The Ren and Stimpy Show
Ren and Stimpy are the eponymous characters of two American animated television series created by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi. Ren Høek, a neurotic "asthma-hound" chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat (a.k.a. Stimpy), a fat, red, simpleton (but occasionally intelligent) cat, wander around in nonsensical adventures reminiscent of the Golden Age of American animation. Kricfalusi created the characters around 1979, while working for low-budget TV cartoons after moving to the United States. The characters were originally conceived as individual doodles unrelated to one another, and it was Kricfalusi's co-worker Joel Fajnor who told Kricfalusi to pair them together.
A product of the children's cable network Nickelodeon, The Ren & Stimpy Show had a reputation for subversiveness. Its level of gross-out humor, often involving nasal mucus and flatulence, was surpassed only by shows such as Beavis and Butt-head or The Brothers Grunt. While primarily controversial for its grotesque imagery, the series also frequently lampooned elements of western culture, such as materialism and superstition. The show was canceled around 1996, a little while after the Rugrats became popular; however, it still occasionally airs on both the Nicktoons channel and one of its affiliates, Nick Rewind.
Ren is a scrawny "Asthma-Hound" chihuahua with a fairly long, rat-like, pink tail who often calls Stimpy an "eeediot" and slaps him around. Ren is vain, spiteful, hyperactive, abusive, and he gets irritated very easily. Ren will often go completely insane during the course of an episode. His lifelong ambition is to have huge pectoral muscles, or implants just so he can be intimidating. Ren's name is the real name of Kricfalusi's building manager. Originally read (in a voice in homage to those of Peter Lorre and Kirk Douglas) by Kricfalusi, later by Billy West after Kricfalusi was fired, although Kricfalusi would return for the Spike TV episodes. Billy West has said that his own rendition of Ren's voice is a combination of Burl Ives and Kirk Douglas, and his description of Stimpy's voice is an "amped-up" and more child-like Larry (of Three Stooges fame).
Because of his accent and the fact that he is a Chihuahua, Ren is considered Mexican but is probably of either German or Swedish descent due to his last name and the fact that his cousin Sven is Swedish, although this was not Kricfalusi's intention. Ren was inspired by a postcard of a Chihuahua in a sweater. But he could be considered Hungarian since he was supposed to have the personality of Peter Lorre.
Stimpy is a fat, red and white, rotund cat with a blue nose, purple eyelids, no tail, human-style buttocks, flat feet, and a brain the size of a peanut. Stimpy is undeniably stupid externally and idiotically yet adorably cheerful while in some ways being intelligent. He is completely devoted to Ren who he perceives to be a good friend despite Ren's constant abuse. He does most of the work around the house. His trademark facial expression is a blissfully ignorant smile with his tongue flopping out. His famous catchphrase is "Oh, Joy!" or simply "Jooooooy".
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.
Ren and Stimpy was created by John Kricfalusi and produced by his animation team Spümcø. The pilot, "Big House Blues," was finished in October 1990 and the first episode, "Stimpy's Big Day," premiered August 1991 along with Rugrats and Doug. However, Nickelodeon expressed concern about the show's grossness and violence, and routinely censored episodes. For example, in the episode Man's Best Friend George Liquor adopts Ren and Stimpy who later beat George with an oar. Nickelodeon thought this episode was too violent and banned it. The network also censored certain episodes such as "Sven Høek", "Nurse Stimpy" and "Big House Blues." Kricfalusi was fired from his creative role in the show on September 21, 1992, and subsequently refused to continue providing the voice of Ren. Kricfalusi has said the firing was due primarily to the censoring Nickelodeon felt was required, while Nick executives and Billy West have said it was more a result of Kricfalusi repeatedly missing deadlines. Another possibility is that John K missed deadlines because he fought with Nick over censorship.
One of Kricfalusi's closest friends, Bob Camp, began writing and directing the episodes himself, and Billy West (who had also provided Ren's screams in several of the Spümcø episodes) took on Kricfalusi's role as Ren. According to his website, West was the original voice of Ren, on the demo tape that "sold the show". Spümcø artists then started to leave Nickelodeon. After that, the show was left without its creator, or its animators. Shortly after this occurred, a new studio (Games Animation) was formed to keep Ren & Stimpy going, but the show's popularity dwindled in its last few years, and it was ultimately cancelled.
