i love cartoons, but particularly ones that push the envelope and go a little above and beyond typical wacky cartoon hi-jinks. i'm really not into those older merrie melody/warner bros. shorts where 99% of the comedy comes from parodying and spoofing famous people and movies of the day. i understand why it was popular and humorous at the time, but honestly i don't get a majority of the references, and secondly i prefer for any kind of media, really, to have a timeless appeal. for these reasons, i much prefer the later Looney Tunes, especially those directed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett.
Bob Clampett might be my favorite animater/director ever. silliness and weirdness are cartoon staples, but he knew how to push it above and beyond, making a joke or gag that was merely funny and weird into something really laughably outrageous.
but my absolute favorite subject to explore in animation is malice, rage, mental breakdown, violence and craziness. while there were probably other animators technically better in other ways, to me, Clampett was one of the first animators to really master exploring the darker side of human emotions in cartoons, and exploiting them for comedic effect.
the only other animators i can think of that come close to Clampett's brilliance at capturing rage and insanity are Tex Avery and John Kricfalusi. it's hard to find Tex Avery's stuff online for some reason, and while he mainly stuck with more traditional cartoon idioms, he won my heart with how far he was willing to go to keep topping a gag. i have in mind one scene in particular that practically changed my life when i saw it, but again, i can't find it.
while Clampett and Avery were both extremely talented in their portrayals of intense inner turmoil, it was almost always from a place of slap-stick and good-naturedness, whereas John K. took his influences in a directly darker place. the cartoonishness of his characters and ridiculousness of the situations softened the blows just enough to make them funny, but what i love about John K.'s animated sequences of Ren losing it is that often times you're unsure whether you should be laughing or not.
Ren: "i'm So Angry" - YouTube
this is probably the scariest and most threatening Ren's ever been, so much so that Nickelodeon forced edits to portions of his descriptions of what he plans to do to Stimpy and Sven. i love the juxtaposition of teetering between funny and flat-out disturbing.
Happy Happy Joy Joy - Dailymotion
probably everyone is acquainted with this episode or at least this song, but it amazes me that some 10-15 years later, it's still hysterical to me, particularly the seemingly crazy, non sequitur ramblings of Stinky Wizzleteats in the middle of his song (which apparently are all quotes from children's songs and a Western movie by Burl Ives, who Wizzleteats is a parody of). the whole episode is really good, particularly the parts where Ren fights the power of the happy helmet and loses, and the preceding scenes in which he is constantly insane with happiness.
Ren: "THESE HANDS" - Youtube
this is probably my favorite insanity sequence from Ren and Stimpy. to me, the threats of Ren's violence and his maniacal ramblings were much more disturbing than any of the actual cartoon violence he inflicted on Stimpy. i love how it actually goes there, with Ren contemplating breaking Stimpy's neck in his sleep. XD
edit: oh yeah, how could i forget Space Madness?? i think Ren's first great insanity sequence. it contains two of my favorite quotes: "it is not i who am crazy. it is i who am MAD!" and "we're not hitch-hiking anymore! we're RIDING!" XD
besides the dialogue and exaggerated body language and expressions of the characters, John K. is a genius when it comes to creating a mood through background and music. i love when the backgrounds go from being normal settings to surreal, splotchy spaces, indicating a character has snapped or is about to become unhinged. sometimes the music choices are ham-fisted and obvious, further adding to the comedy, but oftentimes they're beautifully in contrast to everything that is happening, such as his liberal use of relaxing classical music to scenes of disgusting things, or just plain absurdity.
i feel like he really dropped the ball with Adult Party Cartoon, but the classic Ren and Stimpy will never cease to amaze me. they just don't make cartoons like that anymore.