Some cartoons are silly gags, but what happens when animators stop being nice and start getting real mean about who they hate in the industry?
You want to imagine that animation is created by magical pixies who transmit cartoons to us from the world of make believe, but that simply isn’t the case. Animation is the work of people, women and men who spend late nights and long weekends drawing, coloring, writing, and voicing your favorite characters. And like all flesh and blood people, animators are imperfect. They carry grudges and vendettas against other cartoons and people in their industry. Those demons often get excised in the cartoons themselves – and I don’t just mean by angry South Korean animators.
If you’ve ever watched any of these, these insults might just fly over your head. But when looked at with an eye towards the history of the medium or the creators’ lives, the targets become very obvious. So, let’s get ready to read between the lines, and take a closer look at some of the most pointed insults one cartoon ever directed at another…
7. Simpsons Vs. Ren & Stimpy
John Kricfalusi’s name is going to pop up a lot in this article, but it’s hard to avoid one of the biggest lightning rods in modern animation. In the early ’90s, John K. was one of the most well-known figures in cartoons, and his style of having animators run Ren & Stimpy instead of Hollywood writers who can’t draw was quite a change. Just as everyone else was doing at the time, John K. compared his show to the early ’90s other breakout cartoon, The Simpsons. Kricfalusi gave backhanded compliments about The Simpsons being good in spite of being writer-driven, which obviously offended Matt Groening and his crew, based on a joke in 1993’s episode, The Front.
That entire episode is a send-up of the entire animation industry, including caricatures of the Simpsons’ writing and animation staff. But the meanest dig of all came at the finale during an awards show. After mocking the toy driven He-Man toons of the ’80s, Ren & Stimpy’s “season premiere” was nominated as well. When it came time to show it, up popped a glaring “Clip Not Done Yet” prompt. It was a very obvious mockery of R&S’s sluggish production pace, always late and often having to cancel episodes thanks to John K.’s very… engaging way of producing cartoons. Funnily enough, by the time this episode aired, Kricfalusi had already been fired by Nickelodeon for (among other things) the chronic lateness of R&S. And by 2015, John K. had patched things up with The Simpsons, even animating the above couch gag.
6. Fractured Fairy Tales Vs. Walt Disney
Any cartoon can make fun of how commercialized and capitalistic Walt Disney and his eponymous theme parks are. But how many were doing it while Uncle Walt was still alive? Rocky & Bullwinkle took snarky asides at just about everyone in pop culture back then, including themselves, so why should Walt be any different. And given how much of Disney was based around public domain folklore, Fractured Fairy Tales was the perfect place to mock Disney and his many lands.
By the early 1960s, Disneyland was in full swing, and at that time commenting on the long lines and overpriced tickets was fresh. The same goes with drawing Sleeping Beauty’s prince to look just like old Walt – heck, the bit at the end about the prince never joining a union seems to be a comment on Disney’s dislike of unionized labor. And this incisive commentary was wrapped up in just enough snark that kids might not get it. I know I had no clue about Variety newspapers back at age 8. Who knows how Disney himself felt about Fractured Fairy Tales’ mockery? By this point Walt was probably too busy/suffering the early effects of lung cancer to notice.
5. Bee Movie Vs. Pixar
Now, you may remember Bee Movie as a series of overbearing advertisements seen on virtually every screen in America, like the commercial below. The endless ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld’s constant presence soured many on the film before they even saw a moment of it. The film itself did alright at the box office, and it was your typical collection of smug heroes and pop culture references that you expect from a Dreamworks CG feature. Some of that smarm was spent mocking Pixar’s boss, though apparently that wasn’t due to the longstanding Pixar/Dreamworks rivalry. Instead, this was reportedly Jerry’s call.
If you’ve ever watched special features on a Pixar film or a US Ghibli DVD, you’ve seen John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Disney Animation. He’s a heavyset man with glasses, thinning hair, and a whimsical love for Hawaiian shirts. All of those match a fat guy that Jerry’s character nearly crashes on while looking for a flower to land a plane on (don’t ask). It’s a pretty easy fat joke to make about the man, all because Lasseter had some understandably cautious words for Seinfeld about Dreamworks boss Jeffrey Katzenberg. Clearly Jerry is protective of his friends, though if being mocked in a highly forgettable cartoon is the punishment, I wouldn’t mind all that much.
Read on to see who hates Family Guy the most, as well as the meanest thing ever done to Alvin and The Chipmunks…