Paramount // 1993 // 418 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 1st, 2004
"You eediot! You pushed the history erase button!"
If you're looking for one of the grossest, weirdest cartoon shows around, you've come to the right place. In a world filled with Care Bears and Captain Planet and the Planeteers, animator John K's other-worldly Ren & Stimpy is a great escape from the banal. More than a decade after it's original airing, Paramount has finally released the first two seasons of The Ren & Stimpy Show on a three-disc DVD set for fans to lap up. Oh joy!
Welcome to the wonderfully demented world of Ren Höek, a hyperactive Peter Lorre-like Chihuahua and Stimpson J. Cat (or, simply Stimpy), a mildly retarded feline who sounds a lot like Larry Fine. They are two of animations oddest natural wonders. Ren and Stimpy live in a world where anything can happen -- and usually does. From writing inane poetry to being marooned in outer space, from meeting a superhero with a head made of toast to meeting a rubber nipple salesman, rest assured that if there's trouble to be had, Ren and his faithful pal Stimpy will be there to squeeze as much funny stuff from it as possible!
Included on this three-disc set are 32 episodes from the first two seasons of the show:
* Stimpy's Big Day
* The Big Shot
* Robin Höek
* Nurse Stimpy
* Space Madness
* The Boy Who Cried Rat
* Fire Dogs
* The Littlest Giant
* Untamed World
* Black Hole
* Stimpy's Invention
* Ren's Toothache
* Rubber Nipple Salesman
* Sven Höek
* Haunted House
* Mad Dog Höek
* In The Army
* Big House Blues
* Big Baby Scam
* Dog Show
* Monkey See...Monkey Don't
* Powdered Toastman
* Fake Dad
* Out West
* Stimpy's Fan Club
* The Great Outdoors
* The Cat That Laid The Golden Hairball
* Visit To Anthony
* The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen
* Son Of Stimpy / Stimpy's First Fart
* Man's Best Friend
I shall not pretend to have a deep knowledge base of the cartoon show Ren & Stimpy. In fact, I won't pretend to have a knowledge base on anything -- some days I feel lucky enough that I'm able to get out of bed and pick my nose without poking myself in the brain, causing massive swelling that would kill me instantly. So, I'm not going to beat around the bush: What I know of Ren & Stimpy comes solely from watching the show when I was in high school. However, for the sake of thoroughness I've done my homework to bring you the abridged history of this seminal animation classic!
Ren & Stimpy premiered in 1991 and became an almost instant cult hit. The show was the brainchild of John Kricfalusi (AKA John K.), a Canadian animator who had worked on such Saturday morning fare as Fat Albert and The Jetsons revival show with his protégé, legendary animator Ralph Bakshi (Fritz The Cat). Disillusioned by cartons in the 1980s (I can't imagine why -- what was more cutting edge than The Smurfs?), John created early sketches of two characters who would live on in infamy: Ren and Stimpy. In the years before the show premiered, new hits were on the horizon: In 1988, Robert Zemeckis's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released, and a year later Fox's The Simpsons was unleashed upon and unsuspecting public. Cartoons were becoming cutting edge and funny again!
Nickelodeon bought John's show about a stupid, fat cat and an obnoxious little dog. The show was an instant success when it premiered in 1991. In 1992, John K. was fired from his own creation by the network, presumably over script issues and censorship on the show -- the network just didn't "get" John K's odd, often hysterical ideas. Many fans believe that it was all downhill after John K was canned and his successor, Bob Camp, took over the show. Though Ren & Stimpy's instant popularity burned bright and seemed fizzle out fairly quickly, it's still a cult icon and -- for many people -- one of the funniest, most bizarre cartoons ever produced.
Tex Avery, eat your heart out.
