EXCLUSIVE: Trey Parker talks about the "South Park" movie that almost was, and the end of the TV series.
"South Park" co-creator and executive producer Trey Parker says they’ve been discussing how to end the Comedy Central flagship series, which has been on the air for more than a decade. But you won’t hear Cartman say, "Screw you guys! I’m going home," just yet.
Parker and co-creator Matt Stone are signed on to continue producing episodes until 2011, and whether that contract will be their last is anyone’s guess. But what we can bet on is that when it does come time to pull the plug, it will be a full-length "South Park" film that sends off Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman and the rest of the foul-mouthed Colorado fourth graders.
"We talked about maybe some day doing a movie to sort of end it all, and that seems like the best idea," Parker said. "That’s been a big thought to do the last show as a movie."
It wouldn’t be the first time a TV series has sent fans to the theaters for closure. Just this summer, "Sex and the City: The Movie" had an explosive opening weekend, pulling the fifth-highest debut ever for an R-rated film.
But Parker says they wouldn’t consider making something for the big screen unless they had a really stellar idea. They had such an idea a couple years ago, but decided to use it for a series of episodes instead of holding it back for a motion picture.
"We came up with this pretty good idea for a movie, and then of course what happened was we got in the middle of a ‘South Park’ run, and were completely out of ideas," Parker recalls. "And we were like, well, we’ve got to use the movie idea. And that became ‘Imaginationland.’"
"Imaginationland" was, of course, the three-part story in October 2007 about a group of terrorists plotting to bomb a fictional world, where all man-made, mythical characters live — including Super Mario, Luke Skywalker and Strawberry Shortcake. The story arc, now available on DVD, yeilded an Emmy for outstanding animated program for one hour or more.
While Parker would have liked to save the concept for theaters, he says the long-story episode format was "really fresh and fun to do." "Once we decided, let’s make it a three-part show, we’re like: Oh, now we can do it in the style of ’24’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica.’"
OK, it looks like we won’t be seeing a "South Park" movie for a little while. But what about a different big screen venture from the guys that brought us "Baseketball," "Orgazmo" and "Team America: World Police"?
"We started going down the movie route," Parker said hesitantly. "Basically, ‘Team America’ just killed the movie spirit in us…"
Their distress isn’t because "Team America" wasn’t well received — in fact, it got a respectable 78% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. No, Parker is burned out on movies because of the exhausting production that went into the puppet action film.
"It was just a much bigger beast than we ever could have imagined," Parker said. "Even the guy who shot all ‘The Matrix’ movies and the ‘Spider-Man’ movies would agree that it was the toughest movie shoot to do because it was trying to do a huge action film with marionettes, who don’t do anything, and not use any computers to fix anything or do any effects."
So, we won’t be seeing a "South Park" movie any time soon or any Parker-Stone flicks, for that matter. But aren’t those guys getting sick of trying to make us laugh every week? When asked whether he has started to see ideas for the show running dry, Parker responded, "Um, no, have you?"
In all fairness, few shows exceed the ten-year mark without getting stale. What makes "South Park" any different?
"The fact that we still write and direct and voice every show ourselves, it’s really more like a band," Parker said. "Because it’s basically watching where we are now compared to where we were five years ago. It’s sort of us growing up with the show, and the show growing up with us — or growing down."
If Parker and Co. do happen to run out of ideas, however, they always have Crab People. "That’s a thing in the writer’s room now," Parker said. "On a Monday, when we’re two days away from airing, and we only have half a show, we’re like, But how does he get there? … Crab People! That means we have no ideas left."
Oh, and for the record: Two episodes have made reference to the subterranean-dwelling Crab People. Hopefully, "South Park" won’t have to break them out again.
– Mark Milian
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Art: A high-flying shot from the "Imaginationland" and scenes from other episodes of "South Park," both new and old, courtesy of Comedy Central. Photo of Trey Parker by Michael Yarish/Comedy Central. Seth Green photo by Kwaku Alston.