Creator Of “Ren & Stimpy” Accused Of Preying On Underage Girls Who Wished Animation Careers
Robyn Byrd thought her conception develop to be working when the letter from her hero arrived within the mail. It develop to be 1994, and the Thirteen-year-inclined had sent the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Uncover a video of herself talking about her drawings and the animation profession she envisioned; she thought if she obtained the eye of the studio within the help of the hit Nickelodeon impress, she would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also earn a job there finally. John Kricfalusi’s effusive letter, Byrd said, looked appreciate the 1st step in direction of her dream.
She would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also hardly ever factor in he’d responded. “I had built up these characters and this mythos of Ren & Stimpy in my head,” Byrd, now 37, educated BuzzFeed Files. “It develop to be thrilling.”
Rapidly, she said, she began receiving containers of toys and art work offers from 39-year-inclined Kricfalusi, better identified as John Good ample. He helped her earn her first AOL sage, by which he jubilant her he would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also abet her change into a superior artist. He visited her on the trailer park the build she lived in Tucson, Arizona. “I thought I develop to be silent his minute cute pal,” she said. After which, when she develop to be silent in Eleventh grade, he flew her to Los Angeles to impress her his studio and discuss her future. She said that on the the same commute, in a room with a sliding glass door that led to his pool, he touched her genitals by contrivance of her pajamas as she lay frozen on a blanket he’d placed on the flooring. She develop to be sixteen.
In the summertime of 1997, old to her senior year of excessive faculty, he flew her to Los Angeles again, the build Byrd had an internship at Spumco, Kricfalusi’s studio, and lived with him as his sixteen-year-inclined female friend and intern. After finishing her senior year in Tucson, the petite, darkish-haired girl moved in with Kricfalusi completely at age 17. She educated herself that Kricfalusi develop to be serving to to open her profession; within the tip, she fled animation to earn faraway from him.
Since October, a nationwide reckoning with sexual assault and harassment has now not handiest felled dozens of excellent men, nonetheless also brought on allegations made within the previous to resurface. In many ways, the inclined transgressions are perchance the most unhappy: They implicate now not upright the alleged abusers, nonetheless everyone who knew concerning the experiences and chose to miss out on them.
Even though sexual abuse allegations towards Kricfalusi bear never been made public old to, his relationship with Byrd has been an open secret interior animation — so open that “a lady he had been dating since she develop to be fifteen years inclined” develop to be referenced briefly in a book concerning the history of Ren & Stimpy. Tony Mora, an art work director at Warner Bros., and Gabe Swarr, a producer at Warner Bros., worked alongside Byrd at Spumco. The male artists said experiences of how Kricfalusi sexually stressed female artists, including teenage girls, were identified by contrivance of the alternate. “It’s always been there,” Mora said. Moreover, Kricfalusi made his fixation on teenage girls plainly obvious in his art work, even as he worked on bright initiatives for the likes of Sketch Network, Fox Kids, and Grownup Swim. In an interview with Howard Stern within the mid-’90s, the radio host requested him a pair of persona within the comedian book anthology the cartoonist develop to be then promoting. Stern known as Sody Pop “a hot chick with mountainous cans and tremendous legs.” Kricfalusi responded with a smile: “She’s underage, too.”
And yet Kricfalusi, 62, continues to be broadly smartly-frequently known as a pioneer within the male-dominated discipline of animation. Creators of presentations including SpongeBob SquarePants, Budge Time, and Rick and Morty bear cited Ren & Stimpy as an influence. After Nickelodeon fired the forever within the help of-time desk artist from Ren & Stimpy in 1992, he develop to be an early proponent of art work and presentations made upright for the earn. His output has slowed down, nonetheless he enjoys a living-tale stature that triggered 3,562 of us to fund a Kickstarter advertising and marketing campaign for his short Cans With out Labels, which he screened at a prestigious animation movie festival in 2016. He made art work for Miley Cyrus’s 2014 Bangerz tour; he bright two credit sequences on The Simpsons, perchance the most most modern in 2015. His portrait silent hangs on the wall at Nickelodeon.
