"Pip" (also known as "Great Expectations") is the fourteenth episode in the fourth season of the American animated television series South Park. The 62nd episode of the series overall, it first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 29, 2000. The episode is a parody and comedic retelling of Charles Dickens's 1861 novel Great Expectations, and stars the South Park character Pip, who assumes the role of Pip, the protagonist of the novel, who is his namesake. "Pip" features no other regular characters from the show. The story is narrated in a live action parody of the anthology television series Masterpiece Theatre, with the narrator played by Malcolm McDowell.
Pip as a character was established to originate from the Dickens novel early on in the series, and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had the idea of retelling Great Expectations with the character for a long time. "Pip" has a unique design and animation compared to other episodes. To achieve this look, a lot of assets had to be built from scratch. This was a demanding task for the South Park studios at the time, and production of the episode was stretched out across several months. The concept of the episode changed significantly during this time; for example, the original plan was for the episode to be a musical.
Parker and Stone claim that "Pip" is one of the least popular episodes. The episode was written by Parker and directed by animation director Eric Stough. Since its original airing, it has been re-run infrequently on Comedy Central.
The story is set in a 19th-century-like England, in a small town called Draftingshire-Upon-Topsmart. An orphaned Pip is on his way to visit his parents' grave. While there, an escaped convict appears and threatens Pip. Pip, out of the goodness of his heart, aids the convict by giving him food and cutting the convict's handcuffs. He then goes home, where his sister's husband Joe reads an advertisement about a Miss Havisham seeking a boy to play with her daughter. Pip goes and meets the daughter, Estella, who constantly insults him. Miss Havisham hires Pip and throughout their playtimes he eventually falls in love with Estella.
Pip fears Estella could never marry a commoner like him. However, an offer comes for Pip from an anonymous benefactor to move to London and learn how to become a gentleman. Pip assumes the benefactor is Miss Havisham and accepts. In London, Pip meets his roommate Mr. Pocket who tells the story of Miss Havisham: she got engaged but was left at the altar, causing her to stop all the clocks in the house and never leave the house again. Pip spends the rest of his time in London learning how to be a gentleman.
After his time in London, he shows up at Miss Havisham's house, where she tells Pip that he can find Estella at a party at the palace. At the ball, Pip and Estella dance, and talk about how Pip is now a fine young gentleman. Estella says that she has no heart, and cannot love. Just before Pip asks Estella to be his girlfriend, her boyfriend, a modernly American seventeen-year-old named Steve, enters the scene.
Pip, saddened, runs to tell Miss Havisham, only to find that she approves of Steve. Miss Havisham is glad that Estella has broken Pip's heart and she explains that she has Estella break men's hearts to use their tears to power her "Genesis Device". She desires youth and wants to use the device to switch bodies with Estella. She then uses robot monkeys to attack Pip. Pip escapes and falls unconscious, awakening at an old house with Joe and Pocket. The anonymous person who sent Pip to London is revealed to be the escaped convict Pip met at the beginning of the story. Because of Pip's kindness, the convict led a life of goodness and became a millionaire. Sending Pip to London was his way of repaying Pip for the good that Pip did for him. The four of them, Pip, Joe, Pocket, and the convict, decide to stop Miss Havisham.
The group returns to the mansion discovering a bunch of men and boys with broken hearts and Miss Havisham powering up her device. Despite difficulties, such as the convict getting killed by an acid-spewing Miss Havisham, Pip manages to convince Estella to leave the machine, destroying it and setting Miss Havisham on fire. Fleeing the burning mansion, Pip's group and the hostage males escape as Estella finally declares her love for Pip. Ending the story, the narrator states that the characters "all lived happily ever after, except for Pocket, who died of Hepatitis B".
Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had the idea to recreate Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in the style of South Park from the very beginning of the series. The character of Pip has been a minor character on South Park from the onset of the series, having appeared in the pilot episode, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe". Pip had a somewhat bigger role in the original, unaired version of the pilot, but most of his scenes have been cut from the reworked and shorter broadcast version. One of these cut scenes, a short sequence in the school cafeteria that introduces Pip, was reinserted into the show's fifth episode "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig". (As the scene came from the pilot, it was created with traditional paper cutout stop motion animation.) In the scene, Stan asks Pip about his peculiar name, but Cartman interrupts Pip during his answer. Pip's reply – "my father's family name being Pirrip and my Christian name Phillip, my infant tongue--" – is identical to the opening line of the novel Great Expectations, which is narrated by its protagonist, Pip.
Production for the episode started after the first run of the series' fourth season, which consisted of four episodes. At the beginning of the second run of six episodes (which started broadcasting in June 2000), the episode was assigned a production code number of 405 (meaning the 5th episode of the 4th season), and it was planned to air in June or July that year. However, given the complicated nature of the episode's look, where a lot of things had to be designed from scratch, the studio did not have enough time to finish the episode that summer, and it was moved to the next batch of episodes. As it was already in production before the run, "Pip" was a "banked" episode of South Park, one of the first in the series' history. Whereas most episodes of South Park are done within a week, from scratch, the creators sometimes try to have one episode "in the bank" – meaning that they have "at least half-start[ed]" animating it. This way they can take off a few days at one point during the two-month-long, demanding run, and then go back and finish work on the banked show. After finishing the previous episode, "Helen Keller! The Musical", which aired on November 22, 2000, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 23), the creators went to spend time with their families for the holiday, and then came back on Sunday, November 26, to finish "Pip". The episode aired the next Wednesday, on November 29, 2000 on Comedy Central in the United States, as the 14th episode of the season, and the fourth episode of the winter run. Since its original airing, it has been re-run infrequently on Comedy Central.
