Back in the mists of time… Quite a few blogs I’ve seen start like that when the writer is discussing stuff that they don’t do any more. Anyway, way back in 1997-98ish, South Park made it’s appearance on UK Sky TV.
In the first season an episode appeared called “Pink Eye”. In that episode Kyle wears a Chewbacca mask and Cartman dresses as Hitler, as he does.
I love Star Wars, you should know that from some of my other blogs, so I had the half creative copyright iffy idea to combine Star Wars with South Park in a series of cartoons. Hopefully getting the South Park fans and the Star Wars fans together on this fairly new Internet thing everyone was talking about. I didn’t think it would take off… 🙂
I created a handful of cartoons, a website and then as the weeks went by I created more characters, background locations, and lots of other banners and animated gifs.
I tried to stick to the style of the South Park characters, keeping them like the little kids, rather than the taller adult versions of the characters. Kind of super deformed, big heads, small bodies, circles for hands and so on. Most of them were also the same body shape. Helmets were created and based on the Chewbacca mask from the episode placed on top of the characters.
I made some additional choices when it came to some of the characters. R2D2 for example had an eye so I could show some emotion and indicate the direction he was looking in. The same went for Darth Vader, they were flat characters and not being able to tell which way they were looking or who they were looking at was a problem for the comedy aspects of the toons. I think Boba was one of the very few characters without eyes as I couldn’t figure out the best placement. He’s cool he doesn’t need to look at people.
Initial jokes basically circled around various ways of killing Kenobi
It did become boring quite quickly so I started to play with the making of Star Wars and just some basic silly stuff.
I incorporated some of the South Park traits, for example when Kyle kept throwing up when he tried to talk to his girlfriend.
I was learning to build web sites at the time for work and I put myself a practice/personal site together with a handful of cartoons and other stuff whilst I was learning the ropes of HTML, rollovers and animated Gifs.
It was fun and educational at the same time. Only problem was that it was too popular. The server it was sitting on kept crashing and on investigating it I discovered which pages were being accessed more than others. It was mainly the gallery page for the Star Park cartoons. It was in those days you’d post a web counter and say how popular your pages were.
Can we get this out of the way right now, I used Comic Sans. It worked well with the comics and people didn’t hate it in those days.
JEDINET.COM – The saviour
With the 1997 releases of the Special Editions of the movies, Star Wars was making a comeback. Behind the scenes George was working on the new movies.
Anyway, back to the history. In about 1998 I got contacted by Jedinet.com that still runs today to see if I would like to put all of my toons on their site. It was a lifesaver.
In November 1998 they released the trailer for Episode 1 The Phantom Menace and spoofs and fun with Star Wars became a thing.
I did get contacted by someone asking if I’d help them with an animation but unfortunately was busy with work, recent marriage and getting the toons done. More later.
So we worked on getting the gallery up and I started to produce at least 2 new toons a week heading into 1999.
In March 1999. “Park Wars” became a thing. Slightly skewing from my ideas and integrating South Park characters into a fully animated trailer. It was marvelous. I think it was being hosted on TheForce.Net another great Star Wars site and is also still going strong today.
Park Wars/Star Park…. I was probably a bit jealous of the attention the trailers got around the internet. But I kept producing those toons.
Eventually by the mid 1999 I had a few cartoons up, tutorials with downloadable files to help create your own toons, submissions from visitors, A GUESTBOOK, links to other sites. You get the general idea at the time.
I created characters from the films, the books and the Dark Horse comics of the time. I even added extra characters based on people I know. I worked with the guy that cleaned the Death Star windows.
The Phantom Menace and 15 Minutes of Fame
Something happened in May 1999 which made the visitor numbers spike. Oh yeah, “Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace” was released.
In May, as well as that film release, the site exploded. Even in the UK it was featured in magazines and other websites. I even had a couple of interviews for websites that have sadly gone.
It even had a link in a strange book that focused on Star Wars websites. Most of which are probably gone and long forgotten.
I think people use Google these days. 🙂
There were quite a few collaborations leading through the early 2000s. A few were featured on the site.
Matt Shoemaker contacted me to use my characters for an animation. Officially I don’t really hold any copyright claim to the characters so I sent him my Photoshop files with all of the characters. My precious single document containing layers of head shapes, helmets, clothes, weapons, sabres and any other props.
It was this file that made it easy to give characters guns and sabres and make up quite random background characters.
Anyway I sent off the files and didn’t expect anything.
Anyway these happened, based on the Star Wars Special Edition trailers. There are a few versions of these around Youtube. It’s nice to know.
Loved them. There was also this earlier version of one of them.
Matt even created some lobby cards for the videos. Some of which have survived the years.
Star Park (Wars) The Musical
In 1999 http://www.infauxmedia.com/ created a Star Wars musical. It is brilliant. Included and original score and original lyrics throughout. It was professionally made with the tech at the time with people working for free. It’s a shame it would never become a full on stage musical but be happy that it’s available to download for free from their website. So go download it!!
I was contacted by another contributor, Chris Regan of Astrosheep Productions at that time, that wanted to create an animation based on the musical audio tracks. The files this time included some characctersI I hadn’t used before with a slightly different style I was experimenting with. They kind of stand out from the old cut out versions of Luke in “Do You Speak Bocce”.
