Michael John Kricfalusi (also known as John K.) is a Canadian animator, voice actor, producer, writer, and director best known for creating The Ren & Stimpy Show and founding the animation company Spümcø.
After being fired from The Ren & Stimpy Show by Nickelodeon in 1992, Kricfalusi went on to direct and produce animated television commercials for multiple products and music videos for entertainers such as the singer Björk and comedy rock duo Tenacious D. In the late 1990s he created the first cartoons made exclusively for the Internet: The Goddamn George Liquor Program and Weekend Pussy Hunt. He returned to television with The Ripping Friends and the adult animation spin-off Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", which the adult-spin off was cancelled before Spike TV (back as TNN in the time) were able to air the fourth episode of the spin-off.
John Kricfalusi was born in Canada to a father of Ukrainian descent and mother of Scottish and English descent. He spent his early childhood in Germany and Belgium while his father was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. At age seven he returned with his family to Canada. Having moved in the middle of a school season, he spent much of his time that year at home, watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons and drawing them. Kricfalusi's interest in Golden Age animation crystallized during his stay at Sheridan College, where he attended weekly screenings of old films and cartoons at Innis College held by film archivist Reg Hartt, among them the cartoons of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery, which left a deep impression on Kricfalusi. He soon left Sheridan College and moved to Los Angeles, intending to become an animator.
Entering the animation industry
After moving to Los Angeles, California, United States of America, John Kricfalusi was introduced to Milt Gray by Bob Clampett, suggesting he should join Gray's classical animation class. Gray was working for Filmation at the time, and soon Kricfalusi found work there as well, getting his start on the shows like Super Friends and The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show. His first independent cartoon was a short called Ted Bakes One, which he produced with Bill Wray in 1979 for a cable channel. From 1979 to the mid-1980s, Kricfalusi worked for Filmation and later Hanna-Barbera and DIC Entertainment on various shows (such as "Fonz and the Happy Days Gang", "Heathcliff" and "The Smurfs") which he once described as "the worst animation of all time." However, he did enjoy his work as a layout artist on the 1985 series of The Jetsons as he was able to train a team of Taiwanese animators to draw characters more emotive and wild, which at the time was considered radical. He recalls being "saved" from having to work on horrible cartoons by director Ralph Bakshi, who'd worked with him before in 1981 and 1982. They began working on the designs for the film Bobby's Girl, which was sold to Tri-Star but later cancelled. Under Bakshi, Kricfalusi directed the animation for The Rolling Stones' 1986 music video "Harlem Shuffle."
Mighty Mouse (1987 revival; 1987-1988)
The team's most successful project was Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures for CBS, based on the classic Terrytoons character. The series was well-received, and it is considered the forerunner of creator-driven cartoons. Kricfalusi directed eight of the twenty-six episodes and supervised the series. At the beginning of the second season, Kricfalusi left the show. The production of Mighty Mouse was very different from other cartoons at the time, gaining creative and artistic leeway thanks to the success of the irreverent Pee-wee's Playhouse on CBS a year before. The animators had much more creative input, driven by Kricfalusi's production system that emphasizes artistic contribution in every step of the process, from outline to storyboard to layout to the animation.
Mighty Mouse was cancelled amidst controversy for allegedly depicting the main character snorting cocaine. Ralph Bakshi maintained that neither he nor Kricfalusi had the character sniffing cocaine, and that the character was sniffing the crushed petals of a flower, which were handed to him in a previous scene in the cartoon. In 1994, Kricfalusi pitched a revival series of Mighty Mouse to Paramount, which would have featured other Terrytoons characters such as Deputy Dawg, but they rejected the idea.