On Kricfalusi’s behalf, an criminal skilled responded to an intensive checklist of allegations on this myth with the next assertion:
“The Nineteen Nineties were a time of mental and emotional fragility for Mr. Kricfalusi, particularly after shedding Ren and Stimpy, his most prized advent. For a transient time, 25 years within the past, he had a sixteen-year-inclined female friend. Over the years John struggled with what were eventually diagnosed mental ailments in 2008. To that time, for nearly three a long time he had relied totally on alcohol to self-medicate. Since that time he has worked feverishly on his mental smartly being issues, and has been a success in stabilizing his lifestyles over the final decade. This achievement has allowed John the different to develop and oldschool in ways he’d never had a possibility at old to.”
While Byrd felt deeply on my own when she left animation, she later realized she hadn’t been the perfect underage girl Kricfalusi groomed for a relationship. In 2008, long after she final seen Kricfalusi, Byrd reconnected with an inclined net pal: the artist Katie Rice. Kricfalusi launched them by contrivance of AOL within the mid-’90s, once they were silent younger of us, telling them he’d hire them both at Spumco finally. Even though Kricfalusi never had a physical sexual relationship with Rice, he began hitting on her when she develop to be a minor, she said, behavior that ranged from writing her flirty letters (“I bet you’ll be as a lot as no exact. Comely appreciate me,” he wrote in 1996) to masturbating whereas she develop to be on the cell phone. In 2000, when Rice develop to be 18 and making an are trying to interrupt into animation, Kricfalusi offered her a job. As soon as she started working for him, Rice said, he many cases sexually stressed her.
“I know a few of us fight with the ‘art work vs. artist’ thing.”
Historical letters, emails, and transcripts of AOL conversations between the females and Kricfalusi help up many of their claims. They every bear witnesses to substances of their experiences. But both females skittish that they sounded “loopy.” For years, they chose to relief their experiences non-public, on sage of coming forward didn’t seem appreciate it develop to be payment the likelihood. Rice feared retribution from his many supporters. Neither girl thought they’d be taken seriously.
Now they bear concerning the enviornment has changed. Byrd feels the time has attain for Kricfalusi to be held accountable, particularly, she said, after the police educated her in December that Kricfalusi’s alleged crimes towards her were too at likelihood of review. “He shouldn’t be in a scheme to earn away with that,” she said.
And whereas Byrd teaches philosophy and undergraduate writing classes, Rice silent works in animation and on a smartly-liked basis encounters of us asking her what it develop to be appreciate to work for “a tale.” It made her hesitant to criticize him, as if it would possibly presumably well be her fault for tainting his work. However, sitting in a Burbank restaurant, she said, “I know a few of us fight with the ‘art work vs. artist’ thing, and I earn it. Devour, I love Rosemary’s Tiny one. However would I ogle yet some other movie that he made, colorful what I know now?” she said, referring to the multiple rape allegations towards filmmaker Roman Polanski.
“I’d teach no, I don’t have to ogle it. I don’t desire any half of that. There’s tremendous of us you would possibly perchance presumably well be in a scheme to hire. There’s tremendous of us that can assemble issues, there’s tremendous of us that assemble cartoons. … They’re upright as fucking exact.”
Rice wished to be an artist from the time she develop to be within the fourth grade. In the summertime old to fifth grade, when she started watching the customary Nicktoons — Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy — the tween made up our minds to change into a cartoonist. Her oldsters were skeptical. Her mom educated BuzzFeed Files that she skittish her daughter develop to be being unrealistic.
So when Rice wrote to Kricfalusi when she develop to be spherical 14, after which they began corresponding over AOL, Rice said it develop to be a source of validation for her and her family: A extremely efficient man who had now not too long within the past been nominated for an Emmy Award seen that she had capacity.