The episode, directed by South Park animation director Eric Stough, has a unique look compared to most other episodes of the series. The creators wanted a different design for Pip's England featured in the episode. For example, the directions for the exterior scenes were to make them look like they are "right out of a Dickens novel". To achieve the style, a lot of assets had to be built from scratch, including many new characters with "new mouths with rotted out teeth" that were used for most of them. At the beginning of the episode, Pip is dressed in more ragged clothing than he usually wears in South Park. Later, when he becomes a gentleman in London, he is wearing his usual South Park attire, including his bow tie. The character of Pocket is designed to look similar to the children in the 1974 Rankin/Bass animated Christmas television special 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
From its inception to its broadcast, there were a lot of changes in how the episode is presented. Originally, "Pip" was going to be a musical episode, the first South Park musical since the 1999 movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. At one point, the plan was to have Pip tell his own story to the South Park Elementary class. An early storyboard scene shows "Pip walk[ing] up to the class holding a HUGE manuscript of paper. It could be a novel." Beginning his story in the classroom, he starts by introducing the origins of his name, only to be interrupted by Cartman – much like the scene in "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig". In the end, the finished episode did not include the boys or any other regular characters. As Stone and Parker explained, "bookend[ing] it with the kids or hav[ing] the kids listening to the story" would be too formulaic for their tastes, so they decided to do the episode without the South Park boys, precisely "[b]ecause it's a bad idea." Having an episode's worth of story told in front of the class was later used in the eighth season episode "Woodland Critter Christmas", which has Cartman telling a Christmas themed story (in a plot twist). The ending of the story's narration in that episode resembles the ending in "Pip". In "Pip", the narrator ends the story with the line "And they all lived happily ever after, except for Pocket, who died of Hepatitis B." In "Woodland Critter Christmas", Cartman finishes the story by saying "And they all lived happily ever after. Except for Kyle, who died of AIDS two weeks later." Another idea was to have Chef narrate the episode, in the style of Masterpiece Theatre. In the end, the creators decided to do the Masterpiece parody in live action, with the narrator played by Malcolm McDowell. The reason behind the introduction was to make it clear to the viewers that it is going to be an "extremely different experience" from the other episodes, and that they are not going to see the regular characters of the show. The creators said that they did this having learned the lesson from the second season episode "Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus" – which also revolves entirely around two minor characters – about the necessity of making the audience aware that they are not to expect to see the regular characters any time during the episode. Both McDowell and the two creators have spoken highly of each other. Parker and Stone said that shooting with McDowell was a positive experience, and that he told old stories about the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange – which McDowell starred in –, and its director Stanley Kubrick.
"Pip" features regular voice acting from Parker and Stone for most characters (with Stone doing the voice of Pip), as well as Eliza Schneider (credited both by her real name and her pseudonym "Blue Girl") providing the voice for Estella. Joe was voiced by South Park staff writer Kyle McCulloch, because, according to Stone, McCulloch "can do really good British voices, because he grew up in Canada watching a bunch of British TV."
"Pip" is a relatively unpopular episode of the series. According to creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it is "probably one of the least popular episodes of South Park" they have ever produced, and that "most people [...] pretty much hated it." In 2004, Stone said that he considers the episode "really cool" and "really good". In a 2011 Entertainment Weekly feature, the two named what they consider the best 15 episodes of South Park, along with the 53 worst. "Pip" was number 49 on the "Worst" list (following the first 48 spots which collectively consisted of every episode from the first three seasons). Parker said that "Everyone, including us, hates 'Pip'", and Stone said "I don't hate it. But it was like, 'Why did you guys do that?'" The creators said that recreating Great Expectations in South Park style "seemed like a decent enough idea, except that [the novel] kinda sucks", especially its ending. They have concluded that while they sometimes want to do an episode that is different in style and presentation to the other episodes, it is necessary to have it involve the regular characters, otherwise audiences will not like it.
In his paper about the episode, Jeffrey Sconce said that the episode ultimately "proved a rather self-indulgent [...] effort", and that it had failed "in terms of viewer response and ratings." In their review of the fourth season DVD, IGN called the episode "a serious fizzle", saying that the creators "don't always hit a home run."
"Pip" was released on the DVD South Park: The Complete Fourth Season in the United States on June 29, 2004. The DVD contains a short audio commentary on every episode from Parker and Stone. Episodes of season 4 have also been released digitally, on services such as Amazon Video, the iTunes Store, and Xbox Live Marketplace. Like most episodes of South Park, "Pip" was formerly available to watch for free on the show's website, SouthParkStudios.com, but is now available to watch as part of the Hulu Plus subscription-based streaming video service.