It’s no easy task deciding on the funniest thing South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have come up with during the course of the show’s lifespan – not when you have Mr/ Mrs Garrison’s discovery of “scissoring” and Jimmy the disabled stand up comic vying for attention – but Imaginationland certainly ranks among the best. This story was originally aired as three separate episodes that make up the whole, and this DVD brings them together as an hour-long special feature.
Things kick off with Cartman leading a group of kids – Kyle, Stan and Kenny among them – with the assurance that he has seen a leprechaun in the woods. A bet has been made that if they can catch the leprechaun and therefore prove its existence, Kyle – completely disbelieving of Cartman’s claim – must suck Cartman’s balls, a bet which has been made into a legally-binding contract. Needless to say, they soon catch a leprechaun.
But the Kyle-sucking-Cartman’s-balls plot is only one thread of this story, because soon the boys are whisked off to a magical “Imagination Land” by a rather camp gentleman on his airship, where they greet all of the good characters who have ever been imagined. So we have Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, Luke Skywalker, Strawberry Shortcake, Snarf from Thundercats, Santa Claus, and hundreds more. No sooner have the boys arrived than a terrorist group invades Imaginationland, slaughtering the colourful characters and effectively taking over America’s imagination.
South Park episodes have a long-running tradition of being laced with a political subtext, even if it is dressed up in the most puerile and twisted of humour – and this feature is no different. The subtext here being that the handful of terrorist attacks in the last few years have set the Western world’s imaginations running wild, spawning a suffocating climate of fear. Parker and Stone have the unfortunate habit of clubbing you repeatedly over the head with their subtexts, though, until it’s less a subtext and more the entire story.
That’s not to say there’s anything bad about Imaginationland, because there really isn’t. If there’s a more creative, clever, twisted and downright hilarious cartoon show on at the moment, please point it out (any mention of Family Guy will be rewarded with a swift slap). These three episodes have so many brilliant belly-laugh moments it’s impossible to talk about them all here, but personal favourites include the Imagination song, the completely disgusting and warped escapades of the woodland critters, and Aslan from the Narnia stories demanding that Butters imagine a giant Crest Gel toothpaste in order to defeat the evil Cavity Creeps. Oh, and not to forget Manbearpig – a half man, half bear, half pig; or half bear, half man-pig, or half man, half pig-bear … the debate rages ever on.
A word should go to the quality of the animation, too. Things have greatly progressed over the years; it no longer looks as if everything has simply been snipped from paper and glued down in a hurry; the colours are bold and bright, evoking the wonder of Imagination Land, and the characters are beautifully shaded and far more detailed than in the earlier series’ of the show.
As for the extras, we have a few storyboards, but more interestingly, two bonus episodes entitled “Manbearpig” and “Woodland Critter Christmas”. Both are solid episodes, but Manbearpig probably has the edge, as we get to see the origins of the creature (Al Gore’s over-active imagination) and Cartman involved in a plot to smuggle treasure by digesting it. Overall, this is a brilliant package for South Park fans, not to be missed.