Inside the Incredible Pilot That Almost Landed Trey Parker and Matt Stone A Kids’ Show Pre-‘South Park’

How different would the TV industry look if Fox hadn’t passed on Parker and Stone’s musical history kids’ comedy ‘Time Warped’?
Inside the Incredible Pilot That Almost Landed Trey Parker and Matt Stone A Kids’ Show Pre-‘South Park’

In an alternate TV universe, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the superstar showrunners of a live-action musical historical comedy for kids called Time Warped, and South Park is just that weird construction paper cartoon that they made when they were practically kids themselves.

Back in 1995, Parker and Stone completed their second animated short film by the name The Spirit of Christmas, a video that would lead to the creation of South Park and change both their lives — and the course of comedy history — forever. In that same year, Parker and Stone also produced the first of two pilots they would shoot for Fox in a failed attempt to capitalize on the cult popularity of their 1993 feature film Cannibal! The Musical by taking the tone and style of the black comedy indie musical and packaging it for young audiences. Together with then-Fox executive and future South Park writer, producer and actor Pam Brady, Parker and Stone wrote, produced and starred in Time Warped, which was built on the premise of adapting real historical events into mini musicals as they had previously done with the expedition of Alferd Packer in Cannibal!

The Spirit of Christmas would become one of the internet’s first viral videos and lead to a TV deal that’s now worth over a billion dollars, and Time Warped suffered the same dead-end fate as most pilots throughout history. However, almost 30 years after Fox passed on the duo that would become Comedy Central’s resident money printers, Parker and Stone’s attempt at breaking into kids’ TV is still available to interested viewers online:

In the pilot episode titled “Aaron,” the biblical story of Moses is rewritten and repurposed through the lens of a fake educational entertainment troupe with the prophet replaced by the titular Aaron, played by Parker himself. The pilot was made with the help of many returning members of the Cannibal! The Musical cast and crew, and the idea behind Time Warped was for Parker, Stone and their Cannibal! buddies to give a different historical event the same treatment each week.  

The pilot survives thanks to the efforts of actor Jason McHugh, who collaborated with Parker and Stone on Cannibal! The Musical and their 1997 sex comedy Orgazmo in addition to performing a handful of voice roles on South Park. McHugh posted the above video on his personal YouTube account, writing, “After having just been literally offered peanuts for our first film Cannibal! The Musical — this crazy Fox exec named Pam Brady thought we should do a weekly episodic series about Alferd Packer being lost with a group of guys who sing and dance.” 

Parker and Stone had other plans, as McHugh wrote, “Having just endured months in the cold Rocky Mountains — Trey said what if we just take the style and structure of Cannibal and create a 1950s styled time traveling musical adventure show and thats exactly what we did back in 1995!”

“We thought we had bagged a series deal,” McHugh wrote of the pilot. “But a year later it turned into another Timewarped Pilot for Fox called Rom and Jul — which was basically the story of Romeo and Juliet set in One Million BC Africa.” As McHugh noted, Fox didnt feel that this first try was quite kid-friendly for their “Fox Kids” programming block, and, a year later, had Parker and Stone do a second pilot for Time Warped. The second episode was somehow even more unsettling to an underaged viewer, as the “Rom and Jul” video that McHugh archived clearly shows.

However, Time Warped had the full backing of then-Fox executive Brady and seemed to be close to a green light before Fox decided to do away with their Fox Kids division entirely and scrap Parker and Stones two pilots. With Time Warped dead and The Spirit of Christmas exploding in popularity, Parker and Stone jumped ship to Comedy Central to start South Park in 1997, bringing Brady with them. 

The rest, as they say, is history — queue the showtunes.


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?