Kricfalusi at the Castro Theatre in July 2006
|Born||Michael John Kricfalusi
September 9, 1955
Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada
|Other names||Raymond Spüm
|Occupation||Animator, voice actor|
|Notable work(s)||The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Goddamn George Liquor Program, Weekend Pussy Hunt, The Ripping Friends, Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"|
Michael John Kricfalusi //, better known as John K. (born September 9, 1955), is a Canadian animator. He is the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, its adults-only spin-off Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon", The Ripping Friends animated series, and Weekend Pussy Hunt, which was billed as "the world's first interactive web-based cartoon", as well as the founder of his former animation studio Spümcø.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Entering the animation industry
- 2.2 Mighty Mouse
- 2.3 Beany and Cecil
- 2.4 Ren & Stimpy
- 2.5 The Ripping Friends
- 2.6 Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"
- 2.7 Other projects
- 3 Influences
- 4 Further reading
- 5 References
- 6 External links
John Kricfalusi was born in Canada to a father of Ukrainian descent and mother of Scottish-English descent. He spent his early childhood in Germany and Belgium as a military brat, his father serving in the air force. At age seven he returned with his family to Canada. Having moved in the middle of a school season, he spent much of his time that year at home, watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons and drawing them. Kricfalusi's interest in Golden Age animation crystallized during his stay at Sheridan College, where he attended weekly screenings of old films and cartoons at Innis College held by film archivist Reg Hartt, among them the cartoons of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery, which left a deep impression on Kricfalusi. He soon left Sheridan College and moved to Los Angeles, intending to become an animator.
Entering the animation industry
After moving to Los Angeles, Kricfalusi was introduced to Milt Gray by Bob Clampett, suggesting he should join Gray's classical animation class. Gray was working for Filmation at the time, and soon Kricfalusi found work there as well. His first independent cartoon was a short called Ted Bakes One, which he produced with Bill Wray in 1979 for a cable channel. From 1979 to the mid-1980s, Kricfalusi worked for Filmation and later Hanna-Barbera on various shows which he once described as "the worst animation of all time." He recalls being "saved" from having to work on these cartoons by director Ralph Bakshi, who'd worked with him before in 1981 and 1982. They began working on the designs for the film Bobby's Girl, which was sold to Tri-Star but later cancelled. Under Bakshi, Kricfalusi directed the animation for The Rolling Stones' 1986 music video "Harlem Shuffle".
The team's most successful project was Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures for CBS, based on the classic Terrytoons character. The series was well-received, and it is considered the forerunner of creator-driven cartoons. Kricfalusi directed eight of the twenty-six episodes and supervised the series. At the beginning of the second season, Kricfalusi and Bakshi had a falling out, prompting Kricfalusi to leave the show. The production of Mighty Mouse was very different from other cartoons at the time, gaining creative and artistic leeway thanks to the success of the irreverent Pee-wee's Playhouse on CBS a year before. The animators had much more creative input, driven by Kricfalusi's production system that emphasizes artistic contribution in every step of the process, from outline to storyboard to layout to the animation.
Mighty Mouse was eventually canceled after it experienced some controversy for allegedly depicting the main character snorting cocaine. Ralph Bakshi maintained that neither he nor Kricfalusi had the character sniffing cocaine, and that the character was sniffing the crushed petals of a flower, which were handed to him in a previous scene in the cartoon. In 1994, Kricfalusi pitched a revival series of Mighty Mouse to Paramount, but they rejected the idea.
Beany and Cecil
Kricfalusi left Bakshi's studio to work on The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil for ABC, where he teamed up with many of the people who would later work with him on The Ren & Stimpy Show. ABC had been negotiating for the production of the show with the Clampett family, who insisted that Kricfalusi would be part of the production. The long negotiations delayed the start of production to mid-July, causing much of the animation to be rushed in order to meet the September deadline. Tensions rose between Kricfalusi and ABC over the tone of the show, leading to an uncomfortable atmosphere for the show's crew. The more ABC strove to soften the show, the more Kricfalusi pushed for shocking and offensive material. The Clampett family were ultimately not very happy with the cartoon, but remained supportive of Kricfalusi. ABC cancelled the show after six episodes, finding the humor not suitable for children's programming.
