John Kricfalusi moved to Los Angeles by way of Ottawa in his early 20s. As an artist and animator, he grew up admiring the work of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, but in L.A., he was growing tired of the cartoons he was tasked with. “I worked on the worst stuff you’ve ever seen in your life,” he told the New York Times in 1992. “Have you ever seen the Filmation Tom and Jerrys? They ruined Tom and Jerry, they ruined Droopy, they ruined Mighty Mouse. I helped ruin all those characters.”
After working on The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse for CBS, Kricfalusi started his own production company, Spumco. One of the first ideas he pitched to the three networks was The Ren & Stimpy Show, a program about the misadventures of a temperamental chihuahua and an absent-minded cat. The networks passed on the show, but Vanessa Coffey — the executive producer of animation for Nickelodeon — was smitten with Kricfalusi’s pitch, and after another meeting with executives of Nickelodeon, Ren & Stimpy was given a green light.
The Ren & Stimpy Show was a huge hit for the kids’ cable channel, appealing to both kids and adults. Its initial 1991 season netted the show an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program. The show wasn’t without its detractors, though. Some deemed the show’s humor crude, and offensive to children. In a letter to the Parents Television Council, one viewer described the show as funny, but entirely inappropriate for the younger generation.
For example, I remember coming across Ren & Stimpy on Nickelodeon, and the episode in question had to do with the comparison of the smell of animal feces with two different brands of kitty litter. Now I would be less than honest if I did not say that I personally found this episode uproariously funny from an adult point of view. But I cannot see for the life of me why a network like Nickelodeon would ever allow content like this to be shown to children. Is this the kind of thing that we want our children to see? What were these people thinking?