Behind the scenes of “Ted.”

Today is the release of “Ted” from direc­tor Seth Mac­Far­lane. Star­ring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, “Ted” is the story of a boy and his teddy bear brought mag­i­cally to life. Sim­i­lar to Jay Ward’s “Frac­tured Fairy Tales” this story takes the idea of a mag­i­cal event and applies some real life con­sid­er­a­tions to how the story might actu­ally turn out. The boy and the bear grow up together, but never actu­ally grow up. They are like col­lege room mates who never graduated.

The Ted char­ac­ter is a CG ani­mated bear, with pro­duc­tion shared between Tip­pett Stu­dios in Berke­ley, and Iloura in Syd­ney Mel­bourne. I was employed at Tip­pett, as part of the Ted ani­ma­tion crew.

First, this is a very mature com­edy, so mature, that the stu­dio Human Resources depart­ment held a spe­cial meet­ing with any­one on the show to remind us not to get too caught up in the sub­ject mat­ter, and to main­tain our pro­fes­sional dignity.

I have to admit, I am not much of a “Fam­ily Guy” fan. It just isn’t my thing. But Ted is absolutely hilar­i­ous. I have never had so much fun in dailies. Watch­ing the same scenes over and over again for weeks usu­ally gets a lit­tle old, but dur­ing Ted I would find myself still laugh­ing at a scene the 20th time I saw it. Most of the humor in this movie is ver­bal. There is plenty of action too.

There was motion cap­ture used on the film. Mac­far­lane would put on a Moven suit, on set and act out the parts for the Ted scenes they were shoot­ing that day. It was mostly used for scenes of Ted sit­ting and talk­ing. So it was a lot of arm ges­tures and head and shoul­der motion. That’s about it. For the larger action, it was all keyframe animation.

I have worked on many films with live actors inter­act­ing with CG char­ac­ters, and I have to say Mark Wahlberg is by far the best at relat­ing to some­thing that isn’t there. All he had to look at was a stand in of Ted’s eye posi­tion. Mac­Far­lane would stand off screen and speak his lines. I totally believe they are in the scene together.

SPOILERS AHEAD: Tip­pett Stu­dios did two scenes that involved “hump­ing” One is seen in the trailer, with Ted hump­ing the card swipe sta­tion at the super­mar­ket, (ani­mated by Jimmy Almeida), and the other was Ted hav­ing sex with a woman. All we see is the woman’s legs and Ted’s butt (ani­mated by James Brown) . The ani­ma­tors first had the real sex very fast and com­i­cal, like a rab­bit, and the pre­tend hump­ing slow and sen­sual. Each was a par­ody of the real thing. (And yes, they did shoot ref­er­ence video when start­ing to ani­mate the scene at the cash reg­is­ter). After going back and forth, Seth’s direc­tion ended up being counter to what the ani­ma­tors first ideas were. The real sex was made to look nat­ural, and the fake was more over­acted and com­i­cal. Hon­estly, either way was funny, but for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. The ani­ma­tors approach was intended to pro­voke laugh­ter, from the audi­ence. The direc­tors approach was to do what was true to the sit­u­a­tion. I think the com­i­cal hump­ing at the cash reg­is­ter was done that way because Ted was really try­ing to make the female cashier laugh, not turn her on. And the actual sex, between a teddy bear and a woman, was funny just for shock value, so it didn’t need any extra clown­ing on top. You can see the reg­is­ter scene, with the mocap in this promo video:

There were also a few instances of scenes being re-animated because they had re-written the jokes for the scene. At one point, a joke involv­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates seemed in dan­ger as the polls indi­cated a change in front run­ners. I don’t even know what they finally chose for that scene. The effort to keep the com­edy top­i­cal isn’t easy with a sev­eral month lag time from pro­duc­tion to release.

The con­cept for Ted is not unlike the movie “Paul” Paul was the name of the flip flop wear­ing stoner alien who goes on a road trip with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Ted’s lines are much fun­nier than Paul’s, and Seth Rogan’s voice for the alien was just plain dull. Also, I didn’t under­stand how Paul got to be the way he was, but with Ted, his rea­son for being that way is built into the story. This is a movie you will def­i­nitely want to get on DVD for the extras. I’m sure there are tons of funny on-set stuff involv­ing the crew, the bear stand-in, and outtakes.

The reviews are look­ing good. Scott Mendel­son at The Huff­in­g­ton Post writes:

At the very least, it is the year’s fun­ni­est com­edy and one of the best pic­tures of 2012. It is more than a funny movie, it is a great film. Call it the year’s hap­pi­est sur­prise, but Seth MacFarlane’s Ted is a gen­uine work of art.

3 thoughts on “Behind the scenes of “Ted.”

  1. Actu­ally it was Iloura in Mel­bourne, not Syd­ney that cre­ated the ani­ma­tion for Ted.
    Nice work from Tip­pett as usual!

    Glenn Melen­horst.

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