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'South Park' creator combines action, puppets

photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Trey Parker and Matt Stone's new puppet comedy "Team America: World Police" lambastes everybody from politicians to actors. Sorry folks, the most lascivious puppet sex has been edited out.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 14, 2004
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In the beginning, Matt Stone and Trey Parker created "South Park," one of the funniest (and smartest) animated shows in the history of the world.

"Baseketball" added to the glory, "Orgazmo" didn't take too much away, and "Team America: World Police" - their latest experiment in motion picture (this time with marionette action) - could be their crowning achievement.

After the sixth - and second best-rated - season of "South Park," the two friends and collaborators started to make a movie. While most movies are filmed months before their release, principal shooting started over the summer.

"We're just really tired right now because it was like round the clock editing to get this thing in theaters, so I'm so happy this movie is done," Stone said of the movie that opens tomorrow. "I feel like I'm high on some kind of weird morphine drug in the hospital because I'm just so happy we got this movie done."

A puppet/action film isn't exactly an oft-explored genre, but Parker and Stone found inspiration and went with it.

"It was kind of watching 'Thunderbirds' and then kind of combining that with wanting to make fun of big Hollywood movies, big event movies, big action movies, big (Jerry) Bruckheimer movies, a good thing to go together," Stone said.

With the cinematographer from "The Matrix" and the special effects guy from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" on board, Stone and Parker concentrated on writing, finding new material at every corner.

"When you decide you're going to do an 'R' puppet movie you've got a lot of fertile ground joke-wise," Stone said. "Like there's a lot of jokes that just are obvious that no one has picked up on because no one has done it. Where to do a comedy about golf is a little harder because there's already been like two or three really good comedies about golf."

But as it is with all Stone/Parker creations, it can't only be silly. It has to be smart and it (usually) has to be relevant to current events. Adding a political twist isn't a big stretch for the guys who made the brilliant observation about the divided state of America, "We can have our cake and eat it, too."

"It's a uniquely American conundrum when America does go do something in the world there are people who hate us, and when we don't do something to go stop injustices in the world everyone looks to us and says, 'Why the fuck aren't you doing anything?'" Stone said.

Stone said that one of the strengths of "Team America" is their ability to make fun of just about everybody, right or left.

"We tried really hard to not make (the film) really politically bend one way or the other. We tried to do the honest thing, the more emotionally and intellectually honest thing that most people - unless you're just a complete rabid partisan - have had mixed feelings about where America's place is in the world in the last three years," he said.

However, they did save some special time to attack celebrities who confuse themselves with politicians.

"I mean we definitely, with the Film Actor's Guild, tried to satirize what became to us the arrogance of Hollywood celebrities who can't distinguish between them being famous for being good actors and them thinking that they actually know everything about the world there is to know."

"For instance, we know about making movies and now we know about making puppet movies even though we didn't about six months ago," Stone said. "But I really don't know anything about politics more than anybody else."

Asked about who they're voting for, Stone wouldn't say.

"Truthfully I think Trey and I are like most people, we're kind of down the middle with our political affiliation," he said.

However, when it comes to censorship, it's easy to see where the oft-maligned boys of "South Park" stand. "Team America" was threatened with an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America because of a "graphic" puppet sex scene.

"I think (the MPAA is) a pretty broken organization, I don't think it serves artists very well and I don't think it serves parents very well," Stone said. "I mean the puppets are not even anatomically correct because they're like Barbie and Ken dolls, and we put them in little positions and rub them together and (there's) some pretty music."

Stone said the MPAA had some problems with the positions they chose to depict, but no matter how graphic, he doesn't think NC-17 is necessary.

"Once there is an 'R' rating on your film, I don't understand why you just can't do whatever the fuck you want. It's art for adults, and then I don't understand why there's any limitations put on an 'R' rating," he said. "It's like in the NBA. You know how the NBA officiating has gotten so bad that it's like when they make a call everyone just kind of looks around. I feel like that about the MPAA."

Besides politics and nude puppets, music plays one of the biggest roles in "Team America."

"Trey is really a musical genius so he does all the music and I get to be involved, and it's like coming up with ideas for songs and maybe helping him out, but that's his deal. And once he gets an idea he's so prolific and so fast at writing something, it's really amazing," Stone said.

Since the film is also a musical, the partners were looking forward to recording most of the music, but didn't have enough time. Not having enough time for their music is a problem that's followed them throughout their career.

"Our biggest regret of this whole fucking thing is that we came to L.A. to be in a band and we got sidetracked by this stupid fucking television thing," Stone said.

While Stone said he doesn't see "South Park" ending in the next few years, he's not sure what's in store for

season eight, which is scheduled to air later this fall on Comedy Central.

"We have no idea because we were working on this movie. We are actually going to go back to work on 'South Park' a week from Monday and we will start working and if you were to call me then I could tell you, but until then we have absolutely no idea what's going to be the first episode. We have no idea what's going to be any episode actually; we do everything by the seat of our pants."

Although "Team America" should garner quite a bit of attention - and maybe another Oscar nod - Stone and Parker don't think they'll be able to get away from Cartman.

"At the end of the day I would rather be the 'South Park' guys than be like a lot of other things," Stone said. "We're proud of 'South Park,' so it's kind of not a bummer to be called the 'South Park' guys."

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