This is the production blog, where you can find notes from the Executive Producer, and the Production Assistant on duty the night before the show airs.
Production Blog 10/03/2006
R. Emmett Sibley, Production Assistant
Let me tell you about my summer...... oh I'm sorry, you don't care about me. You don't care about my sister's wedding in Buck's County, PA, my time on the Jersey Shore, or even the night's I spent in the NYC. The new season of South Park is all you care about. Everyone from Los Angeles to Dublin is clamoring to hear about the behind the scenes scoop......
First the "Bad News." PA Kevin and Assistant Tim are no longer with us. They're not dead, although Nate may argue that Tim is dead inside, they've moved on to bigger things. I would tell you what those bigger things are but like any gambler, they are holding their cards close to their chests. Friends full of secrets are like pinatas full of carrots..... No fun. Tim and Kevin if you're reading this.... like a flower, please open up to us.
A few weeks ago, we had our Tenth Anniversary party. It was awesome. Celebrities from Ali G to Pee Wee Herman were there. No lie. During the party Bob "Danny Tanner" Saget hugged John"Uncle Jesse" Stamos. For me it was like a meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt. Matt and Trey gave speeches. They especially thanked the crew which really meant a lot to all of us. Trey then introduced his favorite band "The Electric Six." The crew of South Park got "oiled up" and had the best time. Keef, our editor here at SP, was DJing and turned that mutha out so hard that the whole crew couldn't help but dance, dance, DANCE! I had about 5 Kobe Beef burgers and enough Heinekien that when I woke up, I had a stamp in my passport from the Netherlands.
This week's show is going to be unbelievable. If you thought that the Anime episode was good you ain't seen nothing yet. Matt and Trey have set their sites on the "World of Warcraft." Without giving too much away, our studio has been overrun by Blizzard, the makers of W. O. W. They have been playing the game as Trey stands over them like a Mad Conductor. The building smells like an orgy of Slim Jims and Mountain Dew with all the extra nerds. The UPS guy asked us if we were having a "Virgin Convention" this week. The joke was on him, he was delivering a box of condoms.
Usually episodes take a week to make. This episode has taken more than two. The extra hard work is definitely paying off. I hope you enjoy this episode. I know you will.
PS. We are looking for a good challenge this run. Something like "The McRibb Challenge" or "The Weight Loss Challenge". PAs like that extra scratch. We all got big itches. If you have any ideas, please post them in a comment below. For now PA Nate and I are playing "Moustache Chicken." First to shave loses. Some say by having moustaches we are losers already. Well I say, tell that to Magnum P.I. .That guy got lots of chicks, had a Ferrari, and lived in a guesthouse. Does that sound like a loser to you...... That's what I thought.
Production Blog 10/09/2006
Jeff Gulan, Technical Director
"World of Peacecraft"
Sure, "Here's one of those time machine hypotheticals again," I know, I know. But supposing you could demonstrate for Da Vinci or Rodin the latest 3D modeling, texturing, animating (wait, 4D?), and rendering technology. That is, if they could get past the shock of the computer...or the time machine. We just wrapped 10 days-in-a-row to kick off production on the second half of the Big Ten-Oh! South Park Season X. The degree of our triumphs is equal to that of our struggles, and this episode, dear viewers, is nothing short of decadent. This week, witness the mutant-love-spawn of interactive entertainment uber-star, Blizzard Entertainment, and yours truly, the South Park team.
I don't believe television and video-game production-pipelines have been combined in this way, so it's been a real treat having the opportunity to be part of what appears, so far, to be a beautiful collaboration. I tried to resist actually playing the game, but the time came for me to work on some backgrounds. This is one particular where the combination finds some difficulty. Scenes called for custom setup and animation of Blizzard's character rigs, but Warcraft's environment is real-time rendered. There aren't individual "scenes" set up for individual areas because there aren't individual areas. The work-around:
Use the game's virtual camera and built-in screen capture utility to photograph a full 360 degrees (at multiple tilts).
Assemble the images into a panorama.
Map the image onto the concave surface of a sphere for use as a background.
It sounded simple enough, though it seemed to me a strange process. A co-worker logged me in and showed me to the Elwynn Forest, but I was soon killed. The first obstacle was not knowing a thing about the game. It's a difficult spot in which to be: needing to train myself in a video game in order to get my work done. So, I got myself a copy and dove into the World of Warcraft. Wow. How many servers are there? Two continents?! How many regions, character levels, classes, items...whew! The game is absolutely huge and finely detailed. I found myself seeing this message a bunch: You Gain Stealth. Well, what's a CG artist to do in such a game but go invisible and take a texture sight-seeing tour? The economy of the polygons and texture maps is impressive. Animation and economy go hand in hand. The restrictions of the equipment and the amount of data and users forces game designers to keep their models simple. It's amazing what they do with small bitmaps and low-poly models. But I digress...
