There’s no shortage of TV cartoons whose popularity green-lit a feature length movie. South Park did it, along with SpongeBob, The Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and even Duck Tales. Now it’s Drawn Together’s turn…
Oh wait; those shows continued to air after their movies were made… and their spin-off films had theatrical runs.
Okay, so The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!’s situation is slightly different. The canceled Comedy Central series’ feature length finale is a low-budget direct-to-video effort designed to provide its fans with, as the cliché goes, “closure” and to say farewell once and for all to its cast of animated archetypes… maybe.
“Part of the reason for the DVD is that we weren’t satisfied with ending the series with a clip show,” says show co-creator Matt Silverstein – or maybe his partner Dave Jeser. (It’s hard to keep track of who’s who in a phone interview.) “We thought a movie would be a more exciting, dynamic way to close out the series.”
Not to mention a far, far raunchier way. If you thought the TV series wasn’t gross or offensive enough, TDTM:TM! is the answer to your prayers: coprophilia, necrophilia and aroused onscreen genitalia abound, along with an endless supply of “fuck”s, “shit”s and language even less polite.
“The honest truth: we held back a lot because we wanted to surprise people,” Jeserstein confesses. “We wanted to make the movie cleaner than the series. When we watched the movie a month or two after we finished it – we realized we failed miserably on that.”
It’s the f-bomb that launches the movie’s plot: when the show’s cast discovers they can curse without being bleeped, they not only realize their series has been cancelled, but that they’re knock-offs of the “real” characters (name-checked out loud) they’ve been parodying. On a quest to save themselves from cartoon oblivion they lay waste to Bedrock, make road kill out of the Road Runner and redo South Park as an even more outrageous show, Suck My Taint.
“The South Park spoof in the movie is a dig at critics who complained that Drawn Together isn’t like Stone and Parker’s show,” and lacks the social criticism that gives South Park its satirical bite. “That may be true,” the producers continue, “But we didn’t want to be like South Park. Drawn Together is like the junior varsity team at Comedy Central; South Park is the varsity team. They’re clearly the better show; they go after things they hate. We only hurt the ones we love; we’re fans of Disney, Fleischer, all the characters we’re ripping on.”
If the South Park creators are upset at the dig, they haven’t shown it (“we’re not even on those guys’ radar,” says Jeserstein), nor have any of the other series lampooned in TDTM:TM! In fact “one of the old Betty Boop [the inspiration for the show’s “Toots Braunstein”] writers called us. We were afraid to talk to him but he was very complimentary.”
One might think the budget for a feature length Drawn Together was a little more generous than the TV version but “it was just the opposite – that was the hard part of doing the movie. The series had a $700,000 budget per episode and was animated in Korea. We only had a million dollars to make a movie about 3 ½ times the length of an episode.
“We animated it in Flash at a studio called Six Point Harness where they did some amazing things. The movie looks different from the show to us [but not to this viewer who thought the movie looked more expensive than the series], but it was the only way to get it done.”
Not quite the only way; Silverstein and Jeser passed on royalties in order to increase the odds of the DVD turning a profit for Comedy. “You’d be appalled at our living conditions,” Jeser cracks; “Matt’s new home is horrible.”
Even so, “it was fun to get the gang back together and work on our passion project. The greatest thing about it is it’s hard to kill a cartoon. The show could come back again in 20 years. The characters aren’t getting any older – we are, but the characters aren’t.”
Currently, the pair are working on The Cleveland Show as part of Seth MacFarlane’s Sunday night empire (taking “part in his smorgasbord of success – like rats scurrying for crumbs off the table”); MacFarlane’s returned the favor by providing the voice of I.S.R.A.E.L., TDTM:TM!’s Terminator-type robot. Even so, Silverstein and Jeser aren’t ruling out the possibility of Drawn Together indeed returning to the air. “If 300,000 fans don’t steal the movie maybe the show will come back” they say before addressing those fans directly. “Please, please don’t steal it; we know you can get it for free. Buying the DVD is a vote for the show – besides, there’s a part of the movie you can’t download that will change your life.”