Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, featuring a cute animated teddy bear in the title role, exploded past expectations and grossed an estimated $54.1 million in its first weekend, which is the highest opening ever for an original R-rated comedy. The live-action/CG-animation Ted could be a watershed moment for the animation art form–the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of R-rated animation–and proves conclusively that there is a huge market for original adult animation. Prior to this, the highest-grossing R-rated animated film of all time was the TV adaptation South Park–Bigger, Longer and Uncut which earned $52 million in 1999.
While I don’t expect that Hollywood will start greenlighting mature animated films tomorrow, the industry’s more enlightened executives will hopefully recognize that a massive audience for animation exists beyond the limited range of fare that studios produce nowadays. Ted is the clearest indication yet that audiences are hungry for different kinds of characters, different stories, and different styles of animated filmmaking than the safe family-friendly fare they’ve been force-fed for decades.