Now that my character was stealthy and wouldn't alert any beasts, I figured I was ready to return to the forest and take more pictures. Fantastic! A nice clear spot, pretty trees, the stream running by...capture, rotate, capture, rotate. As if this virtual- cinematography-photo-shoot wasn't Shakespearean enough, some part of the programming decided I hadn't had a large enough dose of irony. It rained.
Since I began learning about computer graphics and storytelling, I've gotten the impression that 3D animated entertainment is the most complex style of production around today. I could be wrong, but from the model to the texture, to the rig and animation, and the lighting and rendering, I can't think of another production style which requires more personnel. On top of that, the medium moves so quickly that employees require constant training to keep consistent and learn the newest updates to the technology. I wonder if it requires more people to send astronauts to the moon or to make a film like The Incredibles. How would Da Vinci or Rodin react to sculpture across time? Animation is four-dimensional. They'd certainly be impressed by the level of detail, the lighting, the amount of adjustable features and variables...
It's been no walk in the park, but this episode is sure to turn some heads. There's probably significant overlap in Blizzard and South Park's respective audiences, but there are sure to be some WoW fans excited about the show, and fans of the show excited about WoW. I can't wait to see the final result of a unique combination of storytelling mediums. Unprecedented. Decadent. Yeah.
jeffV2.0 <---Has friends still playing Diablo II.
P.S. Being Dungeon Master is as much fun as Designated Driver.
Production Blog 10/09/2006
Keef Bartkus, Editor
This is Keef, the video editor for the show. I've been with South Park for almost 7 years now. My first episode was Timmy 2000! What a way to kick it off!
I also work with Eric "Butters" Stough on creating the opening for the show. Right now, I'm working hard on this Wednesday's episode, but I thought I'd take a moment to tell you about what's going on in my world:
I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep from last weeks WoW episode. It was one of my favorite shows, but it was a hard one to keep track of, we used a lot of shots that were actual game footage. There were shots we animated, shots that needed to be chroma-keyed over game footage, there were music cues, moved scenes and a montage!!! John Hansen, Eric Stough, Jack Shih, Jenny Yu and Ryan Quincy really did a great job tracking the show!
As for David List and I, we clocked in 27 straight hours on my Avid the Tuesday/Wednesday the show aired. Every episode we do is fun and challenging, but the system always remains same. Starting on Thursday, Trey writes a few pages of script. Matt and Trey record the voices then the audio department speed up their voices to sound like the boys. Audio then sends it to me as one track. The storyboard department gives me the script in black and white boarded form. At the same time they are also creating corels of characters and backgrounds to be used later. I put the boards and audio together into an "animatic" on the Avid for timing and staging. Trey will sit down with Eric and give some final notes on the scene, then it's handed off to John Hansen who creates the shot numbers. Each shot is sent individually to lipsync, where the mouths are added. Then it's off to the technical direction department for backgrounds and locations. After that, the shot is animated and sent back to the Avid for Trey to see. Thanks to a great crew, it's become a well oiled machine, Trey can write a scene and have it back on Avid in a couple of hours! We go back and forth like that for six days until you see the finished product on the air!
My job can be demanding at times because everything depends on this room. I've put a couple of time-lapse days of my office on the SP site so everyone can see how many people come in and out of here in a day. It's crazy, but I love it!
My favorite part about working on South Park is that Trey and Matt are very hands on with the show. I do about 90 percent of the editing then Trey sits down and brings it home. I think every good director is very involved in the editing process. It's not a very glamourous job, but it can make or break a tv show or movie. All of my favorite directors, Michel Gondry, Darren Aronofsky, Edgar Wright and Guy Ritchie, (before Madonna and Swept Away), all have a hand in the editing process. Matt and Trey have always gone the distance with us to make sure the show is how they want it, even when they have other projects going on like the movies or That's My Bush!, (which is out on DVD now, highly recommended!)
My priority on the show has become to stay one step ahead of them and get the script edited how they like it. I'm not always right, but when I nail it, it feels damn good! This season promises to be as controversial as ever! Keep watching. You never know what will happen next! I don't even know yet!
I'll leave you with a hypothetical question, if you could talk to one celebrity we made fun of, who would it be and what would you ask them about their character?
I love you all! KB
Production Blog 10/10/2006
PA Nate, Production Assistant
It's all been about conspiracies this week. Not only is the show based on one, but they've been swarming around the office like angry bees trying to sting a naked track star covered in honey.
My personal favorite came from PA Rob who told me that Mr. Belding had actually helped the Russian Valley exchange student steal Screech's lucky beret in episode 307 "Check Your Mate" of Saved By the Bell. The idea being that Belding was short on cash and had put a $23,000 bet on the Russian exchange student beating Screech in a chess match.
It doesn't take a cat loving shut-in from Ireland to know that this one is full of crap. I just refuse to believe that Mr. Belding was betting against his own school. I mean they guy was more American then ALF. Besides, Slater probably stole the beret. I always thought he used way too much product in his hair to be trusted...
But enough about Saved By the Bell, and on to some big news we forgot to mention last week. We have a new member of the PA team!
