During a South by Southwest 2012 panel discussion, Seth Macfarlane premiered an exclusive 8-minute sneak peak of his upcoming film TED set to be released later this year. As they were the first eight minutes of the project, many new details emerged including the style, humor, and behind-the-scenes insights to the latest addition to the Macfarlane comedy empire.
Filmed with part live-action, part computer animation, TED opens with voice over similar to A Christmas Story (1982) in the 1980s. There’s snow, it’s winter, and children are playing. As the voice describes the scene in a very whimsical and majestic way, the style quickly breaks into familiar territory when it describes the neighborhood Jewish child who always gets beaten up during this time of year. Another child John, the main character of the film, enters the scene and is almost instantaneously despised, even by the Jewish kid getting the crap kicked out of him. John, unable to make friends, makes a wish that his disturbing teddy bear were real so that he could have actual friends in his life. When John wakes up, he realizes that Ted the teddy bear has come to life, can talk, and maintains his high-pitched, cute, pull-string toy voice. Though Ted becomes a media sensation and goes onto an episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (remember, this part is in the 1980s), the fickle and quickly jaded population soon forgets about this live teddy bear freak show. Flash forward a few decades later and Ted and John are living together in an apartment smoking pot, drinking booze, and swearing like a couple of depressed buds down on their luck – Ted’s voice now haggard with age much like a mesh between Macfarlane’s speaking voice and Peter from Family Guy. The clip then transitioned into a long fight scene comparable to the Family Guy chicken battles or the graphic “Gimme my money” altercation between Brian and Stewie.
At the start of the special preview during the narration, the humor is edgy, fun, and very refreshing to see Macfarlane’s take on a bigger budget, live-action project. When the project switched to the older versions of Ted and John, it appeared to go for shock laughs about a teddy bear using a bong or smacking Mark Wahlberg in the bare ass with a TV antenna. So long as this balance is maintained and there is less of the latter, Ted might be okay. The ways that the on-screen actors interact with the computer animated Ted feel like some of the most realistic scenes done this way. (Gollum and Alvin and the Chipmunks, don’t stand a chance). While making the film, the crew actually recorded Ted’s dialogue during the shooting of the live action actors to make the interaction even more believable – an approach that has never been done before, according to Macfarlane.
While it’s impossible to judge how Ted will turn out, the preview didn’t completely scare me away. Security prohibited shooting during the 8-minute preview, but we will all find out soon if anyone managed to do some espionage recording. Stay tuned for more 2012 SXSW coverage from We Live Film.