The father of Ren & Stimpy, who prefers to go by the name of John K, has had it with making TV programs, ever since he and Nickelodeon parted ways over what is commonly referred to in situations like these as "creative differences." It's hardly out of character for network execs to be less than amused by jokes about sniffing underwear, and to worry about angry reader mail when cartoon heroes threaten to tear their foes' lips off. But after Kricfalusi's exit, the show just wasn't the same, many fans felt. Boing Boing, one of the most influential zines around, wrote that "all the wildness and joy" had been "sucked right out of" Ren & Stimpy; and that creative control of the show had been given to "a bunch of grim corporate hacks who hadn't an inkling of what the cartoon was all about."
On the Web, Kricfalusi can do whatever he pleases, and what pleases him right now is producing and directing the Internet's first animated cartoon, The Goddamn George Liquor Program. Created through his Hollywood-based Spumco animation studio and available on Spumco's Web site (www.spumco.com), the show broke on Oct. 15 to a waiting and willing audience -- John K claims 150,000 hits in the first week. The program's three-minute weekly episodes feature Ren & Stimpy residual characters such as George Liquor and his nephew with the poor motor skills, Jimmy the Idiot Boy (who is also the proud Spumco mascot). In addition to these protagonists, there are some unexpected animated, um, objects. Dancing dog poop, for one; Jimmy's jumping drool, for another.
Though not all of Spumco's animations are wild and irreverent and rich in bathroom references, John K's signature style shines through even in work for NBC TV (he recreated the peacock logo and made the bird look positively disheveled). It's certainly present in commercials for Barq's root beer, Nike and Japan's Aoki's Pizza. Another noteworthy piece of Spumco work is the video for Bjork's "I Miss You," a brilliant, trippy collection of animated sequences that just won an Annie award, perhaps toon town's most coveted prize.
When Kricfalusi isn't busy working for his clients, he's trying to sell them ad space on Spumco's site, in the style of Texaco Star Theatre and The Colgate Comedy Hour of yesteryear. Tower Records was the first to come on board. In one segment of the online cartoon, George encourages all his viewers to visit Tower, as a thank you for sponsoring his program."Now buy a CD, wontcha?" he implores. "Keep us on the air. You don't want to see an idiot starve, do ya?" In a nice innovative touch, George's voice even makes a smooth jump between sites -- so long as you stay on the Tower page, he'll keep talking at you.
Back at spumco.com, Kricfalusi also pushes slightly bizarre merchandise, like a Jimmy the Idiot Boy paint-by-numbers kit, only $15. Down the line, he announces, he'll start selling subscriptions to the site -- hopefully without restricting non-members too much. Doing business directly with fans, not network suits, is Kricfalusi's preferred MO, "because you don't have to deal with distributors, you don't have to deal with other people's ignorance."
Of course, it's not heaven just yet. Fans without supercharged modems have only a slim chance of playing an entire segment without frozen frames or stuttering chunks of sound. But if you're lucky, some cartoonland resident, in uninterrupted glory, will show you his dancing dog doo, or scream that he will tear your lips off.