“The Script Pile” is a biweekly column on Splitsider that takes a look at the screenplays for high-profile movie and TV comedies that never made it to the screen.
In 1996, a year ahead of Comedy Central picking up South Park, the show’s co-creator Trey Parker sold his first movie. Called Fuzzies, the script was written by a 24-year-old Parker, and it’s a hard-to-classify feature, different than anything Parker and partner-in-crime Matt Stone have made in the nearly two decades since.
Fuzzies is a live-action movie about a mentally disabled 9-year-old boy defending his small Colorado town from being destroyed by eight-foot-tall monsters that live in the mountains. The story contains elements of comedy, drama, action, fantasy and family films, but it’s hard to categorize it as any one of these genres, and it’s more heartwarming and less satirical than most of the stuff that’s come from Parker and Stone. Nevertheless, it’s just as strange and politically incorrect as the rest of their body of work.
Parker sold Fuzzies to Paramount and Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, The Truman Show) just ahead of South Park getting picked up, with the movie set to be filmed with a $20 million budget and the studio looking to shoot it in early 1998. Parker ended up calling off the movie himself, before production began, because he didn’t want to divert his attention from South Park, which was still in its first season at the time. “The only way I could do it is if I left South Park,” he told SPIN. “They wanted to do it in January. I said no. They freaked out. They’re like, ‘How could you not want to do a Paramount movie?’” Reflecting on the experience a few years later, Parker said, “I decided to do South Park instead and I’m pretty glad I did.”
Like Parker’s subsequent creation, South Park, Fuzzies takes place in a quiet mountain town in Colorado that’s pretty much the same town as the titular one in South Park:
The movie’s hero is Joe Mitchell, an intellectually disabled nine-year-old boy with a rich imagination. Joe lives with his mother, who is suffering from stomach cancer, and he constantly repeats the names of foods (“Bacon and cheese and carrots and peas”) as a tic after having fallen down a flight of stairs and smashing his head through a TV set at age four.
Every day at the same exact time, Joe, wearing only cardboard armor he made for himself and a cooking pot on his head, marches into the forest carrying a wooden sword and tells the townspeople that he’s going off to fight monsters he calls “the blue-horned fuzzies.” Mala Vista residents think he’s just a weird kid with an overactive imagination:
After Joe’s mother passes away from complications due to stomach cancer, a social worker tracks down his father, Dave Goodman, the movie’s other main character. Dave, described as a “handsome 26 year old slacker” in the script, is an unemployed “ski bum” who lives in Denver. He and Joe’s mother dated when they were 17 years old, but she kept the fact that she had his child a secret from him and Dave doesn’t become aware of Joe’s existence until after she passes away.
Dave does the right thing and looks after Joe, without telling him he’s his father. He moves from Denver to Mala Vista so that Joe can stay in the same special school. Parenting Joe matures Dave a little bit as he bonds with his son, but after Joe beats up some neighborhood bullies, the townspeople, led by the movie’s villain Ms. Schweinberg, demand that Joe be sent to live in a psych ward.
Here’s how Schweinberg is described when she’s introduced:
After Joe is taken away, it’s revealed that the “blue-horned fuzzies” he was always talking about are real and, without him regularly going to the woods to fend them off, the monsters attack and ravage Mala Vista, sending its residents into turmoil and causing them to realize that the bear-like creatures are real and not just Joe’s imaginary friends. The monsters are upset about people living in their mountains and want them to leave, causing blizzards that blow holes in resident’s windows, making cars slide off the road, and imitating human voices in order to attack them.
The townspeople, along with Ms. Schweinberg, beg Dave to bring Joe back to town to save them from the creatures. Dave tries, but Joe has already broken free from the mental health ward and found his way back to Mala Vista. In front of the townspeople, he fights off the blue-horned fuzzies until an even larger swarm of them arrive. He manages to defeat them and drive them back into the mountains with the help of an army of developmentally disabled kids he helped escape from the facility. With the town now safe, the townspeople love and adore Joe, and Dave officially adopts him, letting him know that he’s his son and bringing the two closer than ever.
Fuzzies manages to effectively pull off a tricky story that balances multiple genres. It’s a strong screenplay, especially considering that it’s one of the first movies Trey Parker ever wrote. It’s a heartwarming family film — territory Parker hasn’t returned to yet — albeit one that doesn’t downplay Parker’s voice, allowing for plenty of humor, edgy subject matter, and darkness that you wouldn’t find in a typical movie like this, throughout. It’s also a script that takes a ton of risks, most prominently with its developmentally disabled protagonist (subject matter Parker would resurrect with Timmy in South Park and in How’s Your News?, the MTV docu-reality series he and Stone produced years later). I’d describe it as Attack the Block meets Big Daddy but with a PG rating. It’s shocking how many of the film’s disparate elements manage to work together and form an enjoyable story. Two decades later, it’s doubtful that Trey Parker will ever try to get Fuzzies produced again, but it’s still an ambitious and successful script that saw him experimenting with and expanding his voice early on in his career.