The Ren and Stimpy Show: Seasons 1 and 2
May 22, 2005
In September of 1992, after two groundbreaking seasons, Nickelodeon took the Ren and Stimpy Show away from its creator, John Kricfalusi. They gutted it, removing all the elements that made it funny and wonderfully politically incorrect. The show didn’t last too long afterwards and it eventually disappeared from TV altogether. A strong cult following developed as fans traded uncut episodes from those glorious first two seasons. Now, the wait is over and Ren and Stimpy are back. The folks at Paramount, in conjunction with John K., have released the first two seasons of Ren and Stimpy completely uncut—the way they were meant to be seen.
Ren Hoek is a Chihuahua and the smart, cynical one of the duo. He is prone to constantly exploding psychotic aneurysms when something or someone pisses him off. Stimpson J. Cat (or Stimpy as he usually called) is dumb as rocks and the true epitome of the saying, “ignorance is bliss.”
Watching these episodes again takes one back to the heady days of the early ‘90s when the appearance of Ren and Stimpy heralded a comeback of old school animation free from the constraints of toy-driven cartoons. John K. satirizes these shows in “Stimpy’s Big Day” which begins with a faux ad for Log, a plain ol’ piece of wood that is hyped as the next great thing. It ruthlessly makes fun of toy ads on TV and how they will sell anything to kids so long as it is packaged and presented right. The episode then settles into a cautionary tale about celebrity excess as Stimpy gets a shot on “The Muddy Muddskipper Show.” Right from the get-go there is a wonderful anarchic feeling to the episode. It is the sensation that anything goes, which was so refreshing back when it debuted because there was nothing else like it on TV.
Another classic episode from the first season is “Space Madness,” an exercise in vintage John K. surrealism. Parodying the famous Duck Dodgers cartoon, this episode focuses on the misadventures of Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy, complete with “thrilling head gear” and “spine-tingling toast!” The prolonged space travel drives Ren crazy, prompting him to yell the now famous line at Stimpy, “You bloated sack of protoplasm!” Ren goes so batty that his hallucinations cause him to eat a bar of soap because he thinks it’s an ice cream bar.
“Dog Show” features the insane George Liquor as he enters Ren and Stimpy in a dog show (the fact that Stimpy is a cat doesn’t seem to faze the man). In his own, uniquely crazed way, he demonstrates how to get your dog (and cat) presentable. Imagine Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth entering a dog show and you get an idea of how this episode plays out. If you thought Ren could go nuclear with insane aneurysms he has got nothing on George who takes it to a whole new (and scary) level.
“Powdered Toastman” is a John K’s spoof of superhero cartoons as he plays up the homoerotic aspects of big, muscular men running around in skintight spandex. PTM’s head consists of two slices of toast with facial features that closely resemble that of Kirk Douglas. PTM has funky powers like projectile raisin breath and hyper-corrosive croutons that shoot out of his arm-pits! His mild-mannered alter-ego is that of Pastor Toastmen, “the cool youth deacon” with a day job as a government clerk. This is hilarious episode that is a lot of fun to watch as John K. skewers many of the superhero conventions.
The first disc features a short featurette entitled, “Ren and Stimpy: In the Beginning,” where John K. talks about the origins of his characters. He was a big fan of Peter Lorre and decided to use his voice for Ren. Stimpy, on the other hand, was patterned after Larry Fine from The Three Stooges. He tried to shop these characters around in the ‘80s with no success. It took nine years before Nickelodeon picked up Ren and Stimpy and promoted it as a creator-driven cartoon.
There are also audio commentaries for “Untamed World” and “Stimpy’s Invention” with John K., Eddie Fitzgerald and Vincent Waller amongst others. On the first track, they point out that the episode is homage to the old Wild Kingdom Mutual of Omaha TV show, while the second track features John K. talking about Nickelodeon’s hatred of the episode, calling it a “psychodrama.” They threatened to shelve it until John K. made all sorts of cuts.
The second disc features “Sven Hoek Pencil Test,” which allows one to watch that episode in its rough, sketch form.
“Storyboard and Spumco Image Gallery” is a collection of rough sketches and storyboards for the show.
Fans will delight in the inclusion of the infamously banned episode, “Man’s Best Friend” starring everyone’s favourite all-American psychotic, George Liquor. He buys Ren and Stimpy from a pet store in a shamelessly politically incorrect episode that is also very funny. George puts Ren and Stimpy through a rigorous training and discipline schedule. This episode had such an incendiary effect on the folks at Nickelodeon (it was probably the scene where Ren takes cartoon violence to a new level by whacking George 27 times with an oar!) that John K. was handed his pink slip soon after it was submitted.
There is also the unedited version of “Big House Blues” which had Ren and Stimpy sent to the dog pound to await adoption or be put to sleep. Among the things that Nickelodeon objected to was a dream Ren had where he kissed a woman only to wake up kissing Stimpy, and a scene where the dogcatcher wiggles his behind at Ren and Stimpy.
There are also audio commentaries for “Rubber Nipple Salesmen” and “Sven Hoek” by John K., Vincent Waller and Richard Pursel. On the first track they talk about the look of the cartoon and what influenced and inspired them. For example, the man in the sun is the spitting image of Burl Ives. On the second commentary, John K. points out that the live action footage and music was something that Nickelodeon added later, much to his chagrin.
The final disc features commentaries for “Powdered Toastman” and “Son of Stimpy/Stimpy’s First Fart” by John K., Jim Smith and others. John K. says that Powdered Toastman was inspired by the ‘60s Hanna-Barbera superhero cartoons. He also talks about how he got Frank Zappa to do the voice of the Pope in this episode and tells a good story about meeting the late-great musician for the first time. The second commentary covers the problems Nickelodeon had with the episode, including changing the original title from “Stimpy’s First Fart” to “Son of Stimpy.”
Fans of Ren and Stimpy will love this 3-DVD set that collects all of the classic episodes from the first two seasons. The commentary tracks are a hoot to listen to and to finally be able to enjoy the episodes as John K. and his crew intended them to be seen is worth the price of purchase alone.