It’s harder to think of a more controversial figure in animation than John Kricfalusi. Oh, sure, you can make a case that Ralph Bakshi guy. Yet the guy is more or less universally respected in animation circles for forwarding the cause of adult-themed cartoons. Those who don’t care for such things hardly even know he exists. There isn’t a huge anti-Bakshi backlash, unless you, for some godforsaken reason, decide to argue that his Lord of the Rings movie was pretty good.
Kricfalusi (who I shall now refer to as “John K.” simply because “Kricfalusi” is too much of a pain to type over and over again) will forever be known as the man behind the “Ren & Stimpy” cartoons. Thus, the man has already secured his place in animation history. However, the man is also one of the most, how shall we say, strongly opinionated men out there. His personality alone is what drives people into pro-John K. and the anti-John K. crowds, the North and South Korea of animation theory, scorching the land in between for anyone unfortunate enough to straddle the middle ground. I mean, the man even managed to drive away Billy West, the former voice of Stimpy, the current voice of Philip J. Fry, and a man who strikes me as fairly amicable from his interviews.
While I admire his openness, I admit that I am one of those prudes who’s often taken aback when the man opens his big old yap. Take his interview with the Onion AV Club, for instance:
I know in kids programming you’re not really allowed to draw sexy girls. I managed to get a couple into Ren & Stimpy. In the Powdered Toast Man episode, Lovely Assistant is really hot. She’s only in a few scenes, but, boy, I got lots of letters saying, “Give us more of that!” We’d try to, and then the executives would tell us, “Well, that objectifies women,” and “it’s offensive,” and all this stuff. [Moans.] You don’t even see it in prime-time cartoons. There are no sexy girls in The Simpsons. Would you ever take your pants down and watch The Simpsons? Those cartoons are designed to be so primitively drawn that you wouldn’t be able to do a sexy girl because you have to draw well. Drawing a funny animal, you don’t need a lot of detail to make it work. But to draw a sexy girl, there’s certain things you can’t leave out.
You kiss your mother with that mouth, John K.? He does have a point, though. I’ve got, like, Seasons 3-6 of The Simpsons on DVD, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t take my pants off once.
Even more controversial, though, is John K.’s self-elevation as the standard-bearer for classic animation. His disdain for the primitive nature of the The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park are somewhat understandable … though not totally correct, since the main crux of those shows is the writing. What’s more baffling is John K.’s acrimony towards pretty much every Disney and Pixar feature film created.
However, I can, to a certain extent, appreciate what John K. is trying to do. He’s really very much a historical preservationist, trying to create new productions following the design philosophy of an art form that most people had abandoned or forgotten. He wants to pick up from the days when Mickey Mouse was a bouncing rubber ball and when wolves had jaws that would literally drop to the floor at the sight of a red-head lady in tight evening wear. Is there much difference between John K. and, say, George Lucas and his love for 1940’s serial cinema or Grant Morrison and his love for Silver Age Superman stories? We’re all just a part of the Village Green Presevation Society.
But, seriously, what does all this have to do with webcomics? Usually, nothing… until you get to Dumm Comics, which went online earlier this year. If you browse through the archives, you’d swear that these were all drawn by the madman behind Ripping Friends. And, believe it or not, you’d be partially correct. The creators behind Dumm Comics are professional animators. Many had jobs in John K.’s animation studio, Spümcø International, while others are veterans of Disney and Nickelodeon. These artists all seem committed to translating John K.’s design aesthetic to the static screen.
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1930 Nightmare Theatre