Most comedians probably don’t fear offending anyone except their mum.
Seth MacFarlane, the creative force behind Family Guy, is no exception – but he discovered it’s impossible to make her blush.
“There was nothing I could say to my mother that would shock her. No joke I could make that was too offensive,” says 38-year-old Seth, who has been drawing since he was two and had a comic strip in the local paper at nine.
With three successful animated series – including Family Guy spin off The Cleveland Show and American Dad! – airing on the small screen and satirising everything from pop culture to politics, he has now written, directed and produced his first feature film.
True to MacFarlane form, Ted is a skewed take on an apparently wholesome idea, this time about a talking bear who was wished that way by his lonely young owner, John.
However, the bundle of fur is now a vulgar, beer-swilling, horny little guy and he doesn’t care who knows it.
Toy Story, this ain’t!
“Ted has a lot of love and enthusiasm and a zest for life but no self-editing mechanism, so what he says is really the first thing that pops to mind,” says Seth.
At first talking Ted becomes a worldwide sensation. He and John promise to be best friends forever, share go-karting trips, make snow angels, watch endless episodes of Flash Gordon, and call themselves Thunder Buddies whenever a storm hits.
Nearly 30 years later though, and the fairytale is very much over. The adult John (Mark Wahlberg) is starting to feel the effects of spending most of his time with a bear behaving badly. Ted’s constant presence is also affecting his relationship with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).
“There’s no obligation for Ted to grow up, or force himself out of this juvenile place, but John has to,” Seth explains.
A big part of the comedy emerges from the fact that years after the bear came to life, people are used to him and, frankly, nobody cares anymore. He is like a washed up child star.”
The story was originally conceived as an animated series but Seth realised it would lend itself to a motion picture, particularly in light of the huge advances in special effects. Instead of drawing the characters he actually got to play Ted, wearing a motion capture suit so his movements, as well as his voice, could be used for the foul-mouthed fur ball.
Seth’s skill as a cartoonist was discovered early. Born in 1973 in Kent, Connecticut, he was only two years old when he picked up a crayon and started drawing to a level beyond his years.
By five, he knew he wanted a career in animation and recalls his parents finally tracking down a “how to” book from a library two towns away.
“I did these flip books, trying to work out what movement to movement was needed to make these drawings move,” he says.
At the age of nine, the child prodigy was creating a comic strip for his local paper.