When Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduced Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo to their animated show South Park, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi cried foul, claiming that they'd ripped off his own talking-feces character, "Nutty The Friendly Dump." In the minor sniping war that followed, though, none of the three writers admitted that they'd all been beaten to the punch by Korean writer Jung-Seang Kwon, whose book about an emotionally traumatized dog turd was a bestseller and an award-winner in Korea upon its 1969 release.
Recognizing a rivetingly horrible idea when they saw it, Central Park Media imported Korea's 2002 adaptation Doggy Poo, an unsettlingly cute stop-motion-animated short film in which an unloved hunk of (just barely) anthropomorphized dog shit suffers through an After-School Special-esque existential quandary. To the accompaniment of gushing piano music, the film wafts over an astoundingly detailed sculpted country village, eventually focusing on a wandering dog, which defecates on a rutted dirt road. Its leavings come to life as a beady-eyed, rouge-cheeked, child-voiced character that questions his purpose in life. As he's rejected as a meal by a sparrow and a hen—and taught shame, longing, and angst by a pile of dirt and a blown leaf—Doggy Poo weeps, whines, and wonders why he was "created." Eventually, in a sentimental and obvious plot twist, he learns the valuable moral message that even excrement has a useful place in the world.
The many extras on the Doggy Poo DVD detail the film's production process; the characters were molded from latex, which allows for beautiful, intricate surface paint, but only permits a limited range of motion. When nothing's moving (and the drab brown Doggy Poo isn't actually onscreen), Doggy Poo is strikingly pretty, and demonstrates the effects of a phenomenal amount of work. But the actual animation is stilted, as is the forced-sounding English-language vocal track. The original-language track on the bilingual DVD at least sounds more natural, though Doggy Poo's shrill whining is only moderately less irritating in Korean.
Still, Doggy Poo's main crime isn't its focus on a perpetually bawling pile of dung; it's the implacable schmaltz. CPM is marketing the film for its adult-kitsch factor, but the actual short is aimed firmly and stridently at children too young to see the irony in lionizing feces. The final scene, in which soaring inspirational music plays while the departed Doggy Poo smiles mistily in the clouds, seals the metaphor: For anyone above 4 years of age, Doggy Poo is a pretty crappy film.