Time passed and what came about were five animated short music videos. For viewers of today they were Shockwave flash files which you could embed on a web page. Nowadays, embedded Flash files are seen as a bad thing coz they can do lots of nefarious things to your computer.
So, drumroll please, for the first time in over 18 years, I present the five Star Wars/Star Park Musical tracks. I recently contacted the musical guys and they seem pleased that I’m reviving these nice animations.
I had lots of contributors over the years and had some contacts with various people, including a set builder who worked on episode 1. They told me some stories from the having to clean pigeon poop off the Tatooine sets at Leavesden and mentioned that my toons were known around set. Whether this was genuine I was never too sure. I last heard from him as he went off to start building sets for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I created a cartoon specifically for the set builders.
THE MAGIC YEARS
Whilst Star Wars was in production from 1999 through to 2006 I produced a lot of toons. This included the Star Wars film posters the day the first images were released.
In a lot of cases some of the detail in the posters was impossible to tell what the characters were supposed to be or look like. So we ended up with a no neck Jar Jar Binks, a dirty looking C3PO and a very angry Yoda and Emperor in the Episode 3 poster. Costume details were also uncertain at the time, so I just hoped that if I put enough blur and lens flare in there, no one would notice. Lens flare was a quick solution in Photoshop. I also didn’t bother to change Mac Windu’s expression between 2 and 3 even though they were years apart. I did try some more realistic hair in the Ep 3 poster.
Later I would return to Episode 1 in 2012 with my first Star Park toon in many years for the 3D release of the Phantom Menace.
Unfortunately they never released the 3D versions of Ep 2 and 3 due to the waning of 3D, a lacklustre box office and the incoming Disney new trilogy.
I did like doing the posters as I could add extra shading and detail to the otherwise flat characters.
When the South Park movie came out in 1999, I also created a spoof of the original film poster with two sets of the Star Park characters, both prequel and sequels.
To fill out the characters on both posters I added other characters from other franchises including X-Files, Star Trek TNG and Voyager, Red Dwarf, a couple of hosts from the then Sky TV channel “.tv” and a whole bunch of other people I worked with. and Austin Powers.
I also included people I knew and know today in the longest image I created showing a queue for Episode 1.
I also featured other videos and pictures from other favourite parody films and clips. Who remembers Kung Fu Kenobi?
Forget social media of today. We had our own social network via email and we didn’t have Youtube as that didn’t come out for another 5 years in 2005. We managed on embeded Quicktime videos. Those were the days.
I had a few favourites which made me giggle. Some of them took minutes to put together and some took a few hours.
One of my early Episode 1 toons too a swipe at the overuse of blue screen. That one took me a few minutes using existing assets.
I loved the silly idea of a window cleaner on the Death Star, I couldn’t imagine how tall his ladder would actually be.
PREDICTING THE FUTURE
I did try and make a few predictions through the years prior to Episode 3.
I created a timeline of George Lucas as he made Episode IV through to Episode III. He kept the same shirt though.
I reckon this was fairly close Or even predicting what happened on the first day of filming on Episode 1.
I even created toons that would work on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, no one knows what Colt 45 is and in the US, I very much doubt they have heard of Carling Black Label.
Why an alcoholic drink would work in that situation I have no idea.
It continued through to about early 2006 when the worst thing ever happened.
Unfortunately the server containing all of the Jedinet website crashed and corrupted everything. All of Star Park was gone.
I was niave at the time to think that anything on the internet was safe an it would be there for all time. Unfortunately in this case. Nope. Most of my toons were created within a couple of hours and uploaded as a jpg to the Jedinet gallery. I didn’t have the space to keep the original files as there were probably over 100 toons on the site and we didn’t have huge hard drive space in the early 2000s. There were short animations and comic strips all lost.
I did manage to keep a portion of the toons but I was rattling them out quite frequently. In fact I remember creating lots of cartoons in creative spurts and then keeping them back so that only two toons were released a week, so visitors would come to the site regularly.
Eventually Jedinet changed hands and naturally Star Park faded into the background.
I started to expand my cartoons into different areas but at the same time started to slow the production down, only occasionally producing some new material.
By 2009, I moved what I had left to spoofpark.com which still exists today. Although you may notice that due to the age of the site it doesn’t take up much of the screen due to the lower screen resolutions.
It features all that is left of Star Park plus a whole bunch of other toons for X-Men, Red Dwarf, Spider-man, The X-Files, Buffy, Stargate, Star Trek, Blair Witch and Indiana Jones. Plus Halo thrown in for good measure. Make sure you have Flash enabled to check out the galleries.
Since the websites I’ve put all that I’ve got in a gallery on Facebook, I mean, Facebook isn’t going to close down and remove all their content any time soon, surely.
I’m planning on putting my toons on a brand new Instagram account for easy access. Check them at www.instagram.com/spoofpark.
I fully understand that Spoofpark and Star Park are a style ripped off from South Park but all the content was created by myself to keep me and a handful of other people amused.
I also got a few signatures from cast members from Voyager and Stargate to sign some of my work. It was fun.
Catch you next time.