Animation Genius Behind ‘Ren & Stimpy’ did the Background Animations for Miley Cyrus' Tour Entrance!
Miley Cyrus probably isn’t going to be invited to a Disney Channel reunion anytime soon. The pop star’s concert performances are heavy on scantily-clad dancing, tongue-wagging lasciviousness and booty-clapping twerks, which have all but erased her squeaky-clean Hannah Montanta image.
So when looking for background animations to play during one of the songs in her show, which will hit the Barclays Center on Saturday, she turned to another kids’ entertainer who also isn’t exactly a poster child for his network: John Kricfalusi, the creator of Nickelodeon’s “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”
The two are from different eras — “Ren & Stimpy” debuted in 1991, 15 years before Cyrus’ “Hannah Montana” — but Kricfalusi says they share a common ground.
“Audiences like the idea of innocent mediums being edgy,” he says. “That was part of the appeal of ‘Ren & Stimpy.’ It’s the same appeal with Miley. You would think of her as a child star, and here she is getting away with all this stuff.”
Many credit Kricfalusi’s work with paving the way for an era of animation that celebrates the weird, from “SpongeBob SquarePants” to network Adult Swim. His show followed the adventures of maniacal Chihuahua Ren and his hairball-spewing, bulbous cat sidekick, Stimpy.
The cartoon’s bits are etched into the memories of a generation, from the Slinky-parodying “Log” song (“It’s big! It’s heavy! It’s wood!”) to the board game, “Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence.”
“Ren & Stimpy” was a ratings hit, but tensions between the network and Kricfalusi quickly strained. They accused him of taking too long to produce episodes, while he resisted network efforts to tone down the content. Nickelodeon gave Kricfalusi the boot, turning the show over to a different team and keeping new episodes on the air for three more years.
The Canada-born Kricfalusi, 58, prefers country music. Still, when Cyrus and her team sought him out, the animator was familiar with the singer through the tabloids. He watched videos online: His favorite is “Wrecking Ball” — in which she rides a piece of destruction equipment, nude — because “music always sounds better naked.
“It seemed like she was as weird a performer as I am a cartoonist, so it looked like a good match,” he says.
And so, after he got the gig, the two spent an hour sitting in a room at LA’s Chateau Marmont, with Kricfalusi (who now lives in Los Angeles himself) trying to capture Cyrus’ essence. Her face was tricky, Kricfalusi says: It looks totally different from the side, like Boo-Boo, Yogi Bear’s sidekick.
John Kricfalusi has designed the cartoons accompanying Miley Cyrus on her recent tour.
“We knew that the tongue was an important part of her personality,” Kricfalusi says. Audiences will see it flashing by on-screen during the two and a half minute animation for the song “SMS (Bangerz).”
Kricfalusi drew the pop starlet in familiar outfits, filtered through his signature outlandish body types — with elongated limbs and a gyrating bottom that might fit right into Ren & Stimpy’s iconic “Happy Happy Joy Joy” dance.
While the cartoon clip plays behind her, Cyrus is joined by dancers in animal costumes. Her animated self thrusts a foam finger into the air as a parade of oddball animals, such as a bear with mismatched legs and wings on its nose, walk by.
Kricfalusi hasn’t had a show on the air in years, but he still has legions of loyal fans. The animator recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for a new project called “Cans Without Labels.”
And, he says, “I was at the LA comic convention doing signings and drawings for fans, and one asked me to draw Miley . . . I was pleased there has been some crossover between her fans and mine.”
So does this mean “Happy Happy Joy Joy” was the original twerk?
“You’d have to ask Miley,” he says. “I didn’t invent butts, much as I’d like to take credit for it.”