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 on.
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 Matt Stone.
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.
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.
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.