As the warped animated series “South Park” was smashing the all-time ratings record at Comedy Central for the third time in less than two months Wednesday night with the show’s Yuletide-themed episode, one cartoon producer in the audience was crying foul.
John Kricfalusi, creator of the divertingly offbeat “The Ren & Stimpy Show” for Nickelodeon, was upset Thursday because he felt the “South Park” seg of the night before had ripped off his idea of turning a piece of human excrement into a singing, dancing character. And his company, Spumco Inc., is threatening legal action.
The alleged imitation Kricfalusi refers to stems from the “South Park” Christmas episode’s use of an animated turd named Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo, a conventionally shaped, though decidedly animated, piece of human waste bedecked in holiday threads.
Kricfalusi believes that Mr. Hankey was directly inspired by his own similar creation, Nutty the Friendly Dump, who is prominently featured in a cartoon short that debuted on the Spumco computer Web site on Oct. 15 and, he asserts, had been featured in various print publications prior to that.
“I didn’t invent dumps or farts, but in the context that I use them in, I did invent them,” Kricfalusi said. “The talking, singing dump was invented by me. And now these guys are gonna get rich off of it.”
Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox called the claim of rip-off “ludicrous,” saying that neither of “South Park’s” chief creator/producers, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, had ever even visited the Spumco Web site.
“The fact is that Mr. Hankey is a character created by Trey’s dad 25 years ago when Trey was being potty-trained,” Fox said.
Kricfalusi replied that there were additional elements in the “South Park” episode that he believes were lifted from his work on “Ren & Stimpy.”
“This stuff always happens to me,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Wednesday night “South Park” again obliterated Comedy Central’s highest-ever audience level, pulling down a whopping 5.4 rating from Nielsen (which translates to more than 4.5 million viewers). That is more than seven times Comedy Central’s primetime average.
Comedy Central also boasted Thursday that the Wednesday seg was seen in one of every 11 households in the network’s nearly 46 million-home universe. And the “South Park” snared a 51 share of the males aged 18-24 demo in Comedy Central households.