sausage-party
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Many films have screened at South by Southwest as “a work in progress” — such as last year’s “Trainwreck” or 2014’s “Neighbors.” But when Seth Rogen took the stage at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday night, he stressed just how unfinished his new animated movie “Sausage Party” would be. “There’s s— that’s drawn by hand,” Rogen said. “You’re truly seeing something that no will ever get to see in the world.”

Even though it wasn’t complete, “Sausage Party” still received the most rapturous applause and laughter at this year’s SXSW. The raunchy, subversive comedy screened like an R-rated “Toy Story” set in a grocery set with baked (in more ways than one) goods and other edibles.

The hero of this story is a sausage named Frank (Rogen) who is smitten by his neighborhood hot dog bun (Kristen Wiig). But after a supermarket accident displaces the two star-crossed lovers (and their foodie companions), “Sausage Party” turns into an R-rated trek home. The movie features Disney-worthy voice performances (if Mickey Mouse scrubbed their mouths out with soap) by Salma Hayek, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Edward Norton, who channels Woody Allen’s New York Jewish timbre to portray a bagel.

In a post-screening Q&A, Rogen said he’d been trying to make “Sausage Party” for eight years, but most studios were too nervous to take a bet on it. “It was finding someone to agree to say, ‘Yes, I will give you money to make that movie,’” Rogen said. “That was really hard.” He finally was able to get the project off the ground — with directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon — when Annapurna’s Megan Ellison agreed to finance it.

Many of the answers hurled at the audience had the crowd in Austin roaring. When asked if the MPAA had seen “Sausage Party,” Rogen shot back: “We did. You can show food f—, that’s what we learned from this process.” He explained that Norton wanted to sound so similar to Allen, that viewers wouldn’t guess it wasn’t him. “Woody Allen could sue us probably,” Rogen said. As for lessons in telling the story, Rogen’s co-writer Evan Goldberg told the crowd: “Everyone should f— everyone.” That prompted Rogen to instruct the audience to disrobe right there.

Rogen added that his desire to tell the story came from a simple place, as a fan of cartoons growing up. “We would look at what animated movies did,” he said. “People project emotions on things around them — onto their toys, onto their cars, onto their pets. That’s what Pixar has done for the last 20 years. We thought what would it be like if our food had feelings. We very quickly realized that would be f—ed up, because we eat it.”

“Sausage Party,” which is scheduled for a Aug. 12 release from Sony Pictures Entertainment, could be a sleeper hit of the summer. But the film will need to be completed first: there are still weeks of lighting and animation left, and then composer Alan Menken will take a shot at the score. Rogen had previously come to SXSW with “Neighbors” and “Knocked Up,” and he said it was worth scrambling to get his very rough cut here, just so that Austin would be the film’s unofficial premiere. “It’s the only festival that treats comedy even remotely equal to the other genres,” Rogen said. “I’m thrilled to be showing it to you guys.”

Watch the NSFW trailer below:

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