|The Completely Uncensored Unbelievably True Ren &
Written, Compiled by Brandon Finkler
(See end of page for list of stuff I used to write this)
The Ren & Stimpy Show!
knew they wanted some wacky cartoons like they used to make in the old
days, but they had never made cartoons themselves and didn't have the foggiest
notion of how to go about doing it. So an education was in store. John
K., in gratitude for his chance to produce cartoons with his own characters
(who were like his babies), offered to explain it to them. He explained
all about storyboards to Vanessa Coffey, who was the Nick executive who
discovered John K. and Ren & Stimpy. He explained that cartoonists
used to write cartoons by using pictures rather than scripts. Venessa listened
with glee to John's marvelous stories of days gone past- and didn't write
anything down. Vanessa wanted to please John K. and agreed that if storyboards
were good enough for Bugs Bunny, They were good enough for her.
A major breakthrough
happened for animated cartoons! The stories were given back to cartoonists!
Well, sort of. Once Nickelodeon gave Spümcø the go-ahead for
Ren & Stimpy Show, Spümcø was thrown into full production.
Kricfalusi put the word out to the animation industry that they needed
artists- more bad boys (and girls!). He was going to give disgruntled artists
the opportunity to do the kind of cartoons that cartoonists were denied
at the other studios. Through the course of both seasons of R&S, many
talented and angry artists found their way into the Spümcø
fold. The best of the baddest rushed through Spümcø's open
doors. Glenn Barr, Charlie Bean, Elinor Blake, Eddie Fitzgerald, Mike Fontinelli,
Jim Gomez (who co-wrote "Space Madness" as his first writing gig!), Mike
Kim, Richard Pursel and Chris Reccardi- all these rebel artists and more
were welcomed with open arms by the original Spümcø big-shots.
One particular artist
grateful for the opportunities Spümcø gave him was Vincent
Waller, an extremely talented cartoonist who, previous to R&S, had
no experience on cartoony-type shows. Vincent had been type-cast as a realistic
artist on such borefests as Ghostbusters. Vincent was the prime
example of what an ambitious cartoonist can achieve when given the chance.
Right from the beginning, he proved himself to be a workhorse. He worked
very closely with John K. on such early R&S classics as "Stimpy's Big
Day." This was the cartoon that firmly established Ren and Stimpy's personalities
and their wonderfully dysfunctional relationship.
Waller was given his
first crack at writing at Spümcø and gave the world "The Boy
Who Cried Rat." Always patiently absorbing Kricfalusi's revived cartoon
techniques, he moved up quickly to become on of the key creators at Spümcø.
Within a short year, he began co-directing with Kricfalusi on episodes
like "The Rubber Nipple Salesmen," surley one of the funniest cartoons
made in the last 200 years.
Recruiting new artists
was only a small fraction of the Herculean task that lay ahead of Mr. K.
Not only did he have to hire the new artists, he had to train them to do
things the way they used to make cartoons in the Golden Age (which he himself
had to figure out through trial and error and studying the old Bugs Bunny
cartoons on his own time).
Kricfalusi then had
to find animators who would understand the style of animation that he wanted
to do. He called upon his old friend and fellow canuck Bob Jaques to supervise,
direct and help create a whole new style of cartoony animation. Kricfalusi
wanted the animation style to depend more on acting than flailing. "Acting"
is the kind of animation that was done at Warner Bros. Studios in it's
heyday. Bugs and Daffy's acting is what makes their personalities so believable.
On the other hand, "failing" is a technical term used in animation to describe
an expensive process in which the characters never stop moving. This is
the more Disney approach. Roger Rabbit particularly exemplifies
the "flail" style, deriving considerable entertainment from it's vast amount
Bob Jaques and his Carbunkle
animation crew in Vancouver jumped at the chance to push the boundries
of animation and put in an effort far above and beyond the call of duty,
setting the style for Ren & Stimpy's animation in Spümcø's
acclaimed "Space Madness" and "Stimpy's Invention."
With all the monotonous
yet necessary duties John K. had to perform, probably the toughest task
of all was trying to keep Nickelodeon happy.
John K. eagerly started pitching stories to
Nickelodeon. Although Nick agreed in principle to the story approach John
wanted to use on the Ren & Stimpy Show, as soon as they found
out what Spümcø's ideas actually were,
they realized they didn't want them, mostly because they didn't get the
jokes. John K. patiently tried to explain cartoon humor to the Nick executives,
but in many cases they just couldn't grasp it. For every cartoon idea that
Nickelodeon accepted, they threw out at least five others. Considering
that Nick president Gerry Laybourne had promised the world that she would
support the cartoonists with "creator-driven" cartoons, this came as quite
a shock to the devoted Spümcø staff.
