South Park is now a multi-million dollar industrial complex, but all of that would have been unimaginable to creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone when they first teamed up back in 1992. They were students at the University of Colorado at the time, and Parker was already working on a film called Giant Beavers of Southern Sri Lanka. “It was sort of a Godzilla thing,” Parker told Rolling Stone in 1998. “But with a huge beaver. I had a little girl dressed in a beaver costume rampaging a town.”
Once Parker grew close to Stone, they came up with a better idea, and armed with little beyond construction paper, scissors, glue and an old 8mm camera they created a four-minute short called The Spirit of Christmas. The crudely-animated work shows four foul-mouthed kids in Colorado inadvertently bringing a violent snowman to life and roping Jesus into battle with the creature. “We did an appearance at UCLA recently,” Parker told Rolling Stone in 1998. “All these kids were asking, ‘Where did you get the idea for this? And where did you get the idea for that?’ And we were like, ‘Acid. Acid and, uh, acid.'”
The original Spirit of Christmas (which you can watch above) may be crude, but many staples of South Park were established: The kids are dressed in winter outfits and live in a snowy environment, they swear at each other like sailors, Kenny dies in a rather graphic manner, there’s a moral at the end and Jesus is a local resident happy to lend a hand in a time of need. The most obvious difference is that Kenny looks like Cartman and Stan has a much meaner attitude than usual.
Parker and Stone premiered The Spirit of Christmas at their school in December of 1992, but they soon turned their attention to their debut movie, Cannibal! The Musical. Then in 1995, Fox Executive Brian Graden paid the duo $2,000 to redo The Spirit of Christmas as an animated video Christmas card he could send to his friends. This time around, Jesus battled Santa Claus, and it became a huge hit with Graden’s friend and soon made its way all around Hollywood. Before they knew it, Parker and Stone had inked a deal with Comedy Central that would ultimately make them some of the wealthiest content creators in the history of television.