‘South Park’ DVD is meaty, but ‘Imaginationland’ commentary is thin

Watching South Park’s Imaginationland trilogy with commentary by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I learned very little about the Imaginationland trilogy, new on DVD Tuesday from Paramount.

Instead, I listened as they droned on and on about their pet peeves in story structure and how TV writing is better than movie writing and which directors they really, really like and which ones they don’t and the fact that they both were fooled by the ending of The Sixth Sense and on and on and on with maddening irrelevancies. Meanwhile, one of the wildest, most eventful  and most character-dense South Park stories ever unfolds on screen — and they almost completely ignore it.

Trey and Matt might as well have spent the time singing their own amusingly inane ode to imagination, “The Imagination Song.” You know how it goes: “Imaginaaaaaaaaation. Imaginaaaation. Imaaaaaaaaagination. Imaginaaaaaaatioooon.”

Hey, I love these guys, and I love their show. It’s funny as hell, it bravely hits Hollywood on the nose (for two guys who “will never work in this town again,” Trey and Matt keep doing so) and it tries valiantly to be timely and pertinent, not to mention cheeky and subversive. But their first stab at feature-length commentary showed that Trey and Matt are as clueless as some of the directors they disdain.

I’m sure many fans will agree with me that the BEST commentaries are scene-specific, while the WORST commentaries are self-indulgent ramblings which ignore what’s unfolding on screen. Why bother even playing the episodes if you’re going to talk instead about Mel Gibson movies? This is no true commentary on Imaginationland. It’s “Tangent Talk.” In fact, about as close as it comes to assessing the trilogy is giving tedious details about what was considered for it — and discarded. Who cares, if it wasn’t good enough to make the cut? Tell us about what you DID do, not what you didn’t do.

Now, Trey and Matt may ask, what should we have discussed instead? Well, how about the ways in which various good and bad imaginary characters were chosen for scenes in Imaginationland, where several South Park kids wind up during an elaborate plot involving the U.S. military, terrorists, a clash between good and evil and — oh yes — Cartman pushing Kyle to pay up on a bet to suck his balls? From Tron to Yellow Submarine, that’s a lot of ground to cover. Which movies, TV series, comic books, etc. were most represented, and which were left out, and why?

Speaking of which, how about explanations of how they can get away with showing copyrighted characters such as Mickey Mouse getting bloodily blown away — not to mention Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz?

Or how about details on which shots and lines of dialogue had to be trimmed for telecast on Comedy Central but made it into the DVD? Did you really think some of this would fly, or was some of it done just for the DVD?

Or how about why the DVD, by contrast, has a tamer title (Imaginationland) than the telecast (Kyle Sucks Carman’s Balls)? That seems inconsistent. Why?

While these and other questions beg for answers, we do get a little bit of insight from Trey and Matt, including their explanation that, in South Park’s limited animation, expressions are all about eyebrows and mouths. They’ll tell the artists a character needs “worried eyebrows” and “a number 4 mouth” and, magically, that gets it.

Parker also owns up to the fact that this trilogy was trying. “I don’t want to do another trilogy,” he says. “This is probably it.”

He probably doesn’t want to do another feature-length commentary, either. For boxed sets of season series, the boys have commented for just the first four or five minutes of an episode, and that’s it. Here, they actually make it to the start of the trilogy’s third part when, at 47 minutes into a 68-minute presentation, they quit. “That’s the longest commentary we’ve ever done,” they say triumphantly — but they quit. They have nothing more. Meanwhile, all hell breaks loose on screen, with many characters doing crazy things, and many fans raising many questions, but from Trey and Matt, it’s “No comment.”

Oh well. Perhaps we should just appreciate the trilogy in itself, which is one of South Park’s finest hours. Heck, I even love that inane little “Imaginaaaaation” song, especially as it plays over a menu featuring lovable little Butters in Imaginationland. And adding bonus episodes on Manbearpig and the Woodland Critters (can they please get their own show?) is totally fitting, since they all appear in the trilogy, too.

So check it and out and enjoy a triple dose of South Park. For on-screen entertainment, this is a terrific disc. But to make it through the commentary without nodding off, you’ll need a little bit of imagination yourself.

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12 Responses to “‘South Park’ DVD is meaty, but ‘Imaginationland’ commentary is thin”

  1. Shane Says:

    I enjoyed the commentary. Yes, was it very ‘helpful’? No, but as someone who has already done his research into the trilogy, there wasn’t much they could tell me that I wouldn’t have known. I like hearing them talk, it feels more personal than the commentaries where directors drone on and on about shots and blah blah blah. I’m watching the finished product, I’m a serious fan, and it felt like they were just talking and for fans of the series that actually spent more than an hour since the episodes came out researching them, this was more of a payoff.

  2. farsider Says:


    This commentary might have been fine for you, but not everyone “researches” films or programs before they reach DVD, nor should they have to. I suppose discs should advertise “Commentary track for those who have/have not researched the film.”

    Anyway, why bother listening to any commentary if you already know so much about a production? Most people go to the commentary track to learn — that’s why they exist. And I really do believe filmmakers owe it to their viewers to comment on things related to the film, and as they occur on screen.

    I agree with you that this can be mishandled, with tedious details of more than you want to know about camera setups, lighting, etc. But story content and background anecdotes related to what’s unfolding always are welcome in my book.

    Thanks for writing.


