Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story

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Press:BearManor Media BearManor Media; 1St Edition edition (February 1, 2013)
Publication Date:2013-2-1
ISBN:9781593932343
Author Name:Thad Komorowski
Pages:480
Language:English

Content

In the 1990s animation boom, The Ren & Stimpy Show stood supreme. 
Through vigorous draftsmanship, charismatic voices, irreverent sight gags, crass humor, and stellar character acting, animation's most talented and disturbed artists created an entity for the Nickelodeon cable network that pulled the art form out of a 25-year rut.
The world has never been quite the same since - and we're eternally grateful! Now you too can join the rollercoaster ride that is the fascinating, insane real-life story of art, money, and ego that gave birth to Ren Höek and Stimpson J.
Cat.
History Eraser Buttons need not apply.
No stone has been unturned, no magic nose goblin unpicked, in this extensively detailed history of the show that defined a generation and changed an entire medium.
It's everything you wanted to know about Ren & Stimpy - but were afraid to ask!

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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     For years I've been researching and diving into the unspoken past of Spumco, I myself have wanted to to and gather enough research for a book. Let's be honest, it's a story worth telling- John K has left alot of drama in his wake. For years we've heard one side of this story, until now. Going into the book I expected to read things I've already known. I can honestly say even with the obsessive research I tried gathering, 97% of the information here was new to me. Thad is accurate and thorough, and with this e-book for so cheap you have absolutely no reason not to get it!
  •     A delight for anyone who is a fan of animation, studio politics, or, of course, Ren & Stimpy. Astutely written and very informative.
  •     For those of us who were there when The Ren & Stimpy Show debuted all those years ago, we remember those halcyon days with feelings of tremendous excitement--seeing something...
  •     "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, nuff said", cartoonist Bob Camp once recalled about working on Ren and Stimpy. Having read Sick Little Monkeys, his comment makes perfect sense.Ren and Stimpy had no precedents in television history. It was a cartoon that broke all the rules of TV animation production; raising the bar in artistry and humour to heights inconceivable during the medium's `dark age'. Though supposedly intended for children, it became a huge hit to a diverse audience, enjoying the antics of a psychotic chihuahua and a moronic cat on different levels. At its best, it holds up as a staple of `90s comedy.How did such a daring and unique show come into being? Not without difficulty.Thad Komorowski's sound journalistic work presents the surprising, bizarre, hilarious and at times, tragic details of the show's conception and its demise. Previous information available about Ren and Stimpy has often been heavily biased in favour of creator John Kricfalusi, who was fired from the show during its second season. Many regard his outing as a typical martyr story of individual artist versus corporate Hollywood, but the truth is far more complex and interesting.60 people, including artists, producers and voice actors, were interviewed by the author. Kricfalusi was not one, hence the book's unauthorised status. However this proves to be less of a hindrance than an advantage as the grim realities of John K's egotistical behaviour and tyrannical directing style are able to surface. That said, the book also highlights Kricfalusi's distinctive talents and genius. Regardless of his personality, Ren and Stimpy simply wouldn't exist without him.Other talents involved are highlighted with grace, many of which have been unrecognised. This is no more apparent in the refreshing attention given to the much maligned Games episodes. While Kricfalusi and other artists' absence and cheaper production values were apparent, there is much merit to the Ren and Stimpy cartoons frequently dismissed solely because they weren't made by Spumco. The underappreciated animation of Bob Jaques and his Carbunkle studio, crucial to the success of the series best episodes, is also intricately represented. In his appraisal of their work and elsewhere, Komorowski's passion and knowledge of the animation art form shines through.There are numerous crazy anecdotes, many too good to spoil. Readers can expect info on Ren and Stimpy's precursors: the chaotic creative mess of Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse revival and the ill fated hidebound catastrophe that was ABC's Beany and Cecil revival. Also featured is the origin of Spumco and how it somehow sold a show to Nickelodeon despite having produced no animation and being staffed by 4 people. A whole chapter is devoted to the seminal cartoon Stimpy's Invention, which took a full year to make, largely due to obsessive tinkering with minutiae like the color of a gift box. Details of John K's firing and the subsequent Games studio are revealed with an honesty exclusive to the book. Last and least are the specifics on the dreadful revival series Adult Cartoon Party, perhaps the most harrowing Ren and Stimpy experience of all, both to its creators and audience.Anyone with an interest in animation should definitely pick this up, even if you aren't a Ren and Stimpy fan. It's a fascinating tale of success, failure, ego and warped creativity in Hollywood that's equal to the escapades of Michael Cimino, Francis Ford Coppola and Dennis Hopper. You'll be an eeediot not to read it!
  •     I'm a fan of the Stimpy show from way back. I had heard stories on the internet about John Kric being not only a genius but a bad guy. Things are weird that way.
  •     Based on extensive interviews with people that worked their monkeys off on the show, there's not a more complete picture out there in print on the R&S story; the in house...
  •     A great book if you consider yourself a big fan of Ren & Stimpy. The book tell you the background story and some important details you've never imagined that existed.
  •     As someone who understands the industry, Eddie Fitzgerald who WORKS IN THE INDUSTRY puts it best:"I'm amazed that so many reviewers congratulated the author for...
  •     I enjoyed this book.
  •     This is a must read if you are a fan of the show, or TV.
  •     Good read.
  •     For anyone who is interested in hearing more about Ren and Stimpy and learning more about its troubled production, this book is completely fascinating. I highly recommend it
