Sody Pop Rides the Carousel: A Tale of Two Independents
(continued from page 3)

Both men contributed at least one dearly-loved icon to the pantheon of American animated characters: John Hubley was clearly the most powerful influence in the creation of Mister Magoo and Kricfalusi gave the world the aforementioned Ren and Stimpy. Even these seemingly disparate characters have astonishing things in common: Magoo, Ren and Stimpy were designed to be secondary characters. Magoo was a supporting player in his first cartoon; the actual star was supposed to be a bear. Ren and Stimpy were originally house pets in one of Kricfalusi’s early proposals to Nickelodeon. After their ousting both artists saw ex-compatriots take over these characters and diminish them from their original conceptions. Pete Burness softened Magoo’s character until the old coot eventually lost his deliciously crusty disposition, and Bob Camp took over Ren and Stimpy only to see the show ebb in popularity without Kricfalusi’s manic guidance to keep it afloat.

John Hubley’s vision wasn’t what Martin Rosen had intended for Watership Down.

Hubley and Kricfalusi both met with disappointment in the realm of feature films as well. Hubley was involved in an animated production of Finian’s Rainbow that never made it to the screen and twenty years later was fired from the movie Watership Down, most likely due to creative differences with producer Martin Rosen. Kricfalusi spent an inordinate amount of time in the early 1990s pitching a proposed feature-length film tentatively titled The Ripping Friend to major studios; no deals were struck.

Finally, mention must be made of their similarities in temperament: Both men were radically independent, acerbic, passionate artists with little tolerance for rigidity, stupidity and conformity. Both were outspoken about their art and were notably quick to sting those who held conflicting opinions about their work. Kricfalusi and Hubley both shunned repetition. In his autobiography, Shamus Culhane recalled that, "John (Hubley) was never tied down to techniques that he was already familiar with," while Kricfalusi once stated in an interview that, "No matter what I do it’s going to be new ‘cause I don’t want to do the same shit over again." Each in his own way was out to make the world a better place; Hubley became deeply involved in social issues, while Kricfalusi became a champion for creator’s rights within the animation industry.

Director John Hubley also served as producer of the 1977 Doonsbury Special with wife, Faith. © Pyramid Media.

And the point, loyal readers? Simply this: Where we’re going is where we’ve been. Techniques will become more sophisticated and the medium will become increasingly respectable as an art form, but the future of animation will rest upon visionary figures that have the ability to step outside the current conventions of the genre, examine them through a unique, personal filter and feed them back to audiences in startling new configurations. John Hubley and John Kricfalusi, following virtually the same paths, managed to perform these feats in completely different ways and we are all the richer for it.

A final note: When John Kricfalusi created one of his faux-commercials for The Ren and Stimpy Show, he illustrated a happy bunch of children playing with their indispensable toy "Log." One of the children is a dead ringer for another tyke featured in a series of commercials from the 1950s. That child was a pitchman for Maypo cereal, and its creator and designer was...John Hubley.

Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.

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