In an extensive report from BuzzFeed, cartoonist John Kricfalusi—the creator of iconic Nickelodeon series Ren & Stimpy—has been accused of sexually exploiting teenage girls, promising them careers in animation at his studio Spumco while allegedly grooming them for sexual relationships. One of the women, Robyn Byrd, says it all began in 1994 when she was only 13, after she sent Kricfalusi a video of herself talking about how she wanted a career in animation and how important Ren & Stimpy was to her. Kricfalusi, who was 39 at the time, responded by sending her packages of toys and art supplies, and eventually he helped her set up an AOL account so they could communicate more regularly.
Kricfalusi visited Byrd at her home and told her that she could “become a great artist,” and later he invited her out to Los Angeles, where she says he “touched her genitals through her pajamas” while they were at his house. She was 16. In 1997, Kricfalusi gave Byrd an internship at Spumco; she lived with him during this period, prompting him to allegedly call her “his 16-year-old girlfriend.” Convinced that he was helping her launch the career of her dreams, Byrd moved in with Kricfalusi once she graduated from high school.
Apparently, this was all an open secret in the animation world at the time, partly due to an interview Kricfalusi gave with Howard Stern in which he creepily noted that a “hot chick with big cans and nice legs” he had drawn for a comic book was “underage, too.” People working at Spumco allegedly shrugged off the relationship between Byrd and Kricfalusi, with another former intern noting that Kricfalusi once “left out a drawing he made of Byrd, naked, with a dog ejaculating on her.” That same former intern claims he once attended a party at Kricfalusi’s house in which he showed off explicit photos of Byrd while she was “drifting in and out of consciousness” from drinking. He notes that this stuff bothered him at the time, but he also admits that he never talked to Byrd about it, or confronted Kricfalusi.
Byrd quit Spumco and gave up on her career in animation to get away from Kricfalusi in the early 2000s. Around that same time, he hired one of her “childhood internet friends,”18-year-old Katie Rice, essentially as a replacement. Kricfalusi had also allegedly been grooming Rice since she was a teenager, telling her that she was special and that she could also have a successful career in animation. Rice says Kricfalusi sexually harassed her while she was working for him, and that during a period when she was working out of his home office, he exposed himself to her. He also allegedly once told a “joke” about how he could finally “get” her if he were to “just rape [her] one day.”
Rice says she had a hard time leaving Kricfalusi, telling BuzzFeed, “This asshole told me when I was 13 that I was special, and I don’t have any self-esteem, so I believe it.” After the “half-threat of rape,” Rice claims she found pornography featuring underage girls on his computer, including a photo of “a naked girl who appeared to be around 10 years old.” An unnamed ex-girlfriend of Kricfalusi’s also told BuzzFeed that she had seen naked images of underage girls on his computer around 2007. Rice did leave Kricfalusi after that, and though she says she “panicked” when she first tried to report the images she had seen to the authorities, she did notify the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children. (She still has a career in animation.) Byrd, who has since reconnected with Rice, also contacted the LAPD about what she says happened to her, but the statute of limitations had already passed.
BuzzFeed obtained a statement from Kricfalusi’s attorney that attempts to justify his alleged actions, saying “the 1990s were a time of mental and emotional fragility for Mr. Kricfalusi” and acknowledging that there was a “brief time” when he had a 16-year-old girlfriend. Since then, “he has worked feverishly on his mental health issues, and has been successful in stabilizing his life over the last decade.” Kricfalusi also denies ever possessing child pornography, and says that he has never been contacted by the police about any sort of investigation.
Meanwhile, the various TV networks Kricfalusi worked with told BuzzFeed that they never received reports of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. A spokesperson for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim said that they have no plans “to work with him in the future,” but whether that’s because of these allegations or not is unclear. Then there’s Nickelodeon, the network that made Kricfalusi famous and reportedly still has a portrait of him hanging on the wall at its offices. The network declined to comment.