The latest allegations to come out of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements focus on Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi. While the 62-year-old animator has floundered in recent years following 2003’s widely panned and short-lived spinoff, Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon,” he’s remained a powerful fixture in the animation world. According to allegations reported by BuzzFeed, Kricfalusi used that influence to prey upon young girls hoping to enter the animation industry.
The allegations against Kricfalusi are deeply disturbing. According to the now-37-year-old Robyn Byrd, she first reached out to the artist at age 13 by sending him a video tape of herself discussing her animation dreams.* In the years that followed, she says, he sent her gifts, visited her at her home, and encouraged her to get an AOL account. Byrd had been thrilled by Kricfalusi’s attention, until, after flying her out to visit him in Los Angeles, he allegedly “touched her genitals through her pajamas.” She was 16, and he was 25 years her senior. Soon after, Byrd began an internship at Spümcø, Kricfalusi’s studio, and moved in with him as his girlfriend, kicking off an unhealthy on again–off again relationship that lasted several years.
Katie Rice, another aspiring animator who would eventually befriend Byrd over the internet, became Kricfalusi’s alleged next target when his “relationship” with Byrd faltered. Rice told BuzzFeed that he also attempted to groom her for sex when she was a minor. After Rice reached out to Kricfalusi via letters, he began contacting her online and over the phone, and Rice, a teenager at the time, wrote, “I think this 40-year-old man is hitting on me” in her diary. Rice claims he allegedly tried to coerce her into saying sexual things to him over the phone and masturbated during their phone calls. She also told BuzzFeed that once she started working with him professionally, the harassment became worse, with Kricfalusi allegedly exposing himself to her and “telling me that his friend’s advice to ‘get’ me was to just rape me one day.” (Kricfalusi denied exposing himself and claimed the rape comment was a joke, through his lawyer.)
Although their employments at Spümcø overlapped, Byrd and Rice were reportedly stationed on separate sides of the office. It seems as though Kricfalusi and Byrd’s “relationship” was suspected within the animation community: Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story references “a girl [Kricfalusi] had been dating since she was 15 years old.” Multiple men in the industry have confirmed that rumors of Kricfalusi’s pedophilic abuse were commonplace. And multiple employees claim that Kricfalusi showed them naked photographs of Byrd, taken, according to her, without her knowledge. Kricfalusi’s creative career mirrors these accusations: He has a history of drawing women and underage girls with exaggerated, sexualized anatomies. His character Sody Pop (who, as he once bragged to Howard Stern, is underage) is one salient example.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Kricfalusi’s lawyers said many of his alleged actions were a byproduct of undiagnosed mental illness, aggravated by his firing in 1992:
The 1990s were a time of mental and emotional fragility for Mr. Kricfalusi, especially after losing Ren and Stimpy, his most prized creation. For a brief time, 25 years ago, he had a 16-year-old girlfriend. Over the years John struggled with what were eventually diagnosed mental illnesses in 2008. To that point, for nearly three decades he had relied primarily on alcohol to self-medicate. Since that time he has worked feverishly on his mental health issues, and has been successful in stabilizing his life over the last decade. This achievement has allowed John the opportunity to grow and mature in ways he’d never had a chance at before.
You can read the full accounts from Rice and Byrd on BuzzFeed.
Correction, March 30, 2018: This post originally misstated Byrd’s age. She’s 37, not 39.