When Jacob asked me to review 30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids: The Garbage Pail Kids Story I warned him right away; There was no way I could be objective about the Garbage Pail Kids, I’m too much of a fan and have been for millions of years. He said that was alright and that my fandom is what probably makes me the target audience for the film. He may have a point, so let’s see if he’s right.
Before we jump in, we should take a few things into account. First, my GPK fandom, so you know where I’m coming from. I don’t really know where my love of horror came from. The story I always tell is that as far back as I can remember my mom would bring me to the local video rental place and she’d let me pick a movie to watch, and as far back as say age 10 I remember very distinctly pointing up at the highest shelf because I wanted to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street (again). I don’t know why I liked it so much but I was drawn to Freddy as a character.
Now, the only real horror related memories that predate that is my love of Garbage Pail Kids, which I didn’t really consider horror but obviously there is some relationship there. Anyway, I remember getting my first pack from my local bodega and flipping through the cards, totally grossed out but also totally into this. There was something really wrong about these cards. It felt like something I shouldn’t have access to yet my mother never said a word about them. From that point on I collected the fuck out of these cards. This was back in the 80’s but even as recently as 2003 I remember finding a site that provided printable scans of the original series and I was in my glory all over again. So yes, I probably am the target audience for a GPK documentary, but I’ll try my hardest to be objective, because that’s what you should expect, which leads me to my second point.
How the heck do you review a documentary? You all see our criteria after our written reviews; Acting, Story, Presentation, etc. How to fit that criteria is something I’ll deal with later on, but for now just know I’m judging this film based on how it’s presented, obviously, how entertaining it is, and most importantly how informative it is. After all, a a documentary is an active passing of information so the informing part should always be the highest priority. And with that all said let’s jump into 30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids.
If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t Googled what the Garbage Pail Kids are yet, let me explain real quick. Back in the 80s when Cabbage Patch Kids were the biggest toys on the planet, a few guys from Brooklyn that made trading cards decided they’d create a parody of them and called them the Garbage Pail Kids, or GPK for short. And GPK cards depicted these cuties dolls in the weirdest, grossest, possible situations. they were vomiting into their own food, they were peeling their skin off with smiles on their faces, I mean they were seriously fucked up. And this is what Garbage Pail Kids: 30 Years Later is about.
In terms of presentation, things are fine and par for the course. The color pallet is what you’d expect from a Troma film. Trading card overlays are used freely, some gross sound effects are used to good effect, and I generally felt things were presented in a clear and fun way.
Informatively speaking, this is the crux of the whole movie. While watching, I was trying to be cognizant of how much of this was simply trying to sell to me and how much of this was genuinely interesting information. In that respect 30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids knocks it out of the park. First off, I didn’t know until now that PGK was born in Brooklyn, that’s pretty dope. I also didn’t know their origins come from something called Wacky Packages which is an interesting story unto itself, and I also didn’t know how awesome their lead artist John Pound was. No seriously Google him and his science fiction work, he’s really an unbelievably talented guy. In fact, there are a host of interesting characters on display throughout the film that had a hand in building the GPK empire. The documentary covers everything from the origins of the GPK to its standing in pop culture in this day and age. We meet creators, artists, fans, vendors, and whoever else had a hand.
As for entertainment value, there is a host of ideas and concepts that I never really considered to be part of GPK but now makes me appreciate these gross little cards more than ever. Back in the 80s, I didn’t consider the counter-culture message behind GPK. Again, these were cards made for kids, these weren’t cards made for parents for their kids. There’s a distinction there that’s made repeatedly but I didn’t mind, I found it interesting. Another aspect I appreciated was seeing how creativity comes from limitation. We’ve all heard stories of how some indie movies are made (heck, we built a whole feature on it) and one of the common themes of creativity is how limitations sometimes bring out the best in someone’s art. With GPK you can see it too. They had tons of restrictions on things they could make, sometimes creators would go too far with a drawing and have to pull it back for a redraw. Other times they’d have legal troubles that would prevent them from doing what they wanted. Seeing the evolution of the brand was is also fascinating. Seeing the original creators react to the fandom in this current day and age was a perspective I never considered. Getting into the business of making weird shit takes generally weird people, and weird people can have unique perspectives. This comes out in 30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids.
When I was younger, and collecting GPK I didn’t really have an idea how it was impacting the world, I just knew I wanted them. But to see it through the eyes of another prominent artist Tom Bunk, he was into GPK because it felt like a big F.U. to the system. If Tom Bunk had his way questioning authority wouldn’t be taboo, it would be necessary. He wanted to turn everything on its head and GPK was his outlet. And for a brief period of time, it worked. One of my favorite lines in the movie is his:
So all of that to answer the question, who is the target audience for 30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids? Well, Jacob was right, it’s definitely me. But also, anyone out there looking to see a story about a scrappy little group of people that wanted to have some fun and build a thing that can the test of times for over three decades. Worth the watch.
30 Years of Garbage Pail Kids: The Garbage Pail Kids Story is out now on VOD and DVD