City Hicks

Directed by:  Ken Bruce
Storyboards by:  Jim Kammerud
Animation by:  Toon-Us-In
Music used in the episode.

Ren and Stimpy are dirt farmers, who not only harvest grime but eat it.  And they fear rain, because it eradicates their dust and makes the land fertile.  Oh, I get it:  It’s the polar opposite of a normal farmer.  Oy.  After a rainstorm, Ren and Stimpy’s dust crops are ruined, so they ditch the bountiful farm and head for the big city, where dirt is ample in supply.  Problem is, they soon encounter hardships:  Ren and Stimpy’s sheep are stolen/towed, and despite finding tons of dirt on the streets, they are informed by the union boss that they can’t collect it yet; they have to start at the bottom.  The bottom involves such things as working at Tex-A-Dyne (where they’re test subjects for bug spray) and as immigration officers.  And no sooner do they get comfortable with the latter job that it’s taken away from them by one of the immigrants they checked into the country.  Kind of an amusing satire on real life job politics, but more “smirk” funny than “ha ha” funny.  With no job and no food, Ren and Stimpy are set to die on the streets… until they’re miraculously rescued by Dusty Claus, who takes them to his dust mines where they’re toil for the rest of their lives.  Is this a happy ending?  “It’s an ending; that’s enough.”

“City Hicks” feels phoned in in pretty much every department; from the voice acting to the animation to the mediocre plot, which is basically a weaker retread of “Wiener Barons” (which itself wasn’t a particularly amazing cartoon to begin with).  Only the color scheme is impressive throughout; there are some interesting color choices presented here.  (BTW, no digital ink and paint company is listed in the credits, but this had to have been digitally colored; just look at it!)

Gorgeous green sunset!  Ren’s sporting a classic farmer pose here, too.

Animation mistake with Stimpy’s eyes here.  Strangely, when he blinks, they’re briefly normal, only to revert back to wrong.  That said, I do like Ren’s prayer in this scene:  “Dear Lord, we thank thee for this blessed drought which thou has beset upon us.  And let no seed find purchase in this forsaken land which we have stolen from the Indians.”

A rather predictable gag when Ren commands God to answer him, and is soon after struck by lightning.  Didn’t the writers get their fill of lightning gags in “Superstitious Stimpy”?

More recycling:  This echoes the ending of “No Pants Today”.

An OK gag:  Ren’s sheep (which he rode into town) has been stripped like a car.  Welcome to the big city.

This squirrel union leader is kind of a wasted character:  He briefly appears to inform Ren and Stimpy that they’ve got to start at the bottom and lets his associates take good care of them.  And then we never see him again.  Maybe I’m reaching, but I think this sleazy character had potential.  They could’ve even made an On the Waterfront parody or something.  Alas, it was not to be.

This is an odd storyboarding choice:  Stimpy says, “Did you hear that, Ren?  It’s our lucky day!  We get to start at the bottom!”  Ren raises his arm while Stimpy talks… for some reason.  Was he going to slap Stimpy but just decided not to?  Was he nonverbally indicating that he wanted Stimpy to stop talking?  Was he getting ready to push Stimpy down?  Or was he about to take an oath?  I’m so confused.

This gag could’ve been more clear.  At a construction site, Ren and Stimpy are suddenly stuck in cement.  Stimpy whines, “My butt’s itchy!”  It’s apparently a visual representation of “starting at the bottom”, but it doesn’t come through very well in the execution.

More or less a repeated gag from “Travelogue”, except this time the immigrants act like fish plucked from the water.

This scene offers the only truly funny joke in the cartoon:  As immigration officers, Stimpy changes immigrant Chad Jones’s name to the far more complicated Bgayho Bagdesarian.  I’d be annoyed too.

Maybe it’s just me, but with glasses on, Stimpy looks like a cross between Mr. Slate and Peabody.

I’ve never seen two people so happy to hear they’re becoming slaves.

<< Hair of the Cat

>> Stimpy’s Pet

Hair of the Cat

Directed by:  Ken Bruce
Storyboards by:  Mark Marren (as Kirk Field)
Animation by:  Rough Draft
Music used in the episode

Watching “Hair of the Cat” is an incredibly frustrating experience, as it’s a perfect example of the idiot plot (popularized by the late, great Roger Ebert), where the characters have to act like complete idiots in order to sustain a plot that we, the audience, have figured out long before the characters do.  The whole time, we’re just impatiently waiting for them to finally get a clue.  In this case, it’s that Ren doesn’t realize he’s allergic to Stimpy’s fur (he’s shedding this time of year).  So, the duo attempt to sterilize everything, which is futile since it’ll get dirty again once Stimpy touches it; to get some fresh air, which is also futile when he’s stung by a mosquito; and changing his diet, which is further futile if it’s contaminated with fur.  Finally, Ren puts two and two together and, just as he’s about to lay into Stimpy, he lets loose his biggest sneeze yet, which destroys the house.  Their solution?  Have Stimpy live in a pickle jar.  I guess allergy medicine is out of the question.

