September 8, 2001
John Kricfalusi launches new cartoon
By BILL BRIOUX
Take it from a manly man -- The Ripping Friends are the coolest superdudes since The Fantastic Four.

The new animated series, which debuted last night at 7 p.m. on Teletoon, repeats Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 11:30 p.m. It features four beefy he-men -- Craig, Rip, Slab and Chunk -- who have muscles on their muscles. They're all 36, except Chuck, the baby in the pack at 35-and-a-half, according to animation firebrand John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy).

Thirty-six is the most manly age, says Kricfalusi, who called in from his Spumco animation bunker in Ottawa.

"It's the age Kirk Douglas was born at," he explains. "It's the age where, no matter how much you work out, you first start to get saggy, which is manlier than looking tight."

Plus all that extra ear, nose and eyebrow hair, I thought, recalling my own manly transformation.

"You need to be a little bit crusty to be a real man," says Kricfalusi. "If you're too smooth or shiny, you're still a boy."

Wow -- way too much information.

The good news is that you don't have to be at the manly age of 36 to enjoy The Ripping Friends. I showed it to my boy, who is eight, and he laughed his head off. So did I.

We watched The Indigestible Wad episode. Daniel is still laughing at the memory of one ripping friend with a toilet on his head. (He was trying to lure the indigestible wad ... never mind.)

There are also the occasional wink to Canada, like the lumberjack missile defense system.

What you won't see on The Ripping Friends is any butt-kicking from the one person the Ripping Friends fear -- their mom, who is called He-Mom.

"She's the world's most manly mom," says Kricfalusi.

Unfortunately, broadcast standards goons (the series also airs on Fox Kids in the U.S.), won't allow Super Ma to spank her big babies. It's corporal punishment and tantamount to child abuse, say the network no-nos.

Kricfalusi, who seldom backs down from a fight over creativity (he rants that sappy TV fare like Tiny Toons is killing children's television) pleaded with the network shrinks for over an hour. "These guys are 36 years old," he said of the Friends. "Their mom comes up to their knees."

One scene called for He-Mom to spank Craig with a frying pan (he had just unleashed a horrible monster and had it coming). Instead, she tells him, " 'You're punishment's going to be, I can't give you any punishment.' And then he's sad. It doesn't really play," says Kricfalusi.

At least The Ripping Friends have manly voices. Tough guy Craig is voiced by CITY-TV news baritone Mark Dailey. Comedian Mike MacDonald does Rip, the most intense Friend. "They both do an absolutely great job of it," says Kricfalusi, who does some voice work himself, along with local standup Frenchie MacFarlane.

"Voice is extremely important," says Kricfalusi. "The combination of great drawn acting and great vocal acting is unbeatable. That makes a cartoon come to life."

The show was originally intended to be a lot like Clutch Cargo, a barely animated TV novelty from the early '60s. "It was supposed to be a caricature of those really stiff shows," says Kricfalusi, who couldn't quite stoop to that level. "I have a hard time bringing myself to do that even in satire."

Kricfalusi pitched Ripping Friends to Nickelodeon a dozen years ago but was turned down. "They hated Ripping Friends -- it was too manly," he says.

Fortunately, they loved Ren & Stimpy and his reputation as one of animation's most uncompromising creative forces was established.

"I'm always at least 10 years ahead of everyone else," says Kricfalusi. " It's my curse."