|The Ren & Stimpy Show|
|Genre||Off-Color Humor, Slapstick|
|Created by||John Kricfalusi|
|Written by|| John Kricfalusi|
|Starring|| Billy West|
John Kricfalusi (1991-1993)
|Country of Origin||United States|
|No. of Seasons||5|
|No. of Episodes||52 (List of Episodes)|
|Running Time||22 minutes (approx.)|
|Production Company(s)|| Spümcø (1991–1993)|
Games Animation (1993–1996)
|Original Run||August 11, 1991 – December 16, 1996|
The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply referred to as Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series, created by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi. The show premiered on August 11, 1991, on Nickelodeon as part of its Nicktoons block along with Rugrats and Doug. The series focuses on the titular characters: Ren Höek, an emotionally unstable chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a good-natured, dimwitted cat.
The show ran for five seasons on the network. The show has received critical acclaim and developed a cult following during and after its run, with some critics crediting it along with The Simpsons for leading the way for satirical animated shows like Beavis and Butthead and South Park, and playing a significant role in television animation.
Throughout its run, The Ren & Stimpy Show was controversial for its off-color humor, sexual innuendo, and violence which were rare for animated television series of the time. This controversy contributed to the production staff's altercations with Nickelodeon's Standards and Practices department and ultimately led to Kricfalusi's firing. A spin-off for adult audiences, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", aired in 2003 on Spike, but was cancelled soon after its debut.
An intense, hyperactive chihuahua and a happy-go-lucky, empty-brained cat share bizarre and often repulsive adventures. Their experiences range from "magic nose goblins" to sentient farts and any other imaginable disgusting substance in between. Ren and Stimpy play various roles throughout their adventures together, from outer-space explorers to Old West horse thieves to nature-show hosts, and usually the duo are constantly at odds with each other. While the show was sometimes set in the present day, the show's crew tended to avoid "contemporary" jokes that reference current events.
Ren Höek — Ren is a hot-tempered, "asthma-hound" Chihuahua. Kricfalusi originally voiced Ren, styled as a demented Peter Lorre. 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" for the rest of the Nickelodeon run.
Stimpson "Stimpy" J. Cat — Stimpy is a three-year-old, dim-witted and happy-go-lucky cat. West voiced Stimpy for the Spümcø and Games Animation episodes, basing the voice on an "amped-up" Larry Fine.
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. 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. 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, Alan Young, Frank Gorshin and Tommy Davidson.
John Kricfalusi created the characters Ren and Stimpy around 1978 during his time in Sheridan College. 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 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". Vanessa Coffey, Nickelodeon's Vice President of Animation Production, was dissatisfied by the other projects but did like Ren and Stimpy, singling them out for their own show.
The show's pilot began production in 1989, after Kricfalusi pitched and sold The Ren & Stimpy Show to Nickelodeon. The pilot was done by Kricfalusi's own animation company, Spümcø, and screened at film festivals for several months before the show was announced in Nickelodeon's 1991 line-up. The first episode of the show 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 department. The show was noted for its lack of early merchandising; Wray cites the initial lack of merchandise as "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.
Kricfalusi described 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. According to Kricfalusi, The Ren & Stimpy Show 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 show received mixed reviews. 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". Even as the show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon, the relationship between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon became strained. Several of the show's staff attribute the tension to episodes that were not produced in a timely manner. However, Kricfalusi blamed Nickelodeon for the delays, for withdrawing the channel's approval to scenes and episodes that they had previously approved. Another issue of contention was the direction of the show. Nickelodeon later asked the new studio to make it lighter and less frightening. Kricfalusi cites his dismissal primarily to the episode "Man's Best Friend", which features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults George Liquor with an oar.
Games Animation (1993-1996)
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". Nickelodeon moved production from Spümcø to its newly founded animation department, 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." The show ended its original run on December 16, 1996 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 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 (1993–1994), 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 on October 20, 1996, almost a year after the original Nickelodeon run ended.
Controversy & Censorship
The creators of Ren & Stimpy did not want to create an "educational" series, a stance which bothered Nickelodeon. Sources for complaint were the toilet humor and harsh language. 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 in later DVD releases, the Spümcø episodes were re-rated PG. In the United States, each episode was given the ratings TV-Y7 on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons, TV-G on TeenNick, and TV-PG on Spike.
Some segments of the show were altered in subsequent airings 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 altogether by Nickelodeon for its violent content. The show's spin-off, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", debuted with this "banned" episode.
Adult Party Cartoon
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.