There’s a reason this summary is so short:  There isn’t much to this episode.  It’s literally nothing but Ren suffering from cat hair, over and over in various situations which aren’t really worth mentioning in great detail.  Also, this can’t possibly be the first time Stimpy’s shed fur, can it?  Surely they would’ve gone through this before?  Oh whatever.

Nice lazy pose on Ren as he watches TV.

I like the animation on Stimpy as he “walks” by sliding his stomach across the ground.

A classic type of gag:  Stimpy leaves an outline of himself behind; in this case, made of bits of fur.

If I was suddenly covered with red spots, I think I’d have that reaction, too.

A couple OK expression as a confused Stimpy struggles to say “phenomenon”.

Ren apparently got an enlarged thyroid between poses here (before this, his neck was the normal size).

A good representation of what sinus pressure feels like.

“What are you tryin’ to do?  Poison me?!”  They’re just moving parts around on Ren’s head for the sake of it; they don’t really emphasize anything Ren’s saying or feeling.

Not really that original…

I also enjoy the animation of a frolicking Stimpy in the park.

Ren’s sterilizing everything in the house, in what is undoubtedly the biggest pot ever created.

Seriously.  Do the math, Ren!

A decent exaggeration of crusty eyes.  I’m sure we’ve all had this, albeit not to this extent.

Braaaaaavo, Ren, the last horse finally crosses the finish line.  Nice grumpy expression.

Not sure if it’s because it’s zoomed in or whatever, but the outlines on Ren seem a touch thicker than normal.  This expression, as Ren tells Stimpy that he makes him sick, could’ve been more specific, too.

Cats can breathe brine.  News to me.

<< Feud For Sale

>> City Hicks

Feud For Sale

Directed by:  Ron Hughart
Storyboards by:  Chris Reccardi
Animation by:  Rough Draft
Music used in the episode

It’s ironic that one of the better season 5 episodes doesn’t feature the title characters at all.  “Feud For Sale” is a fun, fast-paced romp starring one of the better minor characters, the salesman unofficially christened Hey It’s That Guy; the episode also marks the final appearance of Abner and Ewalt from “Out West” and “Farm Hands”.  The episode begins with the salesman making a hasty escape from a town he just swindled.  Before long, he sees more victims to take advantage of:  Abner and Ewalt, who are having a stick-whittling contest.  The salesman first tempts Abner by offering an embarrassing, revealing outfit made of sticks, passing it off as the latest fashion.  Once he cons Abner, the salesman goes next door to egg Ewalt on to buy an outfit made of flypaper, saying it will beat the pants off Abner’s attire.  After Ewalt takes the bait, the salesman tricks Abner into buying another “outfit”, merely a bunch of mousetraps placed on his body.  Around this point, the two become belligerent towards each other, allowing the salesman to sell them increasingly larger scale weapons.  The cartoon ends with Abner dropping from a plane with a bomb; with both houses and possessions completely destroyed, the duo realize they have nothing to be jealous of anymore, and shake hands.  The salesman makes some bullshit speech to himself about how he’s a force of good in the world for bringing people together and hightails it out of town with the acquired loot.  So everyone’s happy.

Admittedly, the entire premise of the cartoon is rather predictable (that is, the duo constantly trying to one-up each other), but what makes it fun are three factors:  Humorous artwork, zippy pacing, and the methods in which they outdo each other, which just get more over-the-top as the cartoon proceeds.  In that sense, it’s similar to certain classic theatrical animated shorts (“King Size Canary” in particular).  Also, the episode extensively uses “It’s That Man Again” by Michael North, one of my all-time favorite retro tracks used in the show.  It’s one of those tracks that can cheer me up if I’ve had a bad day, and the tune is so ingrained with the salesman character that I instantly think of him when I hear it.

Silly binocular/telescope thingy.

“HOWDY-DO, NEIGHBOR!”  Oooh, shiny.

Nice clueless expression on Abner.

This is such an abstract, flat drawing but it’s funny regardless.  “Gank”?

I like how slowly the salesman slides the pointy stick out of Abner’s fingers when he mentions:  “There’s a little matter of monetary compensation to settle.”  Abner’s reply:  “I ain’t gots none of that.  But I got tons of money!”  Okay then.

Lookin’ stylish.  If, by stylish, you mean “making a fool out of himself”…

These shots are so silly, as the salesman is much, much larger than Ewalt all of a sudden.

