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John K. Created A T-Shirt Commercial For Stussy

Ren and Stimpy creator (and my former boss) John Kricfalusi made this 3-minute commercial for Stussy to advertise four new T-shirt designs he created for them. John talks production process on his blog.

  • Cool, Now if only he would make TV Show Format Cartoons

  • Abu

    It’s ALWAYS great to see something new from the ‘Ren & Stimpy’ guy!

  • just saying

    he is in his “late chuck jones” period where stuff starts getting weird and lazy.

    • It’s definitely not as lazy as your comment though.

      • just saying

        John is too lazy to figure out functioning drawings and inbetweens and uses “tyer-esque” animation styles to avoid having to do the real hard work of animating in a clear and solid way.

      • Thanks for elaborating. This is a clear position that others can now discuss intelligently.

      • I happen to agree. I think John might have gone cabin crazy. Though I’m not sure by what measure you would distinguish such a change.

        The timing, specific facials and continuity are all pretty off in this thing – which I wouldn’t mind if the guy didn’t run a daily blog being super super intricately critical about all those things. I don’t know that he has anyone around him anymore to say “John, the lipsync on this thing plain aint’ working. You’ve gone too far”

      • Joel

        I actually rather like that crazy stuff… As long as the Hold’s read, the Inbetweens can go crazy ;) No, but seriously, i think he’s experimenting and i find that’s always refreshing. Might not be perfect yet, but maybe in a few years. I doubt though, that it wasn’t a lot of hard work. Animation always is, no matter what the style. Heck, Don Hertzfeldt draws years for one film and he does stick figures.

      • I agree that it isn’t lazy, but it is carrying a cabin-craziness that I’m not sure is working. There are simple things like a lack of easing on camera moves that just feel like mistakes. It’s like he’s super focused on silhouettes and hierarchies and some of that other stuff he’s been blogging about lately, that he hasn’t taken a step back and gone (for instance) ‘none of these shots have color continuity’.

        If it was like the 90s all over again (that was a funny line) the John of yore would have been less clumsy.

        oh yore…

      • Joel

        Yeah i noticed some technical stuff too… But i wonder if those happened because of a lack of software knowledge/interest rather than lack of talent. My father was an animator for 30 years and his stuff looked brilliant as long as he shot it with his massive Oxberry 35mm Animation Stand. But it lost some quality when the computer came up for some strange reason. Just another generation. But i don’t know…

        Short OT: Love the Lego Shorts by the Way ;)

      • Ta. On the subject of being a guy that ball-rolled a whole generation of film making without getting any credit or making a dime and having to sit back and watch the whole thing deteriorate, I consider myself an authority. Which is why I know that in fairness, John probably made this for $75 and a free sample of one of his own shirts, not even the whole range, and only in kid size.

        His Simpsons opening was a work of art.

        But it upsets me that this pioneering but clearly unemployable genius, who at one time was at the cutting edge of technology and who still has the skills and the name recognition, is NOT the top guy on the internet. Not even up to what is the standard anymore. Everyone on tv is still making R+S clones, everyone on the internet is making Weekend Pussy Hunt, and John is selling t-shirts?

        (single solemn tear)

    • Jack

      I agree. When I look at Mr.K’s new style I get a sense that he doesn’t care about fixing some of his mistakes and just takes his fast scribbles straight to clean-up.

      There’s some creative ideas here and there but it’s hard to notice them when the characters are constantly moving (in a bad way).


        it’s great fun, i’m jealous so all of you guys above

    • Jorge Garrido

      John is exploring a new style of animation that pragmatically realizes the realities of flash and web production. You really expect him to be doing film quality animation for this kind of work?

      With programs like Flash and Toonboom, you can do more graphic, Tyer esque styles, not solidity.

    • Austin Papageorge

      “Thanks for elaborating. This is a clear position that others can now discuss intelligently.”

      And Lord knows that we will only tolerate stuff like that at cartoonbrew!

  • Joel

    I really love it but you can see Notes for the Animators at 00:43. Other than that great Job!

