On August 11, 1991, kids network Nickelodeon entered the world of original animation with the launch of Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy. While the first two were pretty standard animated fare, the latter was groundbreaking in its use of insane humor and wild visuals that pushed the envelope of what could be shown on a kids show. Even today, almost 25 years after its premiere, the show remains a high point in television animation.
That groundbreaking animation is the subject of a new video essay from Even Puschak (aka The Nerdwriter). As Puschak notes, the show was created by John Kricfalusi as a reaction to the bland animation of the ’70s and ’80s. Kricfalusi was an apprentice under Ralph Bakshi, the animator behind cult favorites like Fritz the Cat and Coonskin, whose work was noted for not only its artistry but for its adult themes. Like Bakshi, Kricfalusi wanted to push the limits of animation, and created Ren & Stimpy as a way to do so, fusing the show with a zany style influenced by legendary Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett.
Many think the show was intentionally made with an adult audience in mind due to its dark undertones, surreal visuals and absurd humor, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Puschak points out that Kricfalusi’s series attracted older viewers in large part because of its painstakingly constructed animation. The creator and his team pushed against the slew of moralizing kids shows with lesson-free, wild, and downright bizarre comedy that used hand-drawn animation to its advantage, employing popping visuals and energetic expressions in every episode. In doing so, they were able to create a show that appealed to kids and adults alike, making Ren & Stimpy the most popular of the original three Nicktoons.
For more, be sure to visit Evan Puschak at The Nerdwriter on YouTube.