A horny anthropomorphic hot dog in love with a doe-eyed bun. A used condom with a face, loitering in a seedy park. A booze bottle named Firewater intoning pseudo–Native American mysticisms while puffing sativa. It may look like one, but Sausage Party is no Pixar family feels fest.
Those who have belly-laughed their way through Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s stony, filthy films—Pineapple Express, This Is the End and The Interview, to name a few—may be surprised to learn that the duo is staking out a spot in cinematic history with their latest effort: Sausage Party is the first-ever CGI-animated movie to be given an R rating. Writers Rogen, Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, along with directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, are on a mission to loosen up mainstream animation—much like Sausage Party’s racy small-screen predecessors South Park, Family Guy and Archer.
They’ve got their work cut out for them. “Outside the United States, audiences are accustomed to animated movies for grown-ups, like Chico and Rita and Persepolis,” says a source from another studio that has dabbled in animation. “But here, where production costs can run higher than $200 million and animated films are ‘family fare,’ it takes nerves of steel to gamble on something that’s rated R. That’s one reason Warner Bros. made its R-rated Batman: The Killing Joke strictly for home-video release.”
Rogen, who, until Sony stepped up, had been trying since 2008 to mount the $30 million project, says, “We’ve made this insane movie, packed with every joke you’d expect from something called Sausage Party, but what you don’t assume is that we also have an unpredictable, sweet story about people from different cultures—people who don’t understand each other learning to relate and get along. So there’s a good theological analogy to be had too. We set the bar high: On a level of story, character and emotion, we had to make it as great as those Pixar movies. Visually, it had to be on a Toy Story 3 level. And we agreed that we couldn’t make fun of it.”
They don’t. Still, Sausage Party has more in common with such raucous curiosities as Fritz the Cat or the more recent Anomalisa than with Frozen or Minions. Says Rogen, laughing, “Look, I play the hot dog hero Frank, and for added authenticity Frank is molded off my dick. I’m actually playing my own dick, and it’s one of my best performances. Greg Tiernan has worked with DreamWorks for 20 years, and like he says, today that studio wouldn’t even do the edgy dialogue they did in Shrek—dialogue like ‘Dead broad off the table!’ and ‘Eat me!’ Pixar would never do that. Hopefully, we’ll set a precedent the way Deadpool did for super-hero movies.”
“We showed Sacha Baron Cohen the movie,” adds Goldberg, who launched his career with Rogen, writing episodes of Da Ali G Show, “and he was traumatized and personally appalled. It was nice to shock even him.” If the actor who once pretended to masturbate on a crowded Manhattan street was shocked, trust us: He won’t be the only one.