Funny anticipatory drool.

First of three DVD cuts in this episode:  Ewalt digging into his grandpa’s retirement fund to pay the salesman.  His logic?  “Don’t worry, grandpa, you won’t live long enough to retire!”

What was the salesman doing in the toilet in the first place?

Funny expression when the salesman convinces Abner that he’s behind the times.

“SO CATCH UP!!!”  Aggressive salesman, isn’t he?

Why is the salesman on Ewalt’s head?

What a strategically-placed mousetrap…

Just another of the many funny expressions on the salesman in this episode.

Subtle.

DVD cut 2:  After Ewalt launches an elephant at Abner, the elephant demands he be compensated for his “work”.  The salesman reluctantly relinquishes his commission, and the elephant lets Abner loose in a manner similar to the one in “Fire Dogs”.

Great smug face as the salesman piles on the guilt when Abner decides to quit:  “Yep, just what I thought.  Wasted my time on a loser.  I was gonna help you win, but I guess you’re no match for Mr. Nitwit.  Good old Mr. Nitwit.  The kindly, repugnant Mr. Nitwit!”  Abner’s response to the taunts is classic:  “I wanna be called the fancy words, too!”

The salesman’s pontificating face.  (BTW, the third DVD cut is apparently a really brief shot of the salesman looking at Abner and Ewalt as they make up, but I don’t have a screenshot of that)

<< Space Dogged

>> Hair of the Cat

Space Dogged

Directed by:  Steve Loter
Storyboards by:  Tom McGrath
Animation by:  Rough Draft
Music used in the episode

It’s the space race of the ’50s, and Ren and Stimpy are the two astronauts representing Russia in the competition to beat the U.S.  Yes, it’s another episode where Ren and Stimpy are supposedly from Russia (despite much evidence to the contrary), except this time they take it too far, having the duo speak with a Russian accent and attach an arbitrary “-ski” to the end of most of their sentences.  It sounds hilarious, but it’s sadly not.  Anyway, the episode opens with a fairly lengthy propaganda film (narrated by Phil Hartman) about the various ways Ren and Stimpy train for the space race, including being in a wind tunnel and being strapped to a rocket that crashes into a brick wall.  The opening exists solely to inflict pain on the two.  No context, no funny.  After that black and white sequence, the cartoon switches to color as we pick up with the shuttle launch.  Some mice and an unlucky astronaut test the shuttle first, but both subjects explode and disintegrate.  Thankfully, upon Ren and Stimpy’s turn, they have more luck, actually getting airborne (albeit with a LOT of effort; their capsule initially plummets to Earth, but by burning all the potatoes, furniture, and paintings on board, they get back into space).

Once in space, the two decide to siphon the gas from the nearby U.S. capsule, but a cracked helmet impairing his vision causes Stimpy to accidentally suck up one of the U.S. astronauts instead, depicted as a pig.  (“American pig!”  “Commie dog!”)  The pig decides to sacrifice himself instead of being taken prisoner by Soviets, whose burning body causes their capsule to rocket past the U.S.’s.  The remaining pig in the U.S. capsule steps on it, and the race back to Earth is on.  It looks like the U.S. is going to win, so Ren orders Stimpy to burn his underwear, as the excess feces in them will be more than enough fuel.  Unfortunately, the fuel works too well, and Ren and Stimpy overshoot their target and land in the U.S., while the American pig lands in Russia.  The American commander who greets them upon their landing, not wanting to lose his job or (worse yet) be branded an accessory to traitorous spies, passes the duo off as the American astronauts and all is well.  Plot hole alert!  Surely American media had photos of the astronauts who initially blasted into space?  By all logic, Ren and Stimpy should be dead meat.

“Space Dogged” is perhaps the most banal episode yet.  It feels like it’s on autopilot.  I really have nothing substantial to say about it.  It exists.  Let’s move on.

One of the tests that Ren and Stimpy have to subject themselves to in astronaut training, which involves being wired to a remote which, if a button is pressed, causes them to smack Ren.  This includes Ren himself.  A lame, predictable sequence, but it does provide me with my favorite of the DVD menus (for some reason, the menu excises the song used in the episode in favor of the vintage piece “Keeping Busy”).

Ha!  I know what Lucy episode they’re referencing here.  It’s the famous “L.A. at Last” with William Holden.  Give it a watch if you haven’t.

This is a decent gag:  While burning everything on the ship for fuel, Ren makes an exception:  “Not the Matisse!”

Nice visual with how Stimpy sees multiples when his helmet cracks.  What helps this bit is how “Sleeping Beauty” is played in a distorted manner, too.