Everybody grin stupidly and say "hi" to PA Patrick. He's got a super cool sexy style ("pop that collar!") and loves to look at celebrity gossip blogs.
It's hard to replace the South Park machine that was PA Kevin, but PA Patrick is doing his best and we love him for it. However, there is one matter of business that we need to take care of... The hazing of the new PA.
In previous situations, the new PA was forced to deliver a stapler to a random person. This usually resulted in a few confused looks and no laughter. It could barely pass as hazing. So, with your help I'd like to start a new tradition.
Since Halloween is right around the corner, and since we happen to have a full size costume of Satan... I think PA Patrick should wear it. Just for Halloween day mind you. So, I'm asking all of you South Park readers to respond and vote whether or not you want to see Patrick in the Satan costume on Halloween. With your help we can convince him that this is a fantastic idea, and that it's imperative he wears it. We'll post photos of course.
I hope you all like this weeks episode, and remember... The government is always watching.
Production Blog 10/16/2006
Vickie Mendoza, Lip Sync Artist
Hi, my name is Vickie. I'm part of the five person team of lipsync artists at South Park, a stalwart few who animate the characters mouths and lurk in the second floor spaces of the SP office.
Let me fill you in a little on what the lipsyncer*s world is like. Here*s how it goes...first (after initial first pages of script are in), Trey and Matt record dialogue with Bruce and Lydia. Then, after it*s cut, we get our first *pre-lipsync* shot lists from the production office downstairs, (see John Hansen*s Interview). A quick call from the always charming John Hansen, (our auspicious post supervisor), and we*re on our way. We resave the audio files for these shots * basically making the sound lipsync-ready by inserting silence at the beginning of the file. Then, in Maya, we animate a generic character mouth pack in sync with the dialogue that we hear. Normally, we use a palette of about fifteen set mouth shapes to make the characters talk. No in-betweens used here. Then we save out that animation curve so that it can be imported into a shot set-up. Once we've dropped the animation curve into the shot itself, it's off to the animators so they can work their magic. After that, as Matt & Trey perfect the show, there are re-lipsyncs and more re-lipsyncs (particularly if it*s Tuesday * with Urinal Deuce, it was non-stop changes and re-lipsyncs comin in like waves on the beach). Our storyboard friends were swimming hard to keep up this week. Good work guys! Anyway, it*s all pretty straight forward, unless there*s a Canadian in the show - those darn Canadians! Actually, the Canadians hold a special place in my heart * particularly Ike. For our northern brothers and sisters, we animate the entire head to make them speak.
Anyway, there was big fun to be had on this season*s first two episodes, not least because the season opener, (which was pretty fantastic, right?), paid homage to the many South Park WoW devotees, or because my adolescent Hardy Boys obsession was reawakened in The Mystery of the Urinal Deuce (I was, sadly, a closet urinal pooper * oh, no, I mean I have a little pooper at home * or, I mean I was a hopeless Shaun Cassidy addict in the 70s. Embarrassing, I know). But what made these episodes particularly interesting for me was that each show had special characters with mouths or set ups that were different from the ones we regularly use. It was a nice change of pace, not to mention, (in the Warcraft episode), a cool opportunity to work with the custom SP WoW characters.
I have great respect for the SP and Blizzard teams that made that show happen. What a job. From our upstairs vantage point, we had an eagle eye onto the workings of the Blizzard workstations with Trey basically directing the crew of Blizzard, (and sometimes SP), game players like it was a live action shoot. As the players acted out their parts, screen captures saved each frame of action. And throughout, our Technology Supervisor, J.J. Franzen, was taking care of business, giving his laptop some sweet sugar and working non-stop. Right on J.J., Check him out as he plugs away tirelessly while our friends from Blizzard take advantage of a middle of the night break in action. Again, right on J.J. and Keith, (our Systems Administrator), great work!
It*s actually pretty nice being up here in the tower, We*re the sole South Park division housed upstairs. From our balcony desks, we have an incredibly non-omniscient view of all the comings and goings, the writers room, sound booth, and general activity of the front office. What*s it like? Pretty cool. Watching Trey and Matt and their team brainstorm in the writers room is like watching a silent fish tank * behind glass windows, Trey circles the conference desk like a caged shark churning the creative juices. Anytime we see Matt and Trey walk into the sound booth, we know shots are on their way. And, of course, there is the added benefit of being right next to the snacks. With the kitchen only a few steps away, I'm sorry to say that I've overindulged in one to many red vines on more than one occasion. Regardless of that, I have to say that after watching each episode happen, and witnessing the creative prowess of Mr. Parker in the wee hours of the mornings, I feel proud to be a part of this show, of the phenomenon called South Park.
With Halloween fast approaching, I thought, before I sign off, that I'd ask you for some costume advice. Since newbie PA Patrick will be getting us all in the mood with his Satan costume, the lipsync crew sure didn't want to spoil the fun. Here's a quick glance at one of our Halloween costume possibilities. Whaddya think?
(Left to Right: Jonathan Roberts, me, James Dion (center), Brian Gabriel, and Anthony Sant'Anselmo.)
