Not only did Kricfalusi produce an artistically beautiful and creatively unique style of animation, but he was also insistent on pushing the boundaries of network standards and practices. The stories of the war between creatives and networks are legendary, and the stories behind Ren & Stimpy are no different. The show had two things going for it. First, was an executive in Coffey, who believed in Kricfalusi’s vision and was the only one who could manage him, and of course, the ratings. Ren & Stimpy produced the highest ratings for Nickelodeon at that time.
As the documentary continues, you soon realize that while the film is about Ren & Stimpy (the show), it becomes about the rise and fall of a mad, creative genius. There’s no denying that Kricfalusi was a creative genius. He demanded artistic perfection in his product, which meant that artists at Spümcø worked long hours under a leader and father-figure, who was never pleased with your work. At the same time, Kricfalusi was always the first one in the office and the last to leave…if he ever left.
After the first season, the pressure got to everyone, and Kricfalusi started to become sort of a megalomaniac, and this is where you need to see the doc. Sometimes one’s genius, especially if you believe your own press, can be your downfall, and it was. The show’s success meant Kricfalusi was untouchable, and the show’s success said that in his mind, he was the one solely responsible for keeping it at the top of the ratings. But he was out of control and ultimately fired by Nickelodeon, two episodes into the second season. His second episode would never air for decency-sake.
“This is the film’s Catch-22.”
As Kricfalusi’s career begins to sputter, the documentary goes into a dark secret that, as of recent, slowly emerged after principal photography was completed. After his downfall from Nickelodeon, Kricfalusi began a series of inappropriate relationships with teenage fans. This creative genius now turned into a Svengali, stealing the hearts of young teen women, then manipulating and controlling them for his ego and pleasure. While the documentary doesn’t overtly cast judgment upon Kricfalusi, it does present the facts. Those facts overwhelmingly conclude that Kricfalusi became a serial abuser and pedophile.
This is the film’s Catch-22. You go through all the trouble of putting a fantastic documentary together about one of the most controversial children’s television shows in history and paint the creator as a creative genius, only to find out he’s a real scumbag. In the end, the story of the show Ren & Stimpy is a fascinating one, especially for fans and anyone who wants to push boundaries in Hollywood. It also doesn’t make a hero out of John Kricfalusi, who still desires admiration and sympathy. In fact, when given a chance to redeem himself, he sort of blows it…big time.
Happy Happy Joy Joy – The Ren & Stimpy Story screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.