“McCarths fingers Reds.”  Besides a reference to the HUAC scandal, this seems like a “getting crap past the radar” joke.  Or maybe I’m just looking for dirty that isn’t there.  (side note:  As you can see from the screenshot, this episode has a lot of shots that are rounded at the edges for some reason.  Can anyone explain why this might be??)

UPA-influenced news reporters.  I do like Ren and Stimpy’s attempt to act like Americans for the commander:  “Uh, John Wayne?  Bang bang?”  “Cucka Cola,  Nietzsche good time bang bang baseball Joe.”

This is such a silly ending.  What country would celebrate being #2?  Especially in such a nationalistic, ultra-competitive activity as the space race?  Also, funnily enough the song used for the ending is NOT the national anthem to Russia, but to Turkey.  I guess they thought nobody would know enough about foreign national anthems to call them out on this.  To quote Buford Tannen, “You thought wrong, dude.”

<< Stupid Sidekick Union

>> Feud For Sale

Stupid Sidekick Union

Directed by:  Tom McGrath
Storyboards by:  Tom McGrath
Animation by:  Rough Draft
Music used in the episode

In “Stupid Sidekick Union”, Ren and Stimpy are actors.  The “episode” begins as normal, with Ren chewing Stimpy out for a brainless act, and is about to slap him, until a phone call from the local stupid sidekick union interrupts the scene.  Stimpy marches off the set and goes on strike, mainly due to how shoddily he’s been treated.  But the show must go on, and Ren hosts auditions for scabs to play his stupid friend.  First up is Tex, an idiot propsector-style character.  He isn’t funny.  Next up, the baboon from “A Yard Too Far” and “Travelogue”.  While this minor character has been played by now (after all, he has the one gimmick of being menacing and vicious, and that’s it), I must admit this scene at least puts a spin on things, since a fearful Ren is afraid to make the baboon angry by slapping it.  Finally, a Shakespearean actor, totally wrong for the part, is nevertheless accepted because he was the last to audition.  That rendition of the show is mercifully brief, though, after the upper crust actor blows a punchline.  Ren orders everybody out, and says he can do the show by himself.  Uh, no, you can’t.  Suddenly, Stimpy, in disguise as a female fan, wants Ren’s autograph.  Ren obliges, but realizes before he signs it that the “autograph” is actually the show contract.  So Ren signs it as “George Washington” instead.  The Ren and Stimpy Show returns from hiatus, but now Ren has to pay Stimpy every time he wants to slap him.  This makes no sense.  Ren never signed a contract himself; “George Washington” did.  Stimpy has nothing on his side, and any lawsuits against Ren wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.

I have to say, I find the episode a little distasteful.  Not because of any particularly edgy or gross gags, but because of the premise.  Throughout the series, it’s been firmly established that the duo, despite all their conflict, really do care about each other.  But by portraying the duo as actors, it undermines that, since it suggests that all the episodes before this were all an act for the cameras.  This includes such emotional episodes as “Ren’s Toothache” and “Son of Stimpy”, mind you.  It’s not that the viewer is delusional enough to think the rest of the series up until this point was real (if you do, get help), but you believed the characters and their motivations as sincere.  So an episode like this undercuts that.  Furthermore, Stimpy is thoroughly unlikable here, only caring about money and defaming Ren outside the studio.  That’s not the Stimpy we know and love.

In addition to all that, it’s simply not a very funny episode.  Ren’s replacements are terrible; I guess that’s the point, since it shows how much the show sucks without Stimpy, but in the process of showing how talentless they are, the episode itself becomes tiresome.  And there could’ve been a great “negotiating” scene in here somewhere, with some bargaining over ridiculously narrow demands, but it never materializes.  Sigh.

Decent indignant pose on Stimpy after he gets a call from the union.  He ain’t puttin’ up with any more crap.

Stimpy’s incensed by Ren’s shoddy treatment of him.

Stimpy’s trademark blue nose is apparently studio property.  A cute visual gag, I guess, but it makes no sense since he has the blue nose back on in the very next scene.

One of many replacement title cards in the episode.

^ Hey!  I thought you died!

It’s a little crowded in here.

Ren’s petrified to slap the baboon.

Don’t worry; I hear the make-up sex is fantastic.

“There’s no place for actors in television!”  That’s a good line.


A couple really flat, simplified designs on Ren here.  That said, I do like the second one; Ren has a face like, “Who wants a piece of me?!”

“Daily Vilify”, cute.

Two reaction shots to Stimpy being slapped by Ren.  I must admit:  We haven’t seen the bottom one before, with Stimpy’s eyes rocketing through his nose.

Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

<< Ol’ Blue Nose

>> Space Dogged