John Kricfalusi, the creator of the Nickelodeon animated series The Ren & Stimpy Show, has been accused by two former employees of sexual harassment, statutory rape, and the possession of child abuse images.
Two women, Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice, came forward to Buzzfeed News with their stories, alleging that Kricfalusi, now 62, had groomed them both as young teenagers, under the pretence of offering them a future in the animation industry.
Byrd says Kricfalusi first made contact with her when she was 13 years old, when she sent the animator a video of herself talking about her drawings and the career in animation she was desperate to pursue.
He responded by offering to mentor her, encouraging her to establish an AOL account and visiting Byrd at her home in Arizona, at which point she alleges they had sex for the first time.
She also says that Kricfalusi flew her to visit him in Los Angeles on two occasions when she was 16; on the latter, she says she became his live-in girlfriend and intern.
“He ruined a good bit of my childhood and my early adulthood, gave me PTSD, and forced me to change careers, putting my life 10 years or more behind,” she wrote in an email.
An attorney acting on Kricfalusi’s behalf responded with the following statement: “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.”
Katie Rice alleges that he sent her flirtatious letters, wrote explicit AOL messages, and masturbated over the phone to her when she was a minor. He offered her a job when she was 18, at which point she claims Kricfalusi persistently sexually harassed her.
Kricfalusi denied harassing Rice, stating through his lawyer, “John’s avid pursuit of her romantically was all after the company went out of business and he was no longer her employer.”
This is the first time allegations of sexual abuse against Kricfalusi have been made public, though an alleged reputation for the sexual harassment of female artists, including teenage girls, was well-known within the animation industry, as stated by several former employees of Kricfalusi’s old company Spumco.
Further to these allegations, three former employees of Spumco allege that they were shown sexually explicit images of an under-age Byrd. Rice also alleges that she found child abuse images on Kricfalusi’s computer.
Kricfalusi said, through an attorney, that he has never possessed child abuse images. His attorney added, “I assure you that there are significant differences between your outline and what actually happened and when.”
Kricfalusi is considered something of a pioneer of modern animation, with the creators behind the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Adventure Time, and Rick and Morty all citing The Ren & Stimpy Show as an influence. His short Cans Without Labels found $136,723 of funding on Kickstarter and debuted at a prestigious animation festival in 2016.
He also created artwork for Miley Cyrus’ 2014 Bangerz tour and animated two credit sequences on The Simpsons, the most recent in 2015.
Nickelodeon declined to comment on the allegations. The Paramount Network, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim – who have aired Kricfalusi’s work – said they were not aware of any reports of sexual harassment.