"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" is the fifth episode in the first season of the American animated television series South Park. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on September 10, 1997. In the episode, the boys of South Park try to force Kyle's pet elephant to crossbreed with Cartman's pet pig for a class project on genetic engineering. Meanwhile, Stan tries to deal with his sister Shelley, who keeps beating him up.
The episode was written by series co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with Dan Sterling. The episode served as both a parody of genetic engineering and a statement against its potential evils. The scenes of Stan getting beat up by his sister were inspired by Parker's real-life childhood experiences with his own sister, who is also named Shelley.
"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" was met with generally positive reviews, and has been described as one of the most popular early South Park episodes. Several commentators praised its satirical elements with regard to genetic engineering. The episode marked the first appearance of Shelley Marsh, Stan's mother Sharon Marsh, and the mad scientist Dr. Mephesto, who was inspired by the title character of the 1996 film, The Island of Dr. Moreau.
The boys are waiting at the bus stop when Cartman notices Stan has a black eye and it turns out his sister Shelley has been beating him up. Kyle has problems of his own; his mom will not let him keep his new pet elephant in the house. At school, Mr. Hat teaches the class about genetic engineering, which prompts Kyle to decide to crossbreed his elephant with Cartman's pot-bellied pig, Fluffy, to make little "pot-bellied elephants", which he could keep in his house. Upon hearing this, Terrance Mephesto bets Kyle that he can clone a whole person before Kyle can create a pot-bellied elephant. Mr. Garrison suggests the boys use their genetic modifications for the upcoming science fair and go to the South Park Genetic Engineering Ranch.
At the ranch, Dr. Mephesto shows them his genetically engineered collection, including several different animals with four pairs of buttocks, such as a monkey, ostrich and mongoose. Mephesto then explains that, just like the Loverboy song says, "pig and elephant DNA just won't splice", and steals a blood sample from Stan and the boys leave. At school the boys learn Terrance has cloned a human foot. The boys go to Chef with their genetic engineering problem, and after he too cites the Loverboy song, he gives them the idea to try to have the animals "make sweet love" to breed.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mephesto and his assistant Kevin have created a human clone of Stan for Terrance. The boys attempt to get the pig and the elephant drunk and to mate, but it does not seem to be working until Chef stops by and sings to the animals with a little help from Elton John. The cloned Stan breaks free from Mephesto's ranch and proceeds to terrorize the town. The boys eventually find the clone and take it to Stan's house and convince it to attack Shelley; however, it decides to destroy the house and indirectly kills Kenny, by flinging him into a microwave, with a chair. Mephesto shows up and shoots the clone, but Stan is afraid he will be in trouble for everything the clone did. However, in a brief moment of kindness, Shelley takes the blame, after which she beats up Stan.
When the science projects are due, Terrance presents a monkey with five pairs of buttocks, but Kyle has nothing until the pig gives birth to a pot-bellied pig that looks like Mr. Garrison, implying the pig was impregnated by Mr. Garrison before the elephant. Garrison quickly awards it first prize over Terrance's monkey.
"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" was written by show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Dan Sterling. It first aired on September 10, 1997, in the United States on Comedy Central. Parker and Stone intended to call this episode "An Elephant Fucks a Pig", but changed the title under pressure from Comedy Central. The network also made them cut a scene in which Shelley sets Stan on fire to keep the show from coming under the same fire for showing dangerous acts that can easily be imitated as MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head and later, MTV's Jackass. It was during the writing of this episode that Parker and Stone decided Kyle would be the good student and "school-smarter than the other kids".
The subplot with Stan getting beat up by his sister Shelley came from Parker's real-life experiences getting beat up as a child by his sister, also named Shelley, who is three years his elder. Parker said although his sister would later deny it, she regularly beat him up or locked him out of the house for hours; Parker stated that the scene when Stan says "You're my sister and I love you" in order to try to avoid a beating, but was subsequently beat even harder, was based on an actual experience with his sister. The scene in which Stan asks the giant mutant Stan to attack Shelley is based on Parker's childhood fantasy of having a larger version of himself beat up his sister. The resolution to the subplot, in which Shelley takes the blame for Stan's mistakes, and then beats up Stan when he tries to thank her, was also based on experiences Parker had when his sister would bail him out of trouble.
The dialogue spoken by the giant mutant Stan was inspired by a mentally handicapped character in the MTV show How's Your News?, which Parker and Stone produced; according to Parker and Stone, the character could only say phrases like "Bubba chop, bubba chewy chomp", and both men took turns voicing mutant Stan to sound the same way. Isaac Hayes, who does the voice of Chef, recorded all his lines via phone from New York; Parker and Stone said they were nervous to ask him to repeat the line, "Now I know how all those white women felt", but he had no problem repeating it. The genetic mutations Dr. Mephesto creates, including the animals with multiple asses and the goldfish with bunny ears, were inspired by things Parker drew during high school.
The scene in the cafeteria, in which the four boys are annoyed by Pip, is a cut scene from the original version of the South Park pilot, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"; as such, the animation in that individual scene is actually traditional paper cutout stop motion, while the animation throughout the rest of the episode is done with computers. In order to illustrate the aftermath after the destruction scenes, Parker and Stone smudged the paper sets with their fingerprints and stains to make them look like scorch burns.
Several media outlets described "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" as one of the most popular early South Park episodes. Tom Carson of Newsday said it was the most outrageous South Park episode until "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" aired three months later. Many reviewers said the mere title demonstrated the crudeness and originality of South Park, then still a relatively new show. Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News said, "With episode titles such as, 'An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig,' suffice it to say there ain't much on the air like it."
Tamara Ikenberg of The Baltimore Sun said the episode demonstrated the show's ability to address ethically challenging issues like genetic engineering with an "imaginative, unconventional flair". The Melbourne, Australia-based newspaper, The Age. said the episode "(pushes) a degree of political incorrectness that is so extreme and affronting it is almost unavoidably funny." Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times praised the episode, and said the bestiality hinted at in the final scene of the episode illustrated the outrageousness of the show, as well as the fact that the show would probably not be enjoyed by all audiences.
Rick Bentley of The Fresno Bee said the biggest laughs from the episode come from the song Chef sings to the elephant and pig. In 2008, Alicia Wade of the Daily Egyptian said the episode and its theme about genetic engineering still felt fresh more than 10 years after its original broadcast. In 2009, Travis Fickett from IGN rated this episode an 8.3 out of 10, and concluded about it that "It's a bit shocking, perhaps offensive to some, but in the context of murdering mutants and five-assed monkeys created by Brando parodies in Hawaiian moo-moos – it all makes perfect sense. And it's all quintessentially South Park."
"An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" was released, alongside five other episodes, in a three-set VHS on May 5, 1998, marking the first time South Park was made available on video. The episode was released on the "Volume III" video, along with "Death"; other featured episodes included "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", "Volcano", "Weight Gain 4000" and "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride". The episode was re-released by Warner Home Video in 2002, as part of the DVD box set South Park – The Complete First Season.
"Tonight is Right for Love", the song sung by Chef to encourage the elephant and pig to make love, is featured in the 1998 South Park soundtrack "Chef Aid: The South Park Album". In the track, rock singer Meat Loaf sings the song along with Isaac Hayes, the actor who voices Chef.
The distribution license for "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" was among six South Park episodes purchased in 2000 by the Pittsburgh-based company and website SightSound.com. The site made the episodes available for download $2.50 for a two-day download and $4.95 for a permanent copy. It was one of the first experiments with making television videos available for Internet download, making "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" one of the first of any television episode made legally available on the Internet.