MOTW: "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut:" Five Fun Facts about the Film

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
January 8th, 2014

"South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" remains one of the most popular TV-to-film translations of all time. With its crude humor, biting social commentary, and unforgettable soundtrack, the film was released when South Park mania was at its zenith, and it received a considerable amount of media attention. Buried underneath the film's hype, however, lies some trivia that even hardcore fans might not know. Here are five fun facts about the film.

1. It Was Never Banned in Iraq
The film's portrayal of Saddam Hussein is both hilarious and bizarre, and rumors that it was banned in Iraq popped up soon after it was released. However, it was never officially banned, as the distributors never attempted to release it in Iraq. This does not mean that Iraqis never saw the film; illegal distribution is popular in the Middle East, and many Iraqis have likely passed around copies of the film. Also of note is a report from Trey Parker that Hussein was shown the film while in captivity, although there is no evidence that this is true.

2. Ratings Confusion
The film followed a strange route through the US ratings process. It was long suspected that the film would be unable to avoid an "NC-17" rating, and reports indicate that it was rated as such for months. Operating under a belief that the film would fail unless it could get an "R" rating, producers considered cutting various scenes, but, in the end, the ratings board decided to issue an "R" rating with no cuts. The notoriously secret board has never discussed the process in the press, but Trey Parker said it insisted that some of the foul language be removed. Curiously, the film's violence was reported to have played a very little role in the deliberations. It is also worth noting that both the UK and Australia deemed the film acceptable for 15-year-olds.

3. It Highlighted Intellectual Property Weirdness
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have had a strange fascination with Olympic champion ice skater Brian Boitano ever since they featured him in the 1995 "South Park" prototype, "The Spirit of Christmas." Due to US and international intellectual property laws, permission was not required to use Boitano's likeness in the film due to his role as a public figure. When Boitano later wanted to release a shirt reading "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" based on the title of the song in which he's featured, he had to seek permission. Fortunately, Boitano enjoyed his portrayal as the ultimate superhero and inspiration to the film's protagonists and has responded positively in interviews.

4. Trey Parker and Matt Stone Had Considerable Pull
Paramount Pictures, the film's producer, initially wanted the film to have a "PG-13" rating. Knowing that the film would have to rely on the same crass humor, foul language, and violence of the television show to succeed, they responded with a firm "no." Rarely do Hollywood studios back down, but Paramount relented and gave the comedy duo full reign over the content of the movie. It is hard to imagine what the film would have been like had Paramount succeeded. While some elements of the film could have been modified without losing their impact, some of the most memorable songs would have been changed significantly, and it may not have been possible to include the more incisive social commentary.

5. Trey Parker Is a Musical Fan and Talented Songwriter
It is perhaps of little surprise that Trey Parker is a fan of musicals, including "Les Misérables." As the primary songwriter, Parker successfully translated many of the jokes to song lyrics, and his compositions have been widely hailed as worthy of Broadway. The film also took a number of cues from Disney songs, and many of the film's songs were influenced by a wide range of Disney releases. It was not his first foray into musicals; 1995's "Cannibal! The Musical" was released by Trey Parker when he was a college student, and many have noted similarities between his early effort and the "South Park" film. Parker would later venture into the musical genre again. "The Book of Mormon" was first produced in 2011 and has been on tour ever since, and it has received nearly unanimous praise from reviewers and even a somewhat positive endorsement from many Mormons, who found it entertaining if not entirely accurate.