Hot on the heels of family-friendly cartoons like Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory comes an animated movie that definitely isn’t for the whole family… unless it’s the Manson Family.
The high concept of Seth Rogen’s NSFW Sausage Party was, I think, best summed up by twitter user @ByChrisSmith who wrote, “So that Sausage Party trailer… Toy Story for food with swears?”
It’s the kind of food porn you won’t see on the Food Network. “We started to think ‘What if food had feelings?’ said Rogen after a sneak preview at the South By Southwest Film Festival. “That really is what inspired the whole idea: What if food thought one thing happened and discovered another thing happened?”
The story begins at a supermarket called Shopwell’s. Frank the Sausage (voice of Rogen), his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) and all the other foods—including Mr. Grits (Craig Robinson), a tomato (Paul Rudd) and Teresa the Taco (Salma Hayek)—live in hope that one day a customer will choose them. When they find out what happens after the customer takes them home, however, they fight to avoid their fate.
R-rated and raunchy, Rogen says he showed an early cut of the film to Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen. “Sausage Party appalled him in some ways,” adding that Cohen, cinema’s reigning Prince of Provocation, called the movie “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Someone who might not have been surprised by Sausage Party is Ralph Bakshi, a legendary animator who once said, “None of my pictures were anything I could ever take my mother to see. You know it’s working if you’re making movies you don’t want to your mother to see.”
Bakshi began his career his career in traditional animation, working for Terrytoons, home to cartoon characters like Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse but left television to make first animated film to receive an X-rating from the MPAA. Loosely based on a character created by cartoonist Robert Crumb, who later disavowed the film, 1972s Fritz the Cat is a trippy counterculture flick about a streetwise feline who smokes dope and has run ins with the Hell’s Angels and the Black Panthers. Extremely controversial—New York Times critic Vincent Canby wrote, “[there’s] something to offend just about everyone”—it became the first independent animated film to gross more than $100 million at the box office.
More adult animation came with the R-rated Heavy Metal. An anthology made up of eight stories bound together by an intergalactic traveller described as the sum of all evil, the movie’s tagline promises to take audiences “beyond the future into a universe you’ve never seen before. A universe of mystery. A universe of magic. A universe of sexual fantasies. A universe of awesome good. A universe of terrifying evil.” Rotten Tomatoes calls the movie “sexist, juvenile, and dated,” but says it “makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly-used soundtrack.”
Both Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal were successful enough to spawn sequels. The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal 2000 both tried and failed to recapture the success of the originals. When asked if there might be a sequel to Sausage Part Rogen said, “What’s better than one sausage? That would be dope. All we do are franchises now.”