The Ren & Stimpy Show


The Ren & Stimpy Show
The Ren & Stimpy Show
The Ren and Stimpy Show Title Card.jpg
Title card
Also known as Ren & Stimpy
Genre Black comedy
Toilet humor
Created by John Kricfalusi
Voices of Billy West
John Kricfalusi
Cheryl Chase
Bob Camp
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 52 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 22 minutes approx.
Production company(s) Spümcø (1991–1992)
Nickelodeon Animation Studios (1993–1996)
Broadcast
Original channel Nickelodeon
Original run August 11, 1991 – October 20, 1996
Chronology
Followed by Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"
External links
Full credits on IMDb

The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply referred to as Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series, created by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. The series focuses on the titular characters: Ren Höek, a psychotic chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a good-natured, dimwitted cat. The show premiered on August 11, 1991, on the same day as the debut of Rugrats and Doug, the three of which comprised the original Nicktoons. The show ran for five seasons on the network, ending its original run with the Christmas episode "A Scooter for Yaksmas." The show was rated TV-Y7 on Nickelodeon/Nicktoons, and TV-PG on the Spike TV repeats.

Throughout its run, The Ren & Stimpy Show was controversial for its off-color humor, black comedy, toilet humour, sexual innuendo, and violence, all of which contributed to the production staff's altercations with Nickelodeon's Standards and Practices department. The show has received much critical acclaim and became a large cult classic during and after its run, while some critics credit it for leading the way for satirical animated shows like Beavis and Butt-head and South Park, and playing a significant role in television animation. A spin-off for adult audiences, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", aired in 2003 on Spike, but was poorly received and was cancelled soon after its debut.

Contents

Characters

Ren Höek is a hot tempered, scrawny, violently psychotic "asthma-hound" Chihuahua.[1] Kricfalusi originally voiced Ren, styled as a demented Peter Lorre.[2][3] 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"[4] for the rest of the Nickelodeon run.[5]

Stimpson "Stimpy" J. Cat is a three-year-old,[6] fat, stupid cat.[1] West voiced Stimpy for the Spümcø and Games Animation episodes, basing the voice on an "amped-up" Larry Fine.[3][4]

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. Ren and Stimpy play various roles themselves, from outer-space explorers to Old West horse thieves to nature-show hosts.[7] While the characters are sometimes set in the present day, the show's crew tended to avoid "contemporary" jokes that reference current events.[8] 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.[9] Some notable artists and performers who voiced incidental characters on the show are Frank Zappa, Randy Quaid, Gilbert Gottfried, Rosie O'Donnell, Dom DeLuise, Phil Hartman, Mark Hamill, Frank Gorshin, and Tommy Davidson.[10]

Episodes

The series ran for five seasons, spanning 52 episodes.[11] The show was produced by Kricfalusi's animation studio Spümcø for the first two seasons. Beginning with season three (1993–1994), the show was produced by Nickelodeon's Games Animation. The episode "Man's Best Friend" was produced for season two, but never aired as part of the Nickelodeon series, debuting later in the show's adult spin-off. Another episode, "Sammy and Me / The Last Temptation", aired only once the original Nickelodeon run ended.

History

Conception

Bill Wray recalls Kricfalusi created the Ren and Stimpy characters around 1978 for personal amusement during his time in Sheridan College in Canada.[8] According to commentary in the DVD box set of the show's first two seasons, Kricfalusi 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 "Gruesome Twosome" where the cats in the animation had big noses. [12] In a call for new series by Nickelodeon, Kricfalusi assembled a presentation for three shows, among them a variety show titled Our Gang or Your 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". Vice president of animation production Vanessa Coffey did not like the other projects but did like Ren and Stimpy, singling them out for their own show.[3][8]

Spümcø (1991–1993)

The show's pilot began production in 1989, after Kricfalusi pitched and sold The Ren & Stimpy Show to Nickelodeon.[2] The pilot was done by Kricfalusi's own animation house, Spümcø, and screened at film festivals for several months before the show was announced in Nickelodeon's schedule.[13] The first episode of the show debuted on August 11, 1991, premiering alongside Doug and Rugrats.[14] Spümcø continued to produce the show for the next two years while encountering issues with Nickelodeon's Standards and Practices.[8]

Kricfalusi describes his early period with Nickelodeon as being "simple", as there was only one executive, Coffey, with whom he got along; when another executive was added, he moved to alter or discard some of the Ren and Stimpy episodes produced, 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.[15] In his blog, Kricfalusi describes The Ren & Stimpy Show as the "safest project I 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 estimates The Ren & Stimpy Show cost around six million United States dollars to produce.[16]

