Brandon’s Review of
Happy Happy Joy Joy – The Ren & Stimpy Story
(Documentary, available for rent & purchase on all major streaming platforms)
Full transparency. It has taken me an entire week to compose my thoughts to put together this review. At face value, and based on the trailer, this documentary would give an in-depth look behind the scenes of the revolutionary cartoon from my childhood, Ren & Stimpy. This cartoon changed my whole perspective on everything. The production style both visually and musically rivaled anything else on TV as far as animation was concerned. Every frame of Ren & Stimpy is a hand-drawn work of art. Not since Chuck Jones and Hannah Barbera had there been anything like this level of art and passion behind an animated cartoon.
How can a cartoon as vulgar and grotesque as Ren & Stimpy be compared to Bugs Bunny and The Flinstones? Creator John K used the foundation the greats left behind and found a way to use this medium to display the grotesque, uncomfortable, disturbing situations that life throws at us in a way that can relate to the viewers of Nickelodeon. Kids and adults alike. All while displaying the hilarity surrounding all of those dark situations. This documentary beautifully displays the hard work and amazing team that it took to bring this masterpiece together. Those involved in putting the cartoon together were rock stars, and rebels in the industry. A lot of of what aired on Nickelodeon was not approved by the network. There are a lot of innuendos and grotesque jokes that aired on TV after being put into the show after the final approval by the network. They do point out what scenes that aired that John K slipped in, and it is amazing to know what they got away with. During their tenure with the show, the staff of Ren & Stimpy were often challenged ethically and morally. Towards the end of the run for Ren & Stimpy, the dark side of the show’s creator takes center stage.
The documentary, Happy Happy Joy Joy, does give those die hard fans of Ren & Stimpy that glimpse in the inner workings and so much more. The one thing that I didn’t know, was that the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi (aka John K), has allegations against him for being abusive and praying on young girls. While I may not be the greatest Ren & Stimpy fan for not being privy to the Buzzfeed expose from 2018 exposing The Disturbing Secret Behind An Iconic Cartoon: Underage Sexual Abuse, I am aware of it now and it is covered at length as the finale of the documentary. Why did it take me so long to put my thoughts together for this review? I’m conflicted on whether or not I will be able to separate the art from the artist in this case. I haven’t watched or listened to any of Bill Cosby’s comedy. I haven’t really revisited any work that Kevin Spacey is in, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy House Of Cards again someday. Michael Jackson’s music is in the same category but I do find myself listening to his music a lot less frequently (which is now only one or two songs, once every 2-3 months). I haven’t been able to put on an episode of Ren & Stimpy since I watched this documentary. I’m very conflicted about how I should feel about the cartoon that blew my mind and fostered my imagination from childhood to this day. I’m sure I will be able to watch Ren & Stimpy again with the same adoration as before, I just need a minute…
I am grateful that those victims of John K have found their voice. My heart goes out to those powerful women who spoke out against him, and I’m grateful that the documentarians gave them their spotlight in the production to get their side of the story. John K addresses these allegations in the documentary. Should you choose to watch this documentary, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not his apology is sincere.
If I were to be asked if this documentary made me feel Happy Happy Joy Joy, I would say: