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’30 Years of Garbage : The Garbage Pail Kids Story’ (review)

Produced by Krystle-Dawn Willing,
Adam F. Goldberg

Written by Joe Simko
Directed by Jeff Zapata, Joe Simko
Starring Jay Lynch, Mark Newgarden,
Mackenzie Astin, Len Brown, Arturo Gil
Debbie Lee Carrington, John Pound,
Rebekah McKendry, Art Spiegelman,
James Warhola, Adam F. Goldberg


Overlong but entertaining and informative documentary on the pop culture phenom of the 80s (and beyond).

Full disclosure: I was a little too old when The Garbage Pail Kids arrived and I never got into them during their initial run.  Plus, the movie was so horrendous (seriously, it’s one of the most colossally unappealing movies ever made) that it sealed the deal for me.

Until watching this doc.  The nicest personal effect of this film is the new appreciation it gave me for the creativity, artistry and humor behind the trading cards.

For example, I had no idea that Art Spiegelman – Pulitzer Prize winner for the Holocaust graphic novel MAUS – was one of the creative forces behind GPK.  It’s a treat to have him on hand throughout the doc, as well as his cohorts, such as John Pound and James Warhola.

The insane popularity of The Cabbage Patch Kid dolls led to Topps wanting another parody series (aka F*** You products). The result was the also extremely popular Garbage Pail Kids.

What I thought was just dumb and gross-for-gross-sake when I was a teenager now strikes me as funny, clever and subversive, and this film – and its many participants – agree.

We learn about the evolution of the series, the strong attempts by parents and school officials to censor them, and the adulation of GPK’s multitude of fans. The censorship angle is extremely interesting, as this aspect of the film is similar to the terrific doc on the Video Nasty controversy, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape.

30 Years also examines the phenomenon around the world, the rip-offs, and the court case wherein the creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids sued Topps.

We also get to find out what went wrong with the deservedly maligned film adaptation.  Star MacKenzie Astin and others relate some interesting anecdotes about the making of this truly awful film, which many argue was doomed from the start.

The home stretch of the film is particularly enjoyable, as we see the lasting influence of GPK, and grown-up fans sharing the joy of snot-covered babies and their ilk with their own kids.

At 114 mins, 30 YEARS is a tad longish, but the bulk of it is surprisingly enjoyable and insightful.  You don’t need to be a fan of the Garbage Pail Kids to enjoy this fascinating look at a piece of pop culture history.


30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story is now available on DVD and Digital HD.



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