I sat down and watched Ren & Stimpy's first two seasons, and my feelings are that the show is very funny and very entertaining...for a little while. By the time I got through about four episodes, I needed to take a break. The colors, noises, characters, and trippy music were the equivalent of being on an acid trip: it's fun for a while, but too much of it may cause serious brain damage. Eventually I had to let my fragile little mind come down from its electronic high -- I sat on my floor and watched a loaf of bread slowly mold. Then I went back in for some more Ren & Stimpy.
Fans of the show will be delighted to see that all of their favorite episodes are here, complete and uncut for the first time, including the banned episode "Man's Best Friend" (featuring the great George Liquor). My personal favorites are "Powdered Toastman" (a famed breakfast superhero with -- you guessed it -- a head shaped like a piece of toast), "Marooned" (see Ren and Stimpy lost on a weird and strangely wonderful distant planet!), and the classic "Space Madness" (is there anything better than watching Ren chomp on a bar of soap while floating through mid air in bathwater?). These are all extremely entertaining, often silly episodes that fly in the face of the conventionalism most cartoons offer.
Ren & Stimpy didn't set out to change the world. In fact, it didn't out to do much of anything except make the viewer laugh. On that front, it succeeds with flying colors. Picking up this box set -- containing 32 episodes of wackiness -- should keep you going well into the new year. Why? Because if you can watch more than two of them in a night, you have superpowers beyond that of most mortal men (and superheroes made of toast).
Each episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show: The First and Second Seasons is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. Happy, happy! Joy, joy! The good news is that Paramount has done a great job of making sure these transfers are fairly clean and free of any major imperfections. While the colors tend to be slightly muted at times (mostly in the first few episodes on Disc One), overall these are bright, colorful, and very bright. [Editor's Note: Yes, that's redundant, but oddly fitting.]
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. These mixes are all very front heavy and aren't very exciting -- since the show was a Saturday morning cartoon, I can understand why Paramount didn't feel the need to throw on newly minted 5.1 mixes. It just wasn't warranted. While these tracks aren't very exciting, the good news is that effects, dialogue and music are all in great shape.
Paramount has been gracious enough to give fans a batch of extra features on this three-disc set. Here is a breakdown of what you get:
The best extra on this disc is a feature titled "Ren & Stimpy: In The Beginning," which explores the series origins, how Ren and Stimpy's characters were created (a black and white postcard was the inspiration for Ren), and the show's fate on Nickelodeon. Included on this feature are interviews with John K, as well as storyboard artist Eddie Fitzgerald. This is a very nice overview of the show and what it was like working behind-the-scenes on it. Also included are commentaries on two of the episodes ("Untamed World" and "Stimpy's Invention") by John K and Fitzgerald (at least I think that's who is on the commentary -- there isn't any info about them on the packaging).
This includes the "banned' episode "Man's Best Friend" as well as the uncut version of "Big House Blues." "Svën Höek Pencil Test" is a pencil-only animated short without music or dialogue. "Storyboard & Spümcø Image Gallery" includes storyboard images that you can look at using your remote control. Also included are two more audio commentaries by John K., Vincent Waller and Richard Purcell, Kathy Rice, and Jim Smith on the episodes "Rubber Nipple Salesmen" and "Svën Höek."
The only extra features available on this disc are two more commentary tracks with John K, Richard Purcell, and Eddie Fitzgerald on the episodes "Powdered Toastman" and "Son of Stimpy."
I like Ren & Stimpy, though I'm convinced that watching too many episodes in a row will cause irreversible brain rot. The show is very much a time capsule of its time and is, thankfully, still goofy and very, very funny. While there could have been more supplements added to this DVD set, fans should be very happy with this show's presentation and bonus materials.
Ren & Stimpy are insane, and that's the way the fans like 'em! Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 418 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Six Audio Commentaries with Creator John K and Various Crew Members
* "Ren & Stimpy: In The Beginning" Featurette
* "Svën Höek Pencil Test"
* "Storyboard & Spümcø Image Gallery"
* Bonus "Banned" Episode