I*ll be listening.
Production Blog 10/17/2006
R. Emmett Sibley, Production Assistant
South Park Week 3: The Week You Realize South Park Owns You
Panic Engulfs Me
Fat Free Irish Creamer Gone
JJ Not Happy
JJ, computer genius / sexual dynamo, asked for Fat Free Irish cream creamer on Monday afternoon. Monday night, I remembered PA Nate was going to the super market in the morning. I linked these two thoughts together while watching Studio 60, the only show on TV that can blow itself. I rushed to my phone and furiously typed a message to PA Nate. I felt a calm come over me when I got a text back saying, "I'm on it like Carlos Mencia on funny!" Come on that Hombre es muy funny (English translation for all you up tight white people: "that guy is very funny")
It's week three. Creamer has become more important to me than calling my sister back. Emily, I'm sorry but it's my job, get off my back! Little things start to take center stage. The coffee machine went down this morning. So what happens when a coffee machine goes down in an office that will probably be working for over 24 hours? 8 phone calls, 2 "travelers" from Starbucks, two urns come out of retirement, and one more run for decaf. If you're asking "who drinks decaf" then don't. It's irrelevant. Cause "decaf has got to get got yo!"
PA Erin put in an 87 hour week.
PA Patrick, aka "Popped collar / Salmon Pants," has to wear a Satan costume because you, the fans, have demanded it. Good Job everybody. We set 'em up, you knock 'em down!
PA R. Emmett and PA Nate hate looking in mirrors because we foolishly entered a game of moustache chicken. Nate looks like a Deviant Gay Leathermen and I.... lets just say most people are expecting to see me on a "Dateline" sexual predator bust. We both went to weddings this weekend. No one questioned our moustaches. I rather people point and laugh then think we are serious.
This isn't the mid point. This is the episode before the mid point. This is where little things become tragic events in your life. The smallest little things can throw your day off. Things that are funny at South Park aren't funny anywhere else.
It's like being stuck on 2nd base with your girlfriend. You know you will eventually make it all the way home but for now, you just got to put in the time. This brings us to Episode 1010 "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy." It's full of twists and turns that involve love and sex. Trey and Matt have hit a home run again. I expect to hear the line "Nice" (the pervious title of the show) being said across the country immediately following the airing of this episode. It's really funny. Enjoy.
Production Blog 10/22/2006
Dave Koch, Animator
I thought I'd talk about fame, or at least my personal brush with it as a result of being a South Park animator. Now, I don't mean brush with fame in the usual sense, as when you see someone famous and tell people about it, like, "hey, Martin Sheen ate my bagel" (he did, but that's a different story that has nothing to do with this show). No , I mean when you, yourself are the source from which the searing heat of celebrity radiates, when you are the shining light for the adoring masses.
I danced in that limelight, but it involved crossing a line I never intended to cross. It revolved around an act of counterfeit existing on a much grander scale than I ever thought myself capable. It happened in Bismarck.
I was visiting my parents for the holidays and was playing pool with my friend Pat in a bar where he was a regular. A waitress there was a friend of his, and had a 13 year-old son who was a huge fan of the show, and could I please draw a picture and autograph it?
Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you the emotion that comes over you when a person puts you in that place, actually wants you to give them your autograph: yes, overwhelming sadness. It's a weird sort of guilt having your dull glow taken for starlight, and I can't help feeling sorry for such misplaced adulation. Because I know it's not really my autograph she wants, it's the show's autograph she wants. Her son doesn't watch for the distinctive and impeccable timing I bring to about 45 seconds of television. He only knows my name because his mom told him. But I guess Matt and Trey don't hang out with Pat McGurren, and at least I work on the show, so I was as Hollywood as it was going to get in Bismarck that night. This was worse than that though. She wanted a picture. Not only am I the wrong guy for autographs, but the animators here don't even draw for the show.
So this is where I have to tell her it's computer animation. It's not even in my job description to draw the characters ... ever. Characters are designed in the storyboard department and then built using 3-D software, like "Toy Story," except instead of toys, it's construction paper dolls. We're not really cartoonists for the show. We're like puppeteers.
And then she goes, "he won't care."
Sure he won't. A super fan doesn't care when his beloved characters don't resemble the picture drawn on the back of a flier that you brought home for him. It's not like they know the tiny details of those characters better than anyone else or anything. Mothers, they absolutely will care.
I tried to stress this to her, as well as the lackluster quality the final product was certain to have, seeing as how I've never once, before this evening, despite my title "animator," attempted to draw a South Park character. Not to mention the probable licensing issues at stake. They're not my characters to draw. I just move them the way Trey wants them moved. Besides, didn't I hear about Disney animators getting sued for distributing artwork featuring licensed characters? I probably signed something to that effect when I got hired.
Of course, the operative word with the Disney folks is "artwork," not an apt description for what was about to be committed to paper. And she kept insisting. In the end, she cajoled me into it, and I was weak.
