Jumping into the wayback machine to 1991, there was a time when children’s programming bordered on the avant garde and surreal with one simple and insanely popular cartoon. Ren & Stimpy, as created by John Kricfalusi, seemed simple and sweet enough on paper: the adventures of a dog and cat who are friends and the various shenanigans the duo get into on a weekly basis. However, in practice, that simplistic premise would undergo a hideous transformation into a treatise on the absurd, a fascination with bodily fluids and functions, and a painstaking focus on the details of the animation.
As Evan Puschak, a.k.a. The Nerdwriter, points out in his latest video, Kricfalusi rejected the morality lessons of most cartoons and the formulaic plotting that had become way too common in animation at the time. Perhaps this was due to Kricfalusi’s apprenticeship under Ralph Bakshi, another animator who rejected the standards of his time. But the result was an audacious and wholly original television show that frequently went to uncomfortable and weird places, grossing out audiences who simply couldn’t get enough of it. Of course such weirdness couldn’t last and while the show continued on once Kricfalusi was fired after two seasons, it never reached the artistic and surrealistic heights of those first episodes.
Puschak examines all of this and also why it was such a revolutionary approach that has influenced many cartoons since in the video. So enjoy his visual essay and try to spend the day without “Happy Happy Joy Joy” playing on repeat mentally.