Today we have a guest article on the making of Ted, the Seth MacFarlane film starring Mark Wahlberg. If you’ve ever had an interest in how this film was made, you need to read this.
Ted was the first venture into filmmaking by Seth MacFarlane after many years of success with TV shows like Family Guy and American Dad!.
In making Ted, MacFarlane managed to capture most of his childish humour and channel it into a new medium.
The Making of Ted
MacFarlane announced he was working on the movie in 2011, and it was then released the following year.
The plot follows a man called John Bennett who had been given a teddy bear when he was younger. Wanting a friend, Bennett wished that the bear would come to life, and then one night it did.
Ted and Bennett then became inseparable, even as Bennett got into a serious relationship with his girlfriend. Eventually, these two relationships begin to conflict and Bennett finds himself torn between his friend and his girlfriend.
MacFarlane hit the jackpot with the Ted movie. It grossed $550 million at the box office after receiving rave reviews from critics and movie-goers alike.
Beyond the strong box office sales, Ted was a commercial success thanks to the range of licensed products and merchandise that were sold after the movie’s release. These have included Ted plush toys, a Ted talking bobble head, and a themed slots game where Ted wakes up during the game to trigger bonus modifiers.
Ted also picked up nine awards including Best International Film at the Jupiter Awards and Best On-Screen Duo at the MTV Movie Awards. It was also nominated for a further 19 awards.
How Did They Make Ted?
Making such a successful film where the main character is animated, while the rest of the cast are played by real people, is certainly not new.
However, Ted has left many people wondering “how did they do it?”. Here is a look at the production work that went into making the film.
Voice of Ted
It is not a true Seth MacFarlane production unless it contains characters voiced by him. Since Ted only featured one animated character, there was only one voice that he could bring to life.
The recording of Ted’s lines was done in a similar way to MacFarlane’s TV shows. However, Ted’s lines were also read out during the recording of the live-action scenes to substitute his part of the conversation.
Ted’s voice is similar to Peter Griffin from Family Guy. MacFarlane was asked about this in June of 2012, when he said he had tried to create a voice for Ted that would be distinct from Peter’s. However, he eventually decided to just accept it.
MacFarlane commented that Ted is “a Boston guy, and this is me doing a Boston accent…it is what it is.”
Not one to run away from criticism, MacFarlane added a joke in the original Ted movie about the fact that the two characters shared the same voice.
When played back side by side though, it is easy to spot differences in the voices of the two. The reality is that with McFarlane voicing both, it is impossible to get away from the similarities.
Using Motion Capture?
Many people believe that the movements of Ted were created by using motion capture technology, similar to how video game producers create realistic physics for their characters.
This narrative was pushed by Seth MacFarlane himself through some of the first promotional videos that were made available to the public.
The videos, released by Universal Pictures show MacFarlane wearing motion capture equipment so that his mannerisms and movement could be depicted by Ted.
However, motion capture technology played a much smaller part in the film than many fans believe.
Animators used motion capture to collect data on the way that MacFarlane moves his facial features, especially his eyebrows.
They also wanted to have Ted depict the small, involuntary movements that MacFarlane makes, rocking forwards and backwards slightly.
The rest of the work was done by highly skilled animators using a technique called “keyframe animation”, the same technique used in DreamWorks and Disney Pixar films.
This is a process where two still images are drawn: one at the beginning of a movement, the other at the end. The motion in between these movements is then generated by a computer through a process called “tweening”.
Keyframing is used to create many effects in film production, including creating simulated camera movement. By using it, effects can be added more cheaply in post production and changes to scenes don’t require reshoots.
This information comes from an anonymous source that claims to be involved in the production of Ted.
According to them, the motion capture information that was generated by MacFarlane was not good enough to be used in the finished piece. Instead, they used information as a reference point to create their keyframe animations.
This anonymous source claims that the purpose of MacFarlane wearing the motion capture suit was more to create promotional material than it was to be helpful in the production.
Creating Interaction Between Live Action and Animation
It can be difficult for actors to interact with animated characters like Ted because they are not on set when filming takes place.
Different productions handle this in different ways; often the animated characters are represented by another actor, an animal or sometimes an inanimate object.
This is easier when you have large characters, such as King Kong. However, Ted is a small teddy bear, and therefore poses logistical problems when trying to find a substitution.
One famous example of this is the fight scene, where Bennett and Ted engage in hand to paw combat, as well as throwing a TV and various other objects at each other.
Like the rest of the film, all of Ted’s movement was created by keyframe animation, with no motion capture used. A stuffed Ted was used during film to provide a reference to Mark Wahlberg and the production crew.
This was particularly helpful for fight sequences where Ted has jumped onto Bennett’s shoulders and neck, and the latter is trying to shake the bear off him.
They broke the filming in to small sections. For the most part, a single blow of the fight was filmed, before the director shouted cut.
This made it especially difficult for Mark Wahlberg to express the anger and emotion of the scene, demonstrating his strong acting abilities.
How Did They Make Ted –A Job Well Done
Ted is a prime example of the modern capabilities of keyframe animation. Ted fits perfectly into the scenes and doesn’t feel like he has been added in afterwards. It creates a believable feel to the film, much better than attempts from decades ago.
Aside from the technical abilities of keyframe animation, it is clear that Ted required strong acting talent.
This is demonstrated by both Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane, the former for his ability to interact with a non-existent character and the latter for giving an iconic voice to Ted.
The success of Ted spawned a sequel, Ted 2, which received mixed reviews from critics.
This second installment was created in much the same way as the original movie, and follows Ted’s journey as he fights to be granted civil rights and to be recognised as a person.
While also successful, Ted 2 grossed just under half of that grossed by the original Ted film despite the legendary actors Morgan Freeman and John Slattery joining the cast.