Hello netters! Here's the interview I did with Chris Savino,
ex-layout artist for Spumco. To fully appreciate it, you should send
$3 to X MAGAZINE, PO BOX 1077, ROYAL OAK, MI 48068-1077 and ask for
the latest issue, with the BIG Ren & Stimpy feature. (it's kind of
like a shareware interview, where you register if you like it.)
Anyway, you'll get pictures! More interviews! More pictures!
Spine-tingling toast! Can you AFFORD to miss this? I think not. So
Chris Savino, SPUMCO Layout Guy - Interviewed by Jon Drukman for X
MAGAZINE issue 10. Conducted 8 Feb 92, 4pm at the Pontiac Grill,
Santa Cruz, CA. Chocolate malteds and fries are consumed; words about
Ren And Stimpy, the demented cartoon duo, are exchanged.
X: OK, first off, Jeff the Editor Guy wants to know - in the episode
where Stimpy mails the letter, why does he look out at the audience
with stamps all over his tongue?
C: Most people try to see if there's an inside joke in a cartoon. The
way John works is he doesn't care if Stimpy's wearing something red in
one scene and blue in another. That's the way cartoons are supposed
to be: they're supposed to be cartoons, not a reflection of the real
world. The fact that he's got stamps on his tongue - he just did it
sloppily. He just licked the envelope and got stamps on his tongue.
There's nothing really behind it. I don't know where he got four
stamps from, but it's just the way Stimpy operates. Anything he does
is gonna end up wrong. It's just his personality I guess; there's no
X: All my friends that watch it have things like that that are bugging
them. For me, it's the croc-o-stimpy mating call.
C: The ``happy happy, joy joy''?
X: Yeah. Where did the frigging bus come from all of a sudden?
C: I guess that was the gag. It's kind of like fishes going upstream
to spawn. They're hopping on a bus and going to... Inspiration Point,
John's humor is basically anything that people have to ask questions
about, like ``why?'' If it's questionable, then it's funny to him.
It's not straight out humor, you have to think about it, and that's
the way he works. He was trained by a lot of very funny people - Bob
Clampett. He wants to go back to that, to the era when cartoons were
funny and you had to really think about what the humor meant. If you
watch a lot of Warner Bros cartoons, they were during the war, so a
lot of their connotations were about war, such as, is this trip really
necessary? They told people not to take up a lot of gasoline because
they needed it for the planes and tanks overseas. So he wants to get
back to those days. I think that's what he's doing. He's really
coming along at bringing back that style. If you watch Saturday
morning cartoons, it [ Ren and Stimpy ] is just a step above everyting
else. It's a step above a lot of things you see in the theatre.
X: So how do you fit into the picture... when John comes in with a
gag, is it already written, do you get any say in it?
C: John is really picky about who writes for him. He's got, I'd say,
about 4 writers who are also artists, at the studio. They
collaborate, they go out to dinner, throw ideas around and put it
together. Basically, it's his humor. He'll change it the way he
wants it, and if there's something funny, he'll make it funnier. He
always goes a step above everybody, that's the way he works. Where I
come along is a little bit later down the road. After storyboard, it
goes to layout, and that's where I come along, doing paste-ups and
putting up layout. Everybody in the studio wants to write, they're
always giving him gags and he gives his usual sarcastic look like
``get the hell out of my office.'' Everybody wants to write like him,
and basically be like him really - he's just so talented in every way.
I think most of the stories are his humor... some of the guys, if you
look at the credits, are their own but of course he embellishes on
them, in his own way.
X: So even if John's name isn't on a show, it's got his input.
C: Definitely, definitely his input. He's always trying to make it
better, he's trying always to push it farther. That's why a lot of
the cartoons are coming out later than they should have been. He just
took back everything that the artists have done and said, ``I want to
do it this way, it's even more funny if we try it this way.'' It
didn't matter about the budget, it didn't matter about the deadline.
As long as it was as funny as he wanted it and he made the audience
laugh, then that's the way it's gonna be. He doesn't care about
money, he doesn't care about the Nickelodeon people, he just wants it
the way he wants it. Although he does kinda have to go on their
guidelines or they're going to kick him out.
X: Which neatly brings us to censorship - he tries a lot of things
that are extreme and I've noticed that the Magic Nose Goblins scene
gets faded pretty quickly these days.