Responses to the show were mixed.[17] 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".[18] Even as the show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon,[2][17][19] tensions between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon rose. Many of the people involved in the show attribute Kricfalusi's friction with Nickelodeon to episodes not being produced in a timely manner,[20][21][22][23] though who is at fault is contested by Kricfalusi, who attributed the delays to Nickelodeon, withdrawing their approval to scenes and episodes that they had previously approved.[8] Another issue of contention was the direction of the show; Nickelodeon later asked the new studio to make it lighter and less frightening.[8] Kricfalusi points specifically to the episode Man's Best Friend, which features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults the character George Liquor with an oar, as leading to his firing.[24][25]

Games Animation (1993–1996)

Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi in late September 1992.[23] Without Kricfalusi, Nickelodeon moved production from Spümcø to its newly-founded animation department, Games Animation, which later became Nickelodeon Animation Studios.[26] Bob Camp took the role of director,[5] while West, having refused Kricfalusi's request to leave along with him,[20] now voiced Ren in addition to Stimpy.[8][22][27] 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.[26][28] Ted Drozdowski of The Boston Phoenix stated in a 1998 article that "the bloom faded on Ren & Stimpy."[29] Michael Barrier, an animation historian, 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."[30] The show ended its original run around Christmas 1995 with A Scooter for Yaksmas, although one episode from the final season, Sammy and Me / The Last Temptation, remained unaired.[31] Almost a year later, the episode aired on Nickelodeon's sister network, MTV on October 20, 1996.[citation needed]

Production

Production system

The Ren & Stimpy production system emulated those of Golden Age cartoons: a director would supervise the entire production process from beginning to end;[9][32] this is in contrast to cartoon production methods in the 1980s, where there was a different director for voice actors, and cartoons were created with a "top-down" approach to tie in with toy lines.[2][33] Bill Wray describes the initial lack of merchandise as "the unique and radical thing" about The Ren & Stimpy Show, as no toy company pre-planned any merchandise for the show, and Nickelodeon did not want to use "over-exploitive" merchandising.[8] Kricfalusi notes that Ren & Stimpy re-introduced the layouts stage, and re-emphasized the storyboard stage.[34][35][36] Eventually, artists 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.[37]

Animation style

The show's aesthetics draw on Golden Age cartoons,[9][17][38] particularly those of Bob Clampett in the way the characters' emotions powerfully distort their bodies.[30] The show's style emphasizes unique expressions, intense and specific acting, and strong character poses.[3][39] One of the show's most notable visual trademarks is the detailed paintings of gruesome close-ups,[3] 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".[40] This style was developed from Clampett's "Baby Bottleneck", which features several scenes with color-cards for backgrounds.[41] 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.[42]

Carbunkle Cartoons, headed by Bob Jacques and Kelly Armstrong, is credited by Kricfalusi for beautifully animating the show's best episodes, improving the acting with subtle nuances and wild animation that could not be done with overseas animation studios.[39][43] 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."[44] KJ Dell'Antonia, a reviewer for Common Sense Media, describes the show's style as changing "from intentionally rough to much more polished and plushie-toy ready."[45]

Music

The Ren & Stimpy Show features a wide variety of music, spanning 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".[46][47] 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 utilized existing works by composers such as jazz musician Raymond Scott,[48] Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Alexander Borodin, Antonín Dvořák, Rossini (particularly The Thieving Magpie), and a host of "production music" by composers such as Frederic Bayco, which fans later compiled into several albums.[49][50] 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[9] 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",[51] who is named in the episode's script as Burl Ives.[52] Several references to Burl Ives's songs and movie quotes are sprinkled through the song, giving it its surreal air.[citation needed][talk]

Controversy and censorship

The creators of Ren & Stimpy did not want to create an "educational" series, a stance which bothered Nickelodeon.[8] As the show grew in popularity, parent groups complained that Stimpy was subject to repeated violence from Ren.[citation needed] Other sources for complaint were the toilet humor and harsh language.[53][54] Despite these sentiments by Nickelodeon and parental groups, UK CIC Video home releases of the Spümcø episodes received U (all ages) ratings from the BBFC, while the "lighter" Games episodes received PG ratings. However the subsequent DVD releases the Spümcø episodes were re-rated PG.[55]

