This won’t likely make you feel good or full of youthful vigor, but it was 25 years ago that Nickelodeon rolled out its three original Nicktoons: Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy. From the start, Ren & Stimpy was the black sheep of the bunch. The cartoon about a cat and dog didn’t shy away from the bizarre or controversial humor. Which is, of course, part of the reason why kids and adults loved it. To mark this momentous anniversary and celebrate Nickelodeon’s most warped cartoon, here’s some trivia that should guide you as you take a trip down the ’90s nostalgia wormhole.
Ren And Stimpy Were Born In The 1970s
Ren and Stimpy may have come into the mainstream spotlight in the early 1990s, but they were born in the late 1970s. Creator John Kricfalusi had the idea for Ren while attending Sheridan College in 1978, after seeing a postcard titled “New York City, 1946.” The photograph, taken by Elliott Erwitt, showed a chihuahua wearing a sweater and standing by a woman’s feet on the streets of Manhattan. Kricfalusi decided that Ren needed a sidekick and found the inspiration for Stimpy’s appearance in an old Tweety Bird cartoon that featured a pair of cats; one in particular with a very large nose and speaking voice parodying Jimmy Durante.
Kricfalusi later to revealed to AWN that he didn’t want to be confined to keeping the characters in one place, and looked to old comedy troupes like The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy for inspiration with the team. “You can do any kind of situation, tell any kind of story,” said Kricfalusi. “You could do a philosophical story, a purely gag story, or a science-fiction satire.”
The Show’s Original Concept Included Live-Action Elements
The Ren & Stimpy that we all know and love started out as a far different concept from the final product that found its way onto our TV sets. In 1989, Kricfalusi learned that Nickelodeon was in need of some original cartoon programming and approached then-Nick creative exec Vanessa Coffey about a show called Our Gang. The show was going to have a live-action host presenting various cartoons, one of which included Ren & Stimpy, to a group of kids in the studio. Coffey liked the cartoon characters and asked Kricfalusi if he could shift his focus to developing a program centered around the agitated chihuahua and mentally challenged cat.
However, getting Nickelodeon’s president at the time, Geraldine Laybourne, to sign on for the off-color cartoon was a challenge. Coffey told Variety that the show made Laybourne “uncomfortable” and that she initially wasn’t going to sign off on it. “I said if it doesn’t work, she can fire me. She said, ‘Okay, I’ll give you six episodes.'”