John K

spumco

ren and stimpy

Michael John Kricfalusi [kris-fuh-loo-see] better known as John K., is a Canadian animator. He is creator of ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show,’ its adults-only spin-off ‘Ren & Stimpy ‘Adult Party Cartoon,” ‘The Ripping Friends’ animated series, and ‘Weekend Pussy Hunt,’ an interactive web-based cartoon, as well as the founder of animation studio Spümcø.

He spent his early childhood in Germany and Belgium, while his father served in the Canadian air force. At age seven he returned with his family to Canada. Having moved in the middle of a school season, he spent much of his time that year at home, watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons and drawing them. Kricfalusi’s interest in Golden Age animation crystallized during his stay at Sheridan College, where an acquaintance of his held weekly screenings of old films and cartoons, among them the cartoons of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery, which left a deep impression on him.

After moving to Los Angeles, Kricfalusi was introduced to Milt Gray by Bob Clampett, suggesting he should join Gray’s classical animation class. Gray was working for Filmation at the time, and soon Kricfalusi found work there as well. From 1979 to the mid 1980s, Kricfalusi worked for Filmation and later Hanna-Barbera on various shows which he once described as ‘the worst animation of all time.’ He recalls being ‘saved’ from having to work on these cartoons by director Ralph Bakshi, who’d worked with him before in 1981 and 1982. Under Bakshi, Kricfalusi directed the animation for The Rolling Stones’ 1986 music video ‘Harlem Shuffle.’

The team’s most successful project was ‘Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures’ for CBS, based on the classic Terrytoons character. The series was well-received, and it is considered the forerunner of creator-driven cartoons. At the beginning of the second season, Kricfalusi and Bakshi had a falling out, prompting Kricfalusi to leave the show. The production of ‘Mighty Mouse’ was very different from other cartoons at the time, gaining creative and artistic leeway thanks to the success of the irreverent ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ on CBS a year before. The animators had much more creative input, driven by Kricfalusi’s production system that emphasizes artistic contribution in every step of the process, from outline to storyboard to layout to the animation. ‘Mighty Mouse’ was eventually canceled after it experienced some controversy for allegedly depicting the main character snorting cocaine. Ralph Bakshi maintained that the character was sniffing the crushed petals of a flower, which were handed to him in a previous scene in the cartoon.

Kricfalusi left Bakshi’s studio to work on ‘The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil’ for ABC, where he teamed up with many of the people who would later work with him on ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show.’ ABC had been negotiating for the production of the show with the Clampett family, who insisted that Kricfalusi would be part of the production. The long negotiations delayed the start of production to mid-July, causing much of the animation to be rushed in order to meet the September deadline. Tensions rose between Kricfalusi and ABC over the tone of the show, leading to an uncomfortable atmosphere for the show’s crew. The more ABC strove to soften the show, the more Kricfalusi pushed for shocking and offensive material. The Clampett family were ultimately not very happy with the cartoon, but remained supportive of Kricfalusi. ABC cancelled the show after six episodes, finding the humor not suitable for children’s programming.

Kricfalusi formed Spümcø animation studio with partners Jim Smith, Bob Camp and Lynne Naylor. They began working on a pilot for ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ on behalf of Nickelodeon, after the eponymous characters were favored by Nickelodeon producer Vanessa Coffey in a presentation by Kricfalusi. The pilot was very well-received, leading to the production of the first 13 half-hour episodes of the show. The show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon, but the network disagreed with Kricfalusi’s direction of the show. Kricfalusi points specifically to the episode ‘Man’s Best Friend,’ which features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults the character George Liquor with an oar, as being the turning point in his relationship with Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi from production of the series in 1992, leaving it in the hands of Nickelodeon’s Games Animation studio, which continued producing it for three more seasons before its cancellation.

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