'Sausage Party' Is a New High in the History of Adult Animation
The best cartoons are not for kids, and are for blazed consumption.
The raunchy, weed-whacked Seth Rogen CGI cartoon Sausage Party (rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use) is floating into theaters this weekend atop a tradition of animated feature films for adults that play especially well for audiences that are primed on refreshments more potent than popcorn.
Way back in 1945, the surrealism of animated cartoons attracted avant-garde master Salvador Dali to collaborate with Mickey Mouse's dad, Walt Disney, on Destino, a wondrous pipe dream that reached completion in 2003. There's no evidence that Walt and Sal were sharing dabs while coloring in cels. But all of that, of course, was subject to change.
When the sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-roll generation seized Hollywood, cartoons got made for grown-up kids who were tapping into colorful, frenetic entertainment of a non-projected sort. And the people making those cartoons? High as kites, had to be.
Only by splicing animation with chemically elevated consciousness can we account for this roster of animatedly baked cartoons.
Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated bummer romance is rife with the Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind creator’s deadpan, pitch-black humor. It also joins the rarified ranks of Team America: World Police (2004) and Meet the Feebles (1989) as a stellar showcase for explicit intercourse between puppets. (If you dare on this front: investigate the 1976 opus Let My Puppets Come.)
Cheech and Chong’s Animated Movie (2013)
Stoner comedy’s ultimate superstar twosome headlines a cartoon adventure that runs regularly on some edgier basic cable outlets. Since Cheech and Chong’s classics are live-action cartoons to begin with, Animated Adventure is a logical leap. It also proves to be an ideal medium for gags about refried bean farts.
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
Rob Zombie’s sex-and-violence fantasia The Haunted World of El Superbeasto follows the luchador hero of the title through an acid-blasted universe of super-powered strippers and characters from Zombie's over-the-top flesh-and-blood (lots of blood) horror films.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007)
The big screen adaptation of the Adult Swim absurdist favorite goes every bit as far as fans hoped. Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad trip through time, team up with drummer Neal Peart of Rush, and get to the mind-bending bottom of their creation at the mad hands of Dr. Weird.
A revolutionary adaptation of a graphic novel, Persepolis depicts an Iranian teen girl’s coming of age as she embraces punk rock and heavy metal and stands up to societal standards in her homeland and throughout Europe.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)
The classic, Oscar-nominated musical proved that South Park was not just a gimmicky, fluke TV hit, but a daring, frontline outpost of satire rolling into the 21st century. Plus, those song and the dance numbers!
Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996)
The KIND has proposed that MTV’s hilariously addle-brained teen headbanger duo must be wasted and that we just don’t get to see them light up on camera. Beavis and Butt-head Do America further confirms this theory. The two goofs traverse coast-to-coast, giggling and fumbling and occasionally freaking out, but always loving life regardless the whole way.
Cool World (1992)
Pioneering adult animator Ralph Bakshi’s way-out film noir ups the heavy breathing aspects of Who Framed Roger Rabbit with Brad Pitt as a gumshoe in the service of a cartoon Kim Basinger as Holly Would. Just imagine Jessica Rabbit really indulging her rare bits.
Fire and Ice (1983)
Ralph Bakshi (again) brings the archetypal stoner rock fantasy art of painter Frank Frazetta to life in an animated barbarian epic. Fire and Ice is highly recommended to anyone who ever rolled a joint on the cover of Molly Hatchet’s self-titled debut album and then “saw” the cover image—Frazetta’s painting “Death Dealer”—ride to life (so that essentially includes anyone who’s ever been in the same room with Molly Hatchet’s debut album).
Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)
The animated Gerald Scarfe portions of Alan Parker’s massively sprawling yet painfully personal rock opera adaptation remain the most iconic elements of an enduring rite of passage for young experimenters.
Heavy Metal (1981)
Heavy Metal, the sexual sci-fi fantasy magazine of the same name, roars to consciousness in a color-drenched omnibus of cosmic trips loaded with top-heavy warrior women, intergalactic barbarian dragon raids, dirty jokes, heavy space drug consumption, and a kickass soundtrack. Heavy Metal recently turned 35, and its popularity has never subsided.
Wizards offers still more Ralph Bakshi, and still more of the master animator’s mind-blowing mixed media awesomeness. It’s an epic fable intermingling traditional fantasy tropes such as sorcerers, fairies, and mythical beasts with a plot to revive Hitler’s Third Reich in an alternate universe. Stick with Wizards over Bakshi’s half-baked follow-up, cinema’s first official swing at The Lord of the Rings (1978).
Fantastic Planet (1973)
French artist René Laloux’s one-of-a-kind cutout stop motion animated sci-fi saga Fantastic Planet is a thing of all kinds of beauty. It is light and dark, airy and heavy, hopeful and upsetting, and it looks and feels like a realm that can only be accessed by exactly the means of the film itself.
Fritz the Cat (1972)
Finally, we’re back to Ralph Bakshi. This smash X-rated cinematic translation of R. Crumb’s pot-and-poontang-crazed feline infuriated its cartoonist creator, but audiences lined up to see it for years. Fans continue to love it forever.
Far less recommended is the non-Bakshi/non-Crumb official sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974)... but still: smoke it if you got it.