Over the past few years, audiences have been asked to grapple with authorship in increasingly complicated ways. As more creators have had their off-screen actions pushed into the spotlight – or, more accurately, as we have belatedly come to realize that art does not excuse creators from consequence – fans have had to grapple with the impact of those actions on the work they love. And while the world of animation may not be on the top of everyone’s mind, “Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story” might be a perfect example of how we recraft the history of game-changing talents.
This first trailer for ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy’ hints at how filmmakers Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood will balance two very conflicting narratives. Featured in the trailer is Katie Rice, one of the two women whose experiences with “Ren & Stimpy” creator John Kricfalusi became the basis for Ariane Lange’s 2018 BuzzFeed News article, “The Disturbing Secret Behind an Iconic Cartoon: Underage Sexual Abuse.” That article paints a damning picture of Krcifalusi as someone who actively groomed underage women, reshaping a legacy that – until now – had portrayed Kricfalusi as a revolutionary and misunderstood genius.
On Facebook, Cicero admits that the film had to be entirely reworked to incorporate the reporting from the BuzzFeed News article. “After the JK news broke,” he wrote, “we tried integrating that part of the story into the first movie we cut and… it didn’t work. We needed to completely tear apart the first film we screened in November and start from scratch.” The new version of the documentary promises to be a complicated look at the man and the work, answering – or at least addressing – questions about Kricfalusi’s legacy in animation as a result.
“Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story” will be available on VOD beginning Friday, August 14.