SUNDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! There are two animated shows on television today that have pushed the boundaries of decency and have been attacked because of their negative impact on the moral foundations of family-friendly cartoons on TV. They are The Simpsons and South Park. But arguably, there should have been one more (really many more), but for this review, I’m talking about Ren & Stimpy in Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood’s documentary Happy Happy Joy Joy – The Ren & Stimpy Story.
While Happy Happy Joy Joy starts as your typical how-did-this-get-made-type documentary, it becomes something very different in the end. The doc opens with Hollywood industry types, including a certain rebellious and mildly famous film magazine editor, gushing over Ren & Stimpy’s influence on modern animation today, and how amazing it was for a radical show like this ever made it on children’s television.
“…starts as your typical how-did-this-get-made-type documentary, it becomes something very different in the end.”
Beginning in 1991, Ren & Stimpy ran for five seasons on Nickelodeon, but the documentary focuses primarily on the first. The primary subject of the documentary is Ren & Stimpy’s creator John Kricfalusi. As docs do, Happy Happy Joy Joy goes over his childhood love of animation, his disdain of the limited-animation-style appearing on television at that time, and his dream to change the landscape of the genre.
Getting on Nickelodeon wasn’t easy, and both Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon’s Vanessa Coffey go into detail about how John pitched a show about a gang of kids. However, Coffey noticed the pets of one of the kids—a chihuahua and a cat. She wanted the series to be about them, and off they went. Kricfalusi established Spümcø with other artists and animators, many of whom appear in the doc. John would voice Ren, and Billy West would be Stimpy.