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STUDIO: Paramount Home Video
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 154 Minutes
Spread some Christmas cheer with the yuletide log himself, Mr. Hankey and all the boys from South Park as we span nearly the entire decade the show has been on the air, watching the show evolve from Christmas special to Christmas special.
Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny, Butters, Santa, Mr. Hankey, Chef, Jesus, and so many more stalwarts of the small Colorado town.
Wow. South Park has been on the air for a decade now. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were introduced to the running joke of a main character violently dying before each episode’s conclusion, and Cartman’s shenanigans were nowhere near the intensity of murdering a child’s parents and feeding them to him, but here we are: South Park is the best animated comedy on television, and nothing comes particularly close anymore. Most impressive of all is the fact that the show has never really found itself in a creative doldrums (perhaps when working on their feature films, the seasons might not have popped like they have otherwise, but it’s still all worthy of viewing), and this set of Christmas-themed episodes, spanning the majority of the seasons this show has been on air, reflects that consistency.
At this point it would be redundant to point out the sterling qualities of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s baby. We all know it’s been maintaining a high level of quality for quite some years now (most consistent animated show ever, dare we say?) and actually has improved leaps and bounds in terms of its animation over the past couple of years. The fun thing about this set is watching that progression from the more crude polygonal animation of the early years to a more fluid computer enhanced style that keeps the integrity of the original character design and it’s delightful simplicity (movement has become more expertly rendered with each passing season, allowing for some electric action sequences that actually work on their own terms instead of simply being jokey) while allowing it to expand into some visually exciting new directions.
One facet of their game that has always been well-developed, even before this show hit, was their ability to spin gold out of their musical choices. I still eagerly anticipate the day when a South Park music omnibus will become available to the public so we can all truly appreciate the sheer amount of brilliant songs created just for the show by its creators. They have an ear for catchy music and they utilize it to the fullest extent throughout the series. The immaculate pacing of episodes also comes to mind as you watch the show evolve: the framing device of Woodland Critter Christmas and Red Sleigh Down‘s consistent cutting back to Jimmy attempting to stutter his way through the 12 Days of Christmas are just a couple examples of their expert ability to switch gears and keep an episode rolling and feeling fresh.
The disc’s highlight is the final and most recent episode, Woodland Critter Christmas. It’s a nice testament to how far Parker and Stone’s production has come since its infancy a decade ago; the animation of action is smooth and hilariously graphic (I’m unspeakably pleased with the development of realistic gore as a tool of comedy in recent years of animation) and the episodes feel tighter and more compact as the set rolls on. It also is a bit more referential in the later episodes (both self-reflexive and pop cultural, where the creators utilize the framing device of Hollywood cinema as a starting point for the plotline of episodes), but the references feel smoother and more confidently integrated (as something like this season’s three part Imaginationland, not included in this set, is a showcase for taking pop cultural references and spinning it off into something different). If you’re a South Park fan, chances are you already have all of the episodes or can access them easily online. However, it’s a nicely put together Christmas compilation and it might make for a nice gift to acclimate whatever troubled soul has yet to subject themselves to Parker and Stone’s merry brand of madness. Not essential, but fun.
The cover art isn’t anything special (although it’s clear that the Woodland Critters are the selling point here) and, seeing as how Parker and Stone have been jilted by the powers that be when it comes to their commentaries, it should come as no surprise that this disc is bare bones. It’s a fun collection of episodes to be sure, but far from essential, especially considering they’re already available in season form. Add to that no supplements, and this is an underwhelming release, despite being entertaining.
6.0 out of 10