Pages of John Kricfalusi’s letter, which appears in full on Letters of Note.
Ambition, for the fledgling among us, can be equal parts talent and hero worship. For many, the first step on the road to success is an unsolicited email, or maybe a phone call—the infamous Starbucks pitch—timidly soft-selling the hard-wrought results of your creativity. And depending upon the mood of whatever hero you’re all about emulating, that pitch can end with a perfunctory autograph, a few words of colour-by-numbers encouragement, or a towering wall against which dreams splatter and bead off. If you get a reply at all.
In 1998, Amir Avni, then fourteen, sent such a letter to John Kricfalusi, creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show. The young cartoonist briefly introduced himself, included a few demo sketches of Kricfalusi’s lesser-known characters—Bigloaf and Mildman, much to the elder artist’s amazement—and, like others who have done the same, probably didn’t expect to hear much back.
When Avni did receive a reply, it wasn’t a signed portrait half-heartedly exhorting him to “keep it up” or even a plush Stimpy doll, but a warm, thoughtful, hand-written letter critiquing Avni’s work, drawing upon his own success to point the teen in the right direction. “Good drawing is more important than anything else in animation,” Kricfalusi wrote, advising Avni to follow the example of post–Second World War cartoons like Tom and Jerry, Elmer Fudd, or Porky Pig. “If you copy the drawings in new cartoons,” he continued, “you won’t learn anything—except how to get bad habits!” Anything but a meaningless nod, Kricfalusi’s eight-page letter, packaged with an original drawing and an instructional book, had all the care of a devoted teacher.
Twelve years later, Avni is in his fourth year of Sheridan’s animation program, maintains a fantastic portfolio of work, and has worked on the digital inking team of Kricfalusi’s latest, The Goddamn George Liquor Program. “I think John puts a lot of faith in the younger generation of cartoonists,” Avni told the folks over at Letters of Note, “and wants to make sure they are well educated. He sees the younger generation as the future of cartoons, and that’s why he’s so approachable and good willed.”
Hell, we’d just be relieved to not read the words, “No, sir, I didn’t like it.”