C: It was a longer segment, the table was a little longer, it was a
great painting by Bob Camp - he spent a few days on it, everybody
loved it. They wouldn't let us use the word ``booger'' -- ``magic
nose goblin'' is still funny...
X: I think it's even funnier. Booger is such a common word,
but magic nose goblin? That's great!
C: If the audience that's watching Ren And Stimpy now is really into
it and thinks it's hilarious -- if they could see the storyboards
before they were edited by Nickelodeon, it would be a riot. Some of
the gags are borderline bad taste, which is great... but they want it
to be a ``family show.'' John wants it to be more of an adult show,
that's the way he works.
X: I think the adult crowd is winning out.
C: After the first year, they see how big the Ren And Stimpy show is,
they're going to give him a little more leeway. So this year, you're
going to see a lot more sick, more sick dialogue. Like we'll probably
be able to use ``booger.'' On The Simpsons, they swear, and The
Simpsons are pretty big so they allow them to swear. John might get a
lot more sick this year, and possibly next year, depending on how long
the cartoon works. They'll get sicker as the years go by.
X: You might suffer the opposite reaction - when shows start out they
don't pay any attention to them, and later on when it's a hit, all the
attention is focused on it, and they start looking more carefully at
it and saying, ``well, wait a minute...''
C: True, but the industry knows how John works. He had a big
controversy with the Mighty Mouse series, a big cocaine controversy at
X: Was that really what sunk it?
C: I personally think what ended it is the fact that John left Ralph
Bakshi's studio. He [Bakshi] had some really good people working
there, but they just couldn't handle the kind of work that John did.
They tried to copy it, and some of the artists did a really good job
of copying it, but it didn't have John's touch. You can always tell a
cartoon that has John's touch to it. It just went downhill from
there. I think that Ralph saw that Mighty Mouse was big and he wanted
to take it all for himself and not give anybody else the credit, when
it was the other way around - it was John that made Mighty Mouse
big... I guess there was some sort of scuffle between them, and he
was let go. So that's what ended Mighty Mouse. But John's in charge
now, he can basically get anything he wants, so if he says ``that's
the way it is'' then that's the way it is, there's no other way around
it. No one to take it away from him, but I think that the more leeway
he gets on a cartoon, the funnier it's gonna be, and I don't think
anyone will look at it twice. I think people want ``funnier,''
because they can see what Ren And Stimpy are capable of, and they want
X: Why ``Spumco''? What does the name mean?
C: That is a good question. I think everybody wants to know! They
just made it up. At one point it stood for something, let me think
about that... [long pause] I can only think of what the ``U'' stood
for and that was ``undermining.'' It was, ``Superior Productions
Undermining the Minds of...'' something. I don't know, I can find
out. They just made that up afterwards. John just thought
``SPUMCO''... there you go.
X: They tried to rationalize it in retrospect.
C: Yeah, if you notice on Nurse Stimpy, it was directed by Raymond Spum.
X: Is that an alias?
C: That's an alias. When John doesn't like a cartoon, he puts that
name on it... when he really doesn't like a cartoon.
X: Why didn't he like it?
C: He was pretty upset with it, there could've been a lot better gags
in it that he wanted. It could've been a lot sicker.
X: It did have that really disgusting art style.
C: When his nose is flaking off?
X: Ugh! How is that stuff done? What makes that so different?
C: What he does, is when he goes to a still, instead of using cel,
he'll just make a painting of it. He uses that a lot, that was used a
lot by Bob Clampett. It's a really neat style, it gives it that 50's
look. For the nose flaking off, that was just done with a camera
effect. He does that to give it more detail. You can't get a lot of
detail just tracing it on cels and painting it from the back. He
thinks it gives it that certain look to a cartoon... But getting back
to Raymond Spum, he just devotes that name because ``spum'' is the
stem of ``spumco'' and people think that there's a guy named Raymond
Spum out there who invented Spumco and John is just working for him.
X: I just thought it was an alias.
C: It is. It's a very good alias. I wondered who he was when I was
there, like ``who the hell is Raymond Spum''? But you won't see that
name very often. Not when he gets to do the things he wants to do.
X: I assume he could just rewrite someone's story anyway?
X: Has he put anyone's nose out of joint by being such a
C: Oh yeah! He busts everybody's balls every day. You'll think
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