Thursday, August 20, 2020

Now Stream This: When Good Animators Go Bad

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story

I’m a major Ren and Stimpy Show fan. Love the first two seasons to death. Not crazy about what happened after its creator, John Kricfalusi, left the series; he didn’t make it past the second season. The quality dropped off in a big way.

Also, I’m not at all happy that it turns out John K. was a pedophile—a story that came out two years ago. (John K. seduced a teenaged Tucson girl, Robyn Byrd, who would later move in with him after she graduated high school at age 17 and go to work at his animation studio; you can read the details in this Buzzfeed report.)

This new documentary, Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story, which includes John K.’s participation, wouldn’t delve into his issues with underage girls, right? That would be crazy. Surely John K. would avoid any film that paints him as the sicko that he apparently is. Right?

For a large part of the 104-minute running time, it seems as if the subject won’t be breached. Directors Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood interview John K. and his colleagues about his rise and fall in the animation world. He was a genius, but he had a crazy attention-to-detail obsession that got him in trouble—along with a nasty temper.

But then, lo and behold, the movie goes there—not only speaking to some of the women who were victimized by John K. as girls, but talking with the man himself about what happened—and not in a whitewashed sort of way. They go right at him; he answers; his answers are not good. It’s really quite remarkable.

So, the movie is two things: It’s a really cool look at the institution that is Ren and Stimpy—which is being rebooted by Comedy Central without John K.’s involvement—and it’s a surprisingly daring character profile of John K. and everything he did to mess up the show, his life and the lives of others. He’s a mess, but this movie isn’t.

Available for rent and download on Apple TV and Amazon