Sody Pop Rides the Carousel: A Tale of Two Independents
(continued from page 2)

George Liquor’s appearance on Ren and Stimpy was one of the edgiest events in TV history. © Spumco.

These "middle periods" ended under eerily similar circumstances: Each man was ejected from a promising career just when things looked to be at their best. John Hubley was "released" by UPA during the Anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s; even though Hubley was still among the studio’s guiding forces and the allegations surrounding him were largely unproven, UPA simply did not want to deal with the controversy. John Kricfalusi created the highly successful series The Ren and Stimpy Show for Nickelodeon, then bitterly fought the network over deadlines, budget, censorship and creative direction; at the height of the show’s popularity Nickelodeon fired him. Yet another similarity: The downfall of each artist can be more or less traced to a single cartoon. In Hubley’s case the "culprit" was The Brotherhood of Man, a film about humanity in harmony that was somehow interpreted as Communist propaganda by his antagonists. For Kricfalusi the pivotal short was the Ren and Stimpy episode "Man’s Best Friend," axed by Nickelodeon due to the presence of the controversial character George Liquor and Ren’s trepanning of that character with an oar. This act of censorship marked the transition from strained relationship to all-out war.

A Chance At Freedom
John Hubley and John Kricfalusi both entered their next stages of growth as independents, each with their own studios. Hubley went into advertising and produced many famous TV commercials; he became a frequent fixture at awards ceremonies. At the same time, he and his wife Faith continued to create animated shorts as a personal passion. Many of their projects such as Moonbird, Adventures of an * and Everybody Rides the Carousel are acknowledged classics of independent animation. These shorts were generally not available to the public as standard cartoon fare; one had to attend showings or festivals to see them.

John and Faith Hubley’s Everybody Rides the Carousel is considered an animation classic. © Pyramid Media.

Kricfalusi went into advertising and soon took home an award for his snappy Old Navy commercials. At the same time, he continued to produce animated shorts as a personal passion. Many of his projects, such as The Goddamn George Liquor Show, are among the subversive classics of independent animation. These projects are generally not available to the public as standard cartoon fare; if one wants to follow the adventures of George Liquor, Jimmy the Idiot Boy and Sody Pop, one must have a personal computer, Internet access and a Shockwave plug-in to see them.

Kricfalusi and Hubley both shattered the prevailing conventions of their times: In Hubley’s case, his fusion of jazz and modern art represented an aesthetic that ran counter to Disney. For Kricfalusi it was a bizarre, 1950s retro style and bold use of heavy line and color that set his work apart from the cheaply produced limited-animation hackwork that prevailed on Saturday mornings. Both men were also multi-talented at a time when animation was becoming increasingly specialized; they could design characters, create backgrounds and layouts, write dialogue, do voice work, produce and direct.

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