DirectorTrey Parker, Matt Stone
Release Date(s)1997 (December 5, 2017)
Studio(s)Comedy Central/South Park Studios (Paramount)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
For those of you who’ve had your heads in the sand these last twenty years, South Park tells the story of four average boys growing up in a small town in Colorado. There’s the two best friends (Stan and Kyle), the trash-talking fat kid (Cartman), and the poor kid who smells like sour milk and dies in almost every episode (Kenny). Together, the Boys (as they will henceforth be known) concoct hare-brained schemes and get caught up in all kinds of misadventures. With soul man, cafeteria maestro, and all around love master Chef as their guide (Issac Hayes, in the best long-running celebrity cameo ever in animation), the Boys seem to offend just about everyone on the planet as they struggle to survive the boredom of their daily lives.
It’s a strange thing to look back at these early episodes of South Park. Though the pilot episode was produced on film using construction paper characters and backgrounds, the series was created by computer (when Comedy Central eventually picked it up) to speed up the production process. Unfortunately, all of the episodes up to the Season Twelve finale were originally rendered and finished in SD and 1.33:1, which is how they were seen on TV and how they appeared on DVD as well. So over the past several years, the production team at South Park Studios has gone back and re-animated those early episodes in full HD and in 1.78:1 widescreen too. New details have been added to animation here and there, and minor errors in the original animation have been corrected too. The resulting HD versions have been available for some time on South Park Studios.com and Hulu, but now they’re finally being released on Blu-ray thanks to Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.
The Complete First Season includes all 13 episodes on 2 Blu-rays. The pilot episode (technically, it’s the show’s second pilot), Cartman Gets an Anal Probe, has been scanned from the original film and so it’s here in 1080p HD, but the original 1.33:1 production aspect ratio has been preserved. From there on, all of the episodes have been reanimated in HD by computer, so they’re here in 1080p and 1.78:1. As such, the video quality is outstanding, with nice detail, bold coloring, and dark blacks. The original (and later simulated) construction paper texturing has been carefully preserved. Obviously, the very nature of the way South Park is animated even today means that this isn’t exactly HD eye candy. But these episodes have never looked better – and never will look better – so the video grade reflects that.
From an audio standpoint, all of these episodes include the original English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mixes from the 2002 DVD release, as well as new 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mixes. The surround staging is very subtle, more atmospheric than anything else, but it’s lossless audio so who could ask for more? One audio point of note: The split audio tracks for all of Season One (and part of Season Two) weren’t archived in uncensored form, so only the censored masters now exist for these episodes. That’s what you get here. Note that there are also optional English subtitles.
In terms of extras, here’s something cool: The new Blu-ray release includes the Creator Commentaries with Trey Parker and Matt Stone on every episode. These were missing from Warner’s original DVD release (thus pissing off Parker and Stone) and so were later released on CD (and also online) for diehard fans. Most of the other DVD extras carry over here too (in SD), including Cartman’s O Holy Night music video (2:04), Ned’s O Little Town of Bethlehem music video (1:01), and A South Park Thanksgiving as seen on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2:55), plus all the original SD episode introductions by Parker and Stone. However, the Comedy Central Promos (6:54) are not here, nor are the DVD Easter eggs. The missing material is very trivial, so it’s not much of a loss, but keep your original DVD set if you want them.
Rough as some of these early episodes of South Park can be, it’s great to finally have a chance to buy them in HD on Blu-ray Disc. These sets are probably for diehard fans only but, if that’s you, they’re definitely worth having. These new Blu-rays currently sell for about $30 on Amazon and will likely be discounted further in time. South Park shows no signs of ending anytime soon, though, so if you’re waiting for a Complete Series release, you’ll likely have a very long wait. Our advice is to buy these individual season sets as you’re able to, but look for great sale price.
- Bill Hunt