    • James

      I think that’s the only time I’ve ever seen something like that so noticeable in the final animation. Maybe John K expected that to be cropped out?

      Still, I thought it was good and actually had a few laugh-out-loud moments

  • Reminds me of those 3-minute advertising films back in the day, like the Walter Lantz Coca-Cola films, or Mickey Mouse’s Nabisco film “Mickey’s Surprise Party”.

  • I thought this was cool.

    The ‘notes to animators’ at 00:43 are the letters ‘popping’ off the potato chip packet as it snaps back on his head.

    And background color continuity? That’s pretty a clearly stylistic choice – the kind John K’s been making for years. Decades, even.

    • Joel

      I like the background color stuff too. But look closely when the rat blinks while looking out of the sewer… “Accent Blink”?

    • feldfein

      Notes also around the rat when it comes out of the drain.

  • Robert Schaad

    I like it. Strong style, lots o’ experimentation w/ color, audio, etc. He’s having fun with the medium of animation. Rules that are meant to be broken.

  • Aaron

    This is my favourite John K animation in years! It’s an actual story!

  • Pedro Nakama

    John K was a real trend setter wit Ren and Stimpy. The bad thing was everybody copied him. I’m surprised he’s still using this style.

    • Scarabim

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Be considerate and respectful of others in the discussion. Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted.”]

  • sasha

    I’v seen a couple commercials he has made, like this and the raketu one, but where are these commercials shown? who sees these? all that work/money, but how many people view these commercials?

  • I love it! John’s still the greatest cartoonist of all time!

    • Glen

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Be considerate and respectful of others in the discussion. Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted.”]

  • Wow, this is one cool commercial! Not only is it a breath of fresh air to see something this smooth, but also done with a cartoony flavor to it, not only in its visuals but in its attitude; direct and fresh, and not the least bit overworked or pretentious.

    Here’s to hoping John K keeps making more of these gems. These cartoons make me want to shell out a few hundred for Toon Boom Animate as soon as possible.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    I wouldn’t be so critical of Mr. K. If he wasn’t so critical of what he calls “conservative” animation….and almost every other animation. Can he even do “conservative” animation? I don’t know if he chooses this style so much as it’s all he can do. Even his heroes he cites are conservative (i.e. contains pacing, flow and subtlety) compared to this.

    I feel like I’ve seen this before; the long online John K. commercial, (which, to his credit, he pioneered animation for the internet), and the crap beaten out of a bullied character.

    I’m sorry. This reminds me of student’s work which is influenced by John K.

    • Exactly. John K only animates one personality type, stupid.

    • Finally someone says it! I’ve been bugged for years by John K’s ignorance towards any other style of animation than the one he happens to love. Ignorance that’s almost bordering to inbreeding.

    • ShouldBeWorkin’

      BUT I would still be critical if Mr. K. was a lovable independent who loved all types of animation, who was just doing “his own thing, man”…..Just that I would not be AS critical.

      It still looks like some student work from a one year private animation college IMO.

      This does factor into valid criticism because he is very vocal, retro-analyzing drawing, design theory, direction; about what is the best (which I generally agree with) and why certain animation is crap (which I don’t always generally agree with). Yet I do not see what he articulates in his blog realized in his later cartoons.

      He is EXTREMELY dogmatic about animation yet he doesn’t appear to walk the talk.

      So of course when one holds themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong, they will be held to higher standard when it is their turn.

      • Snagglepuss

        Toon was good though!

    • Jorge Garrido

      John has never been all that critical of conservative animation, and has in fact praised it many times on his blog: Tom & Jerry, Disney, some McKimson stuff:

      John isn’t a conservative guy, but he realizes the value of skilled conservatism in a craft such as animation.

      • Snagglepuss

        I remember he criticized Rattatoullie though. And Batman: The Animated Series, and The Simpsons for being “boring” or whatnot. For some those shows eclipse Ren and Stimpy in a pretty major way. With talk like that, WALKS MUST BE WALKED!

