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TV's favorite foul-mouthed kids from 'South Park' celebrated a big anniversary

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

TV's favorite foul-mouthed kids celebrated a big anniversary this year. It all started with some twisted Christmas magic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUTH PARK THEME")

LES CLAYPOOL: (Singing) I'm goin' down to South Park, gonna have myself a time.

FADEL: South Park turned 25 over the summer. But Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny first appeared five years earlier in a student film about Christmas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS")

TREY PARKER: (As Stan Marsh) Don't put the magic hat on the snowman.

MATT STONE: (As Kyle Broflovski) Why?

PARKER: (As Stan Marsh) 'Cause if you do, he's going to come to life.

STONE: (As Kyle Broflovski) Cool.

PARKER: (As Stan Marsh) No, it's not cool. My sister put a hat on a snowman, and it tried to kill her.

FADEL: University of Colorado classmates Trey Parker and Matt Stone produced a crudely animated film called "The Spirit of Christmas," the story of a demented snowman that's come to life.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS")

STONE: (As Kyle Broflovski) Oh, my God. Frosty killed Kenny.

FADEL: Parker and Stone's work caught the attention of a young television producer named Brian Graden.

BRIAN GRADEN: Within, like, 10 minutes, I realized that their humor had the same gestalt as mine and my buddies growing up. And so almost as a throwaway, I said, would you guys want to do my Christmas card this year?

FADEL: Graden gave Parker and Stone $2,000 to rework the Spirit of Christmas. Graden planned to put it on VHS and give it out to his friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS")

PARKER: (As Santa) Ho ho ho. We meet again, Jesus.

STONE: (As Jesus) You have blemished the meaning of Christmas for the last time, Kringle.

FADEL: The revamped cartoon featured a fight to the death between Jesus Christ and Santa Claus.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS")

STONE: (As Jesus) I'm here to put an end to your blasphemy.

PARKER: (As Santa) This time, we finish it. There can be only one.

MATT STONE AND TREY PARKER: (As boys) Go, Santa. Go, Jesus.

FADEL: In a time before viral videos, "The Spirit Of Christmas" spread pretty quickly. Graden's friends made copies for their friends, who make copies for their friends and so on.

GRADEN: People would start saying to me, hey, you have to see this Christmas card. And they would pop it in. And I realized that all of these people were showing me my Christmas card. That's when I began to realize that they had taken off. And the other thing that I had an awareness of is that these guys would, over time, have something to say because they had a great satirical sense. They were great observers of the world. So I probably always thought of it as something more than just a foul-mouthed cartoon.

FADEL: South Park went on to win several Emmy Awards and remains one of Comedy Central's highest-rated programs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.