If you ever watched the '90s Nickelodeon cartoon The Ren & Stimpy Show as a child and revisit an episode or two today, you might be shocked about how your parents ever let you watch it.
The show, which ran on the kids TV network from 1991 to 1996 for 52 episodes, was chock-full of violent, precise language - mostly Ren extolling how much pain he was planning on wreaking - and bodily close-ups of eyes, gums, rotting teeth and more, all of which were glossy with vivid but disgusting detail. It's something that one YouTuber has thought about at great length - and so he decided to make a short on why, exactly, Ren & Stimpy is disgusting, indelible and gorgeous, all at the same time.
It was created by Evan Puschak (who went under the name Nerdwriter), a video content provider whose previous work includes the effect of Howard Shore's score in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the theme of morality in the 2008 film In Bruges, and the use of dreams in Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Nerdwriter's most recent video, like the others in the portfolio, acts as a sort of mini-documentary, exploring the visual cues and imagery rampant throughout Ren & Stimpy as a TV series.
Puschak's explanation of what made Ren & Stimpy gross and beautiful all at the same time was all thanks to show creator John Kricfalusi and his precise theories on what made good animation, well, good animation. Part of it had to do with formulaic plot devices that pervaded most of the cartoons in that period and before, and the other part had to do with standardized ideas about how to animate things like expressions to convey emotion. To paraphrase Kricfalusi in a segment in the video, no two expressions are alike - so the show creator made that a hallmark of his series.
Even though Kricfalusi's approach didn't sit well with Nickelodeon in the end - the show creator was fired after two seasons of the series' five - his surrealist approach to animation proved to be popular among viewers, and influenced myriad cartoons that came after, including Nickelodeon's own homegrown staple SpongeBob SquarePants. "Happy happy joy joy," no?
Check out the condensed history of Ren & Stimpy in the video clip below.