If Matt Stone and Trey Parker have learned anything in their long run with South Park, it’s how to squeeze a buck out of the show’s DVD releases. Imaginationland is a 3 part episode from the show’s 11th and most recent season. There’s no doubt that the full season will eventually be out in DVD at some point. But, you see, that could be months away, and we just can’t have that. So in typical South Park epic form, the three episodes are edited together to bring us a “full length South Park movie”.
Imaginationland is a very clever idea that borrows from some sweet film traditions. Using stuff from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings, Imaginationland tells a sweeping story about a terrorist attack on our imaginations. Muslim extremists enter Imaginationland and destroy the barrier that separates our good imagination with such lovable creations like Care Bears, Luke Skywalker, and Santa with the evil imagination which includes Freddy, Jason, and the Christmas Forest Critters. Left alone to defend Imaginationland is Butters, so you can imagine how totally screwed our imagination is now. Add to the plot that Cartman is trying to enforce a contract with Kyle to suck his “balls”, and there really can’t be any mistake that this is South Park. One of my favorite elements is the government’s secret portal to Imaginationland, which looks suspiciously like a round gate hidden deep in Cheyenne Mountain. It was great to see the Christmas Critters and Al Gore using the situation to finally defeat Manbearpig. The climax is really a straight rip-off of their own Best Friends Forever episode where Kenny must defend Heaven. There’s actually a lot going on in this slightly longer than an hour episode. My biggest complaint is there is not enough Cartman, as he’s relegated to the “balls” issue and doesn’t make as big a splash as I enjoy. There are a ton of characters here, enough to make a Shrek film look underpopulated. Characters range from Popeye to The Flash, with almost every character ever imagined somewhere in the crowded landscape.
Imaginationland is presented in a non-anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation. While I was happy to see this coming out in widescreen, I don’t understand the decision to include it in this format. Fortunately I still have a DVD player that allows me to zoom to my own exact point so that I could fill my screen with little cropping or picture distortion. Colors are bright, and everything else is typical South Park animation.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is actually a little richer than I expected. The musical score was amped up for this one and drives the DVD quite nicely. The dialog is just fine, and you’ll hear every word. Finally a South Park release where the F bombs and such are not bleeped out; I really never understood why they continued to do that on DVD releases.
Stone and Parker provide, finally, a feature length commentary…almost. They drop out around 15 minutes before the end also they overuse a gimmick where they claim Paramount will substitute anything controversial with the show’s end theme. Of course, they enter into conversations that begin with: and now on Tom Cruise and Scientology followed by music.
<>Bonus Episodes: To help with the back story you get Woodland Critter Christmas and Manbearpig episodes.
Storyboards: There are 2 scenes where you can watch the original storyboards along with the film’s soundtrack. I’m not exactly sure what I was supposed to get out of this one.
<>Imaginationland joins a growing list of “special” South Park DVD releases that will soon be “double dipped” when the 11th season makes its way to our video collections. While this is a rather good 3 part episode, I’m not sure it’s so good that I wouldn’t have rather waited for the full set. The truth is, you might just want to rent this one and get it with the 11th season set later this year. Saving money is easy. “All it takes is a little imagination.”