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Music Videos

A Look at John Kricfalusi’s Animation For Miley Cyrus ‘Bangerz’ Tour

Miley Cyrus’s new “Bangerz” concert tour launched in Vancouver on Valentine’s Day, with the concert’s opening number featuring animated visuals by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. News of the collaboration between Cyrus and Kricfalusi was first announced last month.

John K. provided nearly 2-1/2 minutes of animation for the song “SMS (Bangerz),” which begins after Cyrus opens the concert by sliding down a gigantic version of her own tongue. Kricfalusi’s animation is as colorful and aggressive as the action onstage, and his wildly cartooned Miley reveals a caricaturist in peak form. He interprets some of the song lyrics, like “I’m flying high up on a bird,” literally, while others such as, “I let them know the rents due on the first,” are imagined more whimsically (the latter is depicted by Cyrus punching a giant blonde woman in the butt). The animation, which mostly features Cyrus and a cast of animals ‘strutting that stuff’ per the song’s lyrics, is untied to any grand narrative, but serves its purpose well as an accompaniment to Cyrus’s calculated attempt to be irreverent.

Kricfalusi has posted a bunch of concept drawings and production artwork on his blog, along with credits for who animated what. It’s hard to find a decent version of the sequence posted online, but the following recording shows a fair bit of the action beginning at the 2:28 mark.

  • megadrivesonic

    Its nice to see John Kricfalusci is getting more animation work.. but I really don’t what to think of this.

    • Ain’t that the truth. I’d take his Simpsons couch gag over this in a heartbeat.

      • mick

        really? I just rewatched the simpson’s couch gag that John K did and it is absolutely bobbins. Go watch it again, it’s just a big mess

        • Princess Sparkle

          I agree 100%. It’s awful.

    • khan8282

      Man, I am totally of the opposite opinion. I think she’s the perfect subject for his style of caricature. The drawings are awesome, and the fact that he’s actually getting paid to produce animation with them is just phenomenal. Then you watch the video and there are dancers dressed as multi-colored cats or something dancing around on the stage while the animation plays — it’s just a bizarro clusterf**k of awesomeness and it makes me glad to live in a time when interesting animation can pop up anywhere at any time.

      I just think it’s too bad I’d have to go to an entire Miley Cyrus concert just to see that one song, ’cause that’s not going to happen.

      • Roberto Severino

        That’s probably the best part about this video. The music itself is just….ugh.

      • nevilleross

        Your loss if all you can love is indie alternative artists like Arcade Fire, but he’s not doing work with them, he’s doing work with her. I might go see this concert when it hit Toronto (I do keep an open mind with music.)

  • George Comerci

    Well, gotta love those creative visuals. But the whole Miley aspect just annoys me…everything’s just in my face and crazy. I really don’t know what to think…

    • Roberto Severino

      Yeah definitely and that’s kind of what turned me off initially when I first heard the news about this. I still have mixed feelings too.

  • SubPopGeek

    I think it’s great. It always felt like he was more of an adult-themed animator, trapped in a kiddie-cartoon box. After R&S and MM, he started sharing more of his work, and this doesn’t even come close to some of the more extreme stuff. For Miley’s persona, this works well, and its fun.

  • Chris B

    whatever Miley Cyrus is paying him, let’s kickstarter double that to see some new Ren & Stimpy!

    • Steven Finch, Attorney at Law

      He already did a Kickstarter and got over $100,000 for a ten-minute short, which he ran off with and produced nothing.

      • haha did not know that.

      • Chris B

        woah, I didn’t know that either!

        You’re probably right (and maybe this is a little naive) but his kickstarter project was about a year and a half ago… so it may still be in the works.

        here’s the link:

        • jmahon

          I’ve backed a fair lot of good kickstarters, and the people behind them are ususally bursting at the seams when it comes to updates- they really want to keep you in the loop about what’s going on, and for me as a fan who’s interested, it’s always fun when they send update newsletters. To not have ANY updates for a while year is unthinkable- some of the ones I’ve kickstarted do a weekly one on their progress.

