The Ren & Stimpy Show
|The Ren & Stimpy Show|
|Also known as||'Ren & Stimpy'|
|Created by||John Kricfalusi|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||52 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Original release||August 11, 1991 – December 16, 1995|
|Followed by||Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"|
The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply called Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series created by John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. The series follows the adventures of title characters Ren, an emotionally unstable chihuahua, and Stimpy, a good-natured, dimwitted cat.
Ren & Stimpy premiered on August 11, 1991 as one of the original three Nicktoons, along with Rugrats and Doug. Throughout its run, the show was controversial for its off-color humor, sexual innuendo, dark humor, adult jokes, and violence which were rare for children's television animation of the time. This controversy contributed to the production staff's altercations with Nickelodeon's Standards and Practices department. The show ended on December 16, 1995, with a total of five seasons and 52 episodes.
Ren & Stimpy received mixed to very positive reviews during its original run then later widespread critical acclaim after its run, and has developed a cult following. The series is often cited as paving the way for animated shows like Beavis and Butt-Head and South Park. A spin-off for adult audiences, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", aired in 2003 on Spike, but was cancelled soon after its debut. According to reports in 2016, the show's creator is developing a Ren & Stimpy short-format cartoon that would screen along with the third SpongeBob movie.
The series centers on Ren Höek (voiced by John Kricfalusi in seasons 1–2; Billy West in seasons 3–5), a short-tempered, "asthma-hound" Chihuahua, and Stimpson J. "Stimpy" Cat (also voiced by Billy West), a 3-year-old dimwitted and happy-go-lucky cat. The duo fill various roles from episode to episode, including outer-space explorers, Old West horse thieves, and nature-show hosts, and are usually at odds with each other in these situations. While the show was sometimes set in the present day, the show's crew tended to avoid "contemporary" jokes about current events. The show extensively features off-color humor, absurdist humour, and slapstick.
The show features a host of supporting characters; some only appear in a single episode, while others are recurring characters, who occasionally appear in different roles, like Powdered Toast Man. Some of the supporting characters factor directly into the storyline, while others make brief cameos. Other characters, such as Mr. Horse, are exclusively cameo-based, appearing in many episodes in scenes that have little bearing on the plot, as a running gag.
Development and history
According to animator William Wray, John Kricfalusi created the characters Ren and Stimpy in 1978 for "personal amusement" while studying at Sheridan College in his native Canada. He was inspired to create Ren by an Elliott Erwitt photograph, printed on a postcard, called "New York City, 1946", showing a sweatered chihuahua at a woman's feet. Stimpy's design was inspired by a Tweety Bird cartoon called A Gruesome Twosome where the cats in the animation had big noses.
When Nickelodeon approached Kricfalusi, he presented three shows, among them a variety show titled Your Gang or Our Gang with a live action host presenting different cartoons, each cartoon parodying a different genre. Ren and Stimpy were pets of one of the children in Your Gang, serving as a parody of the "cat and dog genre". The network's Vice President of Animation Production Vanessa Coffey was dissatisfied with the other projects but did like Ren and Stimpy, singling them out for their own series. Production of the series's pilot episode began in 1989 after Kricfalusi pitched and sold The Ren & Stimpy Show to Nickelodeon. The pilot was produced by Kricfalusi's Los Angeles-based animation company, Spümcø, and screened at film festivals for several months before the show was announced in Nickelodeon's 1991 cartoons line-up.
The series premiered on August 11, 1991 alongside Doug and Rugrats. Spümcø continued to produce the show for the next two years while encountering issues with Nickelodeon's Standards and Practices. The show was known for its lack of early merchandising; According to Wray, the initial lack of merchandise was "the unique and radical thing" about The Ren & Stimpy Show, as no toy company planned ahead for any merchandise for the show, and Nickelodeon did not want to use "over-exploitive" merchandising.
As described by Kricfalusi, his early period with Nickelodeon as being "simple", as he got along with Coffey, the sole executive of the program. When another executive was added, he wanted to alter or discard some of the Ren & Stimpy episodes, but Kricfalusi says the episodes stayed intact since he did a "trade" with Coffey: he would have some "really crazy" episodes in exchange for some "heart-warming" episodes. Kricfalusi also said that the program was the "safest project [he] ever worked on" while explaining the meaning of "safe" as "spend a third of what they spend now per picture, hire proven creative talent, and let them entertain". He estimated Spümcø's run of The Ren & Stimpy Show cost around $6,000,000 to produce.