Beany and Cecil (1988 revival)
Kricfalusi left Bakshi's studio to work on The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil for ABC, where he teamed up with many of the people who would later work with him on many of his Spümcø projects. ABC had been negotiating for the production of the show with the Clampett family, who insisted that Kricfalusi be part of the production as he was a strong proponent of Bob Clampett's cartoon style. The long negotiations delayed the start of production to mid-July, causing much of the animation to be rushed in order to meet the September deadline. Tensions rose between Kricfalusi and ABC over the tone of the show, leading to an uncomfortable atmosphere for the show's crew. The more ABC strove to soften the show, the more Kricfalusi pushed for shocking and offensive material. The Clampett family were ultimately not very happy with the cartoon, but remained supportive of Kricfalusi. ABC cancelled the show after six episodes, finding the humor not suitable for children's programming.
Ren & Stimpy (1990-1996)
Kricfalusi formed Spümcø animation studio with partners Jim Smith, Bob Camp and Lynne Naylor. They began working on a pilot for The Ren & Stimpy Show on behalf of Nickelodeon, after the eponymous characters were favored by Nickelodeon producer Vanessa Coffey in a presentation by Kricfalusi. The pilot was very well received, leading to the production of the first 13 half-hour episodes of the show. The show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon, and at the time was the most popular cable TV show in the United States, but the network disagreed with Kricfalusi's direction of the show, and disapproved of his missed production deadlines. Kricfalusi points specifically to the episode "Man's Best Friend", which features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults the character George Liquor with an oar, as being the turning point in his relationship with Nickelodeon. One of the episodes, "Nurse Stimpy", did not meet Kricfalusi's approval because of the low quality of the rough cut of the episode that they received from the overseas studio, leading him to use the alias Raymond Spum in its credits. Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi from production of the series in late September 1992, leaving it to Nickelodeon's Games Animation studio for the show's third season after season two finished production, which continued producing it for three more seasons before its cancellation. Before John was fired from Nickelodeon, he wrote an episode for season three called "Lair of the Lummox", it aired in 1994 and was produced some year in the 1990's before John Kricfalusi lost his job at Nickelodeon.
Bob Camp and Bill Wray mentioned in an April 2016 discussion that Kricfalusi is developing a new Ren & Stimpy cartoon short that would screen alongside the third SpongeBob movie, however, Kricfalusi denied on Twitter that he's making such a cartoon.
Paramount sadly stated that Ren & Stimpy won't be rebooted with the other 90's Nicktoons that are coming back, nor take part in the Nicktoons crossover movie, not even the cartoon short for the third SpongeBob movie came true, the project was later rejected and cancelled due to the show's spin-off ruining both John Kricfalusi and Ren and Stimpy's reputations.
The Ripping Friends (2001-2002)
Fox Kids started airing the TV series The Ripping Friends in 2001, created by Kricfalusi and Jim Smith. Kricfalusi had previously tried pitching the show in the late 80's, but networks considered it "too extreme" so did not pick it up. Kricfalusi felt the show's supervisors were doing away with the Spümcø style, and was displeased with the direction of the show. He was not fully involved in the show until half-way through production and considers the episodes he was involved in to be experimental. One of his contributions to the show was directing the voice-actors, which he "really worked-out" so much that he was afraid he'd give one of them a heart-attack.
Ren and Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" (2003)
In 2003, Spike TV produced a new show featuring Ren & Stimpy, which was written and directed by Kricfalusi. The first three episodes were based on fan ideas and scripts that were rejected by Nickelodeon during the original show's run. According to Kricfalusi, Spike pushed for more South Park-like themes in the new show. While he was initially pleased with the added freedom afforded to him by Spike, he later expressed disappointment in the series due to its slow pacing and overuse of toilet humor. Only three episodes aired before Spike's entire animation block was "put on hold", and the complete series was ultimately released in 2006 on DVD including three additional episodes that never aired. Kricfalusi also wanted to release an episode titled "Life Sucks" straight to DVD, but the episode remains unproduced.