They persisted chatting on-line and on the cell phone into her sophomore year of excessive faculty, and Kricfalusi’s messages made her if fact be told feel particular. In an AOL conversation he educated her now not to reproduction and send to her chums, he said, “I wnat [sic] to squeeze you,” and “I’m loopy about you, Katie”; he requested her, “Attain I ever assemble you tingle?” In an e-mail she printed and saved from about a days after she turned 15, the 41-year-inclined man wrote, “I’m brooding about you very laborious magnificent now. And I bear a minute of tickle in my chest.” Now 36, Rice appears to be like at these inclined pages with about a of the compliments underlined in purple gel pen and cringes.
“I yell this 40 year inclined man is hitting on me,” Rice wrote in her diary. “However he’s never perverted. He is also very tremendous. He offers me a few drawing pointers.”
On the time, she didn’t search for the harm. “I yell this 40 year inclined man is hitting on me,” she wrote in a diary entry from between December 1995 and March 1996, announcing her pal agreed along with her. (Talking to BuzzFeed Files, the pal recalled having this conversation, and that she thought Kricfalusi develop to be hitting on Rice.) Rice, then 14, persisted in her diary, “However he’s never perverted. He is also very tremendous. He offers me a few drawing pointers.”
Rice and Kricfalusi met about a cases in Los Angeles, and they also kept talking after she moved along with her oldsters from California to Lake Tahoe in 1996 when she develop to be coming into tenth grade at age 14. They never had physical sexual contact, nonetheless when Rice lived in Nevada, she remembers a few late-evening cell phone calls finally of which Kricfalusi said, “Repeat after me: John’s dick slides in my puzzy” (his pronunciation of the be conscious) whereas he masturbated on the more than just a few discontinue of the road. She refused. Rice, who develop to be naive about sex, said she didn’t realize what he develop to be doing originally — till, all of a unexpected, she did. Christine Nockels, a excessive faculty pal of Rice who later worked at Spumco, said Rice educated her concerning the masturbation once they were classmates.
The conversations left Rice shaken, nonetheless she depended on him. Lonely in her contemporary faculty in Nevada, she considered him as her handiest pal. He attended her Fifteenth birthday birthday celebration, which he later confirmed on a DVD additional for the 2003 Ren & Stimpy reboot. (“I develop to be at her Fifteenth birthday birthday celebration. We’ll account for you that backstory a minute of bit later,” he said with a smile.) She develop to be devastated when he without warning stopped talking to her in early 1997.
That related chilly climate, Kricfalusi flew out to talk over with Byrd, then a excessive faculty junior, at home in Arizona. They had sex for the first time at a interior sight hotel, she said, and set into circulate a collection of decisions that would possibly perchance presumably well presumably reshape the comfort of her teenage years. She’d stir in with Kricfalusi for the summer and intern at Spumco, then complete her senior year at a non-public faculty in Arizona, and he would conceal the tutoring. He educated her he would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also give her an animation profession in Los Angeles when she graduated. She and her mom believed him.
So when the younger artist and creator moved in with Kricfalusi within the summer of 1997, half of her develop to be happy. As an intern, she develop to be making copies, keeping art work organized, and studying the fitting technique to be an animator. “I made my dream attain upright,” Byrd said. “That’s why I sent the tape when I develop to be Thirteen.” Every little thing in California develop to be contemporary and thrilling, including, to a pair stage, her boyfriend. “I believed, as a sixteen-year-inclined dating him, ‘Oh, the enviornment’s towards us. It shouldn’t be rotten for him up to now me. We’re chilly and rebellious on sage of we’re breaking the foundations of society,’” Byrd educated BuzzFeed Files. She said he educated her their 25-year age difference develop to be “romantic.”
However she struggled. In a letter she wrote to herself finally of the internship — her contrivance of working out her emotions on the time — she frets concerning the complete ways she’s alienating her 41-year-inclined boyfriend along with her “nagging” and her “guilt-inflicting”; she says Kricfalusi doesn’t care about her emotional smartly-being. “He would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also honest appreciate my figure & face. He would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also honest appreciate my thoughts & suggestions. However he would not bear regard for my emotions as I attain his,” she wrote. The artist she shared an build of industrial with, Swarr, who develop to be in his early twenties on the time, remembers her regularly crying.
