After conquering television with his Family Guy/Cleveland Show/American Dad empire, could Seth MacFarlane become a titan of big screen comedy too?
That’s the impression left today at SXSW, after MacFarlane screened over ten minutes of footage from Ted, his feature directorial debut. The story of a thirtysomething guy (Mark Wahlberg) who still hangs out with the teddy bear his childhood wish brought to life 25 years before, Ted, MacFarlane explained, is what would happen after the end of a family-friendly Disney movie…about a young boy and his living teddy bear. To illustrate his point, MacFarlane then debuted the first eight minutes of the film, which unfolds as a family-friendly Disney story would, but in miniature.
Set in 1985 and narrated by Patrick Stewart, the prologue covers how the friendless young boy yearns for the teddy bear he got for Christmas to come to life. When the wish comes true, MacFarlane treats the event (more-or-less) realistically, with the boy’s parents freaking out and the walking, talking stuffed bear soon becoming a media sensation — including an uncannily edited appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Cut to 25 years later, and the world’s pretty much forgotten Ted, who’s now voiced by MacFarlane, smoking a bong, and giving Wahlberg sexually explicit dating advice.
After the prologue finished to some big laughter, MacFarlane brought Wahlberg out as a surprise guest. “I absolutely fell in love with the idea of doing a movie without actors,” Wahlberg said of acting opposite a CG character for the bulk of the movie. And he wasn’t kidding — after dealing with actors as an exec producer of TV shows like Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, Wahlberg said he was happy to have the only actor’s ego on set be his own. That teed up the next set of clips from the film, the first a killer sequence in which Ted pretty much beats the crap out of Wahlberg, and the second the film’s laugh-out-loud red band trailer (which hits the web April 1), which further cemented the impression among many that this film could be this summer’s R-rated comedy sensation when it opens on July 13.
With that strong of a reaction, does MacFarlane think feature filmmaking is his future? EW caught up with MacFarlane after the event to ask him just that. “I love television, I loved doing this movie, and I would like to keep my hand in both,” he said. “I like the immediacy of TV. I like the fact that you create something and it’s on the air in front of the eyes of your audience within a civilized amount of time. I mean, we’ve been working on this [film] for four years and this is the first time anyone’s really seen it.”
MacFarlane says he has “some thoughts” on a possible next feature, especially if it means working with Wahlberg again. Does Wahlberg feel the same way? “I’m trying to get him to do a drama,” Wahlberg said. “I want him to direct me in the Gary Glitter biopic.”
“Nobody saw that Mariah Carey movie,” MacFarlane cackled. “We can just use that title, Glitter. There you go. You heard it here. Next project!”
EW’s SXSW 2012 coverage