The Disturbing Secret Behind An Iconic Cartoon
Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice were teenage Ren & Stimpy fans who wanted to make cartoons. They say they were preyed upon by the creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, who admitted to having had a 16-year-old girlfriend when approached by BuzzFeed News.
Robyn Byrd thought her plan was working when the letter from her hero arrived in the mail. It was 1994, and the 13-year-old had sent the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show a video of herself talking about her drawings and the animation career she envisioned; she thought if she got the attention of the studio behind the hit Nickelodeon show, she might get a job there someday. John Kricfalusi’s effusive letter, Byrd said, seemed like the first step toward her dream.
She could hardly believe he’d responded. “I had built up these characters and this mythos of Ren & Stimpy in my head,” Byrd, now 37, told BuzzFeed News. “It was exciting.”
Soon, she said, she began receiving boxes of toys and art supplies from 39-year-old Kricfalusi, better known as John K. He helped her get her first AOL account, through which he convinced her he could help her become a great artist. He visited her at the trailer park where she lived in Tucson, Arizona. “I thought I was still his little cute friend,” she said. And then, when she was still in 11th grade, he flew her to Los Angeles to show her his studio and talk about her future. She said that on the same trip, in a room with a sliding glass door that led to his pool, he touched her genitals through her pajamas as she lay frozen on a blanket he’d placed on the floor. She was 16.
In the summer of 1997, before her senior year of high school, he flew her to Los Angeles again, where Byrd had an internship at Spumco, Kricfalusi’s studio, and lived with him as his 16-year-old girlfriend and intern. After finishing her senior year in Tucson, the tiny, dark-haired girl moved in with Kricfalusi permanently at age 17. She told herself that Kricfalusi was helping to launch her career; in the end, she fled animation to get away from him.
Since October, a national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment has not only felled dozens of prominent men, but also caused allegations made in the past to resurface. In some ways, the old transgressions are the most uncomfortable: They implicate not just the alleged abusers, but everyone who knew about the stories and chose to overlook them.
Can't say I'm surprised about this. What the heck is going on at Nickelodeon?