The Spirit of Christmas (short film)
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Spirit of Christmas is the name of two different animated short films made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They are precursors to the animated series South Park. To differentiate the two, they are often referred to as Jesus vs. Frosty (1992) and Jesus vs. Santa (1995).
Jesus vs. Frosty
|Jesus vs. Frosty|
The boys put a "magic hat" on Frosty.
|December 8, 1992|
Jesus vs. Frosty begins with four boys building a snowman and, in the vein of Frosty the Snowman, putting a magic hat on it to make it come to life. Unfortunately, Frosty turns out to be evil and deranged, sprouting tentacles and killing Kenny (who resembles Cartman from South Park) by throwing him. This leads one of the boys to utter the first version of a line which is uttered in various forms in countless South Park episodes: "Oh my God! Frosty killed Kenny!"
The boys go to Santa Claus for help, but he turns out merely to be Frosty in disguise. This time he kills the unnamed hooded boy (who resembles Kenny from South Park) by throwing him. The two remaining boys run away, and come across a nativity scene with a baby Jesus, who flies over to the evil snowman and defeats it by slicing off the magic hat with a hurl of his halo. One of the boys says another recurring line from the South Park series: "You know, I've learned something today", and he and his friend realize the purported "true" meaning of Christmas: that is, presents. As a goat nibbles on Kenny's corpse they go to their homes to find presents hidden by their parents.
In 1992, Parker and Stone made The Spirit of Christmas (aka Jesus vs. Frosty) while they were students at the University of Colorado under the "Avenging Conscience Films" moniker. They animated the film using only construction paper, glue and a very old 8 mm film camera, and premiered it at the December 1992 student film screening. The film features four children very similar in appearance to three of the four main characters of South Park, including a character resembling Eric Cartman but called "Kenny", a hooded boy resembling Kenny McCormick (who remains unnamed) and two other boys similar in appearance and voice to Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski.
This film is later referenced in a season six South Park episode entitled "Simpsons Already Did It". In this episode, Stan, Kyle, and Tweek are building a snowman, and Tweek is reluctant to put the nose on the snowman and says that this is because he thinks it will come to life and kill him, to which Stan replies, "Dude, when has that ever happened except for that one time?"
Jesus vs. Santa
|Jesus vs. Santa|
A scene from the film showing Santa and Jesus fighting each other.
|December 1, 1995|
Jesus vs. Santa opens with the four boys singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", when suddenly Stan stops to tell Kyle he should sing Hanukkah songs instead, since "Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas!" Cartman insults the song ("I Have a Little Dreidel") that Kyle begins singing, and they start to argue. They are interrupted, however, when Jesus appears, asking them to take him to the mall, where they find Santa Claus.
Jesus is angry with "Kringle" because, in his opinion, he diminishes the memory of Jesus's birthday with his presents. Santa, insistent that Christmas is a time for giving, and not merely remembering Jesus's birthday, claims that "this time" they will "finish it", and that "there can be only one". They fight in a style reminiscent of such games as Mortal Kombat, accidentally killing various bystanders, including Kenny (thus eliciting Stan and Kyle's catchphrase), in the process. Jesus pins Santa down, and each of them asks the boys to help him. Stan hesitates: "What would Brian Boitano do?" (this joke is referenced in the 1999 feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut via the song "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"). The figure skater miraculously appears and delivers a speech about how Christmas should be about being good to one another. The boys, enlightened, transmit the message to the fighters, who apologize to each other in shame. They thank the boys for helping and decide to bury the hatchet over an orange smoothie. The boys then marvel that they got to meet Brian Boitano (as opposed to either Jesus or Santa) As in Jesus vs. Frosty, the boys come to realize the "true" meaning of Christmas: that is, presents. Kyle remarks that, if one is Jewish, one receives presents for eight days rather than on only one. The others decide as a result to become Jewish, too, and, while rats gnaw on Kenny's corpse, leave the scene singing the "Dreidel Song".
In 1995, after seeing the Jesus vs. Frosty film, Fox Broadcasting Company executive Brian Graden paid Stone and Parker $1,000 to make another animated short as a video Christmas card that he could send to friends. In turn, the duo created Jesus vs. Santa. Graden initially distributed the video to eighty friends in December 1995.
As Jesus vs. Santa bloomed into popularity, Stone and Parker wanted to turn the short into an adult-animated television series called South Park, and Fox was the first network to consider acquiring the rights to the show. After negotiations with Stone and Parker, Fox declined to get involved due to the show including the talking poo character called Mr. Hankey and didn't want anything to do with it as a result. After months' being passed around on bootleg video, the short caught the attention of cable network Comedy Central, which hired the pair to develop the series. The show premiered in the United States with "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" on August 13, 1997, and became the highest rated show that put the spotlight on the network.
This version of The Spirit of Christmas features an animation style very similar to that of the eventual South Park series, as well as more developed versions of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny (each of whom are referred to by name) living in South Park. Wendy Testaburger additionally appears unnamed in a non-speaking role as a child sitting on Santa's lap. The film largely establishes the characters as they are used in South Park and contains elements that recur in the series, such as Kyle being a Jew and rats eating Kenny's corpse. The film reportedly had a budget of $750, with Parker and Stone keeping the remainder of their commission.
Clips from Jesus vs. Santa are shown in a fourth season episode of South Park. In the episode, "A Very Crappy Christmas", the boys try to create a short animated film to bring back the spirit of Christmas to South Park. During the episode a few parts of "The Spirit of Christmas" are used as the film the boys are making.
Release and reception
Jesus vs. Santa received a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for best animation.
The film can be found on the South Park The Hits: Volume 1 DVD. A short clip is visible in a drive-in movie screen in some openers of South Park.
It was also included in AVI format on the first 100,000 pressings of Tiger Woods '99 for PlayStation. It is accessible from the game disc by PC. This unauthorized use caused the game to be recalled in January 1999 by Electronic Arts.
Parker and Stone launched the production company Avenging Conscience while attending the University of Colorado, along with two other students. They named the company after the D.W. Griffith film by the same name, which both had seen and actively disliked. It was formed to produce Jesus vs. Frosty (1992) and Alferd Packer: The Musical, which was later retitled to Cannibal! The Musical (1993). Parker and Stone went on to release three more projects through Avenging Conscience, Jesus vs Santa, Orgazmo, and The Book of Orgazmo.
- "Brian Graden's Bio". VH1. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "Brian Graden Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "Tiger Woods Game Pulled". IGN. January 15, 1999.
- Phillips, Glasgow (2007). The Royal Nonesuch: Or, What Will I Do When I Grow Up?. Grove Press. p. 14. ISBN 9781555847203.
- Roberts, Michael. "The South Park Anniversary: The First Trey Parker-Matt Stone Interview". Westword. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Johnson-Woods, Toni (2007). Blame Canada!: South Park and popular culture. Continuum. p. 4. ISBN 978-0826417305.