This made it five times
harder for the Spümcø crew to do their job and cost them their
own time and money. John K. stoically accepted the fact that he would have
to spend a lot of his time explaining the jokes to Nickelodeon's newly
appointed Story Editor Mitch Kriegman, who some say had never actually
seen a cartoon before. A story editors job is to screen out the jokes and
the entertainment value in cartoon stories. Kids, if you watch a cartoon
and you don't laugh, you know the story editor has done his job!
While John K. and some
of his other crew were reeling from this rude awakening, Bob Camp, Spümcø's
baddest bad boy, came into town after a sick leave only to discover that
the stories written in his absence were heavily scrutinized by the Nickelodeon
executives. Camp out of loyalty to his friends, was enraged. He knew well
from his six months of experience on Tiny Toons what it felt like
to have his work tampered with.
As a diplomatic tack, John K. invited
the Nick execs out to Hollywood to meet face to face with the Spümcø
crew to discuss the Ren & Stimpy stories. Kricfalusi had discovered
that pitching a cartoon idea in person was a much more effective way to
sell a story than having an executive try to read a story.
crew and the Nick crew prepared to meet for a friendly dinner. Before the
meeting, Kricfalusi asked Camp to be nice to the Nickelodeon executives,
even if he disagreed with thing they might say. John was determined to
have everyone get to know and like each other without discussing any of
the Ren & Stimpy stories untill the next day. When the dinner
conversation swung around to disagreements on the Spümcø stories,
John tried to divert the conversation to more fun subjects. Bob Camp's
discussion with story editor Mitchell Kriegman got onto the subject of
Bob's bad times with the executives of Tiny Toons. This quickly
turned into a wild screaming match, with irascible Camp venting his rage
at both the Nick execs and his stunned Spümcø pals. Crafty
Nick exec Mary Harrington encouraged the scuffle by making rude cracks
like, "Who is this hillbilly biker guy?" Spit and foam flew everywhere
as the enraged cartoonists threatened to break spines and toss men and
women alike out windows.
This diplomatic disaster
caused untold troubles for the Spümcø team. The following day,
Nickelodeon demanded that John K. fire Camp, or at least take away his
writing responsibilities. John was so convinced, however, of Bob's talent
that he refused and instead just basically hid Camp from the watchful
eyes of the Nickelodeon executives for about six months. Nickelodeon -
now having lost considerable faith in Kricfalusi - intensified their controls
over the stories by adding another Story Editor, Rob McWill.
It had become obvious that the magical dream
world that Gerry Laybourne painted for the cartoonists and their creator-driven
cartoons was a wishful fantasy. Nonetheless, John K. and Spümcø
continually did their best to not only make what they thought were entertaining
cartoons, but to please Nickelodeon as well. Unfortunately, the sad reality
was that Nickelodeon just didn't like The Ren & Stimpy Show
as much as they wanted to.
You're not going to
beleive this, but all the stuff that you like about The Ren & Stimpy
Show is the stuff Nick didn't want you to have. You know all those
gross paintings of eyeballs and tongues and warts and stuff the Spümcø
guys like to put in the cartoons? Well, Nickelodeon HATED those. The also
hated Ren. That's right, kids, you heard right. The Nick execs didn't like
Ren because he was too mean, especially because he's too mean to Stimpy.
They wanted him to be NICE to Stimpy. And they thought he was too crazy.
How 'bout that? Cheezus.
The show is a smash
hit! Cartoons by cartoonists work! The world is saved. In August
of 1991, the terrified Nickelodeon executives began broadcasting The
Ren & Stimpy Show on Sunday mornings. They were going to broadcast
it on Saturday nights with Doug and Rugrats, but thay didn't
like Ren & Stimpy enough. But guess who did? You did! And so
did all kinds of people. And Ren & Stimpy became a huge hit cartoon
thanks to the audience's support.
This was a great win
for John K. and Spümcø, too, because The Ren & Stimpy
Show finally proved once and for all that if you let cartoonists make
cartoons, then people will like them. It also proved that Gerry Laybourne's
creator-driven cartoons were a good thing. Like a proud mother Ms. Laybourne
promised, "We will make it easier for you this year."
With the mega success
of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Nickelodeon wanted to order more episodes
from Spümcø. They even sorta apologized to John K. They said
stuff like, "We didn't understand the show the first year. But now that
it's finished, we love it and we believe that ou know what you are doing."
After seeing the finished "Space Madness" and "Stimpy's Invention," Nickelodeon
admitted that Spümcø knew what it was doing and promised to
let the Cartoonists continue to make weird and wacky cartoons even when
Nick didn't understand them. But, they didn't write it down. It was a big
stinky lie! John K., the big sap, believed the big stinky lie. He started
production on a new season of Ren & Stimpy cartoons.