Reception for "Ren and Stimpy": Adult Party Cartoon
Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon received highly negative reviews from old and new Ren & Stimpy fans around the world. As of this, Spike and Viacom cancelled it before they can air the fourth episode. Their was no reboot of Ren & Stimpy after the spin-off for Spike (now called Paramount Channel as of 2018; back when they were TNN from 2001-2003, Spike TV from 2003-2006, and Spike from 2006-2018 in the past) was cancelled after the series received negative reception from how it turned out, in which the reception was so bad, it both ruined and damaged Ren and Stimpy's reputation along with John Kricfalusi's reputation after he admitted he didn't like how it turned out either as he stated Spike made him feel forced to do massive swearing, violence, gross out jokes, and sexual themes as possible.
The series was mainly criticized over it's episodes containing gross out humor going way too far, being considered to be an adult parody of a kids show (but actually real), unfunny jokes, etc. However, the episode "Ren Seeks Help" was criticized for Ren torturing and killing innocent bugs and animals when telling his therapist about his childhood before telling him what happened with him and Stimpy after an argument.
Collaborations with Fred Seibert
After leaving The Ren & Stimpy Show, Kricfalusi consulted, and other Spümcø animators worked for Donovan Cook's 2 Stupid Dogs, which was put into production by Hanna-Barbera president Fred Seibert. The cartoon's credits read "Tidbits of Poor Taste Supplied by John Kricfalusi" for the three "Little Red Riding Hood" episodes: "Red!", "The Return of Red" and "Red Strikes Back". In 1994, Hanna-Barbera and Seibert started production on What A Cartoon!, also known as World Premiere Toons for Cartoon Network. Siebert approached Kricfalusi for advice and for recommendations for personnel to head the shorts, among them David Feiss, Tom Minton, and Eddie Fitzgerald.
Kricfalusi directed Icelandic singer Björk's animated music video for the song I Miss You in 1995, which features Björk and the character Jimmy the Idiot Boy. Jack Black of Tenacious D approached Kricfalusi to produce a music video for the song Fuck Her Gently from their debut album, released in 2001. Black browsed Kricfalusi's website and, since both he and his band-mate Kyle Gass held Ren & Stimpy in high regard, he asked Kricfalusi to produce the video. The costs amounted to $40,000. Initially, Sony Music did not allow the video to be placed on Tenacious D's website and instead placed it on the record label Grand Royal's website, but later relented. In 2006, Kricfalusi directed two music videos, and served as art director for an animated musical segment. The first music video, for Close but No Cigar by "Weird Al" Yankovic, was released in September, on the DVD side of the DualDisc album Straight Outta Lynwood, which features Kricfalusi's character Cigarettes the Cat. The second music video was for Classico by Tenacious D, starring the band members as cartoon characters. He animated them again in a THX logo parody for the band's feature film, The Pick of Destiny. Kricfalusi served as art director for a musical segment in the show Class of 3000 entitled Life Without Music, which first aired on November 3, 2006. In 2014, he produced art for Miley Cyrus's Bangerz Tour.
Internet cartoons and Hanna-Barbera shorts
Venturing into Internet cartoons, Kricfalusi created Weekend Pussy Hunt in 1996 for MSN, which was billed as "the world's first interactive web-based cartoon."The cartoon, which was released in segments, was scheduled to be completed on June 1997, but production under MSN stopped before it was finished. Production later resumed under Icebox.comafter the release of Spümcø's own web-based Flash cartoon, The Goddamn George Liquor Program. Between 1998 and 2001 Kricfalusi worked on several Hanna-Barbera cartoons for Cartoon Network: three Yogi Bear cartoons which he directed and animated, Boo Boo and the Man, A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith and Boo Boo Runs Wild, and two Jetsons cartoons which he produced, The Jetsons: Father & Son Day and The Jetsons: The Best Son.
