Do not be deceived by that cute looking teddy bear on the advertisements for new film Ted which opens in cinemas this week. That bundle of fur is a vulgar, beer-swilling, horny little guy and he doesn’t care who knows it.
“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 38-year-old Seth MacFarlane who wrote, directed and produced Ted, and voiced the titular character.
MacFarlane’s been stretching the envelope of comedy for more than a decade now, with hit animations Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, which satirise everything from pop culture to politics and include jaw-dropping ‘can’t believe they’ve just done that’ moments.
MacFarlane credits his mum for his X-rated humour. “There was nothing I could say to my mother that would shock her, no joke I could make that was too offensive,” he says. Now he’s brought his boundary-pushing brand of laughs to the big screen.
Combining live-action and CG-animation, Ted tells the story of John Bennett, a lonely boy whose Christmas wish is miraculously granted when his beloved bear comes to life and becomes a worldwide sensation.
Vowing to be best friends forever and ever, they share go-karting trips, make snow angels, watch endless episodes of Flash Gordon, and call themselves Thunder Buddies (they even have a song) whenever a storm hits.
Cut to almost 30 years later though, and the fairytale is very much over. While the grown-up John (Mark Wahlberg) still loves Ted, he’s starting to feel the effects of spending the majority of his time drinking beer with him.
As the roommate who never leaves, Ted’s also affecting John’s relationship with his ever-so-patient girlfriend Lori, played by Mila Kunis. “There’s no obligation for Ted to grow up, or force himself out of this juvenile place, but John has to,” MacFarlane explains. “He can’t just languish in childishness as his teddy bear does. He has to find this balance between friendship and love.”
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. “It’s a point it would naturally get to in real life,” says MacFarlane. “So once that big moment has passed, what’s the other 95 per cent of your life going to be like? That was part of the comedy in Ted.”
MacFarlane originally conceived Ted as an animated series but soon realised the story would lend itself to a motion picture, particularly in light of the huge advances in special effects since the likes of Lord Of The Rings and Avatar.
After enlisting the help of fellow Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, MacFarlane’s next task was casting the man who just can’t grow up.
“Mark Wahlberg was the perfect fit because he can be hysterically funny, yet he’s also able to deliver genuine emotion and realism,” says MacFarlane.
“That loveable, gullible character he plays in Boogie Nights and I Heart Huckabees was something we saw as a jumping-off point for John: the sweet and funny guy who is susceptible to Ted’s urgings.”
As for Kunis, “it was a logical choice”, given the actress has voiced the role of Family Guy’s plain Meg for almost 13 years.
“Lori’s relationship is hampered by the fact this guy’s teddy bear is hanging around and keeping John from evolving and allowing their relationship to evolve,” says MacFarlane. “To play that for real is asking a lot of an actor, and she pulled it off with flying colours.”