Ren and Stimpy: The Lost Episodes
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After a ten year hiatus, John K. resurrected his classic cartoon for Spike TV no holds barred. Witness the cartoons he always wanted to make, uncensored and out of control. Deemed too hot to handle by Spike execs, these episodes are now available on DVD be warned: this is not your baby-brothers Ren & Stimpy. 9 hilarious episodes include 4 never before seen.
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The animation quality was kind of hit and miss. Yes, there are crazy, skewed facial expressions, but... it's just not the same. The original show just had a particular charm and feel to it which this one didn't have at all. It seemed like John K. was just trying to make the most disgusting possible cartoon with this collection, and while I certainly wasn't offended, there was no room for genuine humor because every other second was something stupid and/or gross. Don't get me wrong - when I think of tasteless toilet humor, I immediately think of the dog and cat duo from the 90s screaming, slapping, burping and farting their way through episodes. But the original show also had actual plots, clever jokes and segways, and little touches that were always in the perfect place to ensure maximum hilarity. Characters had depth, and while there was no chronology, everything managed to make sense while, at the same time, making no sense at all... and that's what made it so awesome. These lost episodes are devoid of all those things, and what you'll see are a completely different Ren and Stimpy that just aren't that funny anymore. Though I will give it credit for the episode "Onward & Upward" which is quite possibly the only cartoon to ever make me truly nauseous. But hey, most people would feel at least a little churn of the stomach watching Ren and Stimpy eating vomit in a spittoon.
The voice acting is garbage; Stimpy's voice sounds deeper and more serious, and while John K. provided Ren's voice again, it just sounded really forced, which I guess is expected when he's trying to get back in character after a decade of not being the little mosquito. The music doesn't quite work, it looks like some of the animating was done in Flash, and really the only thing this has going for it is getting to see adult themes (sex, drinking, smoking, etc.) and hear some cursing. But here's the thing: classic R&S was good enough that it didn't need the sexual themes or swearing to be funny.
Basically, these six adult episodes lack silliness. Yes, there was only so much you could do in cartoons that would bypass the censors (and John K. got a LOT of stuff past them), but the stupidity is what gave the show its irresistible charm. The Lost Episodes were a disappointment as far as I'm concerned, and you really won't be missing much by not buying this. The only thing this DVD has in common with the original series are the character names and designs (Mr. Horse shows up, as does the fire chief, who proceeds to morph into Ralph Bakshi), and some of the music (which is used kind of poorly at times). There are no "in-betweens" in this collection either. Things like Dog Water, Billy the Beef Tallow Boy, Colonel Backwash's Chicken in a Drawer... remember those little jingles between episodes or at the end of the show? None of those here, which is a shame, as those were some of my favorites.
Other than John's voicing of Ren, and Ralph Bakshi's cameo, the voice acting is uneven and monotonous. The animation lipsync is pretty erratic as well, sometimes bang on, sometimes boggling bad, like they changed the joke afterwards and didn't feel like re-animating.
Remarkably, the reason why I give this two stars (instead of the minimum of one) is the extra material with John talking about the show and various bits of animation industry trivia. He's actually quite entertaining and made it worth the bother to have watched these discs. Frankly, I'd rather have spent the whole time listening to him than watching the lost episodes.
Really, other than Ren Seeks Help, these episodes are some pretty weak tea, and that's being kind. I boggle at some of the 5-star reviews and look at them suspiciously. I have a very hard time believing that anyone who doesn't work for the publisher would give these discs the best possible grade. Sorry, I find that unlikely. I think somebody's stuffing the ballot box.
So many people complain about the direction that Spumco went with the new Ren and Stimpy cartoons, and to some extent I can understand why. But come on, art evolves and I guarantee you that just as many people would be hollering if John and the gang had just kept on doing what they were doing in 1991. But they didn't, and that's awesome.
Spumco has always been in the business of reinventing amazing cartoons.. right from the get-go. The original Ren & Stimpy = Brilliant. The Yogi/Jetsons cartoons = brilliant, and Adult Party Cartoon is also brilliant. Will it make you uncomfortable? YES! Is some of the art disgusting and disturbing? Yes! And you know what? That's the nature of art. Art challenges and entertains and tittilates and disgusts and disturbs, and that's why it's so important to our society. There's nothing I love more than a complicated piece of work that makes me think, reflect and laugh -- and these do all that in spades. Some of them are absolutely kill-you-in-the-face-dead-on-FUNNY (Altruists, Naked Beach Frenzy), and some of them are sad, awful/beautiful pieces about the nature of psyche (Ren Seeks Help.) I don't really know how to classify Firedogs 2, but Ralph Bakshi is one heck of a guy.
Ultimately, it's up to you -- but I think these are brilliant and I tell you what, a single frame from nearly any Spumco cartoon makes me laugh more than the entire running time of an entire episode of Family Guy (funny show, worst art ever.)
Great job, Spumco!
POSTSCRIPT: the packaging is brilliant, a work of art, fantastic. I wish that much care and attention went into all cartoon dvd packaging. Heck, all packaging.
The background paintings are high quality, but the animation of the characters is terrible. Ren & Stimpy don't look like they did in the original show, they look like different cartoon characters. One of the best things about the original show was the endless amount of funny facial expressions. But the facial expressions and movements in these new ones are bland, lifeless and unfunny. I didn't laugh at one facial expression throughout the DVD. There also are none of the signature "high detail painting stills" from Scott Wills. The animation resembled the animation from the cartoon "Cow and Chicken", not the original Ren & Stimpy.
Billy West does not do any voices in these cartoons, which is a big minus. John K. does the voice of Ren, but strangely, it doesn't sound anything like Ren from the originals. The guy who does Stimpy isn't even close, and it isn't funny either. The same production music is used, but it is used poorly. The music doesn't sync with what's going on, and doesn't add to the drama or humor of the episode.
THE WRITING & HUMOR:
The only joke in these episodes is to hear Ren & Stimpy swear, smoke and show their private parts. It makes you chuckle the first time you hear it, but gets old very quickly. Its just obscene for the sake of being obscene. There's no creativity involved in the writing or gags.
I am a huge fan of Ren & Stimpy. I even liked the later episodes from Games Animation. But these lost episodes were unwatchable. Ren & Stimpy fans will probably buy this out of curiosity, but I strongly suggest not wasting your money on this set. I suggest buying "Seasons 1 &2" and "Seasons 3 and a half". The "Lost episodes" and "Season 4/5" are not worth buying.
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