Some segments of the show were altered to exclude references to religion, politics and alcohol. The episode "Powdered Toast Man" was stripped of references to the Pope and the burning of the United States constitution and bill of rights, while in another episode, the character George Liquor's last name was erased. 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", never aired in the show's original run for its violent content. The show's spin-off, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", debuted with this "banned" episode.[24][56][57][58][59]

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 implies, explores more adult themes, including an explicitly homosexual relationship between the main characters,[60] and an episode filled with female nudity.[61] 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.[62] 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,[13] which featured the consumption of bodily fluids such as nasal mucus, saliva and vomit.[60] Only three of the ordered nine episodes were produced on time. After three episodes, the entire animation block was removed from Spike TV's programming schedule.[63]

Legacy

Today, the show is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential TV series of the 1990s.[64][65][66] 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.[1] However, the show had a wider impact on the future of animation.[3][40] 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 satirical shows like Beavis and Butt-head and South Park.[67] 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 head of each episode, the use of grotesque close-ups, and a shift in cartoon color palettes to richer, more harmonious colors.[3] A direct influence can be seen in the series SpongeBob SquarePants, with physically extreme drawings that contrast against the characters' usual appearance, the "grotesque close-ups".[68]

The Ren & Stimpy Show appears in several "best of" lists, notably in such a lists by IGN and Wizard magazine.[69][70]

Home releases

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.[71] 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.[original research?]

During the mid and late 1990s,a themed selection of The Ren and 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

DVD

Time–Life released several episodes of The Ren & Stimpy Show in a "Best of" set in September 2003.[72] This set is now out of print.[73] 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.[74] 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.[75] 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.[28][76] Season Five and Some More of Four completed the DVD release of the Nickelodeon series on July 20.[77] Like the previous DVDs, some scenes were removed in these releases.[citation needed] A two-disc set dubbed The Lost Episodes was released on July 17, 2006, featuring both the aired and unaired episodes from Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, as well as clips from unfinished cartoons.[78]

In 2006, 'The Ren and Stimpy Show Unleashed Collector's Edition Box Set-First and Second Seasons' DVD was released in Australia but not too long there were censorships of the banned episode 'Man's best friend' and the mentions of the episode were edited out on the backcover of the DVD set.

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.

  • Ren and Stimpy: Space Cadet Adventures released on Game Boy – 1992
  • Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckeroo$ released on the NES and Super NES – 1993
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! released on the Super NES and Game Boy – 1993
  • Ren Hoek and Stimpy: Quest for the Shaven Yak on Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System – 1993, 1995
  • Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy's Invention released on Sega Genesis – 1993
  • Ren & Stimpy Show Part II: Fire Dogs released on the Super NES – 1994
  • Ren & Stimpy Show Part III: Time Warp released on the Super NES – 1994
  • Nicktoons Racing on PC, PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance
  • Ren & Stimpy Pinball on mobile phones.
  • Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots on Wii and PlayStation 2 (Stimpy is not playable in the GBA and DS versions of the game)
  • Nicktoons MLB on Nintendo DS, Wii, and Xbox 360

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

Ren and 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. 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.[79]

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.[80][81] The deal expired with no movies produced.

Parodies

  • In 1993, Parody Press Comics produced a one-shot comic book entitled Rank & Stinky № 1;[82] 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 Kricfalusi & Nickelodeon's falling-out, The Simpsons, and consumer culture.
  • Ren and Stimpy was parodied on The Simpsons twice in its fourth season. In the episode "Brother from the Same Planet", a 15 second clip is shown where Ren starts sampling some of Stimpy's soup, which turns out to be hairballs and stomach acid. After, Ren yells at Stimpy, saying that he is trying to "kill" him, Ren's eyeballs pop out, spin a few times, and explode goo. Their voices were provided by Dan Castellaneta. In the episode "The Front", The Ren & Stimpy Show was nominated for an animation award against The Itchy & Scratchy Show. The viewing at the awards ceremony simply read "Clip not done yet", a comment on the slow production time of the show. The show was mentioned again in the episode "Another Simpsons Clip Show", while referencing Itchy & Scratchy's habit of recycling animation to make new episodes; when Bart claims that Ren & Stimpy also did that, Marge replies "When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Ren & Stimpy?".
  • In an episode of the Japanese Anime series Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt there are two ghosts that closely resemble Ren & Stimpy in appearance. In the episode the ghosts get married and then the one resembling Stimpy gets killed. The ghost that resembles Ren is even depicted having an accent similar to Ren's.

References

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