South Park: Imaginationland
Satire may be best when done with a light hand and some degree of finesse. Of course with most generalizations like this there is almost always an exception to prove the rule. In the case of animated satire this exception is without a doubt ‘South Park’. The creative team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone are amazing and deeply disturbed individuals and because of that they are rich and famous. When ‘South Park’ started four years ago it changed the world of cartoons forever. Gone were the sweet little woodland characters; replaced by four foul mouthed and self centered little boys. Set is a little town in Colorado these boys have moved into the collective consciousness of the world. After a decade on the Comedy Central cable network Stone and Parker have managed to keep things fresh by constantly focusing on new targets for their wit. As they stated in a commercial for the series if they haven’t insulted a group you belong to just wait a little while they will get around to you soon. At first they started with wild broad stroke gags intended to maximize the shock value. Over the years they have honed their skills. Now the boys tend to take on all the sacred cows of our society. No celebrity is immune from their jabs and the smart ones arrange for an appearance as a guest voice. Last year Parker and Stone wanted to do a new film. Since that fell through they decided to make the first ‘South Park’ trilogy, ‘Imaginationland’. Parker and Stone have pulled out all the stops on this story and go beyond any definition of good taste commonly accepted in society. In other words it is spit milk out your nose funny.
The humor in ‘South Park’ is raunchy and puerile. We all laughed at this kind of humor in elementary school but even as adults the inner child within us deserves to come out every so often. Parker and Stone have kept true to the original format and character profiles and there is a certain comfort to that. Eric Cartman (voiced by Trey Parker) is even more of the brash, bigoted and loud as ever. Kyle Broflovski (voiced by Matt Stone) is laid back and normally easy to get along with, that is except for Cartman who is always deriding him for being Jewish. Stan Marsh (voiced by Trey Parker) is the ad hoc leader of the four boys. He tries his best to insert reason into the current situation but is typically overridden by Cartman. Since the poor, muffleded and now completely dead Kenny was out of the cast for most of the sixth season he has been replaced by Butters (voiced by Matt Stone). He is extremely high strung, naïve and easily fooled by jut about anyone around. Kenny does make a return here once again as if his numerous deaths never happened. All three episodes of the Imaginationland story arc are now on DVD released by Comedy Central through parent company Paramount Pictures.
As the story starts Cartman has dragged his friends Kyle, Stan and Butters into the nearby forest. Cartman is there to get a leprechaun. He claims that he has seen one in that part of the forest three days straight and is sure he can catch him. Along with the regular friends Cartman has another group of boys with a trap made of a net ready to strike. This is even more important to Cartman because he has a bet with Kyle that if there is a leprechaun then Kyle has to suck his testicles. If he can’t prove it he owes Kyle $10. They even have a signed contract stating this. Sure enough the leprechaun shows up and the boys chase him with Cartman screaming that he wants him alive. The little creature runs right into one of the traps and is captured. Cartman is only interested in the leprechaun’s fabled pot of gold. The leprechaun begs to be let go because he has an important message about an attack. The leprechaun uses his magic to get away but because of the delay is afraid that the terrorist attack will now happen. Kyle and some of the boys are talking as a strange man dressed as a circus ring master appears and asks if anyone has seen a leprechaun. Kyle protests hold to his contention that leprechauns are imaginary. The man agrees but tells them that just because something is imaginary don’t mean it’s not real. He takes them on the imagination balloon to see Imaginationland. The group includes Kyle, Stan, Kenny, Butters and the handicapped boy Jimmy. Butters is overly worried that he will rape them. They get there and find out the man is the mayor of the land and that it is populated by every imaginary character ever seen. Since this is South Park and their stated purpose is to ridicule as many groups as possible there are many religious figures walking along side fictional characters. You see Hindu deities and Moses near Ronald McDonald and Aquaman, for example. It’s great to have this on DVD where you and your friends can step through the scene frame by frame seeing who can identify the most characters. All the characters are glad to see their creators, some of the humans who have thought them up in the first place. Just then someone shouts ‘Allah’ and a group of terrorist appear bombing the place to bits killing many of the imaginary characters. It is a scene right out of the first twenty minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as Ronald McDonald picks up his severed arm and Santa Claus is set on fire. Most of the boys escape on a dragon leaving Butters behind to be kicked and punched by the terrorist.
The next morning Kyle is sure it is a dream until he compares notes with Stan. Butters is actually missing and to make matters worse Cartman is taking Kyle to court to enforce the contract. The United State’s Department of Defense learns about the attack and receives a video from the terrorist showing Butters as one of the hostages. They seek the advice of Mel Gibson and finally discover that Butters is a real person, not imaginary. The terrorist take ‘Rockety Rocket’ and begin to modify him so they can bring down the barrier between the good and evil halves of Imaginationland.
This is a bold move even for Parker and Stone. They make good their promise of wide scale ridicule and then some. There is even a shot of Cartman dresses as the Pope addressing the nation. In watching this you have to keep one important fact in mind. You must be willing to laugh at jokes that target any group or groups you belong to. In this trilogy Parker and Stone do what they do best; laugh at the foolishness of prejudice. They also take a major swipe at the lack of imagination that has taken over the entertainment industry. There are epic battles where Luke Skywalker and Jesus lead the creatures from Narnia, the Lord of the Rings and just about any story you have ever heard. There is more than the usual sexual references on display here. The little animals from the episode ‘Woodland Critter Christmas; show up and gang rape some soldiers; this may be a cartoon but it is not for children.
Paramount has done a great job in bringing these three episodes to DVD. Since it would be a difficult sell to get people to run out for only this small number of episodes they have some extras to up the ante. There are two complete addition episodes; ‘Woodland Critter Christmas’ and ‘Manbearpig’. The trilogy has a commentary track with Parker and Stone and it is as funny as the episodes themselves. There are also some storyboards included for the die hard fans out there. This is disturbing and extremely funny in that South Park sort of way.