9 months ago

“Shi* we killed Kenny” for 25 years: Eric Stough tells the recipe at Anibar 14

A journey of animated rebellion, through great writing and passionate producing work.

Who could say, that a piece of simple yet beautiful paper-cut animation, could send you back to childhood in such an intense vision? Well, it happened to me at least, and I bet to a lot of millennials who were alongside kids, filmmakers, young animators, and citizens in the audience today, at Anibar’s special presentation at Cinema ‘Jusuf Gervalla” in Peja. Eric Stough producer and one of the key figures in the production of the prominent show “South Park”, came as a special guest and highlight of the 14th edition of the International Festival of Animation – Anibar in Peja. The entire cinema’s setting capacities were used to accommodate all the interested participants for Stought’s presentation on the longstanding 25-year journey of animated rebellion through this unique, show. Born on February 7, 1972, in the United States, Stough has been a long-time collaborator with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. He attended the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone while studying film. Eric Stough began working with Parker and Stone during the early stages of South Park’s development. He played a crucial role in the animation process and has been credited as the Animation Director for many episodes of the series. Stough’s distinctive animation style and contributions have helped shape the show’s iconic look over the years.

Aside from his work on South Park, Stough has also been involved in other projects with Parker and Stone, including their film “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” where he served as an animator and a production assistant. But his journey did not begin easy. His dream as a student was to work for Disney and he made it in the World of Disney eventually. “I ended up working for the parking lot”, he reveals at the beginning of his personal experience tale, inspiring all young animators to work their way up, because hard work eventually pays off. It did for him after many years of hard work, when he became one of the first to be contracted for the production of “South Park”.

In 1997, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone unleashed “South Park” on Comedy Central, forever changing the landscape of television and the film industry.

As Stought explained, his colleagues Trey Parker and Matt Stone, two college friends with a penchant for satire and dark humor, created a short animated film in 1992 titled “The Spirit of Christmas.” This crude yet hilarious short featured four young boys, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick, as they experienced bizarre and often politically charged adventures. The short caught the attention of television executives, leading to the creation of “South Park.” In a world, where YouTube where not yet in place, the show made it “door to door’, hand to hand as a Christmas card to prominent producers, TV representatives, and public figures. “Geroge Clooney eventually got it and shared it with some others”, tells Stough, laughing and recalling the days back in his memory. While the audience applauds this amazing success.

From its inception, “South Park” became known for its fearless and controversial approach to politics and social issues. The show was never afraid to tackle sensitive subjects head-on, using absurd and exaggerated situations to highlight the absurdity of real-life events. Whether it was lampooning politicians, mocking celebrities, or critiquing societal norms, “South Park” offered a fresh and often unfiltered perspective.

Throughout its 25-year run, “South Park” pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable for television. The show’s crude animation style and uncensored language added to its unique charm, attracting a dedicated fan base that eagerly awaited each new episode. In 1999, “South Park” made its leap into the film industry with the release of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” The movie was an unexpected success, blending humor, musical numbers, and biting social commentary. Its controversial content, including a satirical portrayal of Canada and explicit language, only added to its appeal.

“South Park” found a new life in the digital age, with episodes available for streaming and clips shared across social media platforms. It became a staple in internet meme culture, cementing its position as a touchstone for millennial and Gen Z audiences.

Wielding Satire as a ‘weapon’

What truly sets “South Park” apart was its clever writing and satire, which often masked profound and insightful messages beneath the surface. “We would have five days to produce the show and it would air on a Wednesday and what we would get would be a two-page of ideas. It was not the animation really, it was the writing that brought us here”, Eric Stough said during his presentation crediting the great writing that the show has, as an inspiration for many of us writers out here. The show adeptly challenged viewers to question their beliefs and preconceptions, promoting critical thinking and an open mind on religion, race, politics, and social-related issues. “South Park” regularly became a topic of discussion due to its willingness to take on divisive subjects. It was praised for its candidness and ability to expose societal hypocrisies, sparking debates about freedom of speech, censorship, and the role of satire in modern media.

Along with the beloved four characters of the show, Eric, Kelly, Keny, and Stan, “South Park”, remains at the forefront of animated rebellion, ensuring that it will forever be etched in the annals of television history. One could say, that this show survived and thrilled for 25 years, because of a love of creation and an outstanding imagination of the world itself.  

The presentation of Eric South was made possible through the generous support of the United States Embassy in Kosovo, for Anibar. 

Leonora Aliu