Trey Parker and Matt Stone signed a $900 million ViacomCBS deal over the summer for 14 franchise projects specifically for the streaming service, two of which drop this year.
It has been two years since a new season of South Park arrived, but fans can rest easy as the Comedy Central staple is returning in early 2022. And before 2021 is up, two new South Park films will drop separately on Paramount+.
On the heels of signing a $900 million megadeal with ViacomCBS, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone caught up with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about the future of their iconic cartoon, the trials and tribulations of remote producing amid the ongoing pandemic, and their exuberance over a classic character’s return to form thanks to the outcome of the 2020 election, among many other topics.
South Park: Post Covid, the first of the 14 “made-for-TV films” — as the duo calls them — will drop exclusively on Paramount+ Nov. 25.
“It’s the boys dealing with a post-COVID world. They’re just trying to get back to normal,” Parker says, being careful not to let too much slip. “So, it is like our show. We’re just trying to get back to normal.” A second made-for-TV film will arrive in December.
The duo — who launched their cartoon empire from a five-minute VHS Christmas card created while they were students at the University of Colorado Boulder nearly 30 years ago — inked their new deal in August. It runs through 2027 and includes the 14 Paramount+ projects, along with the flagship series being renewed through season 30.
Parker and Stone clarify that the Paramount+ projects are not feature films, but they are also not the longform South Park specials released on Comedy Central during the pandemic.
“With Viacom, we realized we could make them as long or as short as we needed,” Parker says of the upcoming projects. “And they then went and called them movies. They are the ones who said we are giving them 14 movies in seven years. All I can say is for me, personally, I am 52 years old, I have made three movies in my life. So you do the math.”
Adds Stone, “We’re trying to make what’s on Paramount+ different from anywhere else, so hourlong made-for-TV movies is where our head is at. We’ll do two made-for-TV movies every year. They will be big, but they are not quite movie scale.”
For the moment, the South Park crew is creating and producing remotely as their Marina del Rey studio remains closed due to the pandemic. The technology kinks have been ironed out via the Comedy Central specials, but Parker and Stone agree that the gang not working together in the same space takes a toll.
“That energy of closing a show, I think that is something we are trying to figure out remotely,” says Stone. “I remember one of those specials last year, Trey and I were never in the same room at one time. I was in New York and Trey was in L.A. We had our systems up and saw each other for two days straight on video. It was cool — but it was lonely. It was that weird, lonely feeling of something with people on video. The technical part is fine. It is the human part that we are still trying to figure out.” For the moment, the plan is for a portion of the South Park crew to return to the studio part-time in January to work on the new season, Stone explains.
When fans last left the show in the South ParQ Vaccination Special, which dropped in March, Mr. Garrison, who for the past six years played a version of the president, was back to his old self following Donald Trump’s election loss. No one was more thrilled than Parker and Stone.
“I was so fucking happy to get Garrison back,” Stone says. “That was one of the best parts of Trump losing: We got Garrison back.”
And just as they have operated from day one, Parker and Stone have zero concern about criticism, outrage or cancel culture. They will continue telling their stories, their way.
“We have been waiting to get canceled for 30 years,” Stone says. “It changes who is involved with it. But we have been dealing with this shit the whole time we have been making the show. And we can’t complain. Things have been going fine for us. It gives us fodder and gives us something to talk about.”
Asked for their thoughts on the recent Dave Chappelle controversy and Netflix backing the comic, Stone remarks, “I think Netflix’s reputation in the Hollywood community went way, way up. That’s all I’m going to say. There are some people who do not agree. But the vast majority of creative people in Hollywood were happy with Netflix’s decision. That’s my feeling. I can’t prove that.”
As for future storylines, Parker and Stone concur that the mood of the country, sometimes the world, shapes the show — to a point.
“We’re at where a lot of people are at, which is the future kind of sucks,” Stone says. “We would like to get back to where each week we can do something totally different. We tried to experiment with serialization. That had mixed results. And the past five or six years have been dominated by Trump, being political and the tonal change of society. And then the pandemic. We don’t want everything to be about the pandemic, but that is what is going on.”
The duo enjoys the show most when episodes are able to be free, to bounce around to random topics, packed with (smart) silliness. And that will return to a degree, they assure. But, some realities cannot be ignored.
“We are kind of trapped talking about larger issues,” Stone says. “As far as the pandemic, we all are going through something. So maybe with this new setup, we can kind of do both. We can go do our quick series pop songs, but also our movies of the week.”