|The Ren & Stimpy Show|
Ren & Stimpy Logo
|Genre:|| Off-color humor |
|# of episodes:||62|
|Running time:||approx. 0:22 minutes (0:11 per episode)|
|Original run:||August 11, 1991 - December 16, 1995|
The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply 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 officially premiered on August 11, 1991, the same day as the debut of Doug and Rugrats, the three of which comprised the original Nickelodeon Cartoons. 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 TVPG on Spike TV repeats.
Throughout its run, The Ren & Stimpy Show was controversial for its off-color humor, black comedy, toilet humor, 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 high 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 cancelled soon after its debut.
- Marlin T. "Ren" Höek: Ren is a scrawny "asthma-hound" chihuahua with a floppy body, donkey-like ears, neon-pink eyes with dark red pupils, red eyelids, and a fairly long, rat-like, pink tail who often calls Stimpy an idiot ("eeediot", to quote the character) and slaps him around, quite literally. Ren is vain, spiteful, hyperactive, abusive, and gets irritated (especially by Stimpy) very easily. His lifelong ambition is to have huge pectoral muscles (which somehow, in real life, is uncommon). Ren's name is the real name of Kricfalusi's building manager. He was born in Tuesday the 17th. Originally read (in a voice homaging that of Peter Lorre) by Kricfalusi, later by Billy West after Kricfalusi was fired, although Kricfalusi would return for the Spike TV episodes and unaired Nickelodeon episodes. In Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas, his singing voice is provided by Billy West.
- Stimpson J. Cat (Stimpy): A fat, red and white, rotund cat, with a blue nose, purple eyelids, no tail, human-style buttocks, flat feet and a brain size of a peanut (despite some intelligence, such as cooking and inventing; he is also a talented musician), Stimpson J. Cat is idiotically yet adorably cheerful and completely devoted to Ren, as he is, to him at least, a good friend. However, Ren abuses Stimpy constantly with both physical and verbal abuse. His trademark facial expression is a blissfully ignorant smile with tongue flopping out. Stimpy is named after an art school classmate of Kricfalusi, whose nickname was "Stimpy Kadogan" (the classmate appeared in one episode as the wrestler "Killer Kadogan"). Voiced by Billy West in the Nickelodeon series and later by Eric Bauza in the Spike TV episodes.
In addition to Ren and Stimpy, there are a host of supporting characters in the show. However, Ren and Stimpy are the only characters to appear in every episode; the supporting characters may recur, or they may only appear in a single episode. Some supporting characters will factor directly into the storyline (such as George Liquor) while others make brief cameos. Some, such as Mr. Horse, are exclusively cameo-based, appearing in many episodes in bits that have little bearing on the plot.
- George Liquor: George is an ultra-patriotic American and is so conservative that he thinks Republicans are Communists. His last name was removed from being uttered in the episodes he appeared in by Nickelodeon. Instead, the scene would pause and a record-scratching sound effect would be played instead of George speaking the word Liquor. He is voiced by Michael Pataki, although voiced by Harris Peet in his first two appearances.
- Powdered Toast Man: Melodramatic and oblivious superhero and spokesperson for Powdered Toast, the breakfast treat that "tastes like sawdust". His alter ego is a deacon. He can fly by launching himself from a toaster, or dispensing a healthy amount of flatulence; hence, he flies backwards. Oddly, Powdered Toast doesn't taste right unless Powdered Toast Man passes gas while it is being consumed. His favourite phrase is "Cling tenaciously to my buttocks, man!" Voiced by Gary Owens, although voiced by Darrin J. Sargent in his first appearance.
- Muddy Mudskipper: A mudskipper (a species of fish capable crawling out of water and breathing air directly) with the voice and personality of a grizzled vaudeville comedian who hosts an afternoon kids' show. Calls everyone he meets "a bum." Besides being a huge television star, Muddy dabbled in villainy, at one point kidnapping the Pope (voiced by Frank Zappa) before being foiled by Powdered Toast Man. He was voiced by Harris Peet, although Billy West voiced him in "Powdered Toast Man."
