Film: 30 Years of Garbage – The Garbage Pail Kids Story (2016)

May 10, 2017 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary / Pop Culture

Synopsis: Exhaustive documentary on the infamous & grotesque sticker & trading card series that satirized the equally infamous childrens’ doll, both of which continue to maintain potent fans.

Special Features:  n/a




Yes, they made a movie about the trading card stickers phenom which challenged the cutesy Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, using images of snotty, explosive, fairly grotesque kids who on occasional might main themselves while bearing big dopey smiles.

Jeff Zapata and Joe Simko’s doc is really for the GPK fans, packing the history of Topps who made bubble gum and (initially) sports cards before hiring a batch of rebellious counterculture artists to poke fun at commercialism. Among the geniuses were Art Spielgelman, John Pound, Tom Bunk, and James Warhola, many of whom were inspired by or came from the irreverent Mad Magazine. Collectors may recall Wacky Packages, which formed a genre of stickers & cards a Topps executive called Fuck You Products, and when the company needed a new line, a fleeting concept spawned what ultimately became Topps’ most successful line, significantly beating out their chewing gum and sports cards revenue.

Topps’ secret was to make products tailored for kids, no matter how dry an idea initially seemed to be. When a Civil War series was bandied about, fears of making educational but dead-in-the-market products were answered with a simple plan: ‘We’ll make ‘em want them. We’ll make ‘em violent!



The success of the GPK series was ensured by a manic work ethic that had primary artist Pound figuring out a system to ensure daily deliveries, while Spiegelman acted as chief editor for the names, descriptions, and pushed for more oomph – designs that were sicker, crazier, and subjects that more closely resembled their target, the Cabbage Patch dolls that became a sickening Christmas phenomenon in which parents fought each other in stores to get the world’s hottest new toy.

What Topps and the artists never figured was a legal differentiation between an allowance to satirize a product in magazine form, and discrediting a brand – the latter applicable to non-periodicals like trading and sticker cards. The makers of the Cabbage Patch Kids were not amused by Topps’ success nor their direct attack on their multi-million dollar product and brand, and a lawsuit led to a change in the GPK design, plus highly peculiar demands to ensure no one construed the mutant, self-abusive kids with the original squeaky-clean dolls.

Fans remained undeterred by school bans, changes in design, spin-of products around the world, and a terrible 1987 feature film (The Garbage Pail Kids Movie) and 1987 cartoon TV series that remained unaired by its American network until the era of DVD.

It’s a weird, surreal tale that for non-fans is fascinating up until a focus on the feature film, after which the doc’s 114 min. running time becomes very heavy, and most of what follows – conventions and philosophical reflections – are for GPK fans, which include new, old, and serious collectors. As the artists are well aware, GPK was designed for kids to satirize commercialism – something kids well understood – but any sensation’s natural evolution includes the inevitable commercialization of a once niche / indie-minded idea. For collectors, it means original and reproductions are must-have artifacts, but for the artists, it’s a bittersweet transition in seeing their Fuck You’s transformed into over-priced objects d’art.

First-time filmmakers Zapata and Simko pack a wealth of images into their film (a lot of images and onscreen text tend to fight for our attention), lengthy interview segments with artists and film actors, and compact bios on the artists who created often beautiful little horrors rightly admired by fans. Hearing Pound figuring out a work schedule to deliver quality on a budget with serious hourly limitations is amazing, and it’s sad none of these eccentric masters enjoyed the million dollar bonuses Spiegelman recalls were handed out to execs whose portfolio were sports cards.

Financially, the Fuck You Products did fuck-all for the artists, but the series’ creators remain stoic, and have the satisfaction that no one remembers the faceless execs, but the art, humour, and products that are forever tied to these clever satirists.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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