Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I made a cartoon once based on the first fan letter we got for Ren and Stimpy. It was from a kid named Anthony.
So I featured my Dad in the cartoon playing Anthony's father. I used scenes and images that were etched in my brain from being reared by a man who believed in rules and discipline.
This is how I saw him when I came home from school one day all happy, whistling a Frank Sinatra tune and ready to watch the after school cartoons on TV. He heard me come in the door and slowly, ominously turned around...
He shoved the paper in my face and blurted 'YOUR HERO'S DEAD!!!"
The headline said in huge letters
"WALT DISNEY, BELOVED TELLER OF FABLES, DEAD AT 66"
I went into shock. Then Dad took the opportunity to launch into one of his favorite lectures:
"Now maybe you can put away all your little kiddie cartoons and fantasies about being a big shot Hollywood cartoonist, and start thinking about getting serious about your future!"
"You're 11 years old!! Grow the F*@%$!! UP! It's time you started putting your paper route money in the bank. Earn some interest for when you retire."
When Dad got impatient with me (pretty much every day), he always had to hold back his emotions. I could tell part of him wanted to give me the licking I so deserved, but he would pull at his face with his huge meaty hands - the hands of a working man- to hold in the the explosion trying to rip through his skin.
Anyway all these scenes that I actually witnessed growing up ended up in "A Visit To Anthony". During the production, I told my Dad that I was making a special cartoon to honor him and he really looked forward to it. "Finally, the kid's grown up! He's showing me some Goddamn respect at last!!"
So he started telling all his friends about it: "Hey Earl! What does YOUR kid do for a living? Yeah? Ha, big deal. Well MY KID IS IN HOLLYWOOD MAKING PICTURES!! And he made one about me! ME for Chrissakes! You hear that? Yep, he's real mature. Not like that bum of yours you call a son!"

So when the cartoon was finished I got on my private jet from Hollywood and flew up to Ottawa with a video tape of the picture. I didn't show it to him right away though. I waited until we went to the cottage for the weekend.
You've heard of the American Dream? ...2 car garage, a nuclear family etc.? Well the Canadian dream is to have a "cottage".
You know your family's doing OK if you can afford to have a summer home - a rustic house on a lake out in Canada's majestic hinterland.
Well we had a cottage and my Dad had lots of friends on the lake who had their own cottages. We were eating barbecued burgers (Dad calls them "hamburgs") and he was staring at my video tape. "Gimme that Goddamn thing" and he grabbed it and tossed me in the canoe. With one furious stroke he paddled us across the lake to his best friend's cottage the only one on the lake with electricity. Inside a bunch of the guys were hanging around drinking beer, playing darts and telling dirty stories.

They said to me, "Hey Johnnie, did you bring that cartoon of your old man?" I shoved it in the VCR and we all sat down to watch it. Dad sat back in his chair beaming - until a couple minutes into the cartoon and his face turned to stone. All the guys were laughing and slapping their legs
and looking around at him as his face turned purple. They were elbowing him in the ribs and stuff. "Man, you really nailed him didn't you kid!? Har har har!!" "He's got you down, Mike! Guffaw, chortle!" Then they went back to the beer. Dad didn't say anything. In fact he didn't say anything for days.

Then when we went home and I woke up one morning, I sat down at the breakfast table. Dad was there eating his corn flakes. He didn't say anything for minutes; he just gazed at me with steel in his eyes. I was eating my bacon and Kolbassa sandwich when finally the ice broke and he said...

I kinda suspected he didn't like it, that I made him look too much like a harsh disciplinarian. I was about to explain how in cartoons you have to exaggerate and take artistic license to make the stories more entertaining when he told me what he didn't like about the cartoon. "You little twerp...


Whoa! That was the opposite reaction to what I thought I was gonna get! The he went on to explain what he didn't like about the picture.

THE SHAMEFUL "SOFT" SCENES
It was these scenes, when Anthony's father thinks the kid has had an asthma attack brought on by the antics of Ren and Stimpy.
Dad said to me. "I never CRIED over anybody!
And I certainly didn't hug you OR ANYBODY ELSE!!"
"Goddamn it now my friends are gonna make fun of me every time I see them! I guess I'm gonna have to close up the cottage. It's all your fault.
I better get a new son. One that's more of a man LIKE ME."

