The Good Dinosaur is as depressing as the movie about “the guy who got raped by a bear,” says Trey Parker.
The South Park creator didn’t hold back on his thoughts about American animated features when speaking recently to an L.A. Times reporter. Here’s how the exchange went:
Do you watch many animated kids’ movies?
Trey Parker: Now that my daughter is almost 4, I’ve seen every kids’ movie there is three times. Some of them are so great. The Illumination stuff is so visual and so cartoony. It’s not what I lovingly call “Ameritrash,” where it’s all about: what was the point and what did the character learn?
We just saw The Good Dinosaur. Dude, that movie is like — what’s the movie about the guy who got raped by a bear?
You mean The Revenant?
Trey Parker: Yeah, The Revenant — it’s that heavy. One horrible thing after another happens. It is sad after sad after sad and you’re crying the whole time, and you’re like, “Who the … made this movie?”
These Illumination movies are the polar opposite of that. We’re not going to be crying. We’re just going to go have some fun. It’s a ride and it’s just about what’s funny. And I appreciate that.
Big grain of salt: Parker plays the voice of the villain Balthazar Bratt in Illumination’s Despicable Me 3, so he has a reason to hype Illumination over the other studios.
Nevertheless, his views on American animation – the idea that American animated features are often bogged down in inflated ideas and imposing lessons onto characters – feel honest. It’s what American film critic Andrew Sarris once described as “strained seriousness” – films that suffer from bloated pretensions (and run times) and feel like the storytellers have spent more time studying Robert McKee than they’ve spent experiencing real life.
Perhaps Parker is simply being introspective and recognizing the shift in his own work as well. Later in the interview he acknowledges that South Park had become overly political in recent seasons:
We fell into the same trap that Saturday Night Live fell into, where it was like, “Dude, we’re just becoming CNN now. We’re becoming: ‘Tune in to see what we’re going to say about Trump.'” Matt and I hated it but we got stuck in it somehow.
That’s why, Parker said, he wants to return the series to a goofier style. “That’s the bread and butter of South Park: kids being kids and being ridiculous and outrageous but not ‘did you see what Trump did last night?’ Because I don’t give a … anymore.”