Wired: South Park's Puppet Regime

In this month's issue of Wired Magazine: an item I wrote about the forthcoming film Team America, due in theaters next month.

While the rest of Hollywood obsesses over the next CG blockbuster, the creators of South Park are playing with puppets. For their latest film, Team America: World Police, Matt Stone and Trey Parker eschew computer graphics for wooden dummies and WYSIWYG garage geekery. "I hate what CG has done to movies," says Stone. "Filmmakers too often substitute technology for a good story. There's something so much more exhilarating about watching stuff that's real."

Real 22-inch-tall marionettes are what you get in this $20 million send-up of bloated action epics. Due in theaters October 15, Team America tracks a special task force that must save the world from terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. The film stars 90 puppets, including knock-offs of John Kerry, Michael Moore, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong II.

Puppeteers manhandle wires and rods to move the characters using the same supermarionation technique employed in the '60s cult TV series Thunderbirds. But Stone calls his method "supercrappynation" because the wires remain visible and sophisticated articulation is replaced by jerky verité.