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Comedy Central to revive Ren & Stimpy after years of controversy

A ‘new creative team’ will lead the series created by John K, who was previously accused of sexual harassment

ren and stimpy stand in a doorway gushing Image: Nickelodeon
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

The Nickelodeon cartoon that gave the world Powdered Toast Man, Log, and a shocking number of crudely rendered rubber nipples is set to return in a new form. Comedy Central announced on Wednesday morning that a rebooted incarnation of Ren & Stimpy would join its growing animation lineup.

“We are excited to reinvent this iconic franchise with a new creative team and our partners at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio,” said Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group. “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.”

Created by John Kricfalusi, Ren & Stimpy ran from 1991-1995, with one additional season bumped to MTV in 1996. In that time, “John K” (as he was known) and his elite staff of animators turned Ren, a rage-filled chihuahua, and Stimpy, a slow, but empathetic cat, into cult icons.

But the success wasn’t without controversy: The show was out of place at Nickelodeon even when it was on Nickelodeon (Comedy Central even notes in a news release that it was “often thought of as an adult series at the time”). Fans would later discover through John K’s own airing of dirty laundry that the network had censored and buried episodes over hidden sex jokes that crossed the line.

The show’s notorious gross-out humor, scathing parody, and a meticulous art style earned it critical acclaim, but also led to its downfall; the show eventually flamed out after John K’s dominating work style caused strife with the network and the staff, causing the whole operation to collapse at the height of its popularity. John K would go on to try and replicate the success of Ren & Stimpy without the restraint of a kid’s network, churning out Ren & Stimpy’s Adult Cartoon Party for Spike TV, but it turned out the censorship battles made the show what it was. Walking the line was more entertaining than anything explicit.

Only three of six episodes of the profane, hard-R cartoon would air, a failure that put John K on an independent track, creating surreal animation for The Simpsons and Miley Cyrus’ music videos. He would also face a reckoning: In 2018, two women accused John K of preying on and sexually harassing them while they were underage, a history of behavior the animator didn’t deny. As many of his former staff say in the upcoming documentary Happy Happy Joy Joy, which chronicles the rise and fall of the series, the misconduct put the entire legacy of Ren & Stimpy in question. Or as one animator in the film puts it, Ren & Stimpy is now “covered in shit paint.”

Though the news release emphasizes a “new creative team,” Polygon reached out to Comedy Central to clarify John K’s involvement in the new version of the series. There was no available comment at the time of publish.

The new version of Ren & Stimpy has no release date, but Comedy Central is getting serious about its animation slate: Jodie, a spinoff of Daria, is expected to arrive to the network later this year. Meanwhile, Happy Happy Joy Joy, arrives to VOD on Aug. 14.

Update: A source tells Variety, that Kricfalusi “will have no creative input into and will receive no financial remuneration from the new series.”

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