Team America Hunts Shark

Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds meets South Park in Trey Stone and Matt Parker’s latest big-screen comedy, Team America: World Police, blasting into theaters across North America today. The Paramount Pictures release is out to challenge DreamWorks’ computer-animated Shark Tale, which has ruled the box office for the past two weekends and is poised to swim past the $100 million mark in the next couple days.

Employing the Supermarionation style of puppetry Anderson introduced to television audiences in the 60s, Team America takes aim at terrorism, and both right-wing politics and Hollywood liberals with Parker and Stone’s distinct brand of irreverent, raunchy and smart political and social satire. The film stars an all-marionette cast as an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability. When they learn that power-hungry dictator Kim Jong Il is brokering weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, the heroes crisscross the globe on a harrowing mission to save the world.

As the producers of Spider-Man 2 discovered, finding talented puppeteers in Hollywood is becoming increasingly difficult in the digital age. To recreate the look and feel of Anderson’s classic shows, the makers of Team America turned to the Chiodo Bros. Studio in Burbank, Calif. In addition to producing the cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space, brothers Charlie, Stephen and Edward Chiodo are best known for their work in stop-motion animation (Tim Burton’s Vincent, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Elf) and animatronic puppetry (Critters, King Cobra). Their past experience with Stone and Parker involved creating a cable-controlled, evil aborted fetus for the short-lived Comedy Central series, That’s My Bush.

Animated FX also contributed to the visuals in Team America, which Parker directed from a script he co-wrote with Stone and Pam Brady. Parker and Stone also served as producers, along with Scott Rudin (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).

Read about the making of Team America: World Police in the November issue of Animation Magazine, available now.