Kenny is produced as 2-D animation, old-school animation that is now largely superseded by 3-D animation. Here’s a good video that explains some differences between 2-D and 3-D animation by “Bloop Animation” if you’re not clear on the difference:
The metaphysics I’m setting out are more evident with 3-D animation, where it’s all algorithms. Kenny is not the code; the code points to Kenny, creates Kenny pixels, but that’s not Kenny. The process of how computers make an image is described in some detail here:
http://How computers make images
Yet Kenny is more than pixels that present the idea of Kenny. Kenny is encoded and we read the code, sort of the way an alphabet presents the sounds of a word we hear, a silent alphabet read as a spoken word.
So, while 2D animation is old school, 20th century techniques, the metaphysics of 21st century 3D are way older. Remember Plato’s cave, circa 400 BCE? Real old school.
Here’s the allegory for those who forget: Outside the cave, the freed slave finds what’s real – really real – which are the forms of everything, rather than the manifestations shown on the screen within the cave. The stuff of the world is just a manifestation of the forms. 2D animations are those manifestations; 3D animations are the forms.
The difference between the metaphysics is manifest in the artistic practices of 2D vs. 3D animators: 2D animators work with stuff – pencils and paper, human and animal models. 3D animators work with code beneath screens, computer simulations, algorithms, the form of the human body, not bodies and not physical models, just computer models, again: the forms.
So 2D Kenny can die. The drawings can fade, celluloid film is notoriously fragile and disintegrates; the Buddhist principle of impermanence is painfully obvious with this medium.
Code, on the other hand, doesn’t deteriorate. It might get corrupted, but then it’s no longer the original code but a new code. It is represented by Xs and Os but those symbols are not the thing itself. They simply represent the thing itself – the code creating something entirely different than code, pixels we intuit as images.
Kenny was born in the celluloid era, but his reality as a super-hero, as a being who cannot die, is realized in the digital era. We learn the truth about Kenny, the real Kenny, Kenny as Kenny always was. The audience just didn’t get it yet. Kyle didn’t get it yet. Maybe Matt Stone and Trey Parker didn’t even get it yet. It wasn’t clear until the digital medium allowed it to be clear – manifest.