A cartoon show that knew no boundaries and helped usher in an era of more thoughtful, adult-oriented animation.
…because his subversive children’s cartoons paved the way for the current "adult-weird" wave in animation. Best known for creating “Ren & Stimpy” and battling network executives, Kricfalusi (aka John K.) has made a career out of fighting for a creative vision that combines bizarre – and often disgusting – visual gags with sharp humor. An experimenter across multiple platforms, John K. also created one of the first web cartoons and directed music videos for artists ranging from Björk to "Weird Al" Yankovic. More recently, John K. has continued to pioneer by hosting a free online cartoon school and raising funds through Kickstarter.
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One of John K.’s mentors in animation was the original pioneer of adult cartoons, director Ralph Bakshi. While “Ren & Stimpy” may not have had all of the X-rated sex and drug content of a film like "Fritz the Cat," it did have the same twisted sensibilities and extreme cartoon violence. And that was just the obvious stuff. The interspecies friendship between the title characters, for instance, could veer from borderline homoerotic to insanely abusive to just plain old insane over the course of a single episode. Moralist crusaders and parents groups at the height of the culture wars – the kinds of people John K. often satirized through characters like George Liquor and Mr. and Mrs. Pipe – became aware of the show’s subversive content and began to complain to the network. As Nickelodeon’s executives started to crack down, John K. fought back, stepping up the violence and obscenities. He became a kind of martyr for his own show, though he would continue to express his crass boldness through the web spin-off “The Goddamn George Liquor Program” and the “Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon” reboot for Spike. It’s very hard to imagine almost anything airing on Adult Swim, or even a show like “Family Guy” for that matter, without John K.’s warped take on children’s cartoon comedy.
In addition to pushing for more adult content in cartoons, John K. has also been influential in changing the typical style of animation. He rejected the factory line approach to animation in favor of more artistic depictions that highlight the drawing talents of the creators. Starting with his work on “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse,” his animation style has been rooted in the classic characters of Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones, but with enough surreal touches to make it distinct and original. In “Ren & Stimpy,” he also pioneered the close-up gag that shifted from a more typical cartoon style to an extremely detailed color drawing. As opposed to shaping the animation to fit the humor of the series, John K. and his staff used their drawing style to create comedy within the series. For anyone interested in animation, John K.’s ability to use animation as a way to express his individual creative vision shows us how artistry doesn’t always have to be highbrow to be interesting.
Although John K. is most well-known for his work in television, he also worked in other formats. After his battles with the network executives at Nickelodeon, he took the minor “Ren & Stimpy” character George Liquor and created a spin-off for the web…way back in the days of dial-up connections! A bold move at the time, this decision allowed John K. the creative freedom to be as crude and adult as he wanted. It also allowed him to explore his personal interests, as he has acknowledged that George Liquor was modeled on his own father. Despite some initial aversions to digital animation software, he has worked in Flash, Toon Boom Animate Pro and Harmony. He has also experimented with directing music videos for comedic artists like Tenacious D and "Weird Al" Yankovic, and also for more eccentric mainstream pop stars like Björk and Miley Cyrus. He has used a blog format to connect with fans and show off recent drawings, as well as in his online cartoon school for aspiring animators. Like many independent minded creators, he also turned to Kickstarter to fund a new George Liquor cartoon as an in memoriam for the deceased voice actor behind the character.
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