During the 1990s, Nickelodeon emerged from their green-slime game-show origins into a powerhouse programmer of animated series. Known as "Nicktoons", the cartoons reinvigorated the kids-network by offering original stories and characters that were in stark contrast to any broadcast network series with toy tie-ins or corporate agendas.
Doug, Rugrats, Rocko's Modern Life, Aahh!! Real Monsters, Hey Arnold!, CatDog, The Fairly Odd Parents, and The Wild Thornberrys hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of kids likely to be parents themselves now. Moreover, Gen X will never forget The Ren & Stimpy Show, an indescribable at-the-time Nicktoon that arguably gave birth to the avant-garde tone of virtually every animated series you'll find on Cartoon Network today. Unfortunately, Paramount's upcoming NickToons movie will not feature the beloved high-strung chihuahua and low-key cat.
Reporting from Wizard World Cleaveland, ScreenGeek spoke with Ren & Stimpy co-creator Bob Camp about the upcoming NickToons film, and got the inside scoop. Blaming the failed 2003 Spike series Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon for souring the relationship between the property and its parent company, Camp insists the duo will not be a part of the movie:
They’re rebooting the Nicktoons without Ren and Stimpy. We actually pitched a Ren and Stimpy movie to Paramount, they wanted nothing to do with it. [Adult Party Cartoon] poisoned the well. I think it really left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. I had nothing to do with that one. And now, someone [at Paramount] doesn’t want anything to do with Ren and Stimpy.
The planned film had previously been reported over a year ago to include all original 90s NickToons favorite characters, including Ren and Stimpy. The live-action/animated film, in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, is also promising to include more recent Nicktoon characters from Rocko's Modern Life and The Angry Beavers. Director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) is attached to direct the movie, which is currently still in early development. Since the announcement, Hess has also signed on to direct Shanghi Dawn, the third pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson as mismatched heroes.
Camp remains interested in bringing his beloved characters back, as he states in the interview, but "no one else seems to be." This is surprising, as the NickToons movie has all the indication of being of major appeal to a wide audience, luring nostalgic happy, happy, joy, joy emotion out of multiple generations. No doubt, the project is modeled after the box-office success of big-screen adaptations of broad properties like LEGO and Trolls, with the more '90s-centric refresh of Goosebumps and this week's potential hit, Power Rangers.
Ren and Stimpy left completely out of the picture would be noticeable, and frankly disrespectful. Merchandise featuring the characters was prevalent in last year's 25th Anniversary of Nicktoons, including an entire store in New York City dedicated to the beloved cartoons. Variety reported later last year that Nickelodeon is in talks with Spümcø founder and co-creator John Kricfalusi himself about a revival of the characters. Kricfalusi recently tweeted that Ren and Stimpy would not be appearing before the next SpongeBob movie, as previously stated at a New Jersey Comiccon panel featuring Camp. (You can almost hear Ren asking "What EEZ IT, man?")
Will this be worked out in advance of the NickToons production start? Anything is possible in the light of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish's push for a more inclusive company-wide strategy of intellectual property. Even Spike is being rebranded as Paramount Network, a better-late-than-never attempt to cycle the studio's clout to television and back to the big screen.