Sunday, February 1, 2009
South Park American Anime Television Comedy
South Park is an animated American television comedy series famous for its off-color humor, pop culture parody, and biting satire covering a wide range of topics. It originated as a short film created by college students Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who later developed the series and continue to do most of the writing, directing, and voice acting. The plot revolves around four boys - Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny - who live in the fictional mountain town of South Park, Colorado. The show has received many awards, including three Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program.
Comedy Central has aired a total of 181 episodes since the show's debut in 1997. Doug Herzog, who brought South Park to the network, credits the show's strong ratings for putting Comedy Central "on the map". The twelfth season concluded in November 2008, and the thirteenth season will premiere in March 2009. Parker and Stone are under contract to produce new episodes through 2011.
Two feature-length movies have also been released; the musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had a widespread theatrical run in 1999, and the three-episode Imaginationland story arc was reissued straight-to-DVD in 2008
The show revolves around the adventures of four boys — Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick (often called "the boys" when as a group for easier reference) — and their friends living in the fictional small town of South Park, Colorado. The boys were in the third grade but midway through season four they entered the fourth grade where they have stayed ever since. There are many recurring characters on the show, including the boys' families, school staff, and other students. These include Leopold "Butters" Stotch, Chef (who no longer appears in the show), Mr. Hankey, Towelie, Jesus, and Satan. There are also many other minor characters.
South Park's early episodes tended to be shock value-oriented and featured more slapstick-style humor than later episodes. Although satire had been used on the show occasionally earlier on, it became more prevalent in later episodes. Episodes have parodied Michael Jackson ("The Jeffersons"), Paris Hilton ("Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset"), and The Passion of the Christ ("The Passion of the Jew"), as well as addressed serious political issues such as terrorism ("Cartoon Wars"), American immigration policy ("Goobacks"), gay marriage ("Follow That Egg!"), and the Terri Schiavo case ("Best Friends Forever").
Controversies over South Park have occurred numerous times. The show depicts what many people find to be taboo subject matter, from its use of vulgarity ("It Hits the Fan") to its satire of subjects such as religion and cults (such as "All About Mormons", "Bloody Mary", "Red Hot Catholic Love", Fantastic Easter Special", and "Trapped in the Closet"), sexuality ("The Death Camp of Tolerance"), Drugs ("My Future Self n' Me", "Up the Down Steroid"), and global warming ("Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow"). Stone and Parker are self-described "equal opportunity offenders" and episodes often lampoon all sides of a contentious issue, rather than taking a concrete position. Usually, the boys and/or other characters ponder over what has transpired during an episode and convey the important lesson taken from it with a speech commonly beginning with the phrase "You know what? I've learned something today...".
The show's style of animation was inspired by the paper cut-out cartoons made by Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus, of which Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been lifelong fans. Construction paper and traditional stop motion cut-out animation techniques were used in the original animated shorts and in the pilot episode made for Comedy Central. The pilot episode required three months to produce. Subsequent episodes have been produced by computer animation providing a similar look to the originals while requiring a fraction of the time to produce. Episodes of South Park are usually completed in four or five days.
Adobe Photoshop (and previously CorelDRAW) is used to design new characters and objects, which are then imported into and animated using Maya. (PowerAnimator was used prior to the fifth season).The use of PowerAnimator and Maya is an interesting choice as they are mainly used for 3D computer graphics; Parker and Stone compared it to "building a sandcastle with a bulldozer." However, according to Director of Animation Eric Stough, PowerAnimator was chosen because it "has the best shadow and ray casting, so it looks like construction paper sitting on a camera stand." Several other techniques are used to achieve the "amateur" look. Objects are moved across the screen manually and a "stepped" curve is applied to every second frame giving motion an "organic jumpy look". The show is also animated at 24 frames per second and transferred to 30 fps video using the 3:2 pulldown process.
PowerAnimator was also used for special effects such as the disco lights in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride" and the laser beams in "Mecha-Streisand". Nowadays, the team uses Motion for special effects. In the beginning, animation was done on SGI workstations linked to a 54-processor render farm that could render 10 to 15 shots an hour. For a short time, Windows computers were used. When Maya was released for Mac, production shifted to Mac workstations. The studio now runs a 120-processor render farm that can produce 30 or more shots an hour.
The appearance of characters and scenes has become less crude over time, largely in order to enhance the comedic effect. Special effects, such as prepackaged explosions, have replaced cardboard-style fires. Light shading has been used to highlight "sappy", movie-like moments as well as some of Cartman's dramatic poses. Some episodes, such as "Tweek vs. Craig" and "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina", have even incorporated sections of live action video. A few episodes use an entirely different style of animation, for example, portions of "Good Times with Weapons" was done in anime style, while "Make Love, Not Warcraft" was done partly in machinima.(wikipedia)