Ted 2: The Sequel–Appeal of Rude Comedy

ted 2In summer 2012, the world succumbs to the charms of Ted.  Grossing almost $550 million in global ticket sales, audiences came to laugh alongside the filthy bear and his best friend, John.

Scott Stuber, who produced the comedy alongside MacFarlane, Jason Clark and John Jacobs, shares why the hero has so much appeal: “The genius of Ted is that he can say things that a normal person can’t, and would probably get punched in the face for. But since he’s a teddy bear, he can get away with it.”

ted_2_7_wahlbergAfter Ted’s phenomenal success at the box office and in-home entertainment, it was natural that conversations among the filmmakers would turn to a sequel. For MacFarlane, however, it was not a given that another chapter would automatically move forward. He explains: “I actually hadn’t planned on making a Ted 2, but any time something does well, that always comes up. There’s no reason to do it if you’re going to repeat the same movie. It’s not satisfying for the audience, and it’s really boring for us.”

ted_2_posterMacFarlane has a great deal of fondness for the characters and thinks that the genre lends itself to limitless ideas: “It’s a little easier with a comedy, because comedy is generally character-based, as opposed to premise-based, and in a way you treat it like a TV series. You have these characters that can be put in any situation, and we felt that Ted and John could sustain a totally different story. They were very strong in and of themselves, and so it was conceivable to do a sequel that would be worthwhile. So, it was fun to go in and figure out what we could do with these characters that would be completely different from what we did in the last movie.”

Core Team Returns

It was mandatory that the core creative team return. Thus, MacFarlane would once again join Ted writers Sulkin and Wild to pen the next chapter. “Making any sequel is always a challenge because you have to come up with something original,” Stuber says. “Seth and Alec and Wellesley wanted to make a better film than the first one and worked hard to mix the comedy with an existential question of who we are as people.

ted_2_3To their credit, they created a movie that’s about something. Not only do we continue all the great things audiences fell in love with: the relationship between Ted and John and all that comes with it, but there are also a ton of surprises. We’re proud to have created something original that also includes elements that you love from the first film.”

ted_2_4_seyfried_wahlbergSulkin’s working title for the sequel was rejected. “My idea was Ted 2: More of Same,” he says, “but I was overruled, and we actually did have to think of a new story.” The writer agrees with Stuber that audiences responded to the strong bond between Ted and John, and he wanted the next film to address more about that relationship. “Those were the moments that people loved, when John and Ted were hanging out, so that was a priority. We wanted to make sure we could have a workable story but keep the core of the movie with the two of them together.”

Ted as Property or Person

It was an unlikely 19th-century legal inspiration that would move the writing partners to tell the second chapter in Ted’s tale. Wild shares: “Seth was reading a book on the Dred Scott case and came up with this idea: ‘Since Ted is a stuffed animal that came to life, what if he finds out he’s not a citizen? What if he’s not considered a person and just considered property?’ He wanted to explore that and to find out if there was anything interesting there…or if this would just be a boring court case movie with a couple of jokes peppered here and there. We ended up going off of this idea, which was modeled after the case.”

ted_2_2MacFarlane extends a theme from the first movie, offering that as amazing as it would be if a teddy bear came to life, at some point people would start to see it as the norm: “Human beings are very quickly adaptable. Probably fairly soon after Ted came to life, people would be like, ‘Oh well, that happened. Moving on.’ We kept to that idea, and we figured that eventually the subject of Ted’s legal status would come up.”

This level of comfort would be tempered with instinctual suspicion: “Human beings are inherently tribal. To our own detriment, we have a need to put people into little groups. There probably would be some resistance to let a talking teddy bear into our club, in the same way there’s resistance to let gay people into the club and—at a certain point in time—let black people into the club. Amanda’s character has a line in the movie where she says that in every civil rights conflict, we’re only able to recognize the just point of view years after the fact. We never see it while it’s going on. We always think this time is different.”

ted_2_1_wahlbergProducer Jacobs was pleased that the writers took this route with the story: “Ted and John are Hope and Crosby and have special, magical chemistry. This is the natural theme for the follow-up to the original film, which explored as far as you could possibly go with a love story between a man and his teddy bear. Ted 2 takes us to the next level of who is worthy of not being called an inanimate object or of being given citizenship.”