  • gah227

    I don’t mind how John animates now (I do find it way too busy and lacking clarity, but it still works) but all the latest stuff that I’ve seen from him has horrible editing. There are so many transitions missing from one shot to the other, which could be resolved with a bit more animation to make sure the shots flow into one another. Maybe it wasn’t storyboarded properly, I don’t know. But to me, it just feels… unfinished.

  • Diego

    I think he went a lot of steps forward with his “coach gag” for the simpsons and his bumpers for adult swim, but he’s going backwards with this one. I’d hate him if he blames it on the budget.

  • Glen

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Be considerate and respectful of others in the discussion. Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted.”]

  • uncle wayne

    i have always found his work laff-out-loud funny!!! Lovvvve his style. Great to see THIS!! (And i adore when they use some early H-B music scores in there, too!)

  • Mapache

    -It’s like the nineties all over again!-
    I almost died laughing when they said that.

  • Andrew

    This was poorly composited, filled with sloppy errors like accidental frame popping, and had terribly mixed and recorded sound quality. Like a freshman student film. How can John be such a harsh critic of others and so slipshod with his own craft? Even simple things like characters punching each other lacked contact and form. Johns done some great things in the past but if I were the Stussy company I’d want my money back.

  • Gorblum

    Really can’t stand the animator’s notes that pop up three times. Same goes for the “wrong frame” playing at the start of the “bullies walking away” shot. Some really weird scaling and scrolling issues as well. The mouse turning, then running towards fat boy looks awful, but then his jump looks great!

    Much of this just looks like mistakes made due to lack of skill with the software. This I can understand, but not hiring/asking someone to fix this, I can’t understand!

    I’m guessing the awful lip-synch is on purpose, though?

  • There are bits that really shine here and bits that… don’t so much. It’s a tricky spot to criticise the mighty John K, kind of like calling your own father out over how to make babies.

    As always, I blame the hipsters

  • Jon

    I think this is great. I also think the “mistakes” are done on purpose… They are the type of things you can only do in 2D animation. And they add texture and humor to the piece. I’m pretty sure John knows what he’s doing.

  • I love this so much. John’s a true cartoonist at heart who makes funny drawings moving in a funny way and did an amazing job with this along with the people who helped him out. Kudos!

  • wever

    Symbol tweening error between two cuts. It lasts for literally one frame.

  • I personally enjoyed the Stussy ad especially for all the experimental animation in it. People are being way too harsh on this. I haven’t used ToonBoom Animate, but I was floored away with how full the animation felt and how there was barely any tweening in it. We’ve come a long way from the days of awkward, ugly Flash tweening for sure. It definitely is possible to bring animation back to North America for the most part if this Toon Boom trend continues.

    Sure, there are things I would have done differently if I was creating the commercial like maybe having Bobby Bigloaf look directly from the telephone pole when Slab and Ernie shout his name to create a better composition and little technical stuff like that or having the animation start out very normal and gradually get weirder and funnier as the cartoon progresses. Otherwise, for a short three minute commercial, there’s a lot of positive aspects of the cartoon that can be learned if you examine this closely.

  • Gerry

    Funny how no one criticized Louis Armstrong for only doing one style, after the world copied him.

    • ShouldBeWorkin’

      Yes, John K. is influential.

      For a time,Louis Armstrong did play classical with orchestras early in his career. Later, classical musicians would come check him out at clubs wanting to figure out his technique. The handkerchief on his valve hand was partially to hide what he was doing.
      But I don’t know if Louis slagged every other trumpet player and playing style out there. If he had, and then produced a record that sounded like he was playing out of his ass, you can bet he would have heard the opinions of fellow artists and fans.

  • Taco Wiz

    I love Mr. Kricfalusi, but the animation is too wild and unfocused. He tries to have too much happen per second and it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on.

  • The comparison to Jim Tyer is justified. Tyer could bang out the footage which was Terrytoons main concern, but I don’t know what the schedule was for this. The tech gitches may or may not be an intentional thing for John. He is a madman.

