For many, Eric Cartman was, for a long
time, the reason to watch South Park; he is to that show what
Bart once was to The Simpsons. But just as Bart was overtaken
by Homer in terms comedy value and viewer interest, Cartman's dominance
was decisively split by the arrival and increasing centrality of Leopold
"Butters" Stotch. Butters showed up during South Park's
third season, but didn't really come into his own until the fifth
season finale episode, "Butters' Very Own Episode."
Whereas Cartman is profane, devious,
arrogant, racist, truculent, selfish, and a cheat, Butters is polite,
trusting, credulous, happy, and honest. He is the embodiment of
a goody-goody, who generally swears or says something crude only out
of bulletproof innocence or an inability to suspect others of having
ulterior motives. His topknot of bright blond hair may as well
be a halo, for without intending it, Butters is something of an angel.
He's also a put-upon patsy, often taking the fall for one or another
of the boys' many schemes, an easy dupe who never suspects his erstwhile
"friends" of dishonesty or meanness, going along with whatever they
have planned. Sometimes Butters' "victimhood" extends to
the plots of his very own family and other town elders, as in the episode
"Cartman Sucks" (included here).
Butters' huge value the show
also has something to do with his peculiar, antiquated use of language.
Phrases like "Oh, hamburgers!," "boy-howdy," "gee whiz,"
and "fellas" sound perfectly natural. While playing alone,
Butters can be heard singing to himself, "Loo loo loo, I've got
some apples / Loo loo loo, you've got some, too..." And so
South Park Studios and Comedy Central
have now released A Little Box of Butters, the show's second
character-based compilation (the first was The
Cult of Cartman in
2008). This two-disc set collects thirteen Butters-centric episodes
in a clever package designed to resemble the fourth-grader's pencil
box. Each episode in the baker's dozen is a gem, showcasing
Butters at his best. Butters' endearing gullibility, enthusiastic
willingness to please, and cheerful idiocy are brought to life by
South Park's exceptional writers and the inspired voice work of
The set opens with the fifth season's
"Butters' Very Own Episode," which served as the character's
coming out party, raising him to a new level of prominence. While
Butters was temporarily Kenny's replacement in the fifth and sixth
seasons, he's never truly been a part of the show's central quartet.
And this is appropriate, given Butters' unique personality and the
cynical worldliness of the others. "Butters' Very Own Episode"
served to codify the character's position in relation to that group,
as well as his own persona.
The two discs continue with episodes
that include the Stan-and-Wendy breakup show "Raisins," and the
classic two-show arc that begins with "Professor Chaos" and concludes
with "The Simpsons Already Did It." The final episode on the set
is from the currently in-progress fourteenth season and has therefore
never been released on DVD before: "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs."
All told, it's an excellent selection of shows that captures everything
you need to know about Leopold Stotch.
The two discs are housed on opposite
sides of a single card sleeve, with crayon-drawn titles and doodles
decorating each side. The sleeve is the first thing you see when
you open the oversized cardboard "pencil box" container. Beneath
it are several individually-wrapped "collectibles," plus an eight-page
story purportedly written and illustrated by Butters called "The Poop
that Took a Pee." It's pretty funny.
The packaging is clever enough, but
it's not terribly sturdy nor is it space-efficient. Eh.
You win some, you lose some. At least it's thoughtful.
Here's something interesting: Each of the thirteen episodes
are presented in excellent 1.78:1 transfers. But South Park
wasn't broadcast in HD until 2009, which means that the majority of
these episodes have been cropped from their original broadcast aspect
ratio of 1.33:1. I haven't been able to determine which are
cropped and which are not, but there's no doubt that the earlier ones
are. I should point out that compositionally, the cropping works
well. I didn't even notice it until it occurred to me after
viewing the first disc that show was broadcast full-screen until relatively
Regardless of the cropping issue, which
I think works anyway, the image quality is outstanding. The animation
may be intentionally crude, but the technical side of the presentation
is rock-solid. Bold colors and deep blacks - no artifacts -
just a flawless image all the way.
There are both surround and stereo mixes on each episode, and they
are both excellent, with good ambience and excellent use of spatial
effects. Even the stereo tracks are exceptionally involving.
The only disc-based extra is a pretty disposable Butters-oriented
trivia game. The interface is nicer than usual for these kinds
of things, but the game itself is nothing special. A new video
piece on the genesis of the character - with Stone & Parker involvement
- would have been nice. Alas...
Great stuff from South Park Studios
and Comedy Central. This is an entertaining set that will nonetheless
be totally redundant for those who have already collected the season
sets. For more casual fans, however, this is Highly Recommended.
Edit, 10/4/2010: Someone who worked on this project has informed me that these episodes were each re-rendered in HD for this DVD release. This means that there was actually no cropping, as I had assumed. In fact, this process has resulted in slightly more information on the sides of the image.
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.