So that's how I found myself, ball-point-pen in hand, poised over the blank side of a handbill with some upcoming drink specials on the front, pleading with the gods to put it on the record that I know what a violation this foul deed is. I know I'm an impostor here. No one - not me, not the show, most importantly, not the fan - can come out ahead in this, this affront to art, merchandising and celebrity itself. She'll see this for herself later when she hands her son the dubious prize and he double-takes a couple times and then widens his eyes at her in sarcastic gratitude.
But to suddenly refuse to do it, even for these virtuous reasons, would be mistaken for arrogance, for a snub. She'd think I assumed it was beneath me or something. And if there was one thing I had less of a right to do than sign an autograph, it was to come off as too good to sign an autograph.
So I wiped the sweat off my palms and, savoring only the symbolic aspect of my "subject," I perpetrated the most heinous, off-model representation of Mr. Hankey ever to disgrace the back of a lilac-colored bar flier. Did I write "Hidey Ho?" or "kick ass" or something else I may have seen on a shirt? Who can remember, it was all so blurry by then. All I know is the nasty transaction was hastily validated with my signature scrawled so illegibly as to not even be discernible as language.
We didn't linger long enough for the stench to even clear the air, desperate as I was to flee the scene of my vandalism. I never got to see her son's smile collapse at the corners upon seeing it. Since then, whenever I feel the familiar sense of remorse come on, I find solace in the fact that, in the end, it was a soon-to-be-outdated bar flier that somebody drew on. And a turd, at that. It was, literally, rubbish.
And that's when I decided to hit the brakes, stop catering to the fans. The pressure on the beautiful people is too great. I couldn't stand the heat. So that's why you won't be seeing me at the conventions, the cruises, the fan retreats, no long-lost artwork from my archives. I've pulled over from the Hollywood fast lane for a while.
For my next dispatch, perhaps another confession from that lane, but until then, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish making Butters brush his teeth.
Production Blog 10/24/2006
R. Emmett Sibley, Production Assistant
A stripper once said to me "this one's on the house you big stud." I thought that was the best thing that I have ever heard. That is until today. I was sitting here at South Park doing the usual ...brainstorming with Trey, jamming with Matt, helping Anne look over contracts when PA Erin said, "FREE CAKE!"
You're probably sitting in a public library reading this after a hard day at the mill, that's being shut down saying to yourself, "I wish I worked at a place that had free cake." KEEP DREAMING! Life's not fair. It's never going to happen to you. You ain't got the juice. Tell your job to say hello to Mexico.
How do you get free Cake? Simple:
1 Find a job at a #1 rated computer animated television show
2 Work for a year
3 Buy a 2004 Nissan Sentra - black with black tinted windows
4 Strap on a feed bag because that mother's filled with CAKE!
With this episode South Park will be rolling 150 deep. We buy 42 Jack in the Box sandwiches an episode. That's 6300 breakfast sandwiches eaten by our employees. This brings me to my point; I LOVE CAKE! I'd rather have cake then a supreme croissant. I ain't in France you stinkin' jive turkey!....So Comedy Central sent us a cake for this momentous occasion. It was an orgy of white icing and yellow cake with a Mason Dixon line of chocolate dividing the two halves. Gracing us with his presence ,the lovely Mr. Hankey was drawn on top in icing. If you are saying to yourself "HA HA they ate shit..." Grow up. I mean seriously..... GROW UP! Maybe it's a good thing the mill is closing. Those fumes are getting to you. You want some?..... BACK OFF,THIS CAKE IS ALL MINE!
So this cake is sitting in the office all day. ALL DAY! I just wanted a stupid piece of Heaven. I stared at it as though I was an eagle and it my prairie mouse. Daddy's hungry! I had to sit next to it ALL DAY as if I was a bodyguard. I felt like MR. T in the late seventies guarding Diana Ross. Yes, I do have a Mohawk, gold chains, a love of milk and a fear of flying. "You ain't getting me into no plane, Murodck!" What's worse than sitting next to a cake all day long? Having to leave its side. I was sent out to Hollywood. We basically work in Marina Del Rey. Driving from Marina Del Rey to Hollywood in the late afternoon is the equivalent of staring at a cake all day long. COMPLETELY FRUSTRATING! The run is about an hour and a half. That's 90 minutes without cake. That's 90 minutes when my co-workers could say "To hell with R. Emmett, He' so beautiful and smart. Why does he need cake?" I get back to South Park, I'm not allowed to have cake and I have to go right back out and do the same run again. WHY DO WE NEED SO MANY SOUND EFFECTS!!!????!!! WHYGOD, WHY!!!????!!!
After these and many other cruel twists of fate ended, I had my cake.... It was good. Thank you Comedy Central! This brings me to this weeks episode. It's basically about a Halloween party, Satan and cake. "Wow R. Emmett , you made this bloated annoying blog about the episode." FULL CIRCLE BITCHES! That's what a master's degree and a love of cake can do. This episode is easily my favorite South Park Halloween Episode. Good Job Matt and Trey! Have Fun watching while you still have cable.
