South Park: Imaginationland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A non-anamorphic transfer in 2008? Blech!
And that’s a shame, as only the absence of 16X9 enhancement created problems here. The biggest concern came from definition. While sharpness was pretty good, jagged edges abounded throughout the show. These were most prominent during shots with a lot of movement, but even more still segments suffered from rough edges and some strobing.
Otherwise, the program looked good. Except for a scene with dominant red lighting, colors were strong. The hues seemed bright and dynamic throughout the majority of the show. No source flaws appeared, and blacks were deep and firm. I also thought low-light shots were clear and smooth. Despite these strengths, all the jagged edges were a major distraction and turned this into a mediocre transfer.
For the first time since the 1999 movie, a South Park production comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio! Don’t get too excited, though, as the scope of the soundfield rarely spread out more than I’d expect from the series’ standard 2.0 material. This meant a generally good soundscape, though, as the audio showed good stereo music and effects that blossomed smoothly from the sides. Localization appeared positive, and the elements connected together well.
Surround usage wasn’t great, but the back speakers did add to the proceedings. A few action sequences boasted interesting split-surround information, such as during a battle scene clearly inspired by Saving Private Ryan. There wasn’t a ton of information from the rear, but there was enough to moderately satisfy.
In addition, audio quality pleased. Speech was consistently natural and distinctive, and music showed nice range and fidelity as always. Effects were clean and accurate, and the mix demonstrated good bass response across the board. The scope of the track wasn’t involving enough for anything above my usual “B-“, but the audio remained more than acceptable.
A few extras accompany Imaginationland. First we discover an audio commentary from series bigwigs Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. During the series’ season sets, the guys do “mini-commentaries” that rarely last more than three or four minutes, but here they sit through most of the episode; though they finally bail around the 47-minute mark, that sure beats the usual brief chat.
During their commentary, the guys discuss the origins of the episode and many aspects of its story development. They go over influences and references as well as various structural elements and different challenges with which they dealt. As always, Stone and Parker prove amusing, informative and entertaining. They’re their usual irreverent selves, and they offer their unvarnished opinions of different topics. This becomes a fun and useful chat.
Two collections of Storyboards pop up here. These come for “Fuck Me, It’s a Leprechaun” (2:14) and “What Is This Place?” (1:41). Both appear in the form of story reels, so we hear final audio along with the drawings presented in sequence. It’s fun to get a look at the planning art for the show.
We also get two bonus episodes. Here’s what we find:
Woodland Critter Christmas (first aired 12/15/04): “Stan is approached by a group of adorable woodland critters and asked to help them build a manger in anticipation of the birth of their Lord and Savior. Stan complies, only to find out that they serve Satan.”
It must be tough to come up with different ideas every year for a Christmas episode, and I give the series credit for the mix of concepts it uses. That said, how do you ever top a talking piece of poop? “Critter” acts as a decent parody of the usual animated holiday fable, but it doesn’t do enough beyond that to excel. The whole Satanic twist doesn’t stand out as especially clever, to be honest, and it undercuts an already tenuous show. I do like the ending, though.
Manbearpig (aired 4/26/06): “Former Vice President Al Gore speaks to the students of South Park Elementary about a serious threat to the planet: Manbearpig. Gore enlists the boys’ help to search for the elusive creature and gets them all trapped in a cave-in. While searching for a way out, Cartman finds hidden treasure. He quickly figures out a way to escape with the treasure without having to share it.”
I don’t think series head honchos Matt Parker and Trey Stone don’t like to openly state their political affiliations, but theories that they’re pretty conservative receive a lot of support from this season. First this same season’s “Cartoon Wars” makes George Bush look like a reasonable, intelligent person, and then this one paints Al Gore as a moronic, sensationalistic Chicken Little. Look, Gore can be a self-aggrandizing blowhard, but I think this episode lashes out at his cause without much logic. And it’s just not a funny one, which is the bigger problem; I might’ve chuckled a couple times, but I don’t think much amusement pops up here.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States, South Park Season 10, and Drawn Together Season Two.
For South Park’s first-ever three-part episode, Imaginationland proves successful. The show provides many fun references to outside sources and creates a clever and involving tale. The DVD offers good audio and a few decent extras – highlighted by a typically terrific commentary - but the non-enhanced picture disappoints.
I like Imaginationland, but I don’t know how ardently I can recommend this DVD. Patient fans will get the three-part episode when Season 11 hits DVD – but it might not be the same. This disc presents a slightly longer and “uncensored” cut of the show, whereas the S11 set might only give us the broadcast version and it might omit the supplements.
If I were a fan, those “mights” would concern me but I’d wait for the S11 package. I see no harm in that; even if you hold off and the S11 set fails to include everything on this DVD, you can just pick up this one at that time. It’ll still be there if you want it. Of course, if you don’t want the full season set, this is a fun release that merits your attention.