  • A few funny parts, such as the opening walk cycle.

    Has quite a bit of “Clampett continuity”.
    (Good if you like that, bad if you don’t).

    Other problems, mentioned several times above.

    Always good to see new John K work, even if it’s badly crumpled around the edges.

  • What’s really lazy is assuming you know the circumstances someone was under when they created something. It’s one of these blog buzzwords that everyone is copying each other saying: “His screenwriting was so lazy” or “Her directing was so lazy”.

    People definitely have a right to voice their opinion and be critical of something, but calling someone lazy insinuates that you know what they went through and how they acted in making something. It’s self-centered to think you can assume such things. And, frankly, most of the criticisms I see on this blog and others come from people who don’t do shit, let alone produce something great. So how would you even know what “lazy” means?

    • Ryoku

      So, we can’t assume thing behind one mans project, but you can make an assumption on many, many fans of the animation world?

      • その通り!( ̄ー ̄)

  • Jennifer

    I think people are being way overly critical of this. Its a damn cartoon, don’t worry so much about the “tech” stuff

    I’ve been keeping up with some of the blog posts of the crew that worked on this. From what I’ve gathered the budget was low, the crew was young, and John single-handedly wrote, boarded, and animated the whole thing in a span of weeks.

    On their Facebook posts the crew updated with comments about the editing. It doesn’t sound like they even started cutting the thing together until the day before it was due and then spent a full day and night working straight through to meet the deadline.

    Mistakes are going to be made if you try to cut together something this large in a single night. Poor time management? Yes. Poor cartoon? No.

    Stop worrying about the animation notes or the extra frames. Look at the story, the fun animation, the colors.

    • Word.

    • wever

      Professionalism is a peeve of mine. Notes seeping into a video and tweening mistakes are no excuse. If I was running this cartoon, I would fire the editor.

    • Ryoku

      The man that created this lashes out at other cartoons that don’t use that “tech” stuff, he should back-up his word.

    • Jack

      ” Its a damn cartoon, don’t worry so much about the “tech” stuff”

      The “tech” stuff is very important in a visual medium like animation. The more drawing skills you have, the better you can transfer your imagination onto paper.

      That isn’t to say John K. has no skill, he definitely does, but most of his drawings from the past 7 years have been scribbles. The John K of the 90’s had drawings full of inspiration, thought and appeal.

      And then there’s APC, while not funny, had a lot of great drawings as well. So what happened during 2006 and today? Why can’t he keep up with his own standards for other animation?

      • Tredlow

        Yeah, I stopped following his work since after APC, so when he did that Simpsons Couch Gag, I actually couldn’t tell that it’s his work until I saw his name.

    • CJ

      “Mistakes are going to be made if you try to cut together something this large in a single night. Poor time management? Yes. Poor cartoon? No. Stop worrying about the animation notes or the extra frames. Look at the story, the fun animation, the colors.”
      That’s the problem, none of this is fun, engaging, or planned well. I’ve seen animations from people who’ve had a similar time limit (under a week) that were advanced students and it turned out way better than this. There is a difference from breaking the rules of animation and being plain sloppy. Unless this is some kind of satire in the animations principals that I’m missing.

  • Crazy as always- which is good and bad!

  • DonaldC

    Like animated jelly.

  • Ryoku

    I personally side with the comments that point out Johns general “sloppy, formless, flat look and animation”, but I want to provide a possible reason.

    John K has said that he was greatly influenced by Jim Tyer, an animator for Terrytoons.

    Jim Tyers animation stood out in that at times it would become strange and formless, but this was not for artistic reasons, it was a necessity in order to work with the tight schedules and minimum budget that the Terrytoons often had.

    To take this and try to turn it into a “style” is foolish, it’d be like trying to make a meal from mud.

  • Mr. Critic

    Something I haven’t seen before. And in animation, how can that be a bad thing?

  • Gorblum

    Actually, watching it a few more times, presto chage-o, I quite like it!

    The odd mistake is friggin’ annoying, but that’s just me, (rat’s tail becomes two at one point!)but ah well.