“I develop to be appreciate, ‘Who’s that minute girl?’”
Despite the volatility, this looked appreciate a break to her: Kricfalusi develop to be teaching her a alternate. And, over the direction of extra than 600 weblog posts reviewed by BuzzFeed Files, Kricfalusi portrays himself as a uniquely licensed molder of younger minds. It’s the the same image he offered to Byrd and Rice, and to most of the fans, largely men in their twenties, who he hired at Spumco within the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s. They were inexperienced youngsters that, Mora and Swarr said, believed deeply within the art work Spumco develop to be making. It develop to be a petite studio that assuredly had between 10 and 30 artists at a time, most of them jubilant they were doing one thing defiant by working there. Derrick J. Wyatt, an artist who started working at Spumco in 1999, educated BuzzFeed Files the studio develop to be a “cult of persona” centered on Kricfalusi.
After Byrd graduated from excessive faculty at 17 in 1998, Kricfalusi hired her to work at Spumco and she or he moved help into his Los Angeles home.
As Byrd grew up within the studio, her coworkers, many of whom were now not great older than she develop to be, were responsive to the minute one’s romantic relationship with their boss. Mora obtained an internship at Spumco in 1997, across the age of 24, and when he first started seeing Byrd across the studio, “I develop to be appreciate, ‘Who’s that minute girl?’” he said. The connection develop to be ordinary to him, nonetheless it regarded to be permitted on the studio, the build extinct workers teach Kricfalusi fostered a libertine ambiance by which taking offense develop to be itself offensive. They were making presentations with sexual themes; there had been raunchy nude drawings on impress. Mora said Kricfalusi unnoticed a drawing he manufactured from Byrd, naked, with a canines ejaculating on her.
Sometime between 1998 and 2000, Mora went to a birthday celebration at Kricfalusi’s home that has bothered him for years. He remembered Byrd, who develop to be no older than 20, develop to be inebriated and regarded to be drifting in and out of consciousness when Kricfalusi known as Mora over to him. “After which he pulled out these Polaroids of Robyn assuredly — how will you teach it? — occurring on him. … He’s appreciate, ‘What attain you yell that?’”
“My whole lifestyles had been suspended in John’s since I develop to be fourteen.”
Byrd doesn’t undergo in thoughts Kricfalusi taking converse photography of her; she also wasn’t conscious, she said, that he confirmed converse photography of her to assorted of us. However Wyatt recounted an interaction with his then-boss that develop to be the same to Mora’s. He said that at a birthday celebration at Kricfalusi’s home between 1999 and 2002, Kricfalusi confirmed him “a stack of Polaroids” of Kricfalusi and Byrd having sex. He never talked about the pictures to Byrd, nor did he confront Kricfalusi concerning the interaction. Throughout yet some other birthday celebration at Kricfalusi’s home, Swarr said the artist pulled out a binder of photography that confirmed Byrd naked in his pool. “It develop to be snide,” Swarr said. Affecting a gruff speak when he spoke as Kricfalusi, Swarr recalled, “He develop to be appreciate, ‘Oh, you appreciate that?’ I develop to be appreciate, ‘No!’”
On the time Byrd started working at Spumco, the age of consent in California had been 18 for a long time. However on sage of nobody within the studio educated her to stir away Kricfalusi, it took longer for Byrd to cherish the extent of the topic she had. “My whole lifestyles had been suspended in John’s since I develop to be fourteen,” she wrote to Rice in 2008. She educated BuzzFeed Files this year, “I upright extra or less obtained swept up within the complete thing.” When it came to sex with an grownup man, she remembers thinking as a teen that it develop to be one thing “I develop to be presupposed to achieve as an grownup girl.”
In 2000, Byrd briefly broke up with Kricfalusi and moved out of the home she shared with him in LA. The pair would reunite about a months later, nonetheless on the moment, Kricfalusi contacted Rice, who develop to be then 18 years inclined and reeling from an art work faculty rejection letter. He requested her to achieve work at Spumco. Receipts signed by Kricfalusi and saved by Rice impress he paid for her discontinue on the Voyager Motor Inn in June 2000.
