Just in time for Passover (?), Entertainment Weekly has published an oral history of The Spirit of Christmas, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s short film that would lead to South Park.
There are actually two Spirit videos: one that come out in 1992, Jesus vs. Frosty, and another, Jesus vs. Santa, three years later. Stone and Parker shot Frosty while in college, and according to Parker, “[The audience reaction] was huge. It was just the fact that there were little-kid voices and cute animation and that they were screaming, ‘F*ck’ People hadn’t really seen anything like that before.” After graduating, the pair moved to Los Angeles, where they met then-Fox executive Brian Graden, who asked them, “Can I send [Frosty as] a Christmas card to everyone?”
And that’s how videos went viral before YouTube, kids.
In 1995, Parker and Stone made Jesus vs. Santa for $2,000. It was a huge hit, and they, along with Graden, pitched what would become South Park to a number of networks. MTV and Fox declined, but Comedy Central took a chance after a development executive showed channel president Doug Herzog the crude clip. He loved what he saw, but it wasn’t well-received by others.
We went to do a focus group. They were asked to rate the pilot on a scale of 1 to 10. There were 1s, and 2s, and 3s everywhere. We made three people cry—they were saying that it’s inappropriate for children to say those kinds of things. Matt and Trey asked how it went. I had been to many focus groups, but they had not. I’ve never seen a worse focus group, and thought, “Well, this show isn’t going to be the next year of my life.” (Via)
The next time the three of them met with Comedy Central, they wore shirts with check minuses on them. Point is, never listen to focus groups. Ever. Here’s the rest of the oral history.