The relationship between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon worsened to the point where Kricfalusi would communicate with Nickelodeon only through his lawyer. Several of the series's staff and news outlets ascribe the tension to episodes not being delivered in a timely manner. Author Andy Mangels, writing for Wizard magazine, commented that "Kricfalusi's lax treatment of deadlines pissed off not only the networks, but his loyal viewers as well." However, some of the delays were attributed to Nickelodeon's prolonged approval process and withdrawal of approval from scenes and episodes that had been previously approved. Another bone of contention was the direction of the series. Nickelodeon later asked the new studio to make it lighter and less frightening. Kricfalusi cites the episode "Man's Best Friend" as the primary reason for his dismissal; the episode features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults the character George Liquor with an oar.
Games Animation (1993–95)
Nickelodeon terminated Kricfalusi's contract in late September 1992 and offered him the position of consultant for Ren & Stimpy, but he refused to "sell out". The network moved production from Spümcø to its newly founded animation studio, Games Animation, which later became Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Bob Camp replaced Kricfalusi as director, while West, having refused Kricfalusi's request to leave along with him, voiced Ren in addition to Stimpy.
Fans and critics felt this was a turning point in the show, with the new episodes being a considerable step down from the standard of those that preceded them. Ted Drozdowski, resident critic of The Boston Phoenix, stated that "the bloom faded on Ren & Stimpy." Animation historian Michael Barrier writes that while the creators of the Games episodes used bathroom humor jokes that were similar to those used by Kricfalusi, they did not "find the material particularly funny; they were merely doing what was expected."
The series ended its original run on December 16, 1995 with "A Scooter for Yaksmas", although one episode from the final season, "Sammy and Me/The Last Temptation", remained unaired. Almost a year later, the episode aired on Nickelodeon's sister network, MTV, on October 20, 1996.
The animation production methods used in The Ren & Stimpy Show was similar to those found in Golden Age cartoons of the early 20th century, where a director was responsible for supervising the entire process. These methods are in contrast to animation production methods in the 1980s, where there was one director for animation, a different director for voice actors, and the cartoons were created with a "top-down" approach to tie in with toy production.
Animator Vincent Waller compared working on Ren & Stimpy and SpongeBob SquarePants in an interview: "Working on Ren and Stimpy and SpongeBob was very similar. They're both storyboard-driven shows, which means they give us an outline from a premise after the premise has been approved. We take the outline and expand on it, writing the dialogue and gags. That was very familiar." According to Kricfalusi, Ren & Stimpy reintroduced the layouts stage, and reemphasized the storyboard stage. Eventually, the production staff drew larger storyboard panels, which allowed for the stories to be easily changed according to reactions from pitch meetings, and for new ideas to be integrated.
The show's aesthetics draw on Golden Age cartoons, particularly those of animator Bob Clampett from the 1940s in the way the characters' emotions powerfully distort their bodies. The show's style emphasizes unique expressions, intense and specific acting, and strong character poses. One of the show's most notable visual trademarks is the detailed paintings of gruesome close-ups, along with the blotchy ink stains that on occasion replace the standard backgrounds, "reminiscent of holes in reality or the vision of a person in a deep state of dementia". This style was developed from Clampett's Baby Bottleneck, which features several scenes with color-cards for backgrounds. The show incorporated norms from "the old system in TV and radio" where the animation would feature sponsored products to tie in with the cartoon, however in lieu of real advertisements, it featured fake commercial breaks advertising nonexistent products, most notably Log.
Carbunkle Cartoons, an animation studio headed by Bob Jaques and Kelly Armstrong, is cited by Kricfalusi for animating the show's best episodes beautifully, improving the acting with subtle nuances and wild animation that could not be done with overseas animation studios. Some of the show's earlier episodes were rough to the point that Kricfalusi felt the need to patch up the animation with sound effects and "music bandaids," helping the segments "play better, even though much of the animation and timing weren't working on their own." KJ Dell'Antonia of Common Sense Media describes the show's style as changing "from intentionally rough to much more polished and plushie-toy ready."
Kricfalusi originally voiced Ren, styled as a demented Peter Lorre. When Nickelodeon terminated Kricfalusi's contract, 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. West voiced Stimpy for the Spümcø and Games Animation episodes, basing the voice on an "amped-up" Larry Fine. Some notable artists and performers who voiced incidental characters on the show are Cheryl Chase, Frank Zappa, Randy Quaid, Gilbert Gottfried, Rosie O'Donnell, Dom DeLuise, Phil Hartman, Mark Hamill, Alan Young, Frank Gorshin and Tommy Davidson.
