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The 2020 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 23 - Feb.2, in Park City, Utah

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Finding happiness & Joy at Sundance: a balancing act for the two filmmakers behind Happy Happy Joy Joy-The Ren & Stimpy Story

Kimo Easterwood and Ron Cicero are the co-directors of Happy Happy Joy Joy-The Ren & Stimpy Show (Sundance Film Festival 2020)

 

By James Nelson

Independent reporter

PARK CITY, Utah-The curtain lifted on the documentary ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy-The Ren & Stimpy Story’ at the Sundance Film Festival (SFF) with applause and questions for the filmmakers who worked to show all sides to creator John Kricfalusi’s television animation cartoon.

“We wanted to achieve a balance in the film because we wanted the audience to make the decision for themselves. Because it can only be a personal decision.” said Ron Cicero, co-director, ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy-The Ren & Stimpy Story’.

The Ren & Stimpy cartoon was a popular animated series created by John Kricfalusi. The tv adventures of Ren, an unruly chihuahua, and Stimpy a mellow cat had a vigorous following but fell short of network standards. Cicero says the challenge was in separating the art from the artist.

“That’s what you’re looking at when you are talking about art versus artists. You have millions of people whose lives are deeply affected by this art and yet there’s a few people who suffered at the hands of this artist. So how do we as humanity, reconcile that?” Cicero said following the premiere at SFF.

Happy Happy Joy Joy-The Ren & Stimpy Story does a marvelous job establishing the early 1990s time period when Kricfalusi burst onto the cartoon scene with his sassy and brash characters. Using archival footage the documentary reveals the workplace environment and talented pool of artists that supported his groundbreaking ideas. The program also delves into the 2018 revelation that Kricfalusi had an improper relationship with an underage girl. One of the questions after the Sundance screening was about the last word on the screen being given to Kricfalusi.

“It was a valid question. People adulate these people and then find out they are not, they are human, they make mistakes. We felt that was a valid point to make. It’s a valid point that’s why we thought that should be last thing because it will also have people thinking.” said co-director Kimo Easterwood.

Cicero added “We as a society need to wrap our heads around this and come up with solutions.”

Cicero and Easterwood worked on the film for three and a half years and both men say it wasn’t easy.

“Nobody really knows what we went through to do that. It was incredibly exhilarating and a relief to get some acknowledgment. And Sundance, arguably is probably one of the highest arguments you can get. To get that news was probably some of the best news I’ve ever gotten in my life.” said Easterwood with a big smile.

“Sundance and their tremendous support of the filmmakers and to be in this family is almost indescribable. And willing to take this kind of risk.” Cicero said regarding the years of work on the film.

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