With the serious throughline as an inspiration for the film, Sulkin says it was his love of an inescapable television show that spurred on much of the comedy’s dialogue: “I’ve watched Law & Order ever since it’s been on. I know all the legalese and everything you hear them say over and over again in court, but it’s funnier when it’s this foulmouthed teddy bear involved in a serious legal drama. That was a focal point for me as we were writing the script, making sure that those moments rang true.”

After years of collaboration with MacFarlane on film and TV projects, the writers have perfected a simple method when crafting a script. “We have a system where the three of us get together and write the outline, and then Wellesley and I go off separately and divide up scenes,”explains Sulkin. “Literally, it’s ‘I’ll do the evens, you do the odds.’ We’ll write our half of the movie and then send it to each other before we give it to Seth…just so we make sure there aren’t any huge redundancies or overlaps. We’ll smooth it out, and then we come in with Seth.”

Having a co-star that’s animated is an advantage. It allows to stay as current as possible with dialogue and topical jokes. Wild explains: “Because Ted is animated, you can write new lines for him. Because it’s just lip assignments, when his mouth is moving, you can sneak anything in there if the timing is right. Seth is constantly asking for something more contemporary.  This allowed us to write jokes right up until weeks before the movie is released.”

When the story opens, it’s been several years since we’ve last seen John and Ted. John has been divorced for six months and is down in the dumps. Ted’s home life isn’t quite the honeymoon he expected, either. In the hopes of saving their marriage, Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to do what many couples consider when their relationship is on the rocks: have a baby.

Clark walks us through where we meet our friends: “We find John, who is lonely because his marriage has dissolved, and Ted, whose relationship with Tami-Lynn has progressed enough that they are getting married. We open on a big wedding sequence and see that Ted wants to be a full person. He’s moved in with Tami-Lynn and wants to have a baby. Since he doesn’t have his own male appendage, he first wants to find a donor and, secondly, to adopt. As we go on this adventure with Ted, it becomes about him trying to find his personhood. He has all the humanity of a human, but he doesn’t have the label of one; he’s still a stuffed teddy bear.”

Because the state does not legally consider Ted to be human, he doesn’t have rights and can’t adopt a child. Ted’s crusade to prove that he is a person has now begun. After he loses his first trial, Ted, John and Samantha, their first lawyer, embark on a road trip to New York in the hopes of persuading a legendary civil rights attorney to appeal their case. During this trip, MacFarlane and his fellow writers pay homage to one of their favorite comedies…in what the filmmakers refer to as the “mess around” scene.

Physical Comedy

Much of the humor in Ted 2 is physical comedy, and it was key that the team honor legendary comic actors of that school. Sulkin explains the inspiration for a pivotal scene: “We wanted Ted to have this ‘mess around’ sequence, which is almost shot-for- shot directly taken from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with the great John Candy doing the same things that Ted does here. We thought it was a good parallel because Candy was the teddy bear of that movie. He’s lovable, incredibly disruptive and funny. We see Ted in the same way; he tries to do the right thing while trying to be fun. He gets into his music and, of course, it all goes wrong and their car ends up flying off the road and through the roof of a barn.”

This proved to be one of Stuber’s favorite sequences, as he explains: “One of the first mistakes they make is to let Ted drive. Ted is not paying attention, everyone’s falling asleep and then he drives the car off the road and launches into the side of a barn. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere in a place that happens to be a barn where drug dealers are residing. There’s an enormous Jurassic Park-style pot field that offers this great ‘ahhhhhhhhhhh…’ moment for them, and they get into trouble. When they hit the road again, there’s a series of great comedic moments before they ultimately end up in New York City at Comic-Con.”