The Ren & Stimpy Show features a wide variety of music, spanning rockabilly, folk, pop, jazz, classical music, jingles, and more. The opening and closing themes are performed by a group of Spümcø employees under the name "Die Screaming Leiderhôsens". Three Ren & Stimpy albums have been released: Crock O' Christmas, You Eediot!, and Radio Daze. In addition to music written specifically for the show, a number of episodes used existing works by composers such as jazz musician Raymond Scott, Claude Debussy, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Ludwig van Beethoven, Alexander Borodin, Antonín Dvořák, Gioachino Rossini (particularly The Thieving Magpie), and several "production music" works by composers such as Frederic Bayco, which fans later compiled into several albums. In 1993 a compilation album, "You Eediot!", was released as a soundtrack album. The album's front cover is a parody of The Beatles' 11th studio album Abbey Road.
Stimpy's rousing anthem titled "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" was composed by Christopher Reccardi and written by Charlie Brissette and John Kricfalusi. A cover of this song, performed by Wax, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records. The line "happy, happy, joy, joy" is first used in episode three of the series; the song is first played in episode six. It is sung by a character introduced as "Stinky Whizzleteats", who is named in the episode's script as Burl Ives, an American folk singer and actor. The song liberally quotes numerous lyrics and lines of dialogue from Ives's films and records, creating a series of non sequiturs.
Controversy and censorship
The creators of Ren & Stimpy did not want to create an "educational" series, a stance which bothered Nickelodeon. Parents groups decried the series. Some segments of the show were altered to exclude references to religion, politics, and alcohol. The episode "Powdered Toast Man" had a cross removed from the Pope's hat and the credits changed to "the man with the pointy hat". The same episode had a segment featuring the burning of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights which was removed, while in another episode the last name of the character George Liquor was removed. Several episodes had violent, gruesome, or suggestive scenes shortened or removed, including a sequence involving a severed head, a close-up of Ren's face being grated by a man's stubble, and a scene where Ren receives multiple punches to the stomach from an angry baby. One episode, "Man's Best Friend", was shelved by Nickelodeon for its violent content. The show's spin-off, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", debuted with this "banned" episode.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot||September 15, 1991 (part of season 1)|
|1||6||August 11, 1991||February 23, 1992|
|2||12||August 15, 1992||May 23, 1993|
|3||10||November 20, 1993||July 30, 1994|
|4||14||October 1, 1994||April 1, 1995|
|5||10||June 3, 1995||December 16, 1995|
The series ran for five seasons, spanning 52 episodes. The show was produced by Kricfalusi's animation studio Spümcø for the first two seasons. Beginning with season three (1993–94), the show was produced by Nickelodeon's Games Animation. The episode "Man's Best Friend" was produced for season two, but the episode was shelved and debuted with the show's adult spin-off. Another episode, "Sammy and Me / The Last Temptation", aired on MTV on October 20, 1996, almost a year after the original Nickelodeon run ended.
The show received critical acclaim. Terry Thoren, former 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". The Morning Call called it "high voltage yuks and industrial-strength weirdness", The Independent described it as "a gooey media meltdown, absolutely grotesque and instantly recognisable" and did not consider it a children's cartoon. The show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon becoming for its first year the most popular cable TV show in the United States, and it quickly developed a cult following.
Legacy and influence
The immediate influence of the show was the spawning of two "clones": Hanna-Barbera's 2 Stupid Dogs, in which Spümcø employees including Kricfalusi had some limited involvement after their departure from Ren & Stimpy; and Disney's The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show. However, the show had a wider influence on the future of animation. Mike Judge credits MTV's willingness to commission Beavis and Butt-head to the success of Ren & Stimpy on the network. Writer Larry Brody credits Ren & Stimpy for leading a new golden age of animation, as other networks followed Nickelodeon and invested in new cartoons, opening the way for more adult-oriented satirical shows like Beavis and Butt-head and South Park. Writer/animator Allan Neuwirth writes that Ren & Stimpy "broke the mold" and started several trends in TV animation, chiefly the revival of credits at the beginning of each episode, the use of grotesque close-ups, and a shift in cartoon color palettes to richer, more harmonious colors. A direct influence can be seen in the series SpongeBob SquarePants with physically extreme drawings that contrast with the characters' usual appearance, the "grotesque close-ups".
The characters are featured and parodied in numerous works. Ren & Stimpy placed 31st in TV Guide's list of "Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" in 2002. The cover story of the October 2001 issue of Wizard, a magazine for comic book fans, listed the 100 Greatest Toons ever as selected by their readers, with Ren & Stimpy ranked at number 12. Other entertainment journals similarly hold Ren & Stimpy as one of the best cartoons of the '90s and cartoons for adults.