- Mr. Horse: One of the original and classic characters, with his catch phrase "No sir, I don't like it". Mr. Horse has variously been a victim of a fall from a skyscraper, a GI returning from war in love with a sheep, a dog show judge, a tester for Gritty Kitty Litter, a doctor, and someone running from a dark past. He was voiced by John Kricfalusi (1991–1993) and Billy West (1993–1996).
- Mr. and Mrs. Pipe: A pair of square, white suburban parents who are seen only from the waist down, similar to many characters over the years, including Ms. Sara Bellum in The PowerPuff Girls, and Mom & Dad in Cow and Chicken. Mr. Pipe is typically clad in a bathrobe, slippers, and black socks supported by sock-suspenders. Mrs. Pipe appears to wear a dress and nondescript women's shoes. Mr. Pipe was voiced by Billy West and Mrs. Pipe was voiced by Cheryl Chase.
- Abner and Ewalt: A pair of incredibly stupid hicks who are sheriff and deputy of a small Wild West town. They have a strong proclivity for hanging. They eventually hang themselves in absence of a suitable hangee.
- Svën Hoëk: Ren's Swedish cousin who Ren has not seen since they were in the whelping box together. He longs to have an intellectual conversation with his cousin, but much to Ren's chagrin, Svën is even stupider than Ren's feline pal, and Svën forms a bond of stupidity with Stimpy. Last seen in Hell, though he makes a background appearance in "Jerry the Belly-Button Elf" and appears in the comic several times. Voiced by Billy West.
- Wilbur Cobb: A demented, decaying old man who was once the foremost cartoon producer in the world. He speaks in malapropisms such as "Rain? In Octember?" Voiced by Jack Carter.
- Mrs. Buttloaves: An incredibly obese and homely woman dressed in a bulging pink night gown. Voiced by John Kricfalusi and later Billy West.
- Haggis McHaggis: A short, bald stereotypical Scotsman. Voiced by Alan Young.
- The Fire Chief: Has a psychotic hatred for circus midgets and a penchant for slamming his fire axe into concrete as a response to answering the door. Voiced by Harris Peet.
- The Gilded Yak: The shaven icon of Yak Shaving Day. Rides through the sky in a canoe; capable of emerging and disappearing into sink and tub drains. Although he is shaven, he is on a constant vigil against getting a five o'clock shadow.
- Dr. Stupid: A "show within a show" context pitted Stimpy as Dr. Stupid in the program "Ask Dr. Stupid". Dr. Stupid would read a letter from a loyal viewer asking questions and then activate his "patented Stuponitron helmet", which appeared to give him a stiff electrical shock to his brain. Afterwards, he would offer odd and weird advice.
- Old Man Hunger: A strange, and always naked, skinny old man with a chicken drumstick leg on his head. He can be found showing up randomly at inopportune moments for Ren and Stimpy. Voiced by Billy West.
- Kowalski: Serving a 32-year life sentence for crimes against humanity, Kowalski is an extremely large and burly hulk of a man with incredible strength. However he also has the mind of a 7 year old boy. In his first appearance, Kowalski is temporarily adopted by Ren as Kowalski's surrogate father. In subsequent appearances, he is mostly seen as a general multipurpose goon. Not to be confused with Bubba, Ren's Kowalski-like nephew who featured in only one Ren and Stimpy cartoon. Voiced by Billy West.
- The Announcer Salesman: The Announcer Salesman serves as the multi-purpose loudmouth in the Ren and Stimpy show. Sometimes, he is a salesman. Other times, he is a narrator, an announcer, a dog show judge, a real estate agent, etc. The character is never referred to by any name in the series, but the name of "Hey, It's That Guy" seems to be the official name given by Billy West, who voiced him. It's also rumored that this was how he was also referred to by the animators at Spumco, although this last bit is purely speculation.
Development and reception
According to cartoonist Bill Wray, John Kricfalusi created the characters Ren and Stimpy around 1978 for "personal amusement" 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 liked 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. 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". The Morning Call called it "high voltage yuks and industrial-strength weirdness". Even as the show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon, the relationship between Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon became strained, eventually leading to Kricfalusi communicating with Nickelodeon solely through his lawyer. Several of the show's staff attribute the tension to episodes that were not produced in a timely manner. 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 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 (1993–95)
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." 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 show 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.
Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon
In June 2003, the show returned to US television as Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon on Viacom's Spike TV (formerly the New TNN), with decidedly more adult content and Kricfalusi back in control. The network also aired digitally remastered episodes of the original series. The premiere episode fulfilled a long-running ambition of Kricfalusi's, which he had wanted to do since first selling the original Ren and Stimpy in the early 1990s: An entire episode revolving around jokes that became progressively more disgusting as the episode went on. This episode also put to rest speculation that Ren and Stimpy are supposed to be gay lovers: In once scene, Ren informs Stimpy, "I'm the pitcher, you're the catcher." We then see Ren (dressed like a baseball player) diving into bed with Stimpy, mounting him, and having anal sex.
A few of the head storyboard artists, writers, and animators returned from the original Ren and Stimpy series, such as Vincent Waller and Jim Smith, but most of the new animation and writing team was a new team of artists, specifically instructed and headed by Kricfalusi himself.
Some of the notable, new talent, that worked on Adult Party Cartoon are Katie Rice and Nick Cross.
Unfortunately, the series was not as successful as it's predecessor and many episodes remain up unaired, but have been released on DVD.
Home video releases
- → Main article: The Ren & Stimpy Show videography
VHS and Laserdisc
The Ren & Stimpy Show was first released on VHS in the USA and Canada by Sony Wonder. The tapes contained the same edits as Nickelodeon's first screenings. However, Ren & Stimpy: More Stinky Stories contains a censored version of the short "The Big Baby Scam". The entire sequence where the family take a bath and the naked father gets out to answer the door is very crudely deleted from the cartoon, meaning that it no longer makes sense.
Sony Wonder also released a Laserdisc released titled "Ren & Stimpy: The Essential Collection", which included the same content as the Ren & Stimpy Classics and Classics II VHS tapes. It was notably one of the only two Laserdisc releases of any Nickelodeon production (the other being the Laserdisc release of The Rugrats Movie).
In 1996, the rights for Nickelodeon's programming on home video were transferred to Paramount Home Video. However, only one Ren & Stimpy video was re-released under the Paramount label - Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas.
Several tapes, mainly containing episodes produced by Games Animation, were released in the United Kingdom in the PAL format (not playable on conventional US VCRs). These included: "Ren's Brain", which contained that particular cartoon as well as some others, "Space Madness", which includes that episode as well as four other space-themed episodes, "For the Love of Stimpy", and "As Stinky as They Wanna Be". Bill Wray painted the covers for each of these UK-only cassettes. Each one is rated PG by the British Board of Film Classification, which contrasts to the earlier tapes consisting mainly of Spumco shorts that typically received U (all ages) ratings.
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 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. 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. A second set titled 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. Season Five and Some More of Four completed the DVD release of the Nickelodeon series on September 20th of the same year.
John Kricfalusi mentioned in an interview that an Ultimate Ren & Stimpy Collection DVD set, which would've contained the entirety of the series, was planned, but it was never released.
- → Main article: List of Ren & Stimpy episodes
- Dog Pound Hop (Opening Theme) written and performed by Jim Smith, and John K.
- Big House Blues (Closing Theme) written and performed by Jim Smith, and John K
- The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen Anthem (from the episode The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen)
- Happy Happy Joy Joy (From the episode Stimpy's Invention) written and performed by Stinky Wizzleteats (John K)
- Lord Loves a Hangin (From the episode Out West)
Ren & Stimpy was also referenced in the Primus song "Nature Boy".
Many episodes contained production music, notable tracks from Associated Production Music. Also Used In Spongebob.
- Ren and Stimpy at the Big Cartoon DataBase;
- Members Of The Loyal Order Of Stupids The biggest message board source for exclusive Ren and Stimpy news and discussion.
|1992-1994:||Clarissa Explains It All | Roundhouse | The Ren & Stimpy Show | Are You Afraid of the Dark?|
|1994-1996:||The Secret World of Alex Mack | All That | Space Cases | Kenan and Kel|
|1997-1999:||The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo | KaBlam! | Rugrats | The Journey of Allen Strange | Animorphs|
|1999-2002:||SpongeBob SquarePants | The Amanda Show | 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd | The Nick Cannon Show | Cousin Skeeter | Taina|