21 Years Into The Past
In Nerd History, we celebrate the past by revisiting significant dates that gave birth to some of geek culture’s finest productions of story, imagination, adventure, and overall impact and influence.
For South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, bringing the raunchy and absurd satire series to the big screen was a mission for the creators, and their continued and passionate efforts allowed them to produce one of the best adult animated films of our time. For today’s post, we’ll take a look into the film’s complicated production and its national impact when the Comedy Central series was stirring controversy for the American television, all taking place in 1999.
Going Down to South Park
The dream team creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, were making headlines as their South Park show was meeting both praise and controversy from the public masses. Their success with Comedy Central propelled them to stardom as worthy animators who would use a simple technology to render their cut-out construction paper universe. During the show’s first season, the dynamic duo had a contract with Comedy Central that dealt with developing episodes until 1999 and creative rights and opportunities, including a seven-figure cash bonus if they could bring South Park to theaters as they worked on the show.
The duo had a couple of conditions, though. One of the big ones was to maintain the integrity and roots of the show that started all the way back with their short The Spirit of Christmas.
The sixth episode of the first season, “Death”, helped influence Trey and Matt to develop a longer script that dealt with parents protesting the in-show celebrities Terrance and Phillip. Once the idea was down, they went to work on it during the sequel season’s production, but fear of failure due to overproduction forced Trey and Matt to give it their all with this one movie musical.
One of Bigger, Longer & Uncut‘s prominent aspects was the music of the movie. Trey would write most of the songs as the score would be composed by well-known composer Marc Shaiman (Misery, Addams Family Values, Hairspray). Together, they would develop 12 songs that would both take inspiration from and spoof many animated Disney conventions and other musicals, such as Oklahoma! and Les Misérables. Some of the more notable entries in the soundtrack are “It’s Easy, MMMKay”, “Up There”, “Mountain Town”, and “Blame Canada”, the last one being nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
All of the show’s main cast of voice actors reprised their roles for the film. Mary Kate Bergman would voice nearly all of the woman roles, Issac Hayes would return as Chef, and staff babies would provide their adorable vocals to Ike. Featured voices include George Clooney as the doctor who operates on Kenny, Dr. Gouache; Dave Foley as the Baldwins; Metallica singer James Hetfield provided vocals for “Hell Isn’t Good”; and singer Michael McDonald hitting the high notes for “Eyes of a Child” and “Up There”.
The team behind the show commuted between the show and the film, resulting in extreme scheduling times that would bring last minute changes to either South Park project. On top of everything in-between projects, Trey and Matt would get into several disagreements with Paramount.
Their censoring methods would infuriate the pair to the point where they had to commit time to altering Paramount’s changes when it came to the final stages of production.
Trailers and music videos would edit out essential parts and go against the vision of the creative pair. Many of the jokes weren’t being caught up by the MPAA representatives, so the effort of removing animation and re-creating new ones would grow tedious in order to achieve an R-rating. They eventually did, after six tries.
Yet the issues of Bigger, Longer & Uncut and censoring didn’t cross paths with the film’s violence, however. The big, and probably only, problem was with the offensive and constant language. The MPAA didn’t seem to care about cartoons being blown up, but any mention of something that was dirty, inappropriate, grotesque, or anything of that sort was deemed unworthy for public distribution.
Bigger, Longer & Uncut Impact
The youth were a target of interest from parents and the government around the film’s release, with moral panic set in stone from the Columbine High School massacre that stirred great fear into the American society. Fear of corruption pushed for tougher security at movie theaters when Bigger, Longer & Uncut made it to theaters, as with the film’s prediction that kids would try to sneak into an R-rated movie.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had a budget of $21 million, and it gained an overall $83.1 million within the US and internationally. At the time, it was the highest-grossing R-rated animated film until 2016’s Sausage Party surpassed it with $140 million.
The film lives on to be one of animation’s finest achievements in terms of technology with the PowerAnimator software, controversy with the public, and deliverance on a product that is both catchy and meaningful in satire. It deals with many issues that often reflected its own real-life problems that Bigger, Longer & Uncut represented. In a way, it was super-meta, art imitating life and vice versa.
Still, South Park lives on. Season 23 premiered last year, and the show continues to poke fun at society while telling us all a message. Popular video game titles such as The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole allowed the great creative duo to bring more ridiculousness to the pixelated world. And we have episode sagas, such as Imaginationland and Coon and Friends, and this film to look back on and reflect on their messages.
We can only wait to see what Trey and Matt have to say after all the drama in the first half of 2020. We can only wonder: what would Brian Boitano do?