John Kricfalusi is a man with a mission. After being exposed to the classic cartoon shorts of Bob Clampett and
Tex Avery, he has committed himself to the goal of reviving the energy and visual humor which permeated these artists' work.
This quest began in 1979, after emigrating to the US from his native Canada. This was a period when creativity, energy and
visual humor was a commodity in short supply in the american animation industry.
The characters of Ren Hoek and Stimpy have their origins during John K.'s very earliest days in Los Angeles working for the
Saturday Morning animation mills. Bored with the vapid fare Kricfalusi was drawing, he would doodle his own characters and
run around the studio performing improvised stories. Many of which he would later pitch to most of the TV and film industry
had their origins in this, including a psychotic Chihuahua and a blissfully stupid cat.
The characters started out
as separate doodles. The two characters had no relation to each other. Kricfalusi would do these funny little drawings to
amuse his co-workers. Soon he was doing a creepy Peter Lorre voice and acting out insane scenes with the chihuahua character.
At first, these characters had no names. The Chihuahua got a name when one
of John K.'s co-workers, Joel Fajnor, visited him at John's apartment in Van Nuys. Fajnor began to laugh suddenly while looking
at the mailboxes out front. John looked at Joel and asked what he was laughing at, and Joel, between gasps of laughter, only
could point at one of the names on the mailboxes...Ren Hoek. John explained that the building manager's name was Ren Hoek,
and that yes, he did have a bizarre name. "You should call that Chihuahua character of yours Ren Hoek," said fajnor once he
regained composure. The name stuck. Around the same time, John K. named the stupid cat Stimpy, after an art school classmate
in Canada, whose nickname was Stimpy Kadogan. As for the question
on everybody's minds, you know it is. Are Ren and Stimpy lovers? "Totally," says John K. proudly. "In Ren's case, it's not
completely by choice. He'd rather have a beautiful human woman if he could get away with it. Since he can't, Stimpy's easy.
Stimpy's madly in love with Ren." He cites a New AdventuresMighty Mouse
episode he did in which 40's cartoon
stars Gandy Goose and Sourpuss were resurrected with the homosexual overtones of their original models brought to the fore.
It was this relationship, Kricfalusi confines, that went on to become the template for Ren and Stimpy.
The Voice of Ren Hoek
The voice of Ren is really the voice of John K., John K. is Ren. Though originally Billy West, the voice of Stimpy, was
going to read both roles, the Nickelodeon originated sticture against doubling-up kept him from taking the role. For all of
the first season and most of the second Ren was voiced by his creator John K. John K.'s Ren was based on Peter Lorre, Burl
Ives and his hero Kirk Douglas. "It's me doing my impression of peter Lorre," Says John, "people think there's mexican
in it, there's not supposed to be." After the firing Billy West took on both roles. "He did me doing Peter Lorre," Says John.
Years after Nickelodeon fired John K. and Spümcø, Billy West went on 'Late Night with Conan O'brien.'
There was no mention of John K., Billy didn't even credit him for creating the show, getting him his break or originally doing
the voice of Ren. When asked by Conan what his inspiration was for Ren's voice, Billy without a blink recited the "Peter Lorre,
Kirk Douglas blah blah blah" line, not once even mentioning John K. And even taking credit for Ren's voice.
The Voice of Stimpson J. Cat
The voice of Stimpy was provided by Billy West for all five seasons of
The Ren & Stimpy Show. West met John K.in 1988, when both were working on ABC's short-lived remake of the 60's Bob
Clampett cartoon series Beany and Cecil -- one of West's childhood favorites. In 1990, two years after that project
fell apart, West got a call from Kricfalusi to work on Ren & Stimpy. John K. sent Billy some drawings of the characters.
"I just looked at them and said, 'What are they? Germs? Microbes? Are they from space?' For Stimpy John said that he wanted
to hear the Larry Fine voice, only modified. "Larry basically sounds like a depressed old Jewesh guy, so I souped it up. It
became sort of what the character looks like -- braindead and childlike."