Puppetry of the Meanest

teamtrioSouth Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are very, very proud of their new movie, Team America: World Police. They just aren’t having any fun making it. Here’s South Park mastermind Trey Parker, on his way to the editing room in late August: It’s brutal.

The notoriously frank Parker and Stone are famous for eschewing bland movie-PR pronouncements, but why are they so tired? In a word: puppets.

The duo’s new feature, Team America: World Police depicts an elite counterterrorism squad facing off against Kim Jong-il and a conspiracy of high-profile Hollywood liberals, including Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin and George Clooney. It has all the trappings of a Jerry Bruckheimer action film – right down to its Aerosmith-style power ballad (albeit an Aerosmith-style power ballad with a decidedly off-color title). What makes this concept unusually difficult to execute, though, is that the movie is performed exclusively by marionettes.

That’s right, marionettes – puppets on strings – in a massively complicated homage to Gerry Anderson’s camp-classic 1960s TV series Thunderbirds (as distinct from this summer’s little-seen live-action remake). This means Parker and Stone have to maintain South Park levels of satire and comic timing in shots so technically complex that Parker says they “literally get like seven or eight shots a day. We’re not getting anything that’s not going in the movie, basically.

They were still shooting in August. The movie had to be edited and in the can by the end of September. Here’s what Trey and Matt had to say in August about Team America, South Park and the glories of the cheesy musical.