Production Blog 10/29/2006
Keith Nesson, EIEIO
"The Killing Fields"
Welcome to today's Production Blog from South Park Studios, tonight's host will be me - Keith, the EIEIO. After last week's truly exceptional blog from Mr. David Koch, I want to delve into the darker side of life here.
What I am talking about is death, murder, and wholesale slaughter on a scale that would make even Manson (Charles, not Marilyn), cringe...that is a trip into the dark psyche of the nice people here at the 'Park. By now, dear reader, you have gotten a pretty good idea of how the show comes together - the tortuous writing process the team puts itself through every week, the long hours, and the creative stresses that Storyboard, the Technical Directors and the Animators involved in bringing the show to you nice people go through.
That part you know, you may have even seen the reports on TV... you know, smiling reporter talkingwalkingshucking and jiving with Messrs. Parker and Stone about doing the show, where does your inspiration come from, does Tom Cruise still come over on Tuesdays for Breakfast Jacks, etc., etc. Well, I have to take this All Hallows opportunity to tell you the other side - the steely-eyed killing machines that roam the hallways and cubes here late into the night.
Nicest bunch of people you would ever want to meet, work with, and party with --- as long you you keep your back to the wall and face the door like at any good steakhouse in Brooklyn. Because these people are killers, homicidal maniacs, demons in search of conquest and power without end.
Of course I am referring to the gamers here on the staff.
You see, there are long hours here, as has been documented already, and not every moment is taken up with creating the characters or working on a shot. Truth be told, there are long periods of nothing interspersed with moments of pure terror - so people delve into entertaining their ID ... that dark little cubbyhole where we all toss our worst imaginings in the hope that they never find their way to the light.
Coming into "SP" three years ago I was unaware of the vampires that walk among us - those nether-spirits who walk by day but kill all night. On a good evening here at the Park, 5 or 6 people are playing "Worlds of Warcraft", someone has "Halo" going and then there are the street crazies -- "GT4" and the like - trying to mow down innocent people on the sidewalks. One moment they are animating Butters brushing his teeth, the next they are ripping the heart out of an opponent and showing it to him while still beating.
You really have to have great left/right brain control for that sort of thing.
So, what is the meaning of my sharing this little insight to the blog-erati? That a smile and a kind gesture, a offer of help or words of support from someone are good and kind gestures, and if you are in need, then please avail yourselves of their humanity.
But remember this:
"Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms, and the moon is full and bright."
Happy Halloween Kids!
Production Blog 11/01/2006
Nathan Pellettieri, Production Assistant
This has been a pretty rough week for all of us. See, at this point in the run we can all see the finish line, but everyone is just too tired to get there. And by this point, your normal life has started to get in the way of work. Things like doing the laundry can become a monumental task. Seriously, trying to get laundry done during the run is next to impossible. About the only thing keeping us going this week was the fact that today is Halloween. And thanks to all of you... it means we got to haze PA Patrick.
As of last night, 57 people had voted to see PA Patrick dress up as Satan. The 3 people who voted no should hang their heads in shame. The rest of the PA's dressed up as Frank, our producer. Enough talk... I promised pictures!
PA Patrick was a great sport about this and he has now officially been hazed. Were not going to stop treating him like the new PA but he's got a little more respect in our books now.
I'm sure you'd all like to know more about this weeks show. But, if Cartman has to learn to be patient... then so do you.
Happy Halloween Everybody
Production Blog 11/05/2006
Eric Stough, Director of Animation
As always, we arrive at our sixth week and now we've hit our stride. I'm sitting in my office assembling LEGO Building Blocks and awaiting script while I periodically approve designs to put in production.
All of these discussions of faith and evolution make me want to escape to my youth. That and the fact that I'm building a LEGO Star Wars Tie Interceptor. I'm almost done but I can't find three pieces....well, make that four. The frustrating thing about building legos is that they put different pieces in different bags that you need at different times. Trey says he just dumps his pieces in the box and sorts through them. I on the other hand, try to keep things as organized as possible. As a kid I'd dump out all the pieces and my dog would either chew them up or my sister would step on them and cry in pain when they stuck to the bottom of her feet. Damn, I can't move forward without those pieces.
What if the LEGO company left the pieces out on purpose? Building with Lego's is all about accomplishment. It's about paying close attention to the details. The instructions are all universal so anyone, of any culture, can follow them. The instructions are presented as pictures so you can figure out which piece has been added from image to image.
Another thing that's frustrating about LEGO building blocks is finishing and having two or three extra pieces left over. Sometimes those pieces don't even belong to the model you're building. As a child it's impossible to imagine how a company could just randomly throw in an extra piece. Some designer in Denmark is probably laughing knowing some kid's mind is racing trying to figure out where the piece goes. It's usually some curved piece with a hole in it. Very frustrating. While looking for those missing four pieces, I just found the upper torso for the storm trooper pilot. I see they still paint the necks on the upper torso of LEGO men. Why do they do that? There's no reason for it unless it helps dumb kids figure out which is the front and which is the back?
