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 (also known as simply 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. It 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. 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. It would go on to receive widespread critical acclaim after its run, and has since developed a cult following and had a long-lasting influence on television animation. A spin-off for adult audiences, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", aired in 2003 on Spike but was taken off the air along with the rest of Spike's animation block after only three episodes.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Development and history
- 3 Production
- 4 Episodes
- 5 Reception
- 6 Legacy and influence
- 7 Revivals
- 8 Home releases
- 9 Other media
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
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 and absurdist humor, and slapstick.
The show features a host of supporting characters. Some appear only in one episode, while others recur and occasionally appear in different roles. They may either be part of the storyline, or make cameo appearances with little bearing on the plot. Some, such as Mr. Horse, are exclusively cameo-based, spontaneously appearing 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 Ontario, 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' 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.
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. 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 million to produce.
The relationship between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon deteriorated to the point where Kricfalusi would communicate with Nickelodeon only through his lawyer. News outlets and several of the series' staff 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 point of contention was the direction of the series. Kricfalusi cites the episode "Man's Best Friend" as the primary reason for his dismissal; the character George Liquor is depicted in the episode as an abusive father figure, and Nickelodeon did not want the show to be so frightening and dramatic.:15
Games Animation (1993–1995)
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 were similar to those found in Golden Age cartoons of the early 20th century, where a director supervised the entire process. These methods are in contrast to animation production methods in the 1980s, where there was one director for animation and 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 Frank Zappa, Randy Quaid, Gilbert Gottfried, Rosie O'Donnell, Dom DeLuise, Phil Hartman, Mark Hamill, and Soleil Moon Frye.
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: You Eediot!, Crock O' Christmas 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 selections from production music libraries such as APM Music, 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 program's creators did not want to create an "educational" series, a stance which bothered Nickelodeon.:21 Parents groups criticized 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 "Dog Show" 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 against a man's stubble, and a scene that was shortened where Ren receives multiple punches to the stomach from a 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.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||DVD volume||DVD release date|
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot||December 21, 1990
September 15, 1991 (on Nickelodeon)
|1||October 12, 2004|
|1||6||August 11, 1991||February 23, 1992|
|2||12||August 15, 1992||May 23, 1993|
|3||10||November 20, 1993||July 30, 1994||2||June 28, 2005|
|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 Ren & Stimpy Show received widespread critical acclaim. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, praised the show for its outrageousness and called it "the only good cartoon on TV" other than The Simpsons. 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". Jonathan Valania of The Morning Call called it "high voltage yuks and industrial-strength weirdness", John Lyttle of 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, having double the viewership of the other Nickelodeon cartoons for its first season and later averaging three times their viewership. The show for a time was the most popular cable TV show, with several airings being the most-watched scripted cable TV show in 1993 in the United States. The show quickly developed a cult following in college campuses, and was included in the launch of Nickelodeon's Snick, a late-night block for shows that appeal to both children and adults.
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. 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 the physically extreme drawings that contrast with the characters' usual appearance, the "grotesque close-ups".
The characters became a cultural touchstone in the mid-1990s, and were featured in works such as the film Clueless. 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 explores more adult themes, including an explicitly homosexual relationship between the main characters, and an episode filled with female nudity. Billy West declined to participate in the show, 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's entire animation block was removed from its programming schedule.
In February 2016, Deadline.com reported that Ren & Stimpy was scheduled to appear in an upcoming Nicktoons film reboot. Three months later, Variety reported that Nickelodeon was in negotiations with Kricfalusi about a revival of the characters. Bob Camp and William Wray stated in an April 2016 panel discussion that Kricfalusi was developing a Ren & Stimpy short that would screen along with the third SpongeBob SquarePants film. They later said that they were "not invited to that party" and would not be involved with the production. However, Kricfalusi denied on Twitter that he was making such a cartoon. At the Wizard World Cleveland convention in March 2017, Camp said that Paramount Pictures rejected a pitch for a Ren & Stimpy feature film because of the "sour taste" left by Adult Party Cartoon, and they did not want any further connection with the characters.
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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.[original research?]
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 titled 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 said the episodes were "uncut", a handful of episodes were, in fact, edited, due to the use of Spike TV masters where Spike TV would cut some scenes from episodes to make room for longer commercial breaks. 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. Three other episodes ("Powdered Toast Man", "Dog Show", and "Big House Blues") contain extra footage that wasn't originally broadcast on Nickelodeon. The DVD set even includes the banned episode "Man's Best Friend" as a bonus feature. 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 September 20. Like the previous DVDs, some scenes were removed in these releases.
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.
Paramount released "The Mostly Complete Collection", a 9-disc set that combines the individual season discs into a single package, on February 6, 2018.
The original series was released entirely as a 9-disc set in Germany on October 4, 2013. After people said 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.
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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 3DS, 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.
|Issue #||Caption||Release date|
|1||THE REN & STIMPY SHOW||December 1992|
|3||MAKE WAY FOR EL SUPREMO REN!||February 1993|
|4||CRASH DUMMIES||March 1993|
|5||IN SPACE||April 1993|
|6||THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN VS. POWDERED TOAST MAN||May 1993|
|7||KID STIMPY||June 1993|
|8||THE MALTESE STIMPY!||July 1993|
|9||NATIVE SON||August 1993|
|10||BUBBLE BATH?||September 1993|
|12||I SCREAM CLONES!||November 1993|
|13||HOKEY HALLOWEEN HORROR!||December 1993|
|14||WANTED BRAIN DEAD OR ALIVE||January 1994|
|16||RETURN TO SENDER||March 1994|
|18||WAR IS HECK||May 1994|
|20||HERE'S MUDDY!||July 1994|
|21||I'M THE CAT||August 1994|
|22||BADTIME STORIES||September 1994|
|23||MADCAP RASSLIN' ISSUE!||October 1994|
|24||BOX TOPS!||November 1994|
|27||RAIDERS OF THE LOST YAK||February 1995|
|28||REN AND STIMPY MATCH WITS WITH AN APE...GUESS WHO WON?||March 1995|
|29||DEFECTIVE DETECTIVE ISSUE STARRING SHERLOCK HOEK||April 1995|
|30||REN'S BIRTHDAY||May 1995|
|31||WEINER BARONS||June 1995|
|32||CIRCUS SMIRKUS||July 1995|
|34||I'M FEELTHY RICH!||September 1995|
|36||CRABBY CABBIES||November 1995|
|37||ALIENS ABDUCT||December 1995|
|38||TOILET TROUBLE||January 1996|
|39||IMPERSONAL HYGIENE!||February 1996|
|44||LAST ISSUE (as seen on TV)||July 1996|
Nick–Fox film deal
Nickelodeon and 20th 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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