          • Roberto Severino

            Now John’s blog is apparently a team member blog. If you’re not a team member, than you can’t comment on the posts. Oh man, I’d like to know exactly what’s going on here and why John’s been acting this way.

      • Roberto Severino

        I can see why a lot of people were so pissed off by that. I mean I was really looking forward to that short being made but was kinda disappointed with the timing and all. Honestly, although I really like John’s caricatures, I would have much preferred that short to be finished than this.

      • Beamish Kinowerks

        I’m still glad that I contribued to it, though. I was lucky enough to actually get my reward, a John McCain “inaction” figure.

      • Mr. X
        • Funkybat

          I’m glad to see at least this much work was completed on “Cans Without Labels” before it was put on (indefinite?) hiatus. But I have to say I’m disappointed that the animation appears to be reliant on vector shape and tween tools, either Toon Boom Animate or Flash. John K. can still draw just as great as back in the Ren & Stimpy era, but seeing this in motion gives me a disquieting feeling. The timing is just not as snappy as pre-digital, though I can tell he tries to push it. I mean, this is much better animation than most stuff I’ve seen done using these digital shortcuts, but they are still when you get down to it, computerized shortcuts. It “shows” just as much as even the finest CG doesn’t look as natural as the great puppet & animatronic work in pre-90s movies.

          I suppose it is probably too cost & labor-intensive for John K. to do things totally “old fashioned”, but I wish more animators would use things like Toon Boom as digital in and paint and layout, but lay off the automated tweens and shape deformers.

  • Animator606432

    I would watch the animation, but then Youtube would recommend a bunch of Miley Cyrus crap to me and…..yeah I don’t want that. The art looks cool but, honestly, I feel like it’s a waste. I feel like it should go to someone who fits more John’s aesthetic and style. Cyrus’ stuff is so corporate and creatively bankrupt that this feels like some lame attempt to give her some “indie” credit. Or then again, it could just be my obvious bias. I haven’t heard the best thins and John when it comes to his work ethic (cartoon adult party was terrible as well) so maybe he’s to blame as well.

    • mick

      I feel like it should go to someone who fits more John’s aesthetic and style. Cyrus’ stuff is so corporate and creatively bankrupt that this feels like some lame attempt to give her some “indie” credit

      all that without watching it, you’re a genius

  • Mister Twister

    The kind of music your parents don’t want you to listen.

    Unless you are over 25; in that case they wouldn’t need to worry.

  • Yui Ana

    I’m not a huge fan of John K’s “new style”… but I have to say: I love all these sketches. Especially the early Miley sketches and the last pic on the bottom. Now, I’m not too big a Miley fan either (though my younger sister is weakening my resolve–“4×4” is kinda catchy), but I’m willing to see how far this will go. If it means more cool art, than I guess it’s a necessary (or a really, really unnecessary) evil.

    • Roberto Severino

      They still look solid and all but something’s missing and it’s kind of a hard feeling to get over.

      • IJK

        I think it’s the vector look. For his stuff, it seems to really take away from it. Compare these drawings + the Adult Swim promo, Weird Al video, and Simpsons gag to when he has full crews working with his style (BooBoo goes nuts, Ren & Stimpy) and the latter stuff just feels more solid, better inked, not as flat like a fridge magnet.

        The pencil sketches look much better. And that’s not some typical “THE SKETCH ALWAYS LOOKS BETTER” comment. Ernest and Celestine looks amazing with color, some of the crew’s Steven Universe out-of-studio doodles look great with color, and so forth.

        • IJK

          Probably should have noted, I don’t hate the vector look. I think Craig McCracken’s stuff was made for it. And stuff like Jimmy Two-Shoes looks really great. But I think that look works better the simpler your design is.

  • Rebecca P

    Kricfalusi’s animation is spot on and everything you would expect from him. Though if I were in Cyrus’ position, I might take some time to reflect on the fact that Kricfalusi’s animation coincides seamlessly with my current image.

  • top_cat_james

    Nice of Miley to put the animation at the very beginning of her show, so the audience can leave immediately afterward.