I wish we could use LEGOS as currency. There's no argument against it. How great would it be to pay people with different types of colorful building blocks? Putting a six piece flat LEGO into a machine to get a soda or watch a movie? How great would that be?
Well, I found my lost pieces. They're in a bag with twelve other pieces I left in the box. Anne just came in to meet with me and she knocked the box over and I heard the bricks inside it. She doesn't know it but I'm grateful. I can continue building and be at peace with my childhood memories.
But enough about LEGO building blocks. For those of you who haven't frozen yourselves in anticipation of next week's show..., I'm going to make this short and sweet: the first scene of next week's episode will blow your minds. It's perfect. We've had several title changes to this week's show, (and last week's show for that matter. This week's episode is called, "Go God Go XII") Being a good storyteller is just as much about knowing what to leave out and the writers have done a fine job with that concept in this upcoming episode.
Since this show is partly about evolution I have to say our simplistic style of animation has evolved over the past 10 seasons just as the writing has. However, a simplistic style of animation has it's place and it can say a lot. We started the show with construction paper cutouts and our stories were very smart and simple. The animation in "The Spirit of Christmas" was very crude but it worked because it didn't distract from the writing. I think about other successful artists whose simplistic styles go a long way.
In college I went to every animated film festival there was and watched shorts from Bill Pymton and Don Hertzfeldt. I loved them. They were proof for me that there were successful styles of animation other than the classic Disney style. When I'm not building LEGOS and I need a little entertainment, I'll watch some of those classic shorts. They both have an artistic way of using animation for telling short stories. It's difficult to convey an idea in an animated short and these auteurs are great at it. If you get a chance you should check their work out. Hertzfeldt's website is at Bitterfilms.com and Plympton has his website at plymptoons.com. I always watch them on You tube. Their work can hold you over until Wednesday's conclusion of "Go God Go".
Well Trey just told me to check out www.thebricktestament.com -- so much for LEGOS freeing my mind from the topic of religion. Damn.
Production Blog 11/07/2006
PA Nate Pellettieri, Production Assistant
So here we are on another Tuesday night diligently working away on the next episode of South Park. There are more future shots in this one which means our guys have to work extra hard to get the shots done. You may not notice it, but the amount of work that goes into a two second exterior shot is insane.
You know what else is insane? Kfed and Brittany are getting a divorce! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! I had them pegged as lovers for life. I mean, what they had was real... Not like Reese and Ryan. Those two were doomed from the start. I guess it's just sad to see people going in different directions.
Speaking of different directions... PA Erin is leaving us at the end of the run. It's a sad, sad day for the PA Team. She was after all the 2nd hottest PA (right after me of course). She's moving on to bigger and better things though, and we couldn't be happier for her. I wanted to let her know how many people were going to miss her so I set out and asked a few people if they'd like to say some parting words. These are these the responses...
Keith said, "Sorry to see you go, but I would be sorrier to have her stay and miss the gig. Besides I may need a job someday"
"I'll miss you quitter..." came from Crispy
"Get the hell away from me I'm sick!" - Johnny
"Can I have my Danish Lego's back...?" - Eric
"It won't be South Park with out you" - Kris
PA Rob summed up his feelings in three words, "Ass to Ass."
Anthony, went on and on about some story that didn't make any sense...
Todd looked at me for a moment and said, "Where's Paula?"
"Go Trojans!" - Frank
Jun said that he learned a valuable life lesson from Erin, "Don't ever dress on Halloween as your producer..."
"I'll always love you, you cheating whore... See you at the Cozy" - Hansen
"I have nothing to say to you because I don't care about you leaving." - Mark
Trey said, "Who's Erin?"
Maybe asking the crew questions when they're working on shots involving Otters wasn't such a good idea. So enjoy the episode, and help us wish Erin good luck at her new job.
Production Blog 11/13/2006
J. J. Franzen, Technology Supervisor
Well, it's the end of another run. Definitely some great episodes in this one. I actually was greatly involved in the creation of the first episode of this run, "Make Love Not Warcraft." Man, that was a challenge. And quite fun to. It gave me a chance to be more directly involved in the creative process, which was great. Usually, I'm just stashed away in my cave and only called out when something breaks. Which, assuming I've done my job properly to begin with, isn't too often. Which means I have time to pursue other interests, like learning new CG packages, how visual effects are done, and playing video games.
Mostly this run, I just played. Thanks to the Warcraft episode, not only did I get exhausted much earlier then usual in a run, I also caught a flu the Blizzard crew was kind enough to bring along with them. I also got completely hooked on that damn game. Started a new character the first week of production and I'm already level 55 (the max is 60). So, there's been that. And that flu managed to hang around for the entire run. Which sucked. One of the down sides of our production schedule is that we don't get a whole lot of time to rest, and we definitely don't get any sick days.
