Old School 4 Life‘s Today’s Memory
The first episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show
Originally shared by Old School 4 Life™
On this day:
At 11th August of 1991, the first episode of „The Ren & Stimpy Show” aired on Nickelodeon. The series received critical acclaim, and has developed a cult following. It is often credited, along with „The Simpsons”, in paving the way for satirical animated shows like „Beavis and Butt-head” and „South Park”, and for helping revive television animation in the 1990s.
The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply referred to as Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series created by John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. The series follows the adventures of titular characters Ren, an emotionally unstable chihuahua, and Stimpy, a good-natured, dimwitted cat.
Other characters on this show include…Mr. Horse: a horse who always has a different job; Powdered Toast Man: a superhero made of toast; Haggis McHaggis: a short Scottish man who was once the star of a hit cartoon show; Wilbur Cobb: a crazy, senile old man; Muddy Mudskipper: a celebrity who seems nice on TV, but is a greedy jerk in real life. There are also many unnamed characters like the fireman, the fat lady, or the married couple who’s faces are never shown.
When The Ren & Stimpy Show first aired in 1991, it was a revelation, a revolting, occasionally terrifying revelation. Being one of the few shows on children’s television to reflect the actual humor of a child, Ren & Stimpy acted as a softened Garbage Pail Kids, complete with boundless toilet humor and excessive violence. Surprisingly, Ren & Stimpy was to be one of the Nickelodeon’s flagship shows and was included in both the network’s new Nicktoon and Snick initiatives, not only covering the network’s two key demographics, teens and pre-teens, but also grabbing some adults.
Ren & Stimpy was the third of the original three Nicktoons (with the first two being „Doug” and „Rugrats”). And it’s also the best. At the same time „Ren & Stimpy” was an homage to the animation golden-age, it was also a satire. It made fun of politics and society, while it also referenced lots of cartoons and other things from the ’50s and ’60s, and it had surprisingly a lot of adult references for a cartoon airing on a kids network (though a lot of these scenes were cut). Ren & Stimpy was truly a brilliant cartoon. Ren & Stimpy also had a lot of insane, gross, and twisted humor, but it was handled so perfectly that it actually made the show even funnier!
The show, in spite of itself, worked. Ren & Stimpy squeaked by censors time and time again, managing to keep a main character that talked to the ghosts of his own farts and be really, really funny. That’s not to say the production wasn’t troubled. Much like the show’s spiritual stepbrother, MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head, Ren & Stimpy remained a target for censors and parent groups.
The show’s creator, John Kricfalusi, had to work under close scrutiny, balancing network concerns and his own intense interest in naturalistic poo-poo jokes. The show was produced by Kricfalusi’s animation studio Spümcø for the first two seasons.
Kricfalusi described his early period with Nickelodeon as being „simple”, as he got along with Coffey, the sole executive of the program. When another executive was added, he wanted to alter or discard some of the Ren & Stimpy episodes, but Kricfalusi says the episodes stayed intact since he did a „trade” with Coffey: he would have some „really crazy” episodes in exchange for some „heart-warming” episodes.
According to Kricfalusi, The Ren & Stimpy Show was the „safest project he ever worked on” while explaining the meaning of „safe” as „spend a third of what they spend now per picture, hire proven creative talent, and let them entertain”. He estimated Spümcø’s run of The Ren & Stimpy Show cost around $6,000,000 to produce.
But much like all great art that undergoes the gift of hardship, The Ren & Stimpy Show prevailed, stamping a sizable impression on a generation of soda-fueled youngsters during its five-year run. All great art requires some sort of setback to attain greatness, and just like how George Lucas thrived when people like Sir Alec Guinness called Star Wars “fairytale rubbish,” Kricfalusi brought an edge to Nickelodeon, and later, went over it. In September 1993, Kricfalusi was fired from The Ren & Stimpy Show. Citing late delivery of episodes and creative differences as the cause, Nickelodeon let the show continue under the watchful eye of their gaming division for the next three years.
The network moved production from Spümcø to its newly founded animation studio, Games Animation, which later became Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Bob Camp replaced Kricfalusi as director.
Fans and critics felt this was a turning point in the show, with the new episodes being a considerable step down from the standard of those that preceded them. The series ended its original run on December 16, 1995 with „A Scooter for Yaksmas”, although one episode from the final season, „Sammy and Me/The Last Temptation”, remained unaired. Almost a year later, the episode aired on Nickelodeon’s sister network, MTV on October 20, 1996.
The immediate influence of the show was the spawning of two „clones”: Hanna-Barbera’s 2 Stupid Dogs, in which Spümcø employees including Kricfalusi had some limited involvement after their departure from Ren & Stimpy; and Disney’s The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show. However, the show had a wider influence on the future of animation.
Mike Judge credits MTV’s willingness to commission Beavis and Butt-head to the success of Ren & Stimpy on the network. Writer Larry Brody credits Ren & Stimpy for leading a new golden age of animation, as other networks followed Nickelodeon and invested in new cartoons, opening the way for more adult-oriented satirical shows like Beavis and Butt-head and South Park.
The characters are featured and parodied in numerous works. Ren & Stimpy placed 31st in TV Guide’s list of „Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” in 2002. The cover story of the October 2001 issue of Wizard, a magazine for comic book fans, listed the 100 Greatest Toons ever as selected by their readers, with Ren & Stimpy ranked at number 12. Other entertainment journals similarly hold Ren & Stimpy as one of the best cartoons of the ’90s and cartoons for adults.
Overall, Ren & Stimpy left a big mark on future cartoons. Highly recommended to anyone with imagination and a good sense of humour.