11 Stupefying Facts About The Ren & Stimpy Show

On August 11, 1991, The Ren & Stimpy Show debuted on Nickelodeon. The brainchild of former Filmation and Hanna-Barbera animator John Kricfalusi (also known as John K.), the show was part of the network's new initiative to feature creator-driven cartoons that would take on a unique vision, rather than being just another cog in an animation factory. Though the series was short-lived by today's standards, it helped usher in a new era for animation in the 1990s and still influences creators to this day. 

1. IT DEBUTED THE SAME DAY AS RUGRATS AND DOUG.

August 11, 1991 wasn't just the debut of The Ren & Stimpy Show, it was also the debut of the first-ever Nicktoons lineup, which also included Rugrats and Doug. Together, these three shows helped form the foundation of the network's next decade of animation, which later included hit shows like Rocko's Modern Life, Angry Beavers, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

2. STIMPY'S CHARACTER DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY A TWEETY BIRD CARTOON.

Stimpy certainly doesn't look like any cat in the real world, but creator John Kricfalusi did have a source of inspiration when designing the character. According to the "Ren & Stimpy: In the Beginning" featurette from the show's first DVD set, Kricfalusi says Stimpson J. Cat's signature look—mainly his bulbous blue nose—came, in part, from a Tweety Bird cartoon called "A Gruesome Twosome." The short, directed by the legendary Bob Clampett, features two cats, one of whom sports an obscenely large nose. The cat in the cartoon was actually modeled after entertainer Jimmy Durante, so there's actually a little classic Hollywood sitting on Stimpy's face. 

3. JOHN KRICFALUSI GOT THE IDEA FOR REN AFTER SEEING A CHIHUAHUA IN A SWEATER.

In that same featurette, Kricfalusi revealed that the idea for Ren came to him after seeing an Elliott Erwitt photograph of a Chihuahua in a sweater. "It's a very funny picture," Kricfalusi said, "because here's a psychotic looking monster in a cute sweater." That same ferociousness coming from an unlikely animal informed the character of Ren from day one.

4. REN AND STIMPY'S VOICES BOTH CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD ICONS.

If you close your eyes and listen to Ren and Stimpy have one of their infamous arguments, you'll hear the DNA of two Hollywood legends: iconic character actor Peter Lorre and The Three Stooges staple Larry Fine. Kricfalusi's idea to model his take on Ren after Lorre's signature squirmy, near-psychotic voice was there from the start, but it wasn't until Billy West—best known as the voice of Fry from Futurama—came along that Stimpy's character began to take shape.

After experimenting with different takes for Stimpy, Kricfalusi offhandedly suggested that West do his Larry Fine impression for the character. The offbeat suggestion worked, and when reflecting on West's portrayal of Stimpy, Kricfalusi said in the featurette, "It was real weird, because here's this youthful type of character. He seems like a little kid, right? But he's got this full-grown Jewish man's voice. I don't know why it worked, but it sounded hilarious that he had that personality with a man's voice."

5. YOU'LL GET A LESSON IN CLASSICAL MUSIC IN EVERY EPISODE.

Ever since the early Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts, classical music and animation have made for a perfect match. Ren & Stimpy continued this tradition by using classic pieces by 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century composers like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns, Raymond Scott, and a host of others. Whether they're used to drive the action, or played underneath to establish atmosphere, every episode is full of renowned works from history's great composers.

6. NICKELODEON HAD TO BAN AN EPISODE FOR VIOLENT CONTENT.

Ren & Stimpy was never going to be a traditional Nickelodeon series, and over the years the show's production team crossed swords with Standards and Practices, parent groups, and the network itself over the nature of its content. One episode in particular was so outlandish for the network that it was shelved for years. Titled "Man's Best Friend," it featured a scene where Ren beats a character named George Liquor half to death with a canoe oar. The network refused to air the episode on Nickelodeon, and it wouldn't appear until years later when the show was rebooted as Ren & Stimpy 'Adult Party Cartoon' on Spike TV.