My Dad believes in "tough love" and that's for damn sure! I now admit that yes, I made up this whole soft sequence in the cartoon just to give some contrast and relief to the tough scenes around it.

I'm going to go home for a visit in July and Dad will probably Indian leg wrestle me now that I've reminded him of the shame I brought upon him by featuring him in the cartoons - and making up some crap that didn't happen.

Anyway, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD, and to all the other dads out there. Don't raise any wimps!
Another scene from real life....
Next year maybe I'll tell you the story about the time Dad gave me and all my teenage buddies a lecture about "Gang Splashes".

44 comments:

Carmine said...

Haha. Great stuff! Nice to know the back story, although it's pretty obvious that Anthony's father, George Liquor, and just a lot of the general "manly" humor in Ren and Stimpy, comes from a real place. It's just too specific and hilarious to not be personal. One of my favorites is the Poodle speech in "Dog Show"...."You're right, I gotta take it like A MANNNNNN!" Awesome stuff.

Carmine said...

Oh, one more thing, forgot to mention that it's surprising to hear Uncle Walt was a childhood hero! So you did, at one point, like Disney cartoons, more than from a technical standpoint?

Elana Pritchard said...

To do a cartoon drawing from such personal experience is true bravery.

You're the manliest man I know, John.

Michael said...

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/04/us/al-jaffee-mad-magazine/index.html

You have to watch out for cartoonists. They may seem quiet, but they're watching like hawks.

"He absorbs it all," says Jaffee's wife, Joyce.

Curt Rivadeneira said...

I like this post a lot.

trenton doyle hancock said...

Explains a lot actually.

Trevor Guitar said...

I can relate enough that it makes me uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure I remember this cartoon too.

Excellent characterization. Very alive.

Also Canadian. Family is from NB, but they moved when I was 1 and a half or so to Ontario (where all the work is!)

Still... glad one of us (Canadian's) made it. Congrats on your career as an artist and animator John.

Laylassong said...

Nice story john! i Love to hear where characters and story ideas come from.thats so cool you used your fans name for a character! Love that cabin picture!

Erik Butter said...

I think i find you're dad in the cartoon even more intimidating, because he is so emotional about his son having a astma attack. Never F%&#k with an dad with an emotional breakdown :P Do you actually feel sorry afterward for making him cry in the cartoon?

jeffreyJack said...

Good thing he wasn't too touchy-feely anyway.
His barnacle encrusted hands would have hurt your soft pansy ass artsy fartsy skin.

SparkyMK3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
paul said...

Hey Johnny, ol' buddy
ol' pal!

You're not gonna believe this!

I had just found out of something
on that particularly awesome website article


http://www.cartoonbrew.com/animators/seth-macfarlane-profile-in-the-new-yorker-10-revelations.html The truth will be revealed if you click here

I'm afraid that your competitor, Seth friggin' McFarlance is not gonna do a Flintstones revival anytime soon, not in the near future!

Chip Butty said...

I always wondered what your dad thought of "A Visit To Anthony," good story!

David de Rooij said...

GREAT STORY!! Thank you for that! And thanks Mr. Dad Kricfalusi!

Noor Red Eye Mula said...

Hahahahaha! :D That's a great story! Finding out your Dad's real reaction towards it was the best part. I too didn't see that one coming.

Best Father's Day tribute ever (IMO)! :)

RHComics said...

I'm quivering with silent laughter while my two month old sleeps beside me

Gigi said...

That was so funny! This episode haunted me for a while, but I still loved it!

Paul B said...

HAHAHHAH! GREAT STORY!
The scene of the lecture always give me the creeps!

Paul B said...

Hey John, at the beginning of the cartoon appears the letter from Anthony. Is that the real letter?

Shawn Dickinson said...

haha! Excellent post!

Proud Anselmo said...

I love that episode! Now I have a whole new insight on it. Reminds me of my dad. I asked my dad for advice once and he told me, "I'm not interested in some soap opera where you tell me about your feelings or what you want out of life. Life doesn't owe you anything but a dirt nap when it's over. The sooner you get used to that, the better."

ickybones said...

HA! Oh man that's great stuff! Yea tough love.

"Now my friends think I'm a wimp!" amazing.

ickybones said...