Ren & Stimpy
Kricfalusi formed Spümcø animation studio with partners Jim Smith, Bob Camp and Lynne Naylor. They began working on a pilot for The Ren & Stimpy Show on behalf of Nickelodeon, after the eponymous characters were favored by Nickelodeon producer Vanessa Coffey in a presentation by Kricfalusi. The pilot was very well received, leading to the production of the first 13 half-hour episodes of the show. The show came to garner high ratings for Nickelodeon, but the network disagreed with Kricfalusi's direction of the show, and disapproved of his missed production deadlines. Kricfalusi points specifically to the episode "Man's Best Friend", which features a violent climax where Ren brutally assaults the character George Liquor with an oar, as being the turning point in his relationship with Nickelodeon. One of the episodes, "Nurse Stimpy", did not meet Kricfalusi's approval, leading him to use the alias Raymond Spum in its credits, because of the low quality of the rough cut of the episode that they received from the overseas studio. Nickelodeon fired Kricfalusi from production of the series in late September 1992, leaving it in the hands of Nickelodeon's Games Animation studio, which continued producing it for three more seasons before its cancellation.
The Ripping Friends
FOX Kids started airing the TV series The Ripping Friends in 2001, created by Kricfalusi and Jim Smith. Kricfalusi had previously tried pitching the show in the late 80's, but networks considered it "too extreme" so did not pick it up. Kricfalusi felt the show's supervisors were doing away with the Spümcø style, and was displeased with the direction of the show. He was not fully involved in the show until half-way through production and considers the episodes he was involved in to be experimental.
Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"
In 2003, Spike TV produced a new show featuring Ren & Stimpy, which was written and directed by Kricfalusi. The first three episodes were based on fan ideas and scripts that were rejected by Nickelodeon during the original show's run. According to Kricfalusi, Spike pushed for more South Park-like themes in the new show. He criticized the new show for its overuse of toilet humour and its slow pacing. Only three episodes aired before Spike's entire animation block was "put on hold", and the complete series was ultimately released in 2006 on DVD including three additional episodes that never aired. Kricfalusi also wanted to release an episode titled "Life Sucks" straight to DVD, but the episode remains unproduced.
Collaborations with Fred Seibert
After leaving The Ren & Stimpy Show, Kricfalusi and other Spümcø animators worked for Donovan Cook's 2 Stupid Dogs, which was created by Fred Seibert. The cartoon's credits read "Tidbits of Poor Taste Supplied by John Kricfalusi" for the three "Little Red Riding Hood" episodes: "Red!", "The Return of Red" and "Red Strikes Back". In 1994, Hanna-Barbera and Seibert started production on What A Cartoon!, also known as World Premiere Toons. Siebert approached Kricfalusi for advice and for recommendations for personnel to head the shorts, among them David Feiss, Tom Minton, and Eddie Fitzgerald. During this period, Kricfalusi recruited one of Spümcø's toy licensees, Kevin Kolde, to move to Los Angeles from his native Detroit, as a partner to run production. Kolde remained for almost 10 years and now runs production for Seibert's Frederator Studios.
