678. The Spirit of Christmas – Trey Parker, Matt Stone

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SUMMARY: Four boys in a small Colorado town learn the true meaning of Christmas when they witness a fight between Jesus and Santa Claus.

WHY IT’S HERE: Trey Parker and Matt Stone probably had no idea what they were starting when they made ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ but it eventually spawned the huge phenomenon that is ‘South Park’. The two American directors had actually made a film of the same name three years previously, which starred characters who were reasonably similar to Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny but with some differences (for instance, in that early short Cartman is called Kenny and is the unfortunate one who gets killed). When Fox executive Brian Graden saw the film, he paid Parker and Stone $1,000 to make another film that he could send out as a video Christmas card. This second version of ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ features characters much closer to those featured in ‘South Park’, this time with the correct names and death sentences!

‘The Spirit of Christmas’ is an amusing little short which is now largely viewed as something of a curiosity, since it spawned a series which developed the style, characters and humour significantly. The film picked up a cult following as Graden’s ‘Christmas card’ was passed around and appeared online. Soon, Parker and Stone were contacted by Comedy Central and the rest is history. Although it has often featured some of the most sophisticated satire on television, ‘South Park’ has never forgotten its roots, hanging onto the crude humour, controversial subject matter and basic animation style that made ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ so instantly appealing. Parker and Stone have also often referenced this early short in ‘South Park’. The episode ‘A Very Crappy Christmas’ is based around the idea that the boys themselves made this film, while the feature film ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut’ features a fantastic musical number called ‘What Would Brian Boitano Do?’ which is based around a throwaway joke from ‘The Spirit of Christmas’.

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