It is worth noting that the Games Animation version of the series frequently invoked God in most episodes. (Stimpy is seen saying a prayer, Ren attributes a bountiful harvest to God etc.). Sometimes characters would also use mild profanity such as "crap" (another Nickelodeon show, Hey Arnold! also contained similar mild profanity). These are rarities in modern children's animation, if not nonexistent.
In 2003, an adult-oriented version of the series titled Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, featuring episodes helmed by series creator John Kricfalusi, aired briefly on TNN (later renamed Spike TV). In 2004, Ren & Stimpy landed at number 18 on UK Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Cartoons. It is currently being aired on Nicktoons TV.
Advertisers were "freaked out" (in Kricfalusi's own words) by some of the new show's content, particularly that of the risqué episode "Naked Beach Frenzy" (which was finished in 2003 but is unaired on American TV so far) and the show was taken off the air, partly due to the advertisers' fears, and partly due to Kricfalusi and company taking their time making new episodes. In the spring and summer 2004, Kricfalusi completed two new episodes (each an hour long), and those episodes (along with "Naked Beach Frenzy") were shown at film festivals and other such venues.
Spike TV officially cancelled APC around November 2004 (and Kricfalusi shut down his studio in Canada shortly thereafter).
In 2005, Kricfalusi announced that the existing APC (both the ones that aired in 2003 and the unaired ones) were coming to DVD and that there is the possibility for new Ren and Stimpy episodes (Kricfalusi has stated to have great interest in making episodes direct-to-video) if Ren and Stimpy DVDs sell well enough (as was the case with the show Family Guy , which came back into production partially due to phenomenal DVD sales and Futurama which will come back on Comedy Central in 2008). It is rumored that the series may come to Adult Swim with the original series uncut and the Adult Cartoon Party episodes however, nothing is official.
The Ren and Stimpy Show and Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon featured a wide variety of music from folk, to traditional, to jazz. Some of this music has been written specifically for use on the show and have become synonymous with the episodes that feature them. Ren and stimpy have also released 3 musical albums titled: Crock O' Christmas, Ren & Stimpy: You Eediot! and Ren & Stimpy: Radio Daze.
Many parents of young children complained about how Stimpy was the subject of repeated violence by his friend Ren, typically with a slap across the face. There were also scenes where Ren (or sometimes other minor characters) broke down into fits of psychosis and gleefully plotted to kill Stimpy or other ancillary characters.
Parents also worried about the occasional use of mildly offensive language. Ass and hell were used in some episodes even though the series was TV-Y7.
Nickelodeon also didn't censor all the sexual content. Many parents realized that several jokes were made up involving breasts. In one episode Ren is seen about to pull down a woman's shirt but abruptly cut to another scene.
There were also worries that the series could influence children to abuse drugs. In several episodes Ren or Muddy Mudskipper are depicted with cigars or cigarettes in their mouths, however the smoke is hardly visible. In another episode, one scene depicts Ren inhaling smoke from a pipe.
In October 2006, Paramount UK released Ren and Stimpy seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, however, there was some heavy editing to the set. In the episode "Out West" the whole Hanging Song is removed, meaning the cartoon ends at "Let's Hang em'" after Ren and Stimpy steal the horse.
All commentaries and the "banned" episode Man's Best Friend are completely absent, even though the back of the package makes reference to the episode.
Several episodes from Ren & Stimpy's first two seasons were released on DVD by Time-Life in late 2003. These DVDs contained some of Nickelodeon's edits and before long went out-of-print.
A DVD set of seasons one and two of the original series was released October 12, 2004. Some fans were angered by the fact that the set, billed as "Ren & Stimpy Uncut," had a few missing scenes removed for time issues and fade outs where commercials had been inserted from the "remastered" versions played on Spike TV. Kricfalusi said in a statement that all of the cut footage he knew about had been returned. Additionally, another Spümcø member (Steven Worth) has also attributed the time-snipped footage and fade outs to the fact that the DVD production team were given master tapes that, while edited, made absolutely no reference to this.