Once production started
on the second season, Kricfalusi hired Libby Simon to produce the show
and make sure that Nickelodeon would live up to their promises that they
didn't write down. Meanwhile, Bob Camp got married and took a month off
as the Spümcø crew started writing new stories.
Well, it turned out
that Nickelodeon hated Spümcø's new Ren & Stimpy stories
even more than they hated the old ones and tortured the cartoonists mercilessly
and called them bad names, telling them stuff like, "You don't understand
Ren & Stimpy Show" and "Take out the boogers." They threw out all
kinds of cool stories with names like "Ren's Bad Habit's" and even threw
out stories after they promised to let them do them in the first
place. Ever wonder why there were so many repeats? It's because Nickelodeon
threw out so many great stories that it too forever to make new ones!
Camp came back from
his honeymoon refreshed and ready to join in on writing and on the criticisms
from Nickelodeon from Nickelodeon, which were getting harsher by the minute.
The rest of the writers, who hadn't had a break between the two seasons,
were relieved to have Camp take on some of the burden.
generally disliked poor old Bob Camp's stories even less than the other
writer's stories and John K. would spend hours on the telephone defending
his friend. In fact, Bob would get so upset when Nickelodeon's notes arrived
on his stories that John and the Spümcø crew began to intercept
the notes so the poor guy wouldn't have to see them. A very sensitive Cartoonist,
Camp would erupt at the slightest criticism of even the other writer's
cartoons. With all the craziness happening between Nickelodeon and Spümcø,
John had to figure out some way to shelter Bob from all the stress.
About this time, John
convinced Nickelodeon that all their meddling and broken promises were
going to make the show late. Nick panicked and John suggested a partial
solution. Nick would have to let Spümcø produce some EASY
cartoons that they could whip out FAST. Nick hated to make anything
easy for Spümcø, but at this point they had no choice.
John convinced Nickelodeon
to let Bob write some of what they complained were "generic cartoons" and
then promoted him to director, locked him in a big safe office-away from
all the big brown stinky stuff that was going on.
Kricfalusi was taking
a big chance because he promised Nickelodeon that even though they didn't
like Camp's written stories, they would like them better after they saw
the drawings. He was convinced that Bob's great, funny drawing style would
fool Nickelodeon into forgetting that they ever disliked the stories. And
you know what? It worked! Kricfalusi's faith in Nickelodeon's short memories
paid off-for Bob. All of a sudden, They LOVED Bob. He was a HERO!
It turned out
that what Nickelodeon wanted all along WAS generic cartoons! They
didn't WANT Ren & Stimpy Cartoons!
The Plot To Overthrow Spümcø
got so sick of Spümcø's devious plan to make cartoons funny
that they just broke all their remaining promises. The plot to murder Ren
& Stimpy can be traced back to early September of 1992. As The
Ren & Stimpy Show grew more popular, week after week, and fan clubs
sprouted up all over the country, Nickelodeon stopped PAYING Spümcø.
To try to get the artists to throw out some of the cartoons that Nick had
already approved, They held the studio's money for ransom.
And while the devoted
Spümcø staff worked like slaves to fix all the problems that
Nick themselves caused, Nickelodeon heaped praise on their newfound savior,
Bob Camp. They even promised to let him direct a Ren & Stimpy
movie that Nick would produce themselves - WITHOUT SPUMCO!
John K. then
wrote Geraldine Laybourne an impassioned letter begging to have her meet
him in hopes of avoiding the drastic step of removing him and his staff
from the show he created. "I thought you were behind creator-driven shows?"
asked a disillusioned Kricfalusi. Laybourne refused to meet with John K.
in person, opting to respond via a press-department letter that sounded
more like a public statement than a personal correspondence. She tactfully
avoided answering John's request for a personal meeting. "In the future,
to ensure that creator-driven animation has longevity as a concept, we
will build structures from the start that will allow creators to create
and NOT be part of the production process," she coldly replied. Translation:
now on we will steal the cartoons from the Cartoonists who create them
and make them ourselves!"
of the impending firing spread throughout Spümcø.
...Onward to part three!
I used a buncha magazine articles, John K.and other Spümcø
bigshots interviews to write this lil' thing. Here's what I used-
- "Cel Out- The Plot to Kill Cartoons" by Chris Gore and
his Magic Gremlins
Wild Cartoon Kingdom #1, 1993 (I shamelessly
copied about 90% of the the story from this)
- Wild Cartoon Kingdom #3, 1993
- Spumco News #2, August 1994
- Spumco News #4, January 1996
- Hero Illustrated #15, September 1994
- Cinefantastique Double Issue Vol.26 #6/Vol.27
#1, October 1995
- Ren & Stimpy: The Definitive First and Second
Season Episode Log by Michelle Klein-Hass
-A bunch of Interviews with John K., Jim Smith, Bob Camp