Exclusive: The technology behind Ted

It’s amazing to think that one of the biggest movies of the year centers around a teddy bear, but Ted is fast becoming one of the biggest comedies of all time, if it isn’t there already.

Then again, Ted came from the very fertile imagination of Seth MacFarlane, who’s become a virtual comedy industry. In fact, the Hollywood Reporter just confirmed that Ted is currently the #1 movie on the entertainment charts – above The Dark Knight Rises. 

So as lovers of technology, genre and geek, TG Daily had the opportunity to speak to visual effects artist Blair Clark. In addition to Clark’s work on Ted, he’s also done visual effects work on Enemy Mine, The Fly, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Starship Troopers, Armageddon, and Hellboy, to name a few. 

Clark told us when he was first pitched the concept – a foul mouthed, skirt chasing, pot smoking teddy bear – he thought it sounded great, and it would be fun to work on. “It never stopped being exciting and fun,” Clark says. “But it started to sink in that it was going to be a bit of challenge.”

Even though Ted is a comedy, Clark tells us that a certain degree of realism was very important for the idea to fly. “He’s not a supporting character, he’s not somebody’s sidekick who shows up every once in a while, he’s the main character who’s holding his own with his co-stars.

“If he’s not believable, the audience is stuck with something they’re not going to buy for 95% of the film. So when that started to sink in, that was a little daunting, but if there were ever concerns and worries, it always took a backseat to how much fun we were having.” 

Even with something as silly as a teddy bear, you can make the comparison to recreating an animal with CG. “A lot of people are inherently familiar with every little nuance a cat or a dog makes when it moves. Same thing with a teddy bear. Everyone’s seen a teddy bear or a stuffed animal. You know what the fur looks like, and you’re going to be able to identify what’s not quite right about it.”

Indeed, getting Ted’s fur right was the initial concern with the film. At first, Ted was clearly going to have some wear from years of fun and play, and areas where he’s been patched up over time, but Clark says, “Eventually that was decided against because that made him look a little too worn and grungy. He was losing the attributes that made him cute and Seth wanted to maintain that, the contrast of how cute and adorable he looks, and there’s a foul mouthed, dirty old man living inside him.”

Working with MacFarlane was also very beneficial because of his years and years of animation experience. “Seth was very aware of the amount of work that goes into this. He knows down to the frame. Sometimes you get people who don’t really know animation, and they throw things out at you like, ‘Maybe it should be a little faster,’ where Seth is like, ‘If you take a frame out here, and adjust the left corner of his mouth there, we’ll be great.’” 

When asked to compare and contrast working with MacFarlane, Del Toro, and Verhoeven, Clark says, “Paul Verhoeven is great. It’s always fun to watch him direct. It’s as entertaining to watch him direct as it is to watch what he produces. Guillermo is so much fun, he’s very inclusive, as is Seth. I find more comparisons with Guillermo and Seth because both of them have this uncanny knack to get the crews to band together to do the best work they can. Seth is a fun character, and we ended the movie with everybody wanting to work on it more.”

There has indeed been talk of doing a sequel to Ted, and Clark tells TG, “I can’t wait. I think it will be fueled with as much, if not more, enthusiasm when it comes around again.”