If at first you don’t succeed
During the first couple of seasons of Ren & Stimpy, a number of episode ideas were either rejected by Nickelodeon’s story editors or simply put to one side as they didn’t work and/or their wasn’t enough time to do them. Towards the end of the Games run, however, the extremely punishing schedule of the final season necessitated a lot of what are best termed “cheater” cartoons (i.e. cartoons that could be churned out fast to meet the schedule). During the second season, Bob Camp directed a handful of “cheaters”, freeing up John Kricfalusi to direct the more ambitious ones. These generally placed Ren and Stimpy in generic situations - e.g. in the army, at a wrestling match, at the zoo - and were less concerned which characterisation than simply stringing together some funny gags to make an entertaining 11-minute short. By 1994/1995, however, it had become a case of simply digging up a story - any story - and turning it into an episode in order to fulfil the order for which the crew had been contracted. As a result, they ended up using a number of storylines that Nickelodeon had originally rejected.
One of these was Ren Needs Help, a John K./Richard Pursel concept in which Ren, after doing something unspeakably horrible to Stimpy, realises just how insane he is and decides to get psychiatric help. The Games interpretation, which credits Jim Gomez and Bob Camp as the writers, follows the basic premise of Ren seeing a therapist, but omits Ren’s feeling of guilt, instead portraying him as being forcibly institutionalised, in what seems to be a botched take-off of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The screen captures below are taken from the final scene of Ren Needs Help, in which Ren finally goes completely insane and ends up being lobotomised. There’s a gag at the end about him being dressed up to look like the president and sent to the moon to make a speech, which I’m assuming is some sort of in-joke that didn’t come across in the finished cartoon. (A lot of the Games episodes are like that.)
Flash forward to 2003, and something that almost never happens actually does happen: John K. gets to make the cartoon his way. The end product, Ren Seeks Help, has virtually nothing in common with Games’ Ren Needs Help, but I understand that it follows the original premise far more closely. In this version, instead of being institutionalised, Ren voluntarily books himself in with Dr. Horse, and proceeds to recount the story of his birth and childhood, where we discover the roots of his madness. (A far more ambitious project than what Games attempted, as I’m sure you’ll agree.) Eventually, Dr. Horse offers Ren his final diagnosis - “You’re fucking crazy, that’s what’s wrong with you!” - and Ren goes nuts, killing him and being carted off to the funny farm. (The final frames involve a frog that Ren tortured as a child hauling himself into the office and attempting to commit suicide with Dr. Horse’s pistol. Unlike the “president on the moon” moment in the Games cartoon, this is a closing gag that actually works in the context of what has been shown before it.)
So, here is the final scene from Ren Seeks Help. The 2003 Ren & Stimpys, despite being made for less money, feature a tonne more poses and fuller animation than the original 1991-1995 cartoons, so I ended up with vastly more screen captures than for Ren Needs Help, and even then I decided to be selective.