[John K.]

An Interview with John Kricfalusi, the Creator of Ren & Stimpy, by Otto Matik.

REMEMBER HOW COOL The Ren & Stimpy Show was? It was my favorite cartoon. Then, suddenly, The Ren & Stimpy Show stopped being great. The new episodes were awful. All the wildness and joy had been sucked right out of it. The reason? Viacom's clever lawyers had taken Ren & Stimpy away from their creator, John Kricfalusi, and handed the series over to a bunch of grim corporate hacks who hadn't an inkling of what the cartoon was all about.

But that was a couple of years ago. Today, John K. is a proud dad. He's happy to report that he's finally got the licensing rights back to his kids, Ren and Stimpy. He's also excited about the cool new goodies being produced by his production company, Spumco. bOING bOING called John at his home in Los Angeles on 12 August 1995 to find out more.

bOING bOING: I heard you have some art kits. What are they?

JOHN: We have The Big Shot Hollywood Cartoonist Cel Painting Kits. If you buy them, you'll learn all the secrets of the animation world. For example, in a coloring book, you paint on the top of the page. I don't know how many people know that you paint the _back_ of a cel. It's also great propaganda. Basically we're teaching the next generation of cartoonists to be ready for the real world. On the back we'll have a cutout mask of a big shot Hollywood cartoonist.

You know what I always liked about cereal boxes when I was a kid? It was all fun. You really had guys sitting around going "How can we make this the most fun?" On the back of the old Kellogg's box they had a mask of Yogi Bear or whoever. I'd cut those masks out, poke the holes out of the eyes, and then put it on my head and run up and down the stairs really fast. I'm sure those masks killed a lot of kids, but they were great fun.

bOING bOING: So your cel-painting kits are going to have the same kind of masks?

JOHN: Yeah. On our Jimmy The Idiot Boy kit, we have a mask of Jim Smith, one of the Spumco big shots who did the _The Ren & Stimpy Show_. But not only are we doing *our* characters, we are licensing the characters that I loved as a kid, like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.

bOING bOING: Are the characters doing anything unusual in the scenes?

JOHN: Of course! Ranger Smith is a real unusual character anyway. He's like a network exec. His whole mission in life is to make sure that nobody has any fun. He brings man's laws to the forest and thwarts nature's instincts. We have a nice scene of Yogi and Ranger Smith called "The Punishment." Yogi has transgressed Ranger Smith's laws and the Ranger has got Yogi standing on his head on a tree stump with corn cobs in his ears and he's holding out a sign that says "I AM BAD." The sign originally said "I HAVE SINNED," but that didn't make it through Hanna-Barbera.

bOING bOING: I heard you have some paint-by-number kits too.

JOHN: We have the Jimmy of the Future paint-by-number kit. It has two images depicting near-death scenes of Jimmy.

bOING bOING: What are the scenes?

JOHN: There's one where he's about to plummet into the moon in his rocket ship and the other one he's doing repairs outside the rocket ship but he has an oxygen leak in his suit and his head's exploding.

bOING bOING: Cool!

John: And there's a prize in the box. I loves prizes. The prize in every paint-by-number set is a free box of cereal.

bOING bOING: A real box of cereal?

JOHN: Uh-huh. It's called Sugar Corn Waste, which provides one essential waste product.

bOING bOING: What's the waste product?

JOHN: Well, you'll have to buy it to find out. The side of the box lists all the ingredients. You also get a prize inside the cereal too.

bOING bOING: What is it?

JOHN: A pencil-enhancer.

bOING bOING: What is a pencil-enhancer?

JOHN: It's a little rubber cartoon character, bent-over, with a hole in its butt, and you stab your pencil into it.

bOING bOING: That's great. Because the toys in most cereal boxes aren't good anymore.

JOHN: They're *crappy.* They don't give you toys anymore. They give you stickers and shit. Why do I want a sticker? I want a little man in my cereal.

bOING bOING: Like that little guy that rides on your spoon.

JOHN: Yeah, right.

bOING bOING: Tell me about your new comic book.

JOHN: It's from Marvel Comic books. It's called _Comic Book_ and it's a cure to political correctness. There's this whole fucking Barbra Streisand movement to make people pretend they're not human; that they don't have human desires and they don't say human things in real life, and all it does is frustrate your natural urges. Eventually we're all going to become mass murderers. We're suppressing everything that comes natural to us. If there is any place where you should let out all of your frustrations, it's entertainment. Everybody has evil dirty thoughts. Most men love pretty girls; you're not supposed to love pretty girls anymore, which is like *insane.* If you hate all that stuff, you should buy our comic book. Our comic book is all about humanity. It's about the things that you really think about but you're afraid to say to anybody. It'll be in comic book stores and record stores. It's in color, but it's printed on crappy paper, like old comic books. It's not trying to be slick or anything.

bOING bOING: You like that better?

JOHN: Yeah. It'll yellow fast and crumble.

bOING bOING: What else are you up to?

JOHN: A World Wide Web site. We'll have the best. Tamper-free, no executives, pretty girls in the comics, which you're not allowed to do on television.

bOING bOING: Do they really have rules like that for TV cartoons?

JOHN: There's a million... TV is the world of Ranger Smiths. There's no Ranger Smiths on the Internet. It's all Yogis! Irresponsible oafs! Like us!

(Spumco merchandise is available at most comic book stores, and will soon be available in places like KMart and Wal Mart.)

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Copyright 1998 bOING bOING and Mark Frauenfelder.