Kricfalusi directed singer Björk's animated music video for the song I Miss You in 1995, which features Björk and the character Jimmy the Idiot Boy. Jack Black of Tenacious D approached Kricfalusi to produce a music video for the song Fuck Her Gently from their debut album, released in 2001. Black browsed Kricfalusi's website and, since both he and his band-mate Kyle Gass held Ren & Stimpy in high regard, he asked Kricfalusi to produce the video. The costs amounted to $40,000. Initially, Sony Music did not allow the video to be placed on Tenacious D's website and instead placed it on the record label Grand Royal's website, but later relented. In 2006, Kricfalusi directed two music videos, and served as art director for an animated musical segment. The first music video, for Close but No Cigar by "Weird Al" Yankovic, was released in September, on the DVD side of the DualDisc album Straight Outta Lynwood, which features Kricfalusi's character Cigarettes the Cat. The second music video was for Classico by Tenacious D, starring the band members as cartoon characters. He animated them again in a THX logo parody for the band's feature film, The Pick of Destiny. Kricfalusi served as art director for a musical segment in the show Class of 3000 entitled Life Without Music, which first aired on November 3, 2006.
Internet cartoons and Hanna-Barbera shorts
Venturing into internet cartoons, Kricfalusi created Weekend Pussy Hunt in 1996 for MSN, which was billed as "the world's first interactive web-based cartoon." Production under MSN stopped before the cartoon was finished, and later resumed under Icebox.com, after the release of Spümcø's own web-based Flash cartoon, The Goddamn George Liquor Program. Between 1998 and 2001 he worked on several Hanna-Barbera cartoons for Cartoon Network: three Yogi Bear cartoons which he directed and animated, Boo Boo and the Man, A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith and Boo Boo Runs Wild, and two Jetsons cartoons which he produced, The Jetsons: Father & Son Day and The Jetsons: The Best Son.
Magazines, cartoon commentaries, and blog
Kricfalusi contributed several articles in 1993 and 1994 for the magazines Film Threat and Wild Cartoon Kingdom under various aliases. Kricfalusi appears in several bonus featurettes and provides audio commentaries for the Looney Tunes Golden Collection volumes 2, 3 and 5, for cartoons directed by Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. On February 13, 2006, Kricfalusi started his own weblog, John K Stuff, posting about cartoons and the animation industry. The site was originally intended for other artists and entertainers, and specifically other cartoonists.
Commercials and other work
Kricfalusi directed commercials for Comcast and Voice over IP company Raketu in 2007. He was developing a series of cartoon commercials in 2008 for Pontiac Vibe starring George Liquor and Jimmy The Idiot Boy, but the series remained unreleased after General Motors discontinued the Pontiac Vibe auto line in 2009. He developed and animated a bumper using Toon Boom Harmony for Adult Swim in early 2011. He animated the opening couch gag on the episode "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts" of The Simpsons which aired in October 2011. He collaborated with streetwear brand Stussy to create a short series of apparel based on his designs in 2012, and later that year he funded through Kickstarter a cartoon short entitled "Cans Without Labels" starring the character George Liquor. In 2013 he was hired by Muhtayzik-Hoffer for an ad campaign for F'real milkshakes. He was also involved in early development of the 2013 film Free Birds, and posted the concepts he created for the film on his blog. He is producing art for Miley Cyrus's 2014 "Bangerz" tour.
Kricfalusi says he is mostly self-taught, having only spent a year in Sheridan College, barely attending class. He acquired his skills largely by copying cartoons from newspapers and comic books as a child, and by studying cartoons and their production systems from the 1940s and 1950s. His main influence is Bob Clampett, and he also names Chuck Jones, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Milt Gross, Tex Avery, Peter Lorre, The Three Stooges, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Don Martin and Robert Ryan. Michael Barrier, an animation historian, said that Kricfalusi's works "testify to his intense admiration for Bob Clampett's Warner Bros. cartoons" and that no cartoonist since Clampett created cartoons in which the emotions of the characters "distort their bodies so powerfully."
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- John Kricfalusi (March 20, 2008). "George Liquor Pilot Sketches". Retrieved 2009-12-27.
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- Barrier, Michael (2003). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-516729-5. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
- John K Stuff - John K's blog that discusses mostly cartoons (formerly titled "All Kinds of Stuff")
- John K's blogger profile listing his curriculum for cartoonists, show pitches, and several other blogs.
- John Kricfalusi at the Internet Movie Database