4. Clerks Animated Series Vs. Family Guy
The spotty quality of Kevin Smith’s work over the last 20 years is a topic for another day, but one of the last really fun productions Smith made was the animated version of his first film, Clerks. The show only aired two episodes, mainly because ABC wanted nothing to do with the program, but the mere six episodes that exist have enough sass to last a lifetime. Their favorite target? Seth MacFarlane, whose Family Guy had just premiered. (Seth would eventually sling some mud back.)
I think the producers of Clerks would feel hatred towards any competing prime time cartoon in 2000, but the then-new Family Guy inspired a LOT of hate from Kevin Smith and co. Producer Dave Klein seemed to be the angriest about Family Guy’s undeserved success – he was the one who pitched the joke about reading a book called “How To Write Cartoons By Seth MacFarlane,” a name that basically no one knew in 2000. Just make it clearer, that episode’s DVD commentary features Mandel tearing Family Guy apart. Just imagine how angry he is now, 16 years later with Family Guy still on the air and Seth MacFarlane as one of the richest men in Hollywood.
3. South Park Vs. Family Guy
Clerks may have been there first in attacking Family Guy, but they weren’t the ones who hit the hardest. The episode is a decade old, it still feels incredibly current, and not just because cartoons about Muslims was at the center of the story. Back in 2006, South Park was the first of its contemporaries to call out Family Guy for having zero substance and being a show so boring that manatees randomly associating words could do the same thing. In fact, Cartman’s speech about hating Family Guy seems to just be taken directly from co-creator Trey Parker’s mouth.
It only grows from Cartman’s monologue expressing the creators hatred about being compared Family Guy, as South Park alleges Family Guy isn’t written by anyone. In the same two parter, South Park also takes the time to mock Simpsons’ for losing some of its bite, as well as themselves for getting way too preachy, all while talking up the power of free speech. I better you’d never see Family Guy handle even one of those themes as deftly, let alone all of them. You think THAT’S bad….
2. Mighty Mouse Vs. Alvin And The Chipmunks
And we’re back again to John Kricfalusi, though he’s merely an accessory to this character assassination. The 1980s were a terrible time for American animation, with many animators taking whatever work they could get, even on the Alvin and the Chipmunks film. Some of those great animators, like Bob Jaques, would go uncredited, so they were ready to tear apart the Chipmunks on their next job. When Jaques met Kricfalusi during the new Mighty Mouse cartoon, he suggested an episode tearing apart Alvin and his creator, Ross Bagdasarian. And they got really personal in their mockery.
Likely going right over the heads of kids in the late ’80s, this Mighty Mouse episode’s Tree Weasels are an average parody of Alvin and the Chipmunks, but the real work went into Bagdasarian’s stand-in. Named Sandy Bottomfeeder, the Tree Weasels’ manager is a controlling, depressed, insane loser who seems to be holding the poor guys captive while getting rich off of their success. He’s a pitiful creature, and the animators worked extra hard to make the jokes as personal as possible.
First off, there are numerous reference to a dog that had been run over – a joke about Bagdasarian’s dog Tiger Lily which was run over in real life. But the meanest recurring joke of all is one that should only make sense to Laser Time fans. Remember when we wrote about the rampant product placement in the Chipmunks animated film, including a super obvious Cheerios box? Sandy spends the entire Mighty Mouse cartoon with a mouthful of Cheerios, and the animators took extra care with the faux-Cheerios box, perhaps because they hated drawing the obvious ad in the cartoon back in the day.
1. Ren & Stimpy Vs. John Kricfalusi
And now, dear animation nerds, we come to the meanest set of inside jokes of all. As guest Bob Mackey mentioned on our “Creators Fired” podcast, Ren & Stimpy was one of the most volatile productions in animation history. For all the great toons it begat, there was a lot of anguish thanks to John Kricfalusi’s erratic work schedule and slow production. After being fired by Nickelodeon, he’d go on mocking the show from the sidelines while his former employees made the show without him. Now, you COULD read an engrossing book on the production, but watching the cartoon version is a lot faster.
Played by Batman ’66’s The Riddler, Reverend Jack Cheese is a nutty, irritable man who never finishes anything and craps all over his disciples once they take over. Sure, the episode seems to be mocking religion, but as Jack Cheese morphs to look more and more like the unhinged John K., the intent becomes clear. The animators even said they had Jack repeat words they’d heard Kricfalusi shout in the past, even though they just sound like non sequiturs in the cartoon. After disappearing and getting thrown out by the meat police, the disgraced Reverend screams “you’ll beg me to come back!” Then, when Ren and Stimpy take over Jack’s meat puppet show, the Reverend shows up to throw rocks at the poor guys, a pretty obvious reference to John K.’s many media appearances mocking the animators that took over after he was fired.
John Kricfalusi would eventually be rehired to do Ren & Stimpy, where he would once again be very late, spend too much money, and get fired, all over again. Clearly, that Reverend Jack stuff was on to something. By the way, this cartoon ended like all post-Kricfalusi R&S episodes – with the Games Animation logo. If you look below, you might not know this innocent drawing of Stimpy was a massive FU to John K….
You see, after leaving the series Kricfalusi said to the press that the new animators were equivalent to handing “an unedited show to the milkman and have him finish it for ya.” Clearly the team at Games took a certain pride in being those milkmen (though the original image also featured Stimpy holding a knife).