  3. Andrew Says:

    I disagree, in that the commentary may not have been informative, but it was refreshing just to hear Trey and Matt speak openly outside of their show. It may not have told us anything about the show itself, but it certainly told us a lot about the people behind it.

    However, them quitting before the final and most exciting 20 minutes left is downright confusing and somewhat embarrassing for them. You just leave the viewer hanging like that? I bought the DVD to listen to this and support you guys (southparkstudios.com is sufficient for seeing the episodes themselves) and you just bail? Weak, dude.

  4. Taylor Says:

    I thought the commentary was fine. And they explained that they were having difficulty thinking of stuff to say in the commentary.
    And it wasn’t called “Kyle Sucks Cartmans Balls”, that was a joke title in the episode. On the SPS website, it was always “Imaginationland”.
    And if you want more, try and ask them something yourself at Just For Laughs this summer. They’re pretty secluded guys, and I respect that. You can’t blame them for not giving all of themselves over to the public. I don’t think you are, just making sure.

  5. farsider Says:

    For fans of guys who SLAM many people, from celebs to politicians, every day on their show, you people sure go easy on Trey and Matt.
    Look, I love the guys, and I know they don’t mind being pressed on “Hey Matt, why didn’t you do this?”, or whatever, because I’ve interviewed them before, and I know they’re cool guys, and I know they can answer a question like that. Besides, as they say, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Well, South Park is an inferno of a kitchen when it comes to cheeky if not downright subversive content, and don’t worry, Trey and Matt can handle it if one or two people say, “Hey, couldn’t you guys have told us a little more about what went into that three-part episode?” To wit, I had some questions, which I mentioned. I’m just surprised that you guys — Andrew, Taylor — feel like we have to treat these raging iconoclasts with kid gloves. Hey, you bought the product, and you have a right as a consumer to express yourself about it. There’s no harm and disrespect in saying look, we, as fans, would like to know more sometimes. And clearly I’m not talking about their personal lives. I’m talking about the enormously detailed three-part episode on this DVD. It just didn’t get enough acknowledgment from them. If you disagree and you’re content with what’s there, fine. Different strokes. But don’t tell me I don’t have a right to ask for more, because that’s the only way we’ll ever get it.

  6. Shane Says:

    “But story content and background anecdotes related to what’s unfolding always are welcome in my book.”

    Agreed- and if people are new fans or seem to take the show’s plots seriously, then I can see why one may have questions. But the fact is that in all likelyhood, why they chose certain characters to be in the show and why certain shows/books/movies were chosen is likely very boring. They’ve mentioned how they were able to get away with copyrighted characters in this show before and the title was never different officially. So, in the end, we got the best we could have hoped for that they didn’t find boring.

  7. farsider Says:

    You say, “The fact is that in all likelyhood (sic) why they chose certain characters to be in the show and why certain shows/books/movies were chosen is likely very boring.” Oh really? Actually, your pronouncement that something is “very boring” hardly constitutes a “fact.” No, that is what is called your “opinion.” And that’s fine. Keep your opinion. Cherish it. And love it as much as you must love to misspell words. It’s an opinion, and it’s yours, and that’s OK. But that does not make it a “fact.” Meanwhile, being an inveterate non-apologist at heart, I will keep my own opinion that this could have been a better commentary in MANY respects, and not just one, and also a better commentary for longtime fans like me and others whom I know who feel the same way. There are good commentaries, mediocre ones and bad ones. This one may not be horrible, but it definitely could have been better in many ways, and as a blogger I articulated those in detail. What a crime! Then those in the “Trey and Matt can do no wrong” camp berate me for having an honest opinion while saluting themselves for allegedly dispensing “facts.” Sorry, but that’s downright silly. Get back to me when you’ve got a better argument. See ya.

  8. Brando Says:

    I’m just stoked they did a feature length commentary for once.

  9. butters Says:

    frankly, i’m with Shane – I couldn’t think of anything more boring than why certain comic book characters were in the show, etc. oh, and that’s an OPINION, not a fact.

    Matt and Trey usually leave a lot to be desired in the commentary department – mini-commentaries hardly count – but I definitely enjoyed their Imaginationland commentary, as I did their Season 1 commentaries (which were never released for legal reasons but which can be found ont he web).

  10. Writecorp Says:

    Dear Farsider,

    Apparently you, in fact, are the only one who thinks that this commentary is not up to par. I enjoy that you’ve written responses telling others that your “apparent” idea for a commentary was not met, but that does not change the fact that not one person has agreed with you. I believe one’s own personal opinion is a terrific thing, but to have to persuade everyone else to believe you, especially when your reviewing products, is not a good sign when your in the critic business. I could only imagine you going to Casablanca and telling others that it was the worst movie ever made. Perhaps you should look int a new business? Let’s say any job you don’t have to open you mouth and speak your opinions.

    Yours Sincerely
    Good Advice 🙂

  11. farsider Says:

    Here we go again: If you disagree with me, you say not to “open you (sic) mouth and speak your opinions.” Sounds like the govt. in Iran. Look, I had an honest opinion, and I’m just as entitled to it as anyone else is to theirs. What’s your problem? And BTW, blogging isn’t my “business,” but an avocation, but I did spend 3 decades as a professional journalist covering entertainment. How about yourself?

  12. Ethan Simon Says:

    South Park is a series that much about it because the topics are considered taboo and often turned to derision, but also why we love him so much ^ ^

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