Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: The Ren & Stimpy Show

Yes, I know, you could really see this once from space, if you weren’t too distracted by a mad chihuahua screaming about his ice cream bar from the bathtub.

Ah, Ren and Stimpy. The timing on this coming out was especially convenient, I believe I was 11 or 12, and my solidification of loving cartoon art was just starting to congeal. I was already well obsessed with things like Looney Tunes – particulary older Looney Tunes – and then one Sunday morning this show hit my TV. Here was something brand new; yet looked so much like these cartoon I loved. I was immediately drawn to the throwbacks to 40s Warner Bros animation, which were immediately apparent even to me at that age.

I think what really drew me in were a few solid things, though:

1. The artwork, yes. Especially during season 2, the artwork was fantastic. The animation was superb. But the still closeups, which quickly became a trope in other cartoons, were amazingly detailed. And at my age, it certainly helped these were things like balls of lint and Magic Nose Goblins.

2. The totally bizarre imagery. Did I mention I love surreal things? I’m pretty sure I have, repeatedly. And this show had plenty of it — and I’m not just talking about the randomness of things like “Black Hole”. The abstract, ever changing backgrounds that suited the mood of the show, the intentionally ignoring models, and living farts. All of it was strangely appealing – the illustrations, the animation, it was great to watch. During season 2, the art in particular hit a zenith – Sven Hoek and Son of Stimpy had some amazing imagery in them.

3. The drama. Bear with me, here, but let’s face it: At it’s core, The Ren and Stimpy Show was a psycho drama in its first two seasons (and honestly, these are the episodes that count). While yes, not every episode fills this bill, many did – Stimpy’s Invention, sure; but Sven Hoek, The Lost Episode Man’s Best Friend, In The Army, and even A Visit To Anthony certainly all qualify. (And let’s not forget about Season One’s Space Madness – but I could sure list more). I realize this is me, but psycho dramas are particularly appealing and engaging. Maybe it’s because I toe the line with sanity so closely myself?
Nah…

I won’t really get into the whole Adult Party Cartoon or even the Games Animation episodes, and it’s too bad John K. was fired at the height of his run. I think seeing more episodes he could have come up with under the original paradigm would have been a gift. And what was done has clearly and indelibly influenced my style. During middle and high school I drew dozens upon dozens of Ren and Stimpy comics – they’re all long gone by now, but, if I recall correctly, they involved things like Stimpy joining a cult, Ren fleeing to the moon, the two battling Martians (this comic did directly influence the martians in Damn It, Monkey!), and probably has stained countless other things I’ve done.

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