A Teddy Bear Fit for Seth MacFarlane
The timing couldn't be better for Seth MacFarlane's Ted, a naughty fable about a foul-mouth teddy bear come to life. Fortunately, R-rated comedies are more popular than ever. However, the VFX budget proved challenging, as did the animation, which was split evenly between Tippett Studio and Iloura (each working on entire sequences). It turns out that it's not that simple animating a teddy bear. Just ask Dennis Muren of ILM: He had a tough time with A.I.'s teddy bear. In fact, when Phil Tippett mentioned in passing that his studio was working on Ted, Muren cautioned him: You suddenly become aware of what reads nicely as loose fabric and what sells as a teddy bear, but one false move and the audience is aware of it immediately.
"You don't get the same budget on an R-rated comedy as you do for a superhero movie, so we started retooling and spending a good six months working on the budget with producer Jason Clark on the production side and me on the visual effects side to a place where the studio was willing to green light," explains VFX producer Jenny Fulle of Creative Cartel.
"It was a question of thinking outside the box and there was never any question that the bear had to be believable and within the first five minutes you weren't looking at a CG character anymore. And you had to be able to see the personality that Seth chose for the character. We felt very strongly about doing motion capture for the character of Ted and so we did a few tests with Tippett and Iloura. Seth liked it a lot and that put us light years ahead in terms of concept work and movement tests.
"In the old world, we would've been leery of splitting the animation of Ted between two companies," Fulle continues. "In the new world, though, I like the idea of having two facilities on it because we never know how something is going to grow and change and it gives a lot more flexibility to production. Both companies built a pipeline that could handle 400-500 shots each and make it so he looks the same. I think you'd be hard pressed to say that's not the same vendor."
Even so, production VFX supervisor Blair Clark of Tippett had to make sure that Ted played convincingly as a store-bought teddy bear and not a photoreal one, which is the customary brief on these live action hybrids.
MacFarlane wore an MVN suit and realtime feedback of his pantomiming was provided to the animators via MotionBuilder. A teddy bear puppet stand in was used on set as well.