For practically anyone reared in 90's pop culture, the name Ren & Stimpy is instantly recognizable. The iconic, quirky and bold cat & dog cartoon made a name for its creator, John Kricfalusi, but truth be told the man has stamped his name on several other animated projects, many of which have translated to the commercial world.
With fans in big agencies like Wieden + Kennedy and Goodby, John K. as he's widely known has leveraged his sketching skills in a series of recent adverts for brands including Old Navy (below), Comcast and Nike. Now, the formerly independent, Canadian-born artist has joined Steve Williams' Hoytyboy commercial production outfit for exclusive worldwide representation. In doing so, he dishes the process of the move and his love of doing commercials that recall the TV days of yore.
How did the move to Hoytyboy come about?
It just happened as an odd fluke. [Talent agency] Endeavor introduced me. It was a little convoluted but I had worked with Endeavor on and off for ten years or so on different projects. I put up a blog with all my commercials on it because I wanted to get some more commercial work. I sent it off to Endeavor, and they called me back and were all excited about it. They said they need to get me a commercial rep. Within a day, and it might've been the same day. And they said, don't you know [Hoytyboy director] Steve Williams. They said I would be a good fit with his company. Steve called me, and it all happened within a day. We reconnected and I found out they didn't have a 2D animator in their roster and it was a perfect fit. We're big fans of each other's work and we had a lot of the same ideas.
I was going to build my own little demo site, but it's taking me a long time because I'm not that good at HTML or any of that stuff. But they just did it in a week. They put the whole thing up and got me talking to you within a few weeks.
How was the transition going from iconic cartoons to the commercial world?
If you remember Ren & Stimpy, it was filled with fake commercials like "Log" and "Powdered Toast." The interesting thing is after those fake commercials came out, kids went to the stores looking for powdered toast and logs. They merchandised it years later and made Log toys and they made a Log cereal even. But how this all came about, I'm a big fan of classic TV and radio like The Jack Benny Show, The Honeymooners, The Beverly Hillbillies, Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones and all that stuff. In those days, all the shows had direct sponsors. It wasn't just a bunch of random commercials within that half-hour. Huckleberry Hound sold Kellogg's cereal everyday on that show. Fred Flintstone had a few sponsors. He had One-a-Day vitamins and Winston cigarettes. The stars of the show used to do their own commercials. Those were so entertaining and there was no way you would fast-forward through them, not that you could back then. If you were able to, you still wouldn't have because they had the writers work with the ad agencies and make the commercials as entertaining as the show itself. I always loved that.