Ren and Stimpy was a wonderful throwback to the golden days at Warner. Embracing the charm and animation style of the early Warner greats John K (Kricfalusi) managed to work in his own rather twisted humor and create an endearing cartoon. For those of you who wish to remember Ren and Stimpy this way, I warn you, DO NOT buy this collection. In case you don’t know the story: John K left his creation after about a year and a half at the Nickelodeon Network. It seems his more adult themed ideas were not so in tune wi…h the network’s kiddie tradition.The cartoon continued without him. The creative side of the series spiraled downward, and the show was mercifully cancelled. In 2003 the newly formed Spike TV contracted John K to return to his Ren and Stimpy creation, promising little to no censorship. After all, they told him, this is a “MAN’s” network and the audience can take it. John K. began to produce far more risqué versions of our beloved characters. All was going well, or so it seemed. Along comes Janet Jackson, no longer Good Times’ lovable Penny, and her much publicized “wardrobe malfunction”. Everything changed. The FCC began dishing out record fines for obscenity, and even The Man’s Network ran for cover. The new and hotly debated Ren and Stimpy was gone faster than its original incarnation. Not to be thwarted, the pair now return via DVD with these unaired episodes. The packaging comes with plenty of warning, but I fear many will consider these warnings a joke in the sarcastic humor the show was so famous for. Trust me. These warnings are for real. This stuff makes South Park look like Peanuts, not so much for the language, but for the graphic depictions of nudity and sexual innuendo.
With the warnings taken care of, let’s talk a little about this version of Ren and Stimpy. The old fart jokes and sardonic wit have returned pretty much the way you’ll remember it. What has been added, however, removes any of that endearing charm the original show had going for it. Too many of these episodes push the limits so far that it appears to be graphic simply for graphic’s sake. The plots are thin, even though a couple of these episodes run about double the original show’s running times. It’s obvious that John K. is more interested in thumbing his nose at an establishment he feels cut him off at the knees than in any real serious effort at art here. I’m afraid I will no longer be able to return to those innocent years with Ren and Stimpy with quite the same abandonment. Save yourself. Stay away unless this is what you always wanted from Ren and Stimpy after all.
Each episode of Ren and Stimpy is presented in the expected full frame format. The color in the animation is pretty much dead on with the original cartoons. Contrast is pretty good. The print is clean of any print artifacts. I saw no significant digital noise of any kind. The interview pieces are not up to quite the same video quality as the cartoons themselves. Here there is some lack of definition or clarity that makes them feel more like camcorder results.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is about all one really needs for these cartoons. Dialogue and zany sound effects come through just fine. This isn’t exactly an experiment in high fidelity here. There’s no noise to distract. Simple, clean, and adequate describe your listening experience quite well..
The entire DVD has an introduction by Weird Al and John K. himself. Mostly these pieces serve as a warning of the changes in this version of the cartoon. John K. offers an overly detailed explanation of the project’s origins and justification. Each episode also features John K. with various members of the animation and story staff to introduce the episode. These episodes also have tags containing interviews and at times pencil art and storyboards. Fortunately you may skip past the introductions and go directly to the cartoon, but they are not accessible separately.
Ren And Stimpy had a fine place in animation history. John K. was secure in his role of creative genius behind the show. Anyone who followed the situation already knew how much the series suffered on John K.’s departure. Still, this collection smacks at him trying to prove himself to the show’s fans. I have to believe that he was aware that such a radical departure would likely cause many fans to be greatly disappointed. I’m not at all a fan of censorship and have no problem with the content at all. My only complaint is that he used these important cartoon icons to pave his way to this material. John K. claims this is more like what Ren and Stimpy were always intended to be. I’m not sure I believe any of that at all. Still, if that’s true, they have by now become something quite apart from these early adult themed ideas. Perhaps new characters would have better served his purpose. If you view these cartoons and expect to enjoy the originals in the same way ever again… “Good luck.”
Special Features List
- ntroduction from “Weird Al”
- Hello from John K.
- Introduction by John K. and video interview with the creatives for each episode
- Storyboards, animatics, pencil tests and color models and cells for the episode “Naked Beach Frenzy”
- Rough cut of “Ren Seeks Help”