As the holiday season nears its climax, many folks begin talking of “the spirit of Christmas,” and what it means to them. To some it means caring for your fellow human, looking out for them. For others, it means turning the other cheek. For me, it’ll always be about two short films that wound up changing television, and comedy, history.
In 1992, two University of Denver students created a short film using an 8mm camera and construction paper. The film, entitled “The Spirit of Christmas,” involved the tale of 4 children who bring Frosty the Snowman to life, only to be attacked by the bloodthirsty Frosty. The children are saved (well, two of them anyway), when Baby Jesus arises from his manger to smite the evil Frosty. The two filmmakers behind the short film? Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the co-creators of “South Park.”
3 years later, Fox executive Brian Graden commissioned Parker and Stone, then recently finished with their feature film “Cannibal! The Musical,” to create a video Christmas card that he could share with friends. Taking $2,000, but only spending $750 on production (the rest went to their pockets), Parker and Stone re-visited their “Spirit of Christmas” ideas and upped the ante a bit. Now the four children swore like sailors, and one of them was Jewish (much to Mel Gibson’s dismay). This time it wasn’t Frosty terrorizing the children, but instead a battle royale in the smalltown of South Park between a resurrected Jesus Christ and an angry Santa Claus (with a cameo by Brian Boitano).
The video Christmas card made the rounds in Hollywood, becoming a bootlegged video hit as well as one of the earlier internet video phenomenons. 2 years later, in 1997, the characters originally conceived in the 1992 short, which had been re-imagined for the 1995 short, became the basis for the Comedy Central series known as “South Park.” The rest, as they say, is ongoing history.