7. KRICFALUSI WAS FIRED FROM THE SHOW DURING THE SECOND SEASON.

After the "Man's Best Friend" controversy, Kricfalusi was fired from the series, along with most of the team at his production company, Spümcø. The network shifted the series over to its own studio, Games Animation, and handed the reins of the show over to Bob Camp, who attempted to keep the series' flavor intact in a way that would keep the network and sponsors happy. "In the long run, this will be a good thing for everyone," Camp said. "John is like a not-ready-for-prime-time player. The idea of him doing children's programming—it was good children's programming, great stuff, but he was not in his element."

Despite Camp's efforts, fans and critics saw his era of Ren & Stimpy as a decided step down from the show's early days. 

8. KRICFALUSI AND BILLY WEST HAD AN AWKWARD REUNION ON THE HOWARD STERN SHOW.

After Kricfalusi was fired from Ren & Stimpy, he was under the impression that Billy West would join him in a show of solidarity—in fact, Kricfalusi says West told him he was leaving alongside him. Well, that didn't quite work out, as West would not only stay on the show, but he would also take over the voice duties of Ren in Kricfalusi's absence.

The two were unceremoniously reunited on The Howard Stern Show in 1995, where the shock jock instigated the duo over their split a few years earlier—even getting an assistant to claim West's portrayal of Ren couldn't match up with Kricfalusi's. It's a memorable segment in a car crash sort of way, and it wasn't long after this painfully awkward interview that West—who was a regular on Stern—would leave the show.

9. WHEN REN & STIMPY RETURNED, WEST WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.

Ren & Stimpy's original run on Nickelodeon ended in 1995, but that wasn't the last audiences saw of the vulgar cat and dog duo. In 2003, Spike TV—which is owned by Viacom along with Nickelodeon—brought Kricfalusi back for Ren & Stimpy 'Adult Party Cartoon,' which was an attempt to make the show raunchy in a way Nickelodeon never would have allowed.

However, the revival wasn't enough to persuade West to step back into the role of Stimpy, which led to Kricfalusi assuming the voices of both main characters. West spoke about his reasons for not returning, saying, "It would have damaged my career. It was one of the worst things I ever saw. Kricfalusi called me, and I told him I wished him all the luck in the world but I wasn't interested." Adult Party Cartoon didn't even last two months on the network.

10. REN & STIMPY'S SUCCESS  OPENED THE DOOR TO OTHER CARTOONS.

Despite the behind-the-scenes drama, Ren & Stimpy still garnered huge ratings and merchandising opportunities for Nickelodeon during the 1990s. Obviously a sea of other twisted, adult-oriented cartoons soon followed, most prominently Beavis and Butt-head. Even creator Mike Judge credits Ren & Stimpy with Beavis and Butt-head getting the go-ahead at MTV: "Ren & Stimpy played on MTV for a while and was a big success," Judge explained. "They used that as a justification to pay for this."

SpongeBob SquarePants also owes a debt to Ren & Stimpy, especially when it comes to the series' distinct animation style. Animator Vincent Waller, who worked on both shows, said of the shared flavor of both series, "Working on Ren & Stimpy and SpongeBob was very similar. They’re both storyboard-driven shows, which means they give us an outline from a premise after the premise has been approved. We take the outline and expand on it, writing the dialogue and gags. That was very familiar."

11. KRICFALUSI AND SPÜMCØ HAVE THEIR OWN TWISTED TAKE ON YOUR FAVORITE CARTOONS.

In the years since Ren & Stimpy went off the air, Kricfalusi and his team at Spümcø have still been churning out their patented brand of crude humor. The studio has even given their take on some of the most recognizable characters in animation, including The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, and even The Simpsons. And with talks of a Nicktoons crossover movie coming to light, yet another Ren & Stimpy revival might not be too far off.

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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