OH yea and people have been wondering what Anthony is up to now? I'm not sure if you actually kept contact with the kid (who isn't a kid anymore obviously).

Joshua Marchant (Scrawnycartoons) said...

The stories about your Dad are the best! I wait anxiously until you explain what the hell your Dad meant by "You could get 7 to 10 in the big house for having a gang splash".

Ryan G. said...

Great Story. One flick of an oar got you across the lake. Priceless.

Bryan said...

I remember this scene! I must have been 10 or something. Which episode was this? I'd like to see it again.

Someone needs to give you another show already. I know FOX is going to be starting up a new animation night on Saturday to compliment their Sunday Animation Domination. I'm sure you're aware of that already but it would be great for you to have something on there.

HemlockMan said...

Wow! Y'all had a cottage! HOT DAMN!

Scott Cardona said...

Id like to see the model sheet for anthonys dad. Looks tough to animate!

Zak S said...

This is one of my favorite episodes, and the dramatic tonal shifts are what make it for me. Ren and Stimpy feeling cornered by this man, not knowing what he's going to do next, are what did it for me. Great job.

Steven M. said...

Fascinating story. Plus, thats a nice cottage.

Alok N R said...

Hi john, Thanks for sharing this.i am sure it was really intense and personal and you are truly brave to have done it.(and then later show it your dad!).Was really moved by this post.really touched.Life inspires art.Art makes life worth it.Thanks.

Roberto Severino said...

Hilarious Father's Day story, John, though I was pretty late on making the comment. Haha! I thought you didn't like the way certain parts of the cartoon turned out, like the voice for Anthony's dad. In my opinion, A Visit to Anthony is one of the most heartfelt Ren and Stimpy cartoons I've ever watched and you and Jim Smith did an amazing job with the storyboards despite whatever problems existed in the final cartoon.

Mattieshoe said...

This is such a wonderful post, John.

I never had the hard discipline of a a working man from The Greatest Generation that every child deserves, As much as I love him, My dad is a tail-end baby boomer with enabling pseudo-hippie philosophies, and though I may call him out on this, I inherited much of my punk-ass liberalism from him, and I feel like that's an issue lots of kids from Generation X onwards face.

It just makes me glad we've got cartoons like A Visit to Anthony to help set us kids straight by teaching us some good old-fashioned tough love.

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffery Wright said...

I shouldnt have read this at the office, I was laughing so hard I nearly pissed myself.

JohnK, you da man!

Selby said...

Haha, you seem to have an "interesting" father. Hopefully you dont treat your kids the same! (If you have kids).

Great stuff man. 90's kid talking here. Ren and Stimpy is one of the top cartoons from my childhood that I still see significance in to this day.

Jesse Soto said...

You got a lot of animators to draw your dad, and forever immortalized him in cartoon history. That's mad respect. You are a man for doing that for your old man!

kurtwil said...

The Anthony episode was very unique wrt Ren and Stimpy: resonates like REN SEEKS HELP.

Would love hear/get link to what JK thinks of the whole Seth Macfarlane animation universe (IMHO seems an opposite to JK, relying heavily on writing (and profanity - Seth loves that F word) .vs. artistry).

Also, JK, any comments on BRAVE: Another TANGLED?

Carmine said...

I would also love to hear John's opinion on ANYTHING. Macfarlane, South Park, etc. I was also hoping he'd comment on the 3 stooges movie, but I guess we can all assume how he feels about that ;) .

Joshua Marchant (Scrawnycartoons) said...

Why would John comment on Seth Macfarlane or South Park or any of that stuff when everybody dog-piles on him for being a negative-nancy whenever he does?

Stich said...

Oh, man! I always wondered if you showed your old man that toon. I figured you had. Jesus, is he a tough son of a bitch. Glad you survived him.

Ginger Roberts said...

What you did for Anthony was really sweet John. Proves you really care about your fans. In fact you care about making cartoons rather than money. You have good taste.

Griffin Calhoun said...

wow, you're dad is hardcore, man

there is something about that generation of men that makes them super serious and sometimes rageful, I guess it was World War 2?

Sandra Owens said...

Dad will always be special to me, especially to me who's a daddy's girl. That's why I make it a point to create a card with special fathers day messages and give to him on his special day. Happy Father's day to all wonderful dad around the world!