as "the unique and radical thing" about The Ren and Stimpy Show. Wray said that no toy company pre-planned any merchandise for The Ren and Stimpy Show. In 1993, Wray said that the merchandise will follow the show. Wray described Nickelodeon in the 1990s as not wanting to use "over-exploitive" merchandising and that the network "always tried to be hip by not overdoing it."

See also

Source

  • Ren and Stimpy: In the Beginning featurette included on The Ren & Stimpy Show: The Complete First and Second Seasons DVD

References

External links

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