You gotta love John Kricfalusi. The Canadian-born creator of Ren & Stimpy is keeping the spirit of Bob Clampett and Fleischer Studios alive with his distinct brand of cartoony animation at a time when a lot of animators are preoccupied with making everything look shiny and new. While his twisted sense of humor put him out of favor with Nickelodeon, his influence on modern TV animation is undeniable. In honor of his achievements, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will host a special tribute to the maverick toon tycoon on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m.
Kricfalusi will be in attendance Tuesday night, along with much of his L.A. Spumco crew, including head of layout, Fred Osmond, and Eric Bauza, the voice of Stimpy. The tribute will feature a retrospective look at the history of Spumco cartoons including early Ren & Stimpy adventures, as well as advanced screenings of three hilarious new episodes set to air this season on Spike TV, which has ordered nine new half hours of the show. The event will continue on Wednesday, Sept. 8, with "John Presents Classic Toons." Kricfalusi will share some of his favorite animated shorts from the glory days of Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, MGM, Terrytoons, Walter Lantz and more.
Among the new Ren & Stimpy installments to be screened is a particularly racy one titled "Naked Beach Frenzy," in which the dog-and-cat duo take a trip to the beach and end up working in the women’s shower, where buxom beauties bare it all. Though Kricfalusi is a self-proclaimed dirty old man, he deflects some of the blame for any blatant objectification by noting that a female artist named Katie Rice (www.katienice.homestead.com) designed all the bouncing, well-endowed girls in the episode. He says, "She was always good at drawing cute and sexy girls and we had a story that was supposed to be about cute and sexy girls so I said, ‘Katie, why don’t you design the girls and lay out the key scenes?’ She was kind of nervous about it because she had never done full-fledged layouts yet. It was quite a challenge, but she met it with flying colors. To me, those are the cutest girls I’ve ever seen in a cartoon."
Kricfalusi is quick to give credit where credit is due, and is particularly proud of his female artists. "There are not that many girl cartoonists in the business but the percentage of great ones is a lot higher than among guys," he insists. "Almost all the girls are really good. I want all of them in one place because they’re all so damn talented." In addition to Katie Rice, Kricfalusi mentions character designers Lynne Naylor (The Ren & Stimpy Show, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars) and Sue Katowich, as well as Spumco animator Jessica Borutski and his background painter, Kristy Gordon.
"Naked Beach Frenzy" is also notable for launching a new alter-ego for Stimpy–Shampoo Master. When asked if we’re gong to be seeing more of Shampoo Master, Kricfalusi says, "I hope so, if [Spike TV] picks up new episodes. I’d like to do a whole episode of him just like we did with Powdered Toast Man, who started with a short commercial."
While Nickelodeon had a problem with Kricfalusi’s edgy sensibilities, he says Spike TV actually asked him to go farther and do things that he could never do in a kid’s show. "And that’s just going to make kids want to watch it even more," he notes proudly. However, Kricfalusi does not yet know if Spike will be able to air the uncensored version of "Naked Beach Frenzy," which certainly lives up to its title.
Also screening Tuesday night is Stimpy’s Pregnant, in which Ren gets the shock of his life when he finds out his pal is expecting, and The Altruists, a take on Three Stooges episodes in which Moe, Larry and Curly stop beating on each other long enough to help somebody out. Attendees will also see "Mighty’s Benefit Plan" from Ralph Bakshi’s 1980s Mighty Mouse series, the Ren & Stimpy pilot, "Big House Blues," and the shorts "Weekend Pussy Hunt," "What Pee Boners Are For" and "Boo Boo Runs Wild."
For Wednesday’s event Kricfalusi promises a smorgasbord of classic toons from the 1930s to the 1950s. "I don’t think anyone’s done it better than artist from that period," he asserts. On tap are vintage adventures of Betty Boop, Bimbo, Sylvester & Tweety, Mickey Mouse and Popeye (a restored print of the Sinbad short). Kricfalusi will also screen some of his favorite Bob Clampett works and lesser-known early cartoons from Tex Avery and legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones. "One night is not enough to pay tribute to 30 years of an absolutely amazing American artform," Kricfalusi laments. "But if it does well, I’d like to do a whole series on the history of classic animation."
In the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Make it so!"
You can also catch Kricfalusi on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Golden Apple comic bookstore in Hollywood (7711 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046). The shop is hosting a special "Petition Signing" event beginning at 3 p.m. at which fans can sign a petition asking Spike TV to air more new episodes of Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon. For more info, visit www.goldenapplecomics.com or call (323) 658-6047.