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From: Mike.Peacock@bbs.oit.unc.edu (Mike Peacock) Date: 24 Aug 92 19:10:36 GMT Newsgroups: alt.tv.ren-n-stimpy Subject: Articles on John K. Here are a couple of wire service stories about John K. written by the L. A. Times that appeared in my local newspaper a couple of days ago. (Thank Goddess for text scanners!) Reprinted without permission. ARTIST DOODLES WAY TO NICK CARTOON HIT Oft-unemployed 'Ren & Stimpy' creator John Kricfalusi has hatched a pop cultural phenomenon. By Daniel Cerone Los Angeles Times Hollywood - Behind the thick framed black glasses, the salt-and-pepper beard and the shock of swept-back hair, John Kricfalusi has the rugged, squared-off looks of his idol, Kirk Douglas. On a bookshelf in Kricfalusi's office sits a signed photo of Douglas in his gladiator outfit from Spartacus, along with a bust of the man Kricfalusi reveres as "one of the most subtle actors in Hollywood." Watching Kricfalusi (pronounced KRIS-fa-lusi) in action, acting out a series of his pencil drawings from a storyboard, one can detect the Douglas influence - the tight, gravelly voice, the very broad physical mannerisms combined with very subtle emotions. This is a side of Kricfalusi that most people don't see, or perhaps they just don't notice. That's because the 36-year-old Kricfalusi - a free-thinking animator who has been fired from almost every major animation studio in town - paints his life, and his work, in colorful, aggressive strokes. Kricfalusi can't stand the thought of his voice artists reciting cold dialogue from a script the way other cartoons do, for example. So before going into recording sessions, he throws himself - sometimes literally - into a one-man performance of the entire show to prime his actors. Take one such recent voice-recording session: Kricfalusi draws close to Billy West, a voice actor standing beside him, and points to two unusual figures on his storyboard. The small, anemic one, Ren, could pass for a rabbit-eared mosquito but is actually a psychologically terrorized Chihuahua. Stimpy, the one shaped like a fireplug, is a fat, dumb cat with all the feline finesse of a water buffalo. They've just arrived at the doorstep of an idyllic suburban house. "We open on the haaaaappiest home in America," Kricfalusi drawls in a syrupy voice, parodying the kind of sticky-sweet animation that disgusts him. "Inside we hear Anthony: 'It's Ren and Stimpy, Mom! Oh boy!' "Anthony runs out of the house. He says, 'They're my favorite cartoon characters! Can I keep them?' Mom says, 'Well, we'll have to ask your father. But it's all right with me.' 'Yippee!' Anthony runs over to Ren and Stimpy. They're all hugging each other, crying, 'Happy, happy, joy, joy!'" These two cartoon characters were created by Kricfalusi years ago as office doodles. Today he produces, directs, animates and provides many of the voices - including Ren's - for The Ren & Stimpy Show. They are the closest thing America has seen to Kricfalusi's unexpgrgated imagination - even though they, like all of his creations, have been tempered by concerned network executives. In the year since they debuted on the Nickelodeon cable channel, the Ren and Stimpy characters have somehow woven themselves into the fabric of American pop culture - based solely on six half-hour episodes that have been endlessly recycled and that garner what would be considered average ratings for a Saturday morning cartoon on one of the major broadcast networks, about 2.1 million households a week. Radio stations air snippets of dialogue from the show. Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall have included Ren and Stimpy in their monologues. Retail outlets can't keep the short supply of T-shirts and hats in stock. Viewing parties became a national trend this year on college campuses, where at least 100 unofficial fan clubs have been formed. And kids of all ages are doing their best impressions of Ren, who sounds like a twisted version of Peter Lorre ("What is it, man?"). That's not all. The show finished second behind HBO's Dream On earlier this year as cable television's best program in a national poll of TV critics. And Ren & Stimpy is in the running for an Emmy this month against The Simpsons as nighttime TVs outstanding animated program. To the misfit band of animators at Spumco, Kricfalusi's aggressively independent production company, Ren & Stimpy is simply an antidote to what they regard as namby-pamby characters and shoddy animation in today's Saturday morning network cartoons. Rallying behind Kricfalusi like scribes to a prophet, they hope to open the eyes of the animation industry and help lift it from what Kricfalusi calls "the Dark Ages." Ren & Stimpy, they say, is a throwback to the gag-filled character animation of the early Warner Bros. cartoons, combined with their own personal pop influences. The unbridled comic relationship between Ren and Stimpy is patterned after Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Kramden and Norton, with a good dose of gross-out, schoolyard humor tossed in for fun. The result is one of the entertainment industry's hottest new licenses. Although Nickelodeon is being cautious with its merchandising plans, a feast of goods is being prepared for the new season that began last Saturday, when Ren & Stimpy moved to prime time as part of a new two-hour block of original programming on Nickelodeon. (The show airs at 9 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays. It also was seen for a while in prime time on MTV). Mattel will release action figures next month, followed by plush and squeaky toys later this year. A Marvel Comics line is