Yesterday Comedy Central announced that they will produce a reboot of the classic Nicktoon, Ren and Stimpy. They will be doing this with no contributions from the show’s creator, John Kricfalusi, whose history of grooming and sexual harrassment came to light a couple of years ago.
When the news of John’s alledged and well-documented pervishness came to light, I wrote about how you probably wouldn’t be reading PopCult if it hadn’t been for Ren and Stimpy. Mel Larch and I were such fans of the show that we talked about it non-stop, and that led to us writing the “Animated Discussions” column for the Charleston Gazette from 1992 to 2005, at which time I transitioned into writing PopCult as a blog. Finding out about John was a gut-punch from which I have yet to recover. What we thought was goofy mysoginistic shtick was actually the way John viewed the world.
Knowing about the scandals and considering that R&S was rebooted as an adult cartoon about 18 years ago with somewhat disastrous results, this is a bit of a surprise. That John K has been so disgraced that Comedy Central not only had to declare not only that he wouldn’t be involved, but that he wouldn’t even profit from it, makes it even more of a surprise that they bothered to try this at all.
This revival/reboot is the brainchild of outgoing ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group president Chris McCarthy, who is moving upstairs to run several Viacom networks. Marvel Studios and Fox Entertainment alum Grant Gish, will be taking over the Youth Group and implementing the revival.
“We are excited to reinvent this iconic franchise with a new creative team and our partners at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio,” McCarthy said. “Ren & Stimpy joins our rapidly expanding roster of adult animation including South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head and Clone High as we continue to reimagine our treasure chest of beloved IP for new generations.”
It’s purely a nostalgia move, probably encouraged by the fact that R&S merchandise still sells so many years after any new cartoons were produced. The characters still have appeal to mainstream audiences, who may not know or care about their creator’s actions.
These new shows, plus a spinoff of the Daria cartoon, are being produced by ViacomCBS’ in-house production studios, with Nickelodeon — home to the original Ren & Stimpy — overseeing the new take, while the others are from MTV Studios. McCarthy launched MTV Studios two years ago with a goal to monetize the company’s vast library and sell to third-party buyers. Older animated properties have been turning up on Viacom’s streaming service, Pluto.TV, since Viacom purchased the platform last year.
If it is possible to set aside the stigma attached to Ren and Stimpy (a crowdfunded documentary about the show and about John K’s behavior will premiere on Video On Demand next week), then there’s a chance that this revival might be good. No creative team for the new series has been announce yet, but as mentioned in the press release it will be produced by Nickelodeon Studios.
That means that they could simply give it to the crew who produce SpongeBob Squarepants, and wind up with several R&S veterans who could give them a better show than the original few John K-produced episodes, which, to be honest, have not aged particularly well.
Master animators Bob Jacques and Kelly Armstrong work on SpongeBob now, and the executive in charge of creative for the show is Vince Waller, who directed many of the most memorable R&S episodes when he was just breaking into the business.
I would hope that Viacom reaches out to former “Spumco Big Shots” Bob Camp and Lynne Naylor to participate, as well as voice artist Billy West, writer Rich Pursel and background artist Bill Wray. There are a few other people who contributed greatly to R&S‘s initial success who have gone on to work on SpongeBob Squarepants. The show can be done without John K.
However, there is the question of whether John K’s dark past will still cast a shadow over any revival. That remains to be seen, as does this entire reboot, which won’t make it to the air for at least a year, and that’s if they really rush things.
Your PopCulteer has mixed feelings.