When Pixar and Disney released the 3D-animation “Toy Story” in 1995, they revolutionised animated filmmaking with the story of a group of anthropomorphised toys. A meditation on the value of friendship, the film ushered in a still-ongoing golden age of self-aware, fun-for-all-the-family animated films that garnered critical acclaim and huge worldwide audiences.
These films continue to dominate the box office, more than holding their own against superhero smash hits like “Captain America: Civil War”. In fact, of the five top-grossing films of 2016 so far, three are animated – “Zootopia”, “The Jungle Book” and Pixar’s “Finding Dory”, all of which commanded close to one billion dollars at the global box office.
Eleven years on from “Toy Story” and “Sausage Party” looks to be pioneering in its own way – opening up 3D animation to a distinctly adult-only audience looking for a raunchier, profanity-laden take on the genre.
The film, which follows the adventures of talking hotdog Frank (Seth Rogen) and friends, has received an MA rating in Australia and features a cast packed with Judd Apatow luminaries like James Franco and Jonah Hill, as well as Hollywood stars like Edward Norton and Salma Hayek.
It remained on the back-burner for over eight years, with most studios understandably wary of taking a risk on an idea that is effectively tracing uncharted waters. The film was eventually picked up by Sony and Annapurna Pictures and given a budget of $US30m – a relatively modest venture compared to the $200m spent on “Finding Dory” and the $150m on “Zootopia”.
True to the form of most animated movies, “Sausage Party” explores a raft of deeper themes, including the existence of God, and was written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir.
Rogen and Goldberg, long-time writing partners and childhood friends, penned their first draft of “Superbad” at the age of 13 and since then have continued to put out well-received comedies like “Pineapple Express” and “This Is The End”. If “Sausage Party” keeps to a similar standard, then it may emerge as one of the year’s most original breakout hits.
Early reviews are very promising and the film currently holds a 100% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, an impressive feat for any movie, let alone one as potentially divisive as “Sausage Party”.
Yet it’s safe to say the film will attract its fair share of controversy, and already has after a cinema in California played the red-band trailer before a showing of the family friendly “Finding Dory”. No doubt unsuspecting parents will fall victim to the innocuous “Sausage Party” film poster and take their children along to see it, but any potential controversy will surely help the film differentiate itself from more familiar animated fare.
In any case, if “Sausage Party” proves a success, it will join the pantheon of innovative animated movies that pushed the boundaries of the medium and may kick off an animated renaissance not seen since Woody and Buzz Lightyear first graced our screens.
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