due out next month. There are plans for products that include a new line of T-shirts and hats, beach towels and boxer shorts. Ren & Stimpy episodes should be available on videocassette early next year, and Nickelodeon has hopes for a feature film. All this from a man who was widely regarded in the animation industry as unemployable when Nickelodeon hired him for the Ren & Stimpy pilot. "You get to a point where you're so good at something you either have to be a boss and given your own venue or you starve," said Bob Camp, 36, who helped Ksicfalusi form Spumco in 1990 with two other disillusioned animators, Jim Smith and Lynn Nayler. The studio is now 50 employees strong. "Nobody would give John his own venue. He had been sitting at home at his kitchen table, drinking beers and smoking cigarrettes. He just sat there drawing for months, out of work." For Kricfalusi, who was raised in Canada by a father who generally hated cartoons, the success of Ren & Stimpy is a new experience. He's not surprised by the accolades and the attention because he believed all along that if someone let him make cartoons the way he wanted, they would be a hit. But he's also not comfortable with what a lot of people are saying. "Have you been following the press?" Kricfalusi asked. "Some of it really bums me out, particularly the Time magazine article. It was ignorant. You'd expect it to be the most intelligent. They made us sound like child molesters, like all we care about is disgusting people. Of course, we do want to disgust people, but that's not all we do. We go for both the highest common denominator and the lowest. What we do is avoid the middle." Kricfalusi defends his brand of humor as innocent fun. Although certainly some have been offended by his work, Kricfalusi believes he has never reached too far. "Too far to me would be disembowelment or something," he said, "blood spurting everywhere. The booger jokes are completely harmless. The grosser you can draw a booger, the funnier it is. "There's this impression that I only want to do cult animation. That's people's fear, and they want to tone me down so I'll appeal to a more popular audience - which is crazy to me. Because the last thing I want is a cult following. I don't want 10 people watching the show. It's a popular medium I'm using, and my influences are popular." ******************************************************************** ARTIST KEEPS NICK WAITING FOR EPISODES By Daniel Cerone Los Angeles Times Nickelodon, which has made a $40 million investment in original animation over the next several years, first ordered 20 episodes of Ren & Stimpy for the season that opened last Saturday. Creator John Kricfalusi, who oversees every detail of every episode of the show, scaled the number down to 13 because he couldn't keep up. And even those 13 will be rolling out slowly, into 1993. This despite the fact that Ren & Stimpy has a $400,000-plus budget an episbde, well over the $250,000 spent on most Saturday morning cartoons. "John may not admit it, or like to admit it, but he's more in line with the independent film-makers out there," said animation historian Jerry Beck, a friend of Kricfalusi's. "Every Ren & Stimpy cartoon is a little personal film he's making every step of the way, from supervising stories to directing and doing the voices to drawing his own layouts. Basically this is his show, and his entire staff is really wrapping around him to get his vision through. There's no other situation in TV animation like that today." One director suggested that Kricfalusi has become power hungry in his personal drive to return animation to its glory of the 1940s, when individual artists and not TV networks reigned supreme. "I know John wants to do a good job. I wonder, though, if by having his own studio he hasn't become what he despised at the other studios," the director said. "Because now he rules with an iron hand. He's looking for ideas that are only up to his standards." There does't even seem to be agreement ,on how many more Ren & Stimpy installments viewers ean expect. Vanessa Coffey, Nickelodeon's executive producer of animation, says there are plans for a total of 65 episodes, but Kricfalusi wouldn't comment on any firm commitment beyond the 13 for this season. Nickelodeon also wants a Ren & Stimpy movie, but onee again Kricfalusi won't commit. Movie studios are regularly phoning Kricfalusi, he said, but no deals have been struck. He has expressed interest in helping bring theatrical shorts back to movie theaters with Jimmy the Hapless Boy, his favorite character. (Nickelodeon originally wanted the character but Kriefalusi would not sell the rights.) Regardless of their differences, Kricfafusi is quick to acknowledge the courage Nickelodeon demonstrated in airing Ren & Stimpy, an entertaining children's program with no pretense toward education. "Our philosophy has evolved over the years," said Nickelodeon president Geraldline Laybourne, a former schoolteacher. "In the very beginning we thought we should follow the public television mode and basically try to improve kids. We were very careful about it and provided stellar role models for kids. "But what we often did was leave kids feeling bad about themselves, because they weren't the best athlete or student in their school. When you show kids perfect role models all the time, they walk away feeling bad about their families or themselves or their human condition." -- The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Campus Office for Information Technology, or the Experimental Bulletin Board Service. internet: bbs.oit.unc.edu or 152.2.22.80

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