Rice worked for Kricfalusi on and off from age 18 to about 25, starting as an inker and though-provoking on to layout and persona develop. In 2000, Byrd and Rice both worked on the studio, nonetheless the childhood net chums never spoke face-to-face; Swarr remembers the females working at opposite ends of Spumco. Mora and Swarr believed that Kricfalusi hired Rice as a change for Byrd. At 19, Byrd thought so, too. She said it looked to her on the time that Kricfalusi develop to be changing her with a youthful girl.
Byrd left Kricfalusi for exact in 2002. As soon as she develop to be gone, he targeted extra attention on Rice. In emails, Kricfalusi demanded her skilled loyalty. He also persisted to stress her for affection. Through a attorney, Kricfalusi denied harassing Rice, announcing, “John’s avid pursuit of her romantically develop to be all after the company went out of alternate and he develop to be now not her employer.” However across the time of the contemporary Ren & Stimpy impress, which develop to be produced by Spumco and employed Rice, he wrote her a letter expressing disappointment over his breakup, and also educated Rice she develop to be ravishing and that he wished he would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also cuddle along with her.
On Oct. 19, 2004, when Rice develop to be working at Disney, forty nine-year-inclined Kricfalusi contacted Rice by contrivance of her work e-mail. He wrote that he’d been resentful, as a 41-year-inclined man, of the classmate Rice appreciated when she develop to be 15. “You former to assemble me very jealous … and also you would never admit you appreciated me in a romantic contrivance.” On the tip of that e-mail, he begged her to be in a relationship with him, writing, “I’d worship you and bve [sic] your easiest partner and pal and every little thing that is doubtless to be exact to be.”
Rice said the sexual harassment obtained worse when she worked from Kricfalusi’s home build of industrial, particularly once they were working on a tune video commissioned by “Uncommon Al” Yankovic. (The musician said he develop to be now not responsive to any of the behavior described on this myth and declined to comment additional.) In an e-mail reviewed by BuzzFeed Files, Rice educated Byrd in 2008 that Kricfalusi “develop to be doing all kinds of ordinary stuff- ready naked in his living room for when I let myself into his home to work within the morning, walking spherical with his weiner hanging out of his pants, telling me that his pal’s advice to ‘earn’ me develop to be to upright rape me one day.”
Through an criminal skilled, Kricfalusi denied exposing himself to Rice, and said that the rape comment develop to be upright a humorous myth.
Rice’s speak rose in frustration. “I know what everyone’s gonna teach: Why didn’t you upright stir away? Successfully, on sage of this asshole educated me when I develop to be Thirteen that I develop to be particular, and I don’t bear any self-like, so I give it some thought.” And the truth develop to be that he had hired her, when she had no prospects, magnificent after she develop to be rejected from art work faculty. As she had argued in forums on-line, she if fact be told did yell he develop to be a superior artist. She thought that she owed her mentor and pal, and she or he felt a professional twisted pride in putting up with his harassment.
“I know what everyone’s gonna teach: Why didn’t you upright stir away? Successfully, on sage of this asshole educated me when I develop to be Thirteen that I develop to be particular, and I don’t bear any self-like, so I give it some thought.”
Rice said she eventually did stir away after two incidents that took build in relatively shut succession: The first develop to be his half-likelihood of rape finally of the Uncommon Al job, after which, she said, she found minute one porn on his computer. Rice said she found photography of girls she didn’t acknowledge, naked; she remembered one picture in converse, with a unadorned girl who regarded to be spherical 10 years inclined, lying on her help along with her legs unfold and an expression on her face that Rice described as unnerved. An ex-female friend of Kricfalusi’s, who requested now not to be named on this myth, said she, too, seen naked photography of prepubescent girls who regarded to be between 12 and 14 on his deepest computer spherical 2007.
