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Book Review: “Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story”

bookI may be risking my 30-year friendship with John Kricfalusi by saying this, but Thad Komorowski’s new book, Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story, is a really great read. Beyond that, Thad went to great lengths – without the cooperation of John K or anyone at Nickelodeon – to research the history of the show and its participants, and to tell a compelling and cautionary tale of rags-to-riches cartoon success in contemporary Hollywood. The story is woven together through extensive interviews with key players including Bob Camp, Billy West, Bob Jaques and a dozen others – Komorowski also traces Spumco’s roots from John’s early days with Filmation and Bakshi, with extensive critiques of the Ren & Stimpy cartoons themselves (a complete episode guide is included in the appendix), through to the latter day excesses of the Spike shows. The whole story is here, meticulously researched, clearly justifying the show’s important role in the recent history of animation. There’s no question Spumco changed the face of television animation – and still influences series, students and independent animators today. Love it or hate it, this book explains how it all came to be – and for that, it’s a must-read.

  • Joel

    I really want to read this now. Thanks for the news! ^_^

  • Perdo Nakama

    Somebody has to tell the story.

  • OtherDan

    So is it a “Tell All”, or a “Cautionary Tale”? Tell all would be surprising based on what I’ve heard.

  • Ted W

    Can’t wait for my copy to arrive

  • EHH

    No cooperation with Nickelodeon? Meh, that’s to be expected.

    No cooperation with John K and talking to Billy West? …this ought to be interesting.

  • Dino

    Thad is a sharp cookie. He writes like a critic, in the Michael Barrier mold, rather than a gushing fanboy. I can’t wait to see how he handles the delinquent genius-beast that was Spumco. My copy is in the mail.

  • Toonio

    I still remember that Howard Stern show where Howard told Billy W to say sorry to John K for taking over Ren’s voice role. Billy looked very aggravated and John had this cynical smile that made the whole situation very funny (planned or not).

    As John K can be quite eccentric I’m guessing he got worse after “graduating” over Bakshi’s studio. But you know, if there is eccentricity to serve a purpose so be it. Now if its just to troll people around, well that’s very wrong.

    I’m hopping this book answers why people in the industry avoid talking about John K. like the plague. Many times I’ve talked with animators that worked with him and their faces changed on the spot when I brought the topic up.

    Funny enough you hear all the tragic tales around former Bakshi animators but you barely hear the success stories of Bruce Timm and others.

    Guess tragedy will always outsell success.

    • High Minded Civilian

      I’ve heard my fair share of less than flattering Bruce Timm stories.

  • AnimationGuy

    I find it very hard to believe that this book will be fair to John. The impression I get is that it’s built mostly around interviews with people who don’t like the guy. It’s a little like getting a biography of Lincoln written by John Wilkes Booth.

    Anway, I’ll read the book and hope for the best.

    • Not true at all and that’s a gross, exaggerated misinterpretation of what Jerry wrote and of my intentions (though this IS Ren & Stimpy we’re talking about, so that’s par for the course). If all of the some sixty/seventy-plus people I interviewed/spoke with “don’t like the guy,” it’s news to me. Believe me, the “authorized” version wouldn’t have considered taking the opinions of even a fraction of those I interviewed into account.

      • Inkan1969

        Congrats on your book, Thad. If I may ask, why did you not have the cooperation of John K or Nick? Did you decide not to ask either on purpose, or did either refuse to cooperate? And has John K himself made any comment on the book?
        I still have the issue of an old magazine called “Wild Cartoon Kingdom” with a lengthy article on the development of R&S, and John K’s firing. It was a compelling read. Did you have something to do with that article?

        • That rag was so heavily biased in favor of John that it has no merit as a serious look at the issue.

          This will be quite a read, especially if it gives the Games episodes a fair assessment. Even the DVD reviews of the cartoons think nothing of tearing them apart for simply being made after the Spumco-Nick split.

          • Mike Russo

            Psst, he did it anonymously, but John K himself wrote that Wild Cartoon Kingdom article, Ken.

            And Thad spends an entire chapter discussing the most worthwhile Games cartoons (Ren’s Bitter Half, Double Header, I Was a Teenage Stimpy, Ren’s Brain…). So yeah, it’s a very fair assessment of those later shows.

  • troy

    where do you buy it from?

    i live in australia

  • Kingfish

    Whoa. $30 for the paperback!

  • matt mozgiel

    Cool, would be an interesting read.

  • Ken, Thad,etc. I used to have that Wild Cartoon Kingdom issue (that article was written under the name THOMAS in the famed activist!)..and I knew a long time ago that it was a pseudonym.I also remember the definition of a “story editor”, one screening all the entertainment value out of a cartoon!