    As Jennifer said, it seems some of it was done in a rush. Hopefully his next project will be given enough time. Quite nice that he goes to the effort to acknowledge all who helped to make it on his blog.

    I can’t believe I missed the car on the roof in the background first time!

  • Deaniac

    It’s a funny little cartoon, but it’s not without its flaws. The camera movements are choppy, a lot of the tweens were haphazard, and some animator notes were left unnoticed. I didn’t hate it, but I think it could have been better.

    I talked to one of the animators who worked on this and she said John K. is still learning the animation software (Toon Boom Animate) used to make the short, hence the reason a lot of elements in this cartoon were unpolished. Hopefully he’ll get a better grasp of the software and produce higher quality stuff with it in the future.

  • I thought this was pretty good, and it almost made me want to buy a shirt. Great animation John. Keep experimenting.

  • some nice stuff, i enjoyed it but did notice the odd wrong frame and weird rat turn. a pity, hope stussy didn’t give them a false deadline that marred an otherwise great work, little gremlin errors can creep in at the nth hour.

  • JC

    Attacking this piece because you think John K. is overly critical of other animation is kind of admitting you are not judging this on it’s own merits/ your honest reaction to it.

    I actually just enjoyed watching it, it’s fun and energetic and very entertaining (made me laugh).

    The second time I watched it I laughed at stuff I didn’t notice the first time.

    There’s plenty of extremely polished multi million dollar stuff out there to suck in. He’s being brave, there’s a fun experimental joy to his recent stuff.

    People still think the original Ren & Stimpy stuff is just crazy extreme drawings thrown together without any control. I think this work is just as deceptive.

    I think the technical stuff/faults and rule breaking are clear to see, but clearly the creator(s) don’t care. This makes me wonder ‘Should we?’, ‘Do we?'(care that is).

  • hitface

    I didnt really like it. It just seems really awkward and really… Just off. Its hard for me to describe. I’ve never been a very big fan of John K though, and his crumminess as a person is even more off putting, and makes it even harder for me to appreciate his work. I’m as biased as people who adore him.
    The rat was funny though. For some reason the “God and I love you” part made me laugh.

  • SKent.

    I think the animation is great. I like the sloppiness and the ‘what the hell’ quality. Better to go too far than not far enough. There’s a lot of life to it.

    I just hate all the aggression and the bully-boy humour. Not healthy.

  • Joe

    Seeing John K’s work is frustrating for me… On one hand, I read his blog and feel like he’s a deep well of cartoon knowledge, so I feel like whatever he makes will be amazing. On the other hand, every time he makes something new, I just find it ugly and unappealing.

    I WANT to like it, but I just don’t.

    • Dave O.

      I agree. John K is obviously an animation legend. The old Ren and Stimpy are pretty much unsurpassed in their awesome gross-out subversion. However, he tries so hard to be the ‘bad boy’ with each of his newer projects that the end result is often a convoluted story that isn’t visually appealing.

  • I like aspects of what he does now but I don’t love it as much as his old work, and not only in the animation aspect but also in the jokes, story and dialogues.

    This is ok as far as advertisements go. And the “It’s the nineties all over again” dialogue sounds like Mr. K making jokes about himself, which is nice to see since he tends to take his work too seriously.

    Some of the odd poses are cool and they look like an underground comic, a little like Peter Bagge’s drawings, which I like, but I miss some of the more appealing drawings of his “classic” work. If he ever gets the budget and chance to do an animated show with George Liquor and pals I would like to see some mixture of the “ugly” designs with more “conservative” parts, cause sometimes the conservative stuff is simply more appealing.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Guys, it’s not a perfect cartoon, but it IS full of verve and inventive and creative new ideas in symbol and vector-based animation.

    It’s like what Louis CK said about his f/x show, and how it’s different from a traditional sitcom. He said writers perfect scripts, and in the process ruin tv shows. The analogy for animation would be that John could focus more on technical errors, but in the process lose the rough grittiness of the final product.

