‘Hey, Terrorist, Terrorize This!’: 19 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Team America: World Police’ on Its 19th Anniversary
While South Park is — and will always be — the first thing anyone thinks of when the names Matt Stone and Trey Parker come up, it’s not their sole contribution to comedy history. There’s also, of course, The Book of Mormon, BASEketball and Team America: World Police, a puppet movie satirizing America’s post-9/11 militaristic mindset (and the era’s action movies).
The raunchy comedy brought us memorable lines like, “Hey, terrorist, terrorize this!” and hilarious songs like “America, Fuck Yeah.” It also made sure we could never forget what it looked like for two puppets to have sex. To celebrate Team America’s 19th anniversary, here are 19 tidbits about the film that don’t suck (unlike Pearl Harbor)…
It’s Inspired by a 1960s Puppet Show
Team America was an homage/parody of the short-lived 1960s British show Thunderbirds, a puppetry series focused on International Rescue, a life-saving global police force.
But Parker and Stone Weren’t Fans
Parker said of Thunderbirds, “We weren’t fans. They couldn’t even hold our interest when we were kids. They’re so expository and slow — just dialogue and dialogue and dialogue, and it took itself really seriously.”
They Originally Thought About Remaking ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ with Puppets
Prior to coming up with the story for Team America, Stone and Parker considered remaking a major Hollywood script with puppets. They thought The Day After Tomorrow would be especially fun.
The Workload Was Basically the Opposite of ‘South Park’
While an episode of South Park is typically created in just six days, Team America was painstakingly slow to make thanks to all of the marionettes. While filming, Parker complained that they “literally get like seven or eight shots a day. We’re not getting anything that’s not going in the movie, basically.”
They Worked Right Up to the Deadline
The puppetry took so long that Stone and Parker were still filming in August 2004, though they still managed to make their October 15th release date.
A White House Official Condemned the Movie
After the trailer dropped, an anonymous “White House official” objected to the movie, telling Drudge Report that it trivialized the War on Terror. When asked about this, Stone questioned the validity of the story and said, “It was free publicity, so it was fun for us.”
The Movie Wasn’t All About Politics
In an interview, Parker said, “Just like everything we do — and the South Park movie was this way, too — (our scripts) always start off being about 120 pages of politics and basically expository crap. And then you whittle it down and whittle it down, and you start to look at stuff, and then you realize, ‘Okay, the funniest stuff is watching a puppet falling out of a car — and that’s what the movie’s really about.’ You weed it out and let the politics take a back seat. Because I know I’m sick of politics. It’s more about fuckin’ up puppets.”
‘What Would Jerry Bruckheimer Do?’
When figuring out various aspects of Team America, Stone and Parker constantly looked to Bruckheimer’s films for inspiration. “We ask this question about four times a day on the set: ‘What Would Jerry do?’” said Stone. Parker also noted, “I think you could take any Bruckheimer movie and do it with puppets, and it would be screamingly funny.”
It Used Almost 300 Puppets
A total of 270 puppets were created by the Chiodo Brothers, who also made puppets for Elf, Dinosaur and Ernest Scared Stupid.
Harder Than Running the War on Terror
During an August 2004 interview, Parker was asked, “What do you think is harder — running a war on terrorism or running a movie with puppets about a war on terrorism?” Parker’s response was, “Oh, running a war on terrorism would be fucking cake. Tell a soldier to kill someone, and you know he will just go and do it. Tell a puppet to go kill someone, and it’s going to be taking five fuckin’ days.”
It Was Originally Rated NC-17
Stone and Parker purposefully tried to push the limits regarding the film’s rating. They originally got an NC-17 rating thanks to the infamous sex scene, including a part where the puppets defecated and urinated on each other.
A Modest Box Office Success
The movie was a box office hit, making $51 million off a $32 million budget. But it was still just the 82nd highest grossing movie of 2004.
‘Team America’ Gave Both Democrats and Republicans Something to Complain About
Team America offended right-wingers by mocking the War on Terror and left-wingers by lampooning celebrities opposed to the Iraq War. When asked about this, Parker said, “What we’re sick of — and it’s getting even worse — is: You either like Michael Moore or you wanna fuckin’ go overseas and shoot Iraqis. There can’t be a middle ground. Basically, if you think Michael Moore’s full of shit, then you are a super-Christian right-wing whatever. And we’re both just pretty middle-ground guys. We find just as many things to rip on on the left as we do on the right. People on the far left and the far right are the same exact person to us.”
Some Celebrities Loved Being Parodied in the Movie
After it came out, some celebrities admitted that their portrayals made them laugh. Alec Baldwin said, “I thought Team America was so funny.” He also said his daughter’s classmates at the time would quote the film to him, saying, “You are useless to me, Alec Baldwin.” Baldwin also requested to voice himself in the movie, as he heard about his inclusion before its release.
Others, However, Hated It
Sean Penn objected to his appearance, where the puppet Penn said Iraq “had flowery meadows and rainbow skies” before Team America attacked it. The real Sean Penn reacted by writing an angry letter to Stone and Parker, inviting them on a trip with him “through the Sunni Triangle into Fallujah and Baghdad.” He then signed off the letter with “a sincere fuck you.”
Matt Damon Tried to Have It Both Ways
Damon got it especially bad in Team America, being portrayed as an idiot only capable of saying his own name. When asked about it, Damon said, “I was always kind of bewildered by Team America. I’m a screenwriter and an actor, and like, really? I can barely say my own name? So I was always bewildered by that, and I never talked to Trey and Matt about that. And incidentally, I believe those two are geniuses.”
Speaking of Damon, Ben Affleck Was Almost Lampooned in the Movie, Too
In a deleted scene, Affleck was another celebrity railing against Team America. However, Affleck wasn’t portrayed as a marionette; he was just a talking hand.
They Also Picked on Their Pal George Clooney
Clooney is friends with Stone and Parker, and as a fan of the early shorts, he helped South Park become a show. Regardless, Stone and Parker pulled no punches with Clooney. Explaining in an interview, “We’re, like, light friends with George. We’ve hung out with George. But the thing is, he was on that list, man — he was on that MoveOn.org. So we weren’t gonna be hypocritical and be, like, ‘Well, let’s not pick on George. He’s our friend.’ We’re like, ‘Nope — fuck you, George. You went on the news shows, too, and talked about Iraq like you knew what was going on. We’re taking you down, buddy,’” Parker explained.
Will There Ever Be a Sequel?
While still in production on Team America, Parker said, “You could threaten to kill my family and I would not make another puppet movie. If my mother would die if I would not make another puppet movie, she’d be dead. I’m totally serious.”