  • The work John K did fits perfectly with Miley’s show! I love it.

  • rubber nipples
  • RCooke

    Like the sketchbook stuff. But the final animation is pretty dreadful. Still, I’d rather watch that than miley cyrus.

  • Love the look…its seems as if John K breaks all of the “rules” he preached for years…not that there are any rules.

  • Elana Pritchard

    Very aggressive

  • Austin Papageorge

    For all of his exhortations for “appeal” in animation drawings, these are sure eyesores.

    • Roberto Severino

      I don’t think it’s his best work either. Kinda too rough for me. I would have much preferred his Simpsons intro and Adult Swim promo when he was still sort playing around with UPA and Fleischer influences.

  • Roberto Severino

    I’m sorry to say this but I find John’s earlier music videos to be a lot more appealing and fun to look at than these. These just feel kinda cold to look at and don’t have as much of that humanity and soul. Maybe it’s because Miley’s far more corporate than say someone like Weird Al or Bjork.

  • Oslaf

    From Disney’s to John K’s, but always a cartoon. That’s Miley’s career in a nutshell.

  • mick

    Nice cheeky cartoony loops. Commisioned, animated, delivered and paid for. Where’s the problem? John K is a jobbing cartoonist, what do you want from him, to check whether you all think his client has credibility??

  • Oh You Know

    I’m curious to know why the only mention of animation is John K’s stuff. A lot of other studios did animation / visuals for her tour too.

  • Axolotl

    Cool, but why are there performers marching around in front of it? I don’t think they add anything.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    The best music video I’ve seen in ages!

  • Roberto Severino

    I hope after this, he’ll go back to blogging full time and maybe finish Cans. His blog was something I visited all the time in its peak and now it’s come to this.

  • SamJ

    Is it really selling out if he’s completely improving the thing he’s working on?

  • mick

    without ren and stimpy we wouldn’t have had.. dexter’s… power puff girls… spongebob… basically everything that we have in good cartoons is down to John K’s (and the talent he brought with him) game changing efforts.

    His continued relevance is down to the fat vegas Elvis analogy… no one fell in love with fat vegas Elvis, they fell in love with Blue Hawaii Elvis… when he turned into fat vegas Elvis they were still in love with Blue Hawaii Elvis.. right now John K is wearing a cape and throwing karate moves in vegas, getting his knickers stuffed with bills… some of us will always be in love with John K no matter how bill filled his vegas knickers become

    • Roberto Severino

      Nicely put. No matter how far he gets away from what he had been advocating before on his blog, he will always have the legacy of changing the face of animation forever and trying to bring cartoony cartoons back from the dead.

      There’s a lot we owe him for sure. I’ve seen people lately try to knock R&S just because of the gross out humor it used and that newer cartoons are just relying on that stuff rather than having actual substance but these people also underestimate the influence it had on shows like PPG and Dexter and even SpongeBob.

      Even a clip I recently saw from the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on YouTube had this scene where the character Pinkie Pie was going insane and you could clearly see some color changes and dark spots that look straight out of R&S and to be fair the Warner cartoons that used that technique. I’m amazed at how much of an impact it continues to have over two decades later.

  • HalSolo

    That’s maybe the best animation of John K’s career. It looks like it works fantastically well with the concert, too – after so much of his work felt underdeveloped or limited animation, seeing his style taken to this extreme was fantastic. Maybe it’s the perfect marriage of a pop star who needs someone to take her new persona to this level of exaggeration with an artist who needs the liberation of being able to do something to the level he wants, but it feels liberating for both of them. I’ll be honest – I haven’t enjoyed any of John K’s sex gags over the years as much as that Rocky training parody with the Stripper’s Ass.

  • Harrison

    Only one problem with his animation. He made Miley’s pancake butt way too big.

  • Nikolas

    Entertaining song and very fun video!

  • Joe

    Here’s some rough animation of the John K’s animals someone posted a while back:

    • Roberto Severino

      Hey! I spotted a pony in there and a character that’s sort of reminded me of Jake from Adventure Time. Hmmmmm….I’ll give him that.