The "Seasons Three and A Half-ish" DVD box was released on June 28, 2005, while the "Season Five and Some More of Four" DVD box was released on September 20, 2005 and an Adult Party Cartoon set, aka "The Lost Episodes" was released on July 18, 2006. An "Ultimate Ren & Stimpy Collection" DVD is also in the works.
It is also worth noting that in the first and second season DVD, the "Sven Hoek" episode has a missing scene which has been reinserted for the DVD release. The footage used had a visible time code from an editing machine running on the top of the scene. It's during the scene where Ren is telling Stimpy and Sven how he's going to beat them up and mentions gouging their eyes out. However, this scene has since been restored by two volunteer fans David Mackenzie (aka Lyris) and Evan Oliver. The restored scene was presented to John K. himself, who described the work as "amazing". The new version will likely be available on the "Ultimate Ren & Stimpy Collection" DVD set. The updated scene features the time code painstakingly retouched out frame by frame. Also, it features a better matching of color, contrast and audio volume, so that there isn't a noticeable "jump" to the cut scene.
The Ren & Stimpy Show was previously released on VHS video tape in the United States and Canada by Sony Wonder. These tapes contain mainly the original Spumco episodes of the show.
The tapes contained the same edits as Nickelodeon's first screenings. However, "Ren & Stimpy: More Stinky Stories" contains an edited version of the short "The Big Baby Scam". The entire sequence where the family takes a bath is very crudely deleted from the cartoon, meaning that it no longer makes sense.
Eventually, the rights for Nickelodeon's programming on home video were transferred to Paramount Home Video and taken away from Sony. Only one cassette was released under the Paramount label, "Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas", which was actually a rerelease of a cassette that had been previously released by Sony several years earlier. Like all of the other Paramount cassettes of Nickelodeon shows, they were recorded in the EP/SLP format which gives very poor image quality; tapes released by Sony were recorded in SP format.
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, and "For the Love of Stimpy". 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.
Ren & Stimpy was also released on LaserDisc in the USA by Sony Wonder. The disc is called "Ren & Stimpy: The Essential Collection" and has the same program content (but of course, in much higher quality) as the Ren & Stimpy Classics and Classics II VHS tapes. The disc is recorded in CLV mode, is double-sided, and has Digital Sound.
A compilation entitled The Ren & Stimpy Show: Volume 1 was released on UMD on September 20th, 2005 in the US by Paramount. As Paramount have since pulled out of the UMD market, it is unlikely a second volume will be released.
10 Ren & Stimpy-themed games have been produced on two Sega and three Nintendo systems. One for Sega Genesis, one for Game Gear, four for SNES, one for NES, two for Game Boy and one for the PC, PlayStation and Game Boy Advance. Most of the games were produced by THQ. Like many licensed-based video games, these titles are of dubious quality.
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$ released on the NES - 1992
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! released on the Super NES - 1993
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Fire Dogs released on the Super NES - 1994
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Time Warp released on the Super NES - 1994
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Buckaroo$ released on the Super NES - 1995
* Ren and Stimpy: Space Cadets released on Game Boy - 1992
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! released on Game Boy - 1993
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Stimpy's Invention released on Sega Genesis - 1993
* Ren & Stimpy Show: Quest for Shaven Yak on Sega Game Gear
* Nicktoons Racing on PC, Sony PlayStation and Game Boy Advance
Additionally, Ren & Stimpy were included in several Nickelodeon-themed activity and crafts software for computers.
Marvel Comics optioned the rights to produce comic books based on Nickelodeon properties in 1992. Their initial plan was to have an anthology comic featuring several Nicktoons properties, but Ren & Stimpy proved to be so popular the comic was instead dedicated entirely to them. A Rocko's Modern Life comic series was also produced by Marvel in 1994, but only lasted seven issues. Marvel produced 44 issues of the ongoing series, along with several specials. Most of these were written by then relatively unknown comic scribe Dan Slott, who would spend the next several years honing his comedy by writing comics based on cartoons. One Ren & Stimpy special, #3, Masters of Time and Space, was set up as a 'choose your own adventure' and with a time travel plot, took Dan 6 months to plot out in his spare time. It was designed so that it was possible to choose a path that would eventually be 20 pages longer than the comic itself.