Through an criminal skilled, Kricfalusi said he has never possessed minute one porn, and that he had never been contacted by the police concerning an investigation. His criminal skilled added, “I explain you that there are indispensable variations between your outline and what if fact be told took build and when.” The criminal skilled did not present specifics old to newsletter.
Rice said it took her three attempts to portray the minute one porn she seen on Kricfalusi’s computer. On two cases, she said, she terrified whereas filling out an on-line assign for the National Middle for Missing and Exploited Kids. Rice efficiently reported seeing minute one porn to the police on the tip of 2017. Byrd said she spoke to a detective on the case as smartly, thinking that, although the statute of barriers for her allegations develop to be up, her sage would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also bolster the investigation. The LAPD declined to touch upon the case, nonetheless Rice said she develop to be educated that they wouldn’t be in a scheme to earn a warrant. It develop to be after receiving that cell phone call from the police that she made up our minds to stir on the file. She hopes making her myth public will attend her of the burden she feels to warn younger females thinking of working for him.
“It’s been easy for us to disconnect the artist from the person, on sage of as an artist, he’s unparalleled,” Mora educated BuzzFeed Files. He said it develop to be laborious brooding about issues he and Swarr would possibly perchance presumably well presumably also bear accomplished to abet Byrd and Rice, and he struggled to reconcile his emotions about Kricfalusi. “If I ever won an award, he would be undoubtedly one of the indispensable first of us I’d thank,” he said. “However there would possibly perchance be that assorted aspect of John — John the person, now not John the artist — and that’s the half that is conflicting.”
In a busy restaurant in Burbank, Swarr silent expressed some sympathy for Kricfalusi. “I owe John rather a lot,” he said. “He has a few complications, and he can’t search for them. It’s tragic. I don’t if fact be told feel frightful ample to now not discuss this, although.” Swarr said he began distancing himself from Kricfalusi after Rice educated him spherical 2002 that their mentor had started hitting on her when she develop to be a minute of one. “I wish I’ll perchance presumably well presumably also’ve accomplished extra help then. This” — talking to a reporter to corroborate the females’s experiences — “is the perfect thing I’m in a position to achieve now.”
The Paramount Network — the latest iteration of Spike TV, which ran Ren & Stimpy’s 2003 reboot, Grownup Social gathering Sketch — said it had never purchased reports of sexual harassment towards Kricfalusi and has “converse policies and procedures to be tremendous our workers if fact be told feel empowered to portray heinous behavior.” A spokesperson for Sketch Network and Grownup Swim said that the networks were now not responsive to any sexual harassment claims towards Kricfalusi, that “harassment would possibly perchance presumably well presumably now not be tolerated” by their parent company, and that neither network deliberate to work with him within the slay. Nickelodeon declined to touch upon Byrd and Rice’s allegations, or on the contrivance forward for the Kricfalusi portrait that hangs on its wall.
Allegations of sexual misconduct bear long been handled as a proverbial footnote for indispensable men. In yet some other that continues to exclude females and that has a smartly-liked topic with sexual harassment, as extra than 200 females and gender-nonconforming of us working in animation attested in an open letter in October, it’s unclear whether Rice and Byrd making Kricfalusi’s abuse public will lead of us to rethink his legacy. What is evident, nonetheless, is that #MeToo can’t stir forward without reexamining the previous.
Byrd is resolute. “He ruined a exact little bit of my childhood and my early maturity, gave me PTSD, and forced me to alternate careers, putting my lifestyles 10 years or extra within the help of,” she wrote in an e-mail. In an interview, she said, “He is an abuser within the contrivance that he will pull you actual into a relationship with him after which account for you who to be and what he desires from you. … Everyone desires to know about it.”
Rice, too, is unequivocal about Kricfalusi: “I develop to be a bigger artist by working for him,” she said. “I’m now not grateful for it. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I were a worse artist now and I didn’t bear all this bullshit to take care of.” ●
Ariane Lange is an leisure reporter for BuzzFeed Files and is essentially based in Los Angeles.
Contact Ariane Lange at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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