  • Roberto Severino

    I’m just at that point where I’ve gotten so impatient and unhappy with the direction he has been taking the past few years and naturally disillusioned because a lot of my favorite animation blogs don’t really post as much as they used to with social networking having a larger stronghold and all.

    More of those criticisms I’ve heard about the man himself are starting to make much more sense with the deadlines and petty feuds but at the same time, he was nice enough to give me some drawing advice privately in an email a few years ago so that’s why I’m still conflicted as to what I should think. Cans is a perfect example of that though its just as likely he’s just doing this Miley Cyrus stuff to get that short back into production.

    It would be kind of sad if the accusations about this man having L. Ron Hubbard tendencies actually hold water. Some other people who know him and are still friends with the guy have had better luck and success with their animation jobs because they understand the importance of meeting a network deadline.

    • Mr. X

      You like most people also forget the fact that the Nick executives would reject finished stories he had done.

  • Joe

    As for the animation itself, I mostly don’t like it. It seems like he’s going for a Jim Tyer-esque sloppyness that doesn’t work for his style, IMO. The limited animation on the animals is great, but Cyrus’ character animation looks very rushed and unappealing outside of some cool moments that should’ve been taken further.

  • Max W

    So would most other people who were born at the beginning of last century.

  • I don’t think John K animated the Weird AL video, just designed the characters.

  • Princess Sparkle

    This is pretty hilarious.

  • Austin Papageorge

    This is an animation site. Why spend a paragraph whining about how a certain celebrity’s body doesn’t fit your weirdass preferences?

    • Barrett

      I was talking about John K’s caricaturization of Miley Cyrus, not about any of my own “preferences.” Stop projecting your neuroses on others. It’s perfectly valid for me to point out on an animation site that he seems to be exaggerating things that aren’t there. Kind of like if some cartoonist drew George Lucas with a large, strong chin, or Patrick Stewart with long, flowing hair.

  • Mr. X

    Turned out pretty funny. Did you even watch them, or are you just following the herd of sheep who denounced it for being a cartoon?

  • Rayberay

    I actually found this hilarious in that Miley will go out of her way to hire an artist that will portray her in the most exaggerated, NEGATIVE(!) light.

    To explain:

    Look at her in these sketches. It’s an exaggerated, demeaning, sexist portrayal that offers an *extremely* shallow image of Miley that highlights only her physical form (boobs, butt, bikini) and exaggerates her negative stereotypes that are associated with her (sluttishness, apparent dimness, her everpresent tongue).

    Under any other circumstances, the artist would want to DISTANCE themself from this sort of exaggerated, negative caricature, but Miley PAID John K to make her LOOK like this. As a result, I don’t know how much is Miley trying to be “ironic” and how much John K biting the hand that feeds him, but the fact that this type of image is there speaks a lot about either John K’s talent at getting subtext past the radar or Miley’s cluelessness about his intent.

  • IJK

    The thing is though, I’ve seen some INCREDIBLE student shorts produced with little to no “crews”. It’s just the main artist and some assistants from around the college. Some of them get grants and manage to get a couple of professionals to help, but they still do all that work in around 4 – 8 months time (Depends if it’s a thesis or per-semester film as with the case of CalArts) and make some really stunning things.

    John K. has no deadline and can work in the same manner as those students. Some people on his blog are willing to work with him for free, so it’s just kind of odd to me that he’s going for shortcuts when he has all the time in the world (Talking about Cans and any future independent shorts).

  • nevilleross

    The ticket prices for Arcade Fire probably concerts aren’t any better, seeing that they are touring in the same places as Cyrus is. Also, they’re asking for their fans to dress up for the event (in contrast to Cyrus’s fans just being themselves) and the pomposity is completely mega coming from them on that point.

  • David Grant Lloyd

    John K is the best animator since Bakshi. The more work we see from him the better. These drawings are amazing. I wasn’t much of a Cyrus fan before, but I think I might be now (especially if she gets John to animate a whole series of video clips for her!)

  • DangerMaus

    How the “mighty” have fallen when they are reduced to that.