Commercials and freelance work
Kricfalusi directed commercials for Comcast and Voice over IP company Raketuin 2007. He was developing a series of cartoon commercials in 2008 for Pontiac Vibe starring George Liquor and Jimmy The Idiot Boy, but the series remained unreleased after General Motors discontinued the Pontiac Vibe auto line in 2009. He developed and animated a series of bumpers using Toon Boom Harmony for Adult Swim in 2011 and again in 2015. He animated the opening couch gags of two episodes of The Simpsons, "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts", which aired in October 2011 and "Treehouse of Horror XXVI" which aired in October 2015. He collaborated with streetwear brand Stüssy to create a short series of apparel based on his designs in 2012, which he promoted with a commercial featuring some of his characters. Also in 2012, he funded through Kickstarter a cartoon short entitled "Cans Without Labels" starring the character George Liquor, with the initial delivery date of February 2013. The cartoon was due to be screened at the 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival for the first time, however at the last minute it was announced that it wasn't ready. However, on August 6, 2017, the Kickstarter has been updated finally announcing the film's completion The advertising agency Muhtayzik-Hoffer hired Kricfalusi in 2013 for an ad campaign for F'real milkshakes. He was involved in the early development of many Reel FX projects such as the 2013 film Free Birds, a pitch for a film adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book Happy Birthday to You! and a pitch for a film he created with Jim Smith. He posted the concepts for these projects on his blog.
He partnered with animator Mike Judge to produce a series of shorts for UFC that aired on Adult Swim throughout 2016.
Kricfalusi says he is mostly self-taught, having only spent a year in Sheridan College, barely attending class. He acquired his skills largely by copying cartoons from newspapers and comic books as a child, and by studying cartoons and their production systems from the 1940s and 1950s. His main influence is Bob Clampett, and he also names Chuck Jones, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Milt Gross, Tex Avery, Peter Lorre, The Three Stooges, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Don Martin and Robert Ryan. Michael Barrier, an animation historian, said that Kricfalusi's works "testify to his intense admiration for Bob Clampett's Warner Bros. cartoons" and that no cartoonist since Clampett created cartoons in which the emotions of the characters "distort their bodies so powerfully."
Sexual Abuse Allegations Controversy
See also: Weinstein effectAnimators Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice alleged in a BuzzFeed report on March 29, 2018, that Kricfalusi sexually harassed and groomed them for sexual abuse while they were underage. Byrd said that she was in a sexual relationship with Kricfalusi in 1997 at age 16, and flew to California to live with him when she was 17.
Rice said that Kricfalusi flirted with her and made overt sexual comments towards her since she was 14, and was sexually harassed by him when she turned 18 and began working at his animation studio, Spümcø. Documents they had saved from those years corroborate their stories, and several people who worked with Kricfalusi referred to his sexual harassment as an open secret in the animation industry. Kricfalusi was also alleged to possess child pornography on his computer. Kricfalusi's lawyer confirmed that "for a brief time, 25 years ago, he had a 16-year-old girlfriend", but denied that Kricfalusi's "avid pursuit" of Rice was sexual harassment or that he had ever possessed child pornography.
Kricfalusi published an apology to the women and his fans for his behavior, which he said was motivated by undiagnosed bipolar disorder and ADHD, as well as "poor impulse control". Byrd and Rice criticized Kricfalusi's statement as a non-apology and an attempt to deflect the blame.
- He guest animated for Simpsons couch gags two times in episodes "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts" for Season 23 and "Treehouse of Horror XXVI for Season 27.
- Matt Groening praised his creation, Ren and Stimpy for it's courageousness.
- He wrote only one episode for season three before he was fired by Nick before he can finish the cartoon. However, Stimpy's voice actor, Billy West voiced both Ren and Stimpy in the time before John can lose his job. Bob Camp (co-creator of the show) took over for him before the show ended in 1995 and 1996.
- John K. shut down his studio, Spumco in 2005 after being sued by Carbunkle Cartoons in Canada.
- John K. was fired from Nickelodeon in 1992 after Man's Best Friend was banned from Nickelodeon all because Ren beated up George Liquor by an oar, being one of the main reasons why he had angry arguments with Nickelodeon and it's executives for that reason of him being fired from his own creation.
- He was very good friends with Ed, Edd n Eddy creator, Danny Antonnuci.