Adult Party Cartoon (2003)
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 implies, explores more adult themes, including an explicitly homosexual relationship between the main characters, and an episode filled with female nudity. Billy West declined to reprise his role as the voice of Stimpy, saying that the show was "not funny" and that joining it would have damaged his career. Eric Bauza voiced Stimpy, while Kricfalusi reprised the role of Ren. The show began with the "banned" Nickelodeon episode "Man's Best Friend" before debuting new episodes. Fans and critics alike were unsettled by the show from the first episode, which featured the consumption of bodily fluids such as nasal mucus, saliva and vomit. Only three of the ordered nine episodes were produced on time. After three episodes, Spike TV's entire animation block was removed from its programming schedule.
Cartoon for the third SpongeBob movie
Deadline Hollywood reported in early 2016 that Ren and Stimpy will appear in an upcoming Nicktoons film. Later that year, Variety reported that Nickelodeon is in talks with Kricfalusi about a revival of the characters. Bob Camp and Bill Wray, who worked on the original show, said in an April 2016 panel discussion that Kricfalusi is developing a Ren & Stimpy short that would screen along with the third SpongeBob movie. Camp and Wray stated that they were "not invited to that party" and wouldn't be working on it.
VHS, LaserDisc, UMD
Sony Wonder initially distributed collections of episodes of The Ren & Stimpy Show on VHS, which were not grouped by air dates or season. Eventually, the rights for Nickelodeon's programming on home video transferred from Sony to Paramount Home Video. Paramount only released one video of The Ren & Stimpy Show, "Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas", which was actually a rerelease of a Sony video from 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.
During the mid and late 1990s, a themed selection of The Ren & Stimpy Show episodes were released in a number of VHS releases in Australia by Nickelodeon and Paramount Home Entertainment. Most of the videos were G-classified due to some scenes that were cut but other certain videos were classified PG. The Ren & Stimpy Show was also released on LaserDisc in the United States by Sony Wonder. There was only one release, "Ren and Stimpy: The Essential Collection", which featured the same episodes as the VHS release. On September 25, 2005, a compilation entitled The Ren & Stimpy Show: Volume 1 was released in the U.S. on UMD, the proprietary media for the PlayStation Portable.
Time–Life released several episodes of The Ren & Stimpy Show in a "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 timecode 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 Yölkeo", followed on June 28, 2005. Season Five and Some More of Four completed the DVD release of the Nickelodeon series on July 20. Like the previous DVDs, some scenes were removed in these releases.
United Kingdom and Europe
The original series was released entirely as a 9-disc set in Germany on October 4, 2013. After people claimed that two episodes on the second disc were not completely uncensored, Turbine Classics offered to send everybody with proof of purchase an uncensored disc. The set comprises a mix of the known US airings and the German TV airings which included some exclusive scenes of various episodes. Since the set is the first to include all scenes ever broadcast worldwide, it is considered the first truly uncensored DVD release of the series.
Several Ren & Stimpy-themed games have been produced. Most of the games were produced by THQ.
|Ren and Stimpy: Space Cadet Adventures||Game Boy||1992|
|The Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$!||NES and Super NES||1993|
|The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots!||Super NES and Game Boy||1993|
|Ren Hoek and Stimpy: Quest for the Shaven Yak||Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System||1993, 1995|
|Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy's Invention||Sega Genesis||1993|
|Ren & Stimpy Show Part II: Fire Dogs||Super NES||1994|
|Ren & Stimpy Show Part III: Time Warp||Super NES||1994|
|Nicktoons Racing||PC, PlayStation, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance||2000, 2001|
|Ren & Stimpy Pinball||Mobile||2004|
|Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots||Wii and PlayStation 2||2007|
|Nicktoons MLB||Nintendo DS, Wii, and Xbox 360||2011|
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. Marvel produced 44 issues of the ongoing series, along with several specials under the Marvel Absurd imprint. 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.
Nick–Fox film deal
Nickelodeon and Twentieth Century Fox signed a two-year production deal in May 1993 for the development and production of animated and live-action family films, based on new or existing properties. Ren & Stimpy was mentioned as a possible property for development, along with Rugrats and Doug, however the show's "cynical and gross humor" was a poor fit for a conventional, "warm and fuzzy" family film. The deal expired with no movies produced. Nickelodeon would later start its own film studio after parent company Viacom purchased Paramount Pictures.
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One unexpected complication has been a lack of new episodes from Spike's most popular animated title. The network ordered nine episodes (an original order of six, then an additional three-parter) of "Ren & Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon" from creator John Kricfalusi. The network only received three.
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An earlier 3-disc set, by Time Life, featured select episodes from the first two seasons, but suffered from a number of censor cuts. Long out of print, this set features something of an anomaly in its inclusion of the full-length version of "Ren's Tootache", cut on the Paramount set.
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- The Ren & Stimpy Show at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Ren & Stimpy Show at TV.com
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