    I don’t WANT all my animation to be pristine and perfect. I want a little dirt in it, and I want good IDEAS. Content is superior to form.

    • I love John K’s work…I don’t love this.

  • Conor

    There’s undoubtedly good stuff here, but that’s no reason to write off any attempt at criticism, this is how we become better artists, seeing what other artists do, and asking what it does right and what it does wrong, and how any missteps could have been avoided, and regardless of what anyone says about John K, it’s that he always produces something interesting enough to warrant discussion. Personally, I feel his newer stuff has something of a dissonance between style, technique, and tone. His work has always occupied a space between ’50s modern design, and McKimson-esque solidity, but now it seems like the level of abstraction in the design, specifically the degree to which it’s seeped into the acting (i.e. the strange eye singularity collapses), has started interfering with the raw humanity that used to come from sense of organic form, what’s more, his desire nowadays to make everything move around in these zany flowing ways means that these abstractions don’t really “hit”. He seems to have this idea that it’s really more about “feeling” the drawings, but drawings that are that stylized or abstracted can’t really be felt with that kind of immediacy, which is why Chuck Jones cartoons where always so deliberately paced.

  • Rock

    John’s work has gotten progressively uglier in every way. Its visually unappealing and mean-spirited.

  • Brian O.

    This is a hell of an experiment. I think whatever John does at this point of his life will be a test of his new ideas put to work. Some will fall short and others will open doors for others to shamelessly rip off.

    Per second of footage packs a lot of information. Hiearchy of forms are present, color theories are in place. Big success here is the directness of his lines using a Cintiq. There’s no loss of energy. This has the force of Milt Gross’ most manic comics.

    Personally, I want to see more so the experiments continue and see how this develops.

  • Kingfish

    Between this and the Simpsons gag (which I absolutely loved), my takeaway is that John seems to be enjoying the way ToonBoom works as far as bringing the artist’s work from sketch to final. This stuff reminds me of the looseness of Milt Gross, of whom John is a fan.

    He seems to be skipping some steps, though – he’s lamented in the past that you lose some of the looseness or vitality of the sketches by the time you get to the cleaned-up layout. However, he’s also admitted it’s a necessary step, and in these cartoons he’s lost some of the fundamentals like form, weight, composition and clarity. It just looks like a moving storyboard to me, and even though he throws in a lot of amazing details and ideas, it just doesn’t look very professional. I actually thought he created these by himself while teaching himself ToonBoom… I never imagined he had a crew.

    I hate criticizing John k. like this, but between the highlights of his career and his self-created image as an arbiter of good taste, I just expect more and really think he can do better.

  • katrav

    Lazy or not, looked like he had great fun doing this!

    And opinions are like a$$h0les, everybody has one!!

  • Principal Dondelinger

    I think what I enjoy about John k’s work is his comedy, He would think of jokes no one would ever come up with(or dare put in a cartoon). He would have these short awkward moments when introducing characters, something that was delightful and silly. I also admired his ability to create strong emotion in a character to deliver a joke or scene (something that’s rare to see in today’s cartoons).

    His later stuff seems like he’s just trying to survive in this hectic business, so I can understand that he’s not able to put in the kind work that he wants to.

    The one thing that bothers me, is the way he constantly hits the same note about the geeky kid being fat. I figured they would add in more jokes after that fact was established. Nope…

  • i like how on johnk’s blogspot there is hella fanboys just stroking his ego and here theres some harsh criticism of his work,, g00d opposites ;-) thnx cartoonbrew

  • Mack the Quack

    the most beautiful commercial I’ve ever seen. I think…I think I’m gonna cry!

    Now if only John K. does a PIXAR film…lol!

  • Kingfish

    I want to temper my earlier review by saying that on second viewing, there is a lot to love in this thing! I still think a few scenes don’t read well, maybe it was rushed at the end of editing.

  • The film was terrific! Bobby’s walk at the start was hilarious and the scene where he flies through the air with wiggling buttocks was incredible. John’s a first class animator and a first class cartoonist rolled into one.