The Spirit of Christmas

This article is about the animated shorts by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. See Spirit of Christmas for the series of Christmas albums in Australia, The Spirit of Christmas (TV program) for the television special from the 1950s, Christmas Spirit (album) for the Donna Summer album, and The Christmas Spirit for the Johnny Cash album.

The Spirit of Christmas is the name of two different animated short films made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They are notable for being precursors to the animated series South Park. To differentiate the two, they are often referred to as Jesus vs. Frosty (1992) and Jesus vs. Santa (1995).

Jesus vs. Frosty

In 1992, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, then students at the University of Colorado, made Jesus vs. Frosty, under the "Avenging Conscience Films" moniker. They animated the film using only construction paper, glue and a very old 8 mm film camera, and premièred it at the December 1992 student film screening. The film features four children very similar in appearance to the four main characters of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but called "Kenny", a hooded boy resembling Kenny and two other nameless boys similar to Stan and Kyle.

The story depicts the four building a snowman and, in the vein of Frosty the Snowman, putting a magic hat on it to make it come to life. Unfortunately, Frosty turns out to be evil and deranged, sprouting huge tentacles and killing the Kenny-named Cartman-resembling boy by throwing him. This leads one of the boys to utter the first version of a line which recurs in countless South Park episodes: "Oh my God! Frosty killed Kenny!"

The boys go to Santa for help, but he turns out merely to be Frosty in disguise. This time, he kills the Kenny-resembling boy, again by throwing him. The two remaining boys run away, and come across a nativity scene with a baby Jesus, who flies over to the evil snowman and defeats it by slicing off the magic hat with a hurl of his halo. One of the boys says another recurring line from the South Park series: "You know, I learned something today", and he and his friend realise the purported "true" meaning of Christmas: that is, presents. As a deer nibbles at the cadaver of the Cartman-resembling boy, they go to their homes to find presents hidden by their parents.

Jesus vs. Santa

In 1995, after seeing the Jesus vs. Frosty film, Fox executive Brian Graden paid Stone and Parker $2,000 to make another animated short as a video Christmas card that he could send to friends. In turn, the duo created Jesus vs. Santa.

This version of The Spirit of Christmas features an animation style very similar to that of the eventual South Park series, as well as more developed versions of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny (each of whom are referred to by name) living in South Park. Wendy Testaburger offers an unnamed and non-speaking cameo as a child sitting on Santa's lap. The film largely establishes the characters as they are used in South Park and contains elements that recur in the series, such as Kyle being a Jew, and rats eating Kenny's corpse. The film reportedly had a budget of $750, with Parker and Stone keeping the remainder of their commission.

The story differs significantly from Jesus vs. Frosty. It opens with the four boys singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", when suddenly Stan stops to tell Kyle he should sing Hanukkah songs instead, since "Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas!" Cartman insults the song ("I Have a Little Dreidel") that Kyle begins singing, and they start to argue. They are interrupted, however, when Jesus appears, asking them to take him to the mall, where they find Santa Claus.

Jesus is angry with "Kringle" because, in his opinion, he diminishes the memory of Jesus's birthday with his presents. Santa, insistent that Christmas is a time for giving, and not merely remembering Jesus's birthday, claims that "this time" they will "finish it", and that "there can be only one". They fight in a style reminiscent of such games as Mortal Kombat, accidentally killing various bystanders, including Kenny (thus eliciting Stan and Kyle's catchphrase), in the process. Jesus pins Santa down, and each of the cobs asks the boys to help him. Stan hesitates: "What would Brian Boitano do? The figure skater miraculously appears and delivers a speech about how Christmas should be about being good to one another. The boys, enlightened, transmit the message to the fighters, who apologise to each other in shame. They thank the boys for helping and decide to bury the hatchet over an orange smoothie. As in Jesus vs. Frosty, the boys come to realise the "true" meaning of Christmas: that is, presents. Kyle remarks that, if one is Jewish, one receives presents for eight days rather than on only one. The others decide as a result to become Jewish, too, and, while rats gnaw on Kenny's corpse, leave the scene singing the Dreidel song.

Graden initially distributed the video to eighty friends in December 1995, one of whom is rumoured to have been George Clooney. Brian Boitano, too, is believed to have laid hands on the tape, and was apparently flattered by his depiction. After months' passing around on bootleg video and the internet, the film caught the attention of cable network Comedy Central, which hired the pair to develop the South Park series, which premièred in the USA on August 13, 1997.

That same year, Jesus vs. Santa received a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for best animation. The film can be found on the South Park The Hits: Volume 1 DVD. A short clip is visible in a drive-in movie screen in some openers of South Park. It was also included in AVI format on Tiger Woods '99 for PlayStation. It is accessible from the game disc by PC. Because of this, the game was recalled in January 1999 by Electronic Arts.

Kenny's deaths

  • In Jesus vs. Frosty, the boy resembling Cartman is grabbed by one of Frosty's tentacles and thrown at a distance. He slams into the ground and quickly bleeds to death, leading the Kyle-like character to emit the famous declaration that "Kenny" has been killed. The hooded boy resembling Kenny is later grabbed by the throat by Frosty, disguised as Santa, and tossed to the ground, where his head is knocked off. The boys do not mention his name.
  • In Jesus vs. Santa, Kenny is decapitated by Santa, causing his head to fly off and hit a statue (of Orgazmo), which topples over, crushing some children. Kyle then lets loose the catchphrase in its most classical form: "Oh my god! You killed Kenny! You bastard!" At the end of the film, a group of rats eat his corpse.

References in the series

Jesus vs. Frosty

  • A clip of the show can be seen during the earlier opening credit sequences.
  • In "Damien", the lines "Go, Jesus!" and "Our Saviour!" are used similarly.
  • In "Simpsons Already Did It", when Tweek asks, "What if I put the nose on and the snowman comes to life and tries to kill me?", Stan replies, "Tweek, when has that ever happened? Except for that one time."
  • In "Red Sleigh Down", after Santa is shot down, Stan and Cartman have a conversation similar to that which Stan and Kyle have after Frosty kills the Kenny prototype in Jesus vs. Frosty.

Jesus vs. Santa

  • A short clip from Jesus vs. Santa is visible on a large TV in the background on some openings of the episode as the bus drives past, when the guitar playing man (Les Claypool) says, "Headin' on up to South Park, Gonna see if I can't unwind." Also, at the end of the opening, Brian Boitano may be seen skating in the background.
  • In the episode "A Very Crappy Christmas", the boys try to make the short as an "Animated Christmas Card" for the town in a parody of Parker and Stone's efforts. Kyle and Cartman also use some of the lines from the short when they are arguing in the recording studio. The lines were not originally in the script, but a recordist suggested them for their droll value.
  • The reference to orange smoothies would later be used in several episodes, most notably "Something You Can Do with Your Finger" and "Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson!".
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the line and sequence of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" is used in a similar manner.
  • Kyle's line "Cartman, you are such a fat fuck that, when you walk down the street, people go, 'Goddamnit! That is a big fat fuck!'" is referenced in the episode "Weight Gain 4000", on which occasion Kyle says, "Cartman, you're such a fat ass that, when you walk down the street people go, 'Goddamnit! Thats a big fat ass!'"


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