In the 1980s, the cartoon landscape was a boring mess, with toy knockoffs ruling the airwaves. Then, animator John Kricfalusi introduced the world to his surreal, satirical characters Ren Hoek, a bitter asthma-hound chihauhua who sounds like Peter Lorre, and Stimpson J. Cat, a fat, dumb feline who receives the brunt of Ren's wrath.
When Ren & Stimpy appeared on Nickelodeon, it was an instant smash. The series was ported over to MTV, where it became even more popular. Now, a brand-new DVD of unseen R&S; episodes is being released, and you can check out some clips at John's blog. TV.com caught up with John K and chatted with him about corporate fear and the hundreds of R&S; episodes you haven't seen. Happy happy joy joy!
TV.com Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions.
John K Sure.
TV.com Have you longed to return to these characters?
John K Yeah, still do.
TV.com Will you be doing more R&S; DVDs after this?
John K Well, I don't know. I guess if it does well, maybe somebody at Paramount will say make more. I been pitching them the idea of straight-to-DVD R&S; for years because we have about a hundred scripts written.
TV.com Oh really? Excellent.
John K Yeah, we got one of them storyboarded--called "Life Sucks"--probably the best R&S; ever. The people that worked on it, including the people who worked on the first two seasons of the series, think it is the best we ever came up with.
TV.com That sounds great. Is Paramount interested or are they waiting to see how this one does?
John K Everybody at the corporations is frightened. It is so complicated--so many people have to sign off on things that nothing logical and purely simple can happen. The R&S; DVDs have sold in the hundreds of thousands, there's obviously a huge audience still for this stuff, people are buying them.
TV.com Yeah, it doesn't seem like such a risk for them.
John K No. And they don't do a heck of a lot of marketing on the stuff either. I mean, why don't they get me on Conan O'Brien and stuff?
TV.com I can't believe you haven't been on Conan and the late-night talk shows.
John K Well, I can't either! If we showed some clips from these new DVDs on talk shows, I am sure they would sell like crazy. People just need to know about it.
TV.com How difficult was it to get the show on the air originally?
John K Very. It took nine years.
TV.com So you had to cart the characters around for nine years to pitch meetings?
John K Yep.
TV.com Did you get a lot of feedback that you had to ignore?
John K Yeah, in the '80s the cartoon world was pretty bad. There was no such thing as the creator-driven cartoon. The idea that I would walk in with a cartoon I just made up was unheard of. They wanted something that was a tie-in to a toy. They would say "What do you mean you just made them up? You don't make up characters, you take existing characters and then you make cartoons out of them." They didn't know that Bugs Bunny had a birth one time, that there was a point where there was no Bugs Bunny. In the '80s, they would only make cartoons out of things you already knew of.
TV.com Like the Transformers and He-Man.
John K Yeah, they already existed as a toy. And they'd sometimes pick up cartoons that already existed 40 years ago, and they'd, y'know, ruin them. "The Uglier Adventures of Mighty Mouse, in Filmation" or "Filmation Destroys Tex Avery"...I worked on lots of those kinds of shows at Hanna-Barbera in the '80s. But that was still better than He-Man.
TV.com You had a huge impact on animation. Since then, there have been a lot of weird and edgy shows, and R&S; was the progenitor of that. It opened up a doorway for TV and the Web stuff, as well.
John K I was one of the first to do the Web stuff, too. I did the The Goddamn George Liquor Show Web cartoon back in '97, the first Flash cartoons. Plus I did all the marketing for that show. I hired a PR firm, and I said "Go out and get me lots of articles where I can talk about this new medium of animation." They did, and I got the cover of Wired magazine and all kinds of magazines, and all of a sudden people started saying, "Oh you can make cartoons online? What's this Flash stuff?" Then suddenly it exploded, and everybody started jumping on the bandwagon.
TV.com Were the characters of R&S; based on any real people?
John K Well, Ren was based on Peter Lorre. And I take people I know and add them into lots of things, plus scenes of old movies. I just mix and match things, and whatever's appropriate I'll use.
TV.com Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, best of luck with the DVDs!