Sunday, March 30, 2008

John Kricfalusi and The Ren and Stimpy Show

In a 1993 interview, Bill Wray stated that he believes that Kricfalusi created the Ren and Stimpy characters around 15 years prior to the interview for Kricfalusi's and Kricfalusi's friends' personal amusement during the university years; Kricfalusi attended 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.

A documentary on how Ren and Stimpy first started. Interviews by series creator John K. (Kricfalusi) and his layout/storyboard artist, Eddie Fitzgerald.

Filmed at Spumco Animation Studios
I didn't edit this. I saw the original version and it does not include some of the music tracks in the background.

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.

From episode "Jerry the Bellybutton Elf" starring Gilbert Gottfried.

Stimpy serves Jerry his dinner, which is "lint loaf", something Jerry hates more than anything in the world. Having it served to him, Jerry gets pissed off, goes balistic and tries to kill Stimpy.

Meanwhile, curious of the behavior on the outside of the bellybutton, Ren invites a couple of friends over a throws a party.

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."

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