South Park has pushed the boundaries of good taste since its premiere in 1997. Over the past 26 years, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone – along with their team of committed writers and animators – have released 26 seasons and 325 episodes of the controversial comedy. And the show isn’t going anywhere; Four more seasons and fourteen original streaming movies have been ordered by Paramount+ in a whopping $900 million deal. Parker and Stone are going to be busy for the next few years.
Despite the show’s unfussy animated nature, every episode of South Park It takes an incredible amount of work to bring it to life – and they don’t have much time to do it. In order to stay on the cutting edge of pop culture and comedy, the team brings together every episode – from idea to air – in a mere Six days. It’s a huge creative feat, and it takes a small army of talented writers, animators, and sound designers to pull it off. Here is how each episode of South Park made.
Day one: the writers’ room
Every episode starts in the same place: the writers’ room. Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and their writers spend most days chatting about current events and pop culture, making jokes about them and seeing what sticks. But for every good joke or idea, there are about 100 bad ones to scrutinize. It’s a mentally taxing and somewhat unpredictable process; Great ideas can appear in an instant or take days to appear, threatening to collapse a tight deadline. More time spent in the writer’s room means more late nights at the office.
But when that golden core of an idea finally emerges, the team goes after it like a frenzied improvisational group, cracking jokes and concocting the plot until they have a rough frame of a 22-minute episode.
in the documentary Six days to fly, we see the process in action: Trey Parker casually mentions his annoyance with downloading the latest version of iTunes, and being forced to comply with the program’s long list of terms and conditions, which—for all he knows—may include some terrifying terms. One thing leads to another, and soon this harmless nitpick becomes the plot catalyst for the now-famous human centipede episode.
Day 2: Storyboarding and script writing
With five days to go, the team rushes to finish the story. Although they make it look easy, writing and staging a typical episode of South Park (or any show, really) is a tough job. There are (commercial) action breaks, multiple interwoven subplots, character twists and turns, social/political commentary, and wall-to-wall jokes – all packed into a very concise and firm Runtime 22 minutes.
Once a scene is written, it is turned over to the art team, who begin developing rough storyboard sketches. They frame and block out each scene, create character designs and settings, and begin shaping the visual language of the episode. As scenes come to life, the team is given a chance to tweak and weed out the over-the-top story beats and unfunny jokes until the episode’s rough feel begins to set in.
Day three and four: animation and sound recording
Once the filmed episode has been shown, audio recording begins. Since Parker and Stone make up most of the show’s voice cast, the recording process feels like two buds splitting apart. But their years of working together allowed them to develop a shortcut with each other, making recording a relatively efficient process.
As the storylines were mixed up, they were turned over to the animation department, who storyboarded and brought the episode to life. Despite the intentionally crude animation, the show requires meticulous attention to detail, especially when it comes to backgrounds, settings, and characters. In the early years of the show, animating each episode was a time-consuming and painstaking process (especially when it came to lip-syncing). Fortunately, advanced digital technology has simplified the process, making the work less daunting, if not easier.
Day 5: Editing and team review
As the team continues to ponder voice work, animation, and sound design, the first stages of the finale episode begin to unfold, giving the team one last chance to make any significant story or character revisions. It’s also the perfect time to amend any weak jokes or visual gags.
Given the offensive and offensive nature of the show, the South Park The team has had a lot of battles with standards and practices regarding what they are allowed to say or show. This usually results in a new batch of edits – jokes that need to be cut or visuals that need censorship – which can add even more pressure to an already tight deadline. With only a few last-minute additions left to include, the team begins their final revisions, playing through the episode over and over until it meets their high standards.
Day 6: Final touches and handover
It’s the official broadcast date — aka Judgment Day. Although Parker and Stone can continue to work, they are out of time and need to send in the episode or risk losing their scheduled timeslot.
in the documentary Six days to fly, the team had to take an entire night to finish the script for the episode, which they finally did at 7 am the next morning. The AV was locked that afternoon. With only hours left, longtime producer Frank C. Agnon rushes the completed episode to a nearby uplink facility, where it is sent to Comedy Central’s New York headquarters. The team can finally breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a while — another episode is due in seven days.
South Park It is a fast paced production that requires talent, collaboration and an uncompromising work ethic. From the initial brainstorming session to the final delivery, each day is filled with intense creativity, hard work, and commitment to delivering first-class content. This perseverance and dedication to the process is only part of the reason South Park is one of the most beloved and influential female comics of all time.