Two more women have come forward with stories about a powerful Hollywood figure in the wake of the #MeToo era. In a BuzzFeed interview published on Thursday, Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice detailed disturbing allegations about Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, recalling accounts of alleged sexual misconduct and harassment they experienced when they were underage in the '90s. Through interviews, letters, emails, and photos, their alleged experiences with Kricfalusi, known as an animation icon, are being brought to light. His lawyer denied many of the claims to BuzzFeed. (Bustle reached out to Nickelodeon, who declined to comment. Reps for Kricfalusi could not be reached.)
Kricfalusi's attorney provided the following statement to BuzzFeed, acknowledging a "brief" relationship with one of the women when she was 16:
“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.”
Bryd, now a 37-year-old teacher, recalled first getting attention from Kricfalusi when she received a letter from the then 39-year-old after she (13 at the time) sent him a video talking about her passion for drawing and dreams of working in animation. After sending her supplies and visiting her home, he reportedly flew her to LA when she was 16, when he allegedly "touched her genitals through her pajamas as she lay frozen on a blanket he’d placed on the floor." She told BuzzFeed she lived with him as his girlfriend at 16 while interning for Spumco, and permanently moved in with him at 17 around 1998.
Katie Rice, who's still an animator, recounted a similar experience to BuzzFeed. Rice recalled starting an alleged relationship with Kricfalusi after writing to him when she was 14 and communicating via AOL around 1996. She claimed he began to hit on her as a minor, from flirty letters and inappropriate instant messages to allegedly masturbating while on the phone. According to the report, Kricfalusi stopped speaking with Rice in early 1997 when he flew to visit Byrd (then a high school junior) and allegedly have sex with her.
Kricfalusi's lawyer addressed claims that Kricfalusi tried to romantically pursue Rice at a later time, telling BuzzFeed,
"John's avid pursuit of her romantically was all after the company went out of business and he was no longer her employer."
In their interviews, both women recalled the damage the alleged experiences had on their well-being and lives. Although Byrd admitted to feeling "cool and rebellious" dating someone 25 years her senior at the time, it ultimately caused her harm. Byrd reportedly broke up with Kricfalusi and moved out in 2000. That's when he allegedly began romantically pursuing and harassing Rice (which is addressed in the statement above).
In a 2008 email obtained by BuzzFeed, Rice told Byrd that Kricfalusi was acting out bizarre behavior, like allegedly waiting naked in his living room, walking around with his penis out, and telling her his friend's advice was to "just rape [her] one day." Kricfalusi's attorney denied that he exposed himself to Rice, and said that the rape comment was "just a joke."
Rice also reported that she allegedly found child porn on Kricfalusi's computer. (In the BuzzFeed report, another one of Kricfalusi's exes claimed to see him possess child porn as well.) Kricfalusi's lawyer told BuzzFeed he never possessed child porn and wasn't contacted by the police (even though Rice said it took three attempts to report it). His attorney told BuzzFeed, “I assure you that there are significant differences between your outline and what actually happened and when," but didn't provide further detail.
BuzzFeed reports the LAPD declined to comment on a child porn investigation, and The Paramount Network, home to Nickelodeon, declined to comment on whether Kricfalusi's portraits will still hang on company walls.
Looking back, Byrd claimed to BuzzFeed that Kricfalusi is an "abuser," saying, "he ruined a good bit of [her] childhood and [her] early adulthood," causing her to experience PTSD and change career paths. Rice was in agreement in that her experiences weren't worth career help. "I wish I were a worse artist now and I didn’t have all this bullsh*t to deal with," she said.
All these years later, it seems it wasn't a secret Kricfalusi boasted about underage girls and having a teenage girlfriend while in his 40s, according to BuzzFeed. But it's frightening to think that people may have known what was going on and failed to speak up in order to protect a powerful man in the business.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.