  •     As someone who has received highly valuable drawing advice directly from John via Blogger messages and e-mail correspondences, I was not expecting this book to be a blind eulogy of one of the most important artists behind The Ren and Stimpy Show, John Kricfalusi. There is so much behind-the-scenes information and history behind the production of the show that I had not read elsewhere, even on John's own blog or the blogs of his close associates. Even if you're a diehard Spumco fan, there is much to be gained from reading Thad Komorowski's latest book and if you read the book closely, you might gain a greater appreciation for what John went through, but simultaneously learn about underrated artists that contributed plenty to the show itself when it was still in production and the struggle between trying to deliver a perfect, high quality product and meeting the demands, realities and deadlines of television production and the respective audiences.I call John K. the "Buddy Rich of cartoons" because so much of this story reminds me of what I heard on those infamous Buddy Rich bus tapes from the early 1980s, where Rich chewed out and vulgarly cursed young, inexperienced band members for disrespecting him or playing a tune in a way that didn't meet the professionalism and standards that Buddy had set for his big band. A lot of the bandleaders of the Swing Era had a similar attitude, but were not quite as vocal about it as Buddy was during those tapes. I recall a passage in Thad's book where he describes how John would soften his criticisms of his artist's drawings with something like "your pal, John" at the end of a brutally honest and possibly harsh evisceration of what the artist had drawn. I suspect that was one of the reasons why certain artists felt alienated and crushed when they worked on Ren and Stimpy and Bob Camp himself described his experience as being "the best of times and the worst of times." A more modern example I can think of the image of John that I am attempting to convey would be the British chef and television personality Gordon Ramsay, whose quick-temper and perfectionism quickly earned him his reputation as being a highly vulgar and aggressive chef who could produce high quality food nonetheless. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, and even the American versions of the programs demonstrate the no holds barred criticism and attacks that Ramsay launched on his fellow chefs and inept owners of the culinary disasters that he was trying to save, even though many of those restaurants ended up closing and much of the owners ended up making bitter claims about the hypocrisy of Gordon Ramsay and the production system that he used at his own restaurants, among claims that their businesses did worse with Ramsay's help by making them look absurd and ridiculous. Other people that really came to my mind when I read about John in this book were libertarian icons and figureheads like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard (the latter influenced former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul the most and the Mises Institute, which got plenty of flack for past racism. Same with Ron Paul and the infamous newsletters), and how they were criticized for their ideology and dogmatism, but that's another story.John took this sort of perfectionism even further and attempted to apply this to the world of producing animation for television even prior to R&S with the productions of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures and The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil in the late 1980s. From what I can understand, John was trying to get animation out of the doldrums it had been in for decades and certainly had a grand vision of what he wanted to accomplish, even when the budgets for the shows that he worked on limited this vision to a certain degree, which was part of the reason why Ren and Stimpy often went overbudget, even during the Games Animation era. It was like he was trying to deliver a sort of theatrical cartoon like product but for the small screen and not truly understanding the limitations and budget that Nickelodeon had established. The reality is that the original home for animation was in the movie theaters and especially before block booking was outlawed during the 1948 United States vs. Paramount Pictures. One could argue that during this time period, animation grew and innovated more than any other time in its history. John certainly tried to bring that sort of innovation back in animation, even if that meant breaking Nickelodeon's budget and going to whatever lengths necessary to achieve this. He even had a session between the first and second seasons of R&S where he tried to get the skills of potential artists up to speed so that the second season would be much better drawn and less prone to flaws as the season prior. Thad writes that this was more about having control over the artists rather than trying to educate them, but I sort of see the situation in a different light. The mistake that John made here was trying to sandwich an education session and deadlines for a show that was exploding in popularity. It was very poor timing on his part, but understandable when you acknowledge that the kind of funny drawing and acting that set the show apart from the rest of the competition at the time. It seems to me that Kricfalusi was trying way too hard to balance getting the most out of his artists and meeting the demands of executives over at Nickelodeon, while not realizing how limited Nickelodeon's budget was towards making these sorts of cartoons. John would also make this same mistake during the production of the Adult Party Cartoon, which reportedly caused Spumco to go bankrupt and tanked the budget that Spike TV had established for these new shorts. Ironically, the crew at Games Animation had made several of the same mistakes that John and others had made at Spumco and at the same time, had much unneeded pressure.At the end of the day, I can't really defend or attack John based on what I've read in a third person account of what happened, but I wanted to offer some thoughts and interpretations of what likely happened based on what I've read over the years. What is far more important is not the feuds developed between the egos of various cartoonists, but how the medium of animation can progress and simultaneously inspire people with skill, energy and talent to breath new life into animation itself, especially with all this new technology has been created and developed over the years, the many DVDs of older animation and other kinds of films from the 1920s-1960s that have been released, how far more accessible this kind of animation is with a simple Google, Dailymotion, or YouTube search and the plethora of blogs dedicated to providing cartoonists with immense resources and tools. Will there be someone from the cream of the crop of the new generation of cartoonists and animators who can bring out the very best in all these talented artists like John K., Bob Camp, Chris Reccardi, and others arguably accomplished? Only time will tell.
 

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