Aside from the occasional glitch with our avid systems and a rather panic inducing "hiccup" from the primary file server a few weeks ago, it's been a rather smooth run from my side of things. And once again, we've broken some of our old records. Prior to this run, our record for the most number of shots animated during the production of an episode was 951 shots for episode E_1003, "Cartoon Wars Part 1." Now, the bar has been set to 1182 shots for E_1008, "Make Love Not Warcraft." And the frame count record was bumped from 145,802 frames to 166,504 frames for those same respective episodes. As you can see, we really do crank out a prodigious amount of animation during production.
I had the distinct honor of being able to give a presentation about how we produce our show to the developers at Apple. After the presentation, there was a Q & A sessions where I was asked the following question: "Do you think more people will start to produce shows in this manner?" My answer was "God, I hope not." As unique as the show's content is, so is our process. I can't imagine any other show except for one that was trying to be an exact copy of ours benefiting from the way we do things here. And if you think I'm kidding, take a moment and think about it. I can't imagine any other type of show needing the top of the moment commentary and immediacy that we are able to provide.
Well, that's all I can think of. If any of y'all have XBOX Live, add Lil Creampuff and we'll game sometime. Later,
J. J. Franzen
Production Blog 11/14/2006
R. Emmett Sibley, Production Assistant
Tonight, we here at the Park are finishing the last episode of the tenth season. In a few hours, we will have the same homoerotic celebrations that sports teams often have after a great victory. We will take champagne bottles, grasp them with both hands and shake them up and down and up and down until they explode all over our faces. Non-descript crewmembers will pour a full cooler of Gatorade over Matt. He'll stand sopping wet, just waiting for the right moment to tear his soaked clothes off. Trey will slap me on the ass and say "Hey partner... good job." Then, we will have a non-verbal moment that to the untrained eye, will seem uncomfortably long, but we will know that something special, almost beyond us is happening. You know...guy stuff.
Everyone is excited about hiatus. We'll all get in our hummers, drive away from our secret underground studio and split our time between our houses in Maui, Aspen and the south of France. Some of us will go on cruises to exotic ports. Others will narrowly escape being prosecuted in Thailand for sex crimes. (I don't care what anyone says, five AMERICAN dollars has got to be worth like a million in Thailand) Then there will be those whose insatiable lust for gambling will bring them to the tables in Atlantic city, sport books in Vegas and dog tracks in Tennessee. Their motto, "If my kids WANT to go to college, I hope they WANT to pay for it too."
Hey R. Emmett, we don't care what the crewmembers are doing, "WHAT ARE MATT AND TREY DOING?" What do two rich guys, ( and I do mean rich.... Matt's smoothie's cost like ten dollars and Trey... let's just say he doesn't buy socks at Costco..."WINK" ), do with their time off? Well a couple of Wii's and PS3's "fell off a truck" this week, if you know what I mean? Knowing those guys, they will spend the majority of their time glued to a massive television playing video games. They worked hard, they pay my rent, they deserve to do whatever they want to.
This run has been a lot of fun. This week's episode is a good old fashion story about hockey. I hope your holidays are truly magic...turkey, a Christmas tree, your father waking you up in the middle of the night to ask you why there is an international warrant for your arrest in Thailand? I'm innocent folks... Happy Holidays!
Production Blog 11/29/2005
Anne Garefino, Executive Producer
""FREE WILLZYX "
November 30, 2005
Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving? Congrats to our Editor, Keef. We had a few days off for the holiday and he went away and got married. His new wife is the "Tech Chick" for all you people in the know.
When we got back, Trey said he forgot how to do a TV show. He went into hiatus mode two weeks early. He has been struggling to get his head back in production. I don't know if he's succeeded yet but he did finally hand off the last of the script at 11:10 p.m. Now he's in the audio booth recording a song. He won't say if it'll be in this show or not. I'm betting yes.
Someone wrote in to ask what it means each week when I say how many shots we're out. Sorry if I haven't explained it before but, here goes. Each show is made up of a certain number of shots-anywhere between 250 and 350. Roughly, a shot is the animation between the cuts. For example, in this week's script:
Tell me what to do, Willzyx! How do we get you home?!
He hasn't said a WORD since we brought him here.
Each line of dialogue in this case would represent a shot. The first shot would be of Kyle and then we would cut to a shot of Cartman so he could say his line. Some shots are short like the ones above. Some are complex, involve lots of action and last a long time. Obviously the latter takes more time to animate. We could be just a few shots out from finishing the animation in the show but those few shots could take hours to complete.
There is a lot to do before we finish the last show in this run, (12/7). We're busy getting ready for the staff Christmas party. Just like any other office we all picked names for our Secret Santa. Everyone is running around telling people who they have and trying to figure out what gift to buy. So much for secrets. Matt and Trey have to record their commentary for the Season 7 DVD. We have to plan a writer's retreat for February. But all that's getting ahead of ourselves. We don't have a clue about what we're doing for next week's show yet. We had a 4 hour meeting tonight and while we laughed a lot, no show idea emerged!
FYI....Our first show in Season 10 will be on March 22, 2006.
And now .....you know what it means when I tell you that it's midnight and Frank says we're 46 shots out.