Seth MacFarlane admits a story like Ted was 10 years in the making. "This was an idea that had actually been floating around in my head for a while," MacFarlane said to Movie Fanatic. He has always possessed the idea of a boy who gets a teddy bear for Christmas, wishes he was real, and then spends the next few decades becoming best buds with the furry fellow. Once his script was in order, he knew he'd be the voice of the titular character. Then, when he got Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis to portray boyfriend and girlfriend, MacFarlane had all the pieces in place to make an instant comedy classic (check out our Ted review).
Movie Fanatic: What took so long for you to make a movie?
Seth MacFarlane: Family Guy had that little cancellation thing happen to it, and I wanted to make sure that it was fully on its feet, after coming back, before I stepped away to do a film. I had originally conceived Ted as an animated series idea and, for a number of reasons, shelved it. And then, when it came time to do my first movie, it seemed like a story that would make a much better film than a series.
Movie Fanatic: Seth, you're used to a TV-14 constraint on Family Guy, but for Ted, you knew it would be rated R. Did you find yourself pulling back while having freedom to do more?
Seth MacFarlane: You're not dealing with the restrictions imposed by the FCC. They're self-imposed. In a way, that makes it harder [laughs]. There's no graphic sex and there's no heavy drug use. It's R for language. So, if that doesn't bother you, you're fine. We found that, even though it's an R-rated comedy and you can do whatever you want, it was starting to eat into the sweetness of the story a little bit. So, you do have to impose restraints on yourself.
Movie Fanatic: Whether on Family Guy or in Ted, you masterfully balance the adult-child balance. Why does that appeal to you?
Seth MacFarlane: Adults acting like children and children acting like adults is generally a pretty reliable comic device. On Family Guy, you have Stewie, who is a baby that acts like an adult, and Peter, who's a man that acts like a child. This movie is a bit more textured and has a lot more shades to it, but in terms of the dynamic, we're essentially playing the teddy bear as the physical manifestation -- in a symbolic or literal way -- of John's inability to grow up and get on with his life.
Movie Fanatic: When it comes to some of the more offensive humor, how do you figure out where to draw the line?
Seth MacFarlane: In a movie like this, we adhere to the same rule that we generally do with the animated show, which is, if you're going to make fun of one group, you've gotta make fun of them all. In this movie, pretty much every religion, race and creed is poked fun at. As far as something going across the line, the systems that are in place, as far as the screenings and audience testing, make it pretty clear what's over the line and what's not. If something gets a gasp, it's probably got to go.
Movie Fanatic: Why did you set Ted in Boston?
Seth MacFarlane: The comparison I always make is to Ghostbusters. One of the reasons that movie worked was that you had this ridiculous fantastical element to the story, but it was set against a city we all know and it grounded everything. That's what I wanted this movie to feel like. You can accomplish that by setting it in an actual city with an actual regional flavor. You have a talking bear, so the rest of the movie should be as real and grounded as possible.
Movie Fanatic: Was it difficult to have Mila's character Lori be sympathetic without being shrewish in her effort to have John leave Ted behind and move forward with their lives?
Seth MacFarlane: Nine times out of 10, in a movie like this, you do see the image of the hands on the hips and the, "Stop this nasty behavior!" tone. Mila had the hardest job in the movie, but in a lot of ways, it's the character with the most realistic goal. She has this guy who's very childish and she likes those things about him. But, at the same time, in the higher part of her brain, she wants the stability and she wants the responsible boyfriend who's going to step up.
Movie Fanatic: You work with Mila on Family Guy. What is it about her that is so special to you creatively?
Seth MacFarlane: For all these years, we've thrown a lot of very, very subtle comedy at Mila -- for the role of Meg -- and you're not seeing her lovely face, you're hearing her voice. That, to me, is the best example of all. You are hearing her voice and you are hearing her skill of her comedic timing, and she's getting laughs and has been for 10 years.