Seeing Double? MacFarlane’s “Ted” vs. “Imagine THIS”

The trailer for Seth MacFarlane’s new movie Ted, went online Monday. Cartoonist Lucas Turnbloom has been drawing the online comic strip Imagine THIS since 2008. Tom Racine of the internet comics podcast Tall Tale Radio, noticed some similarities and made this comparison graphic (click thumbnail at left). Turnbloom is not accusing MacFarlane or his writing team of anything, but many of his fans and his cartooning friends have noticed some incredible similarities.
How does it look to you?


  • Colin

    Looks like he has a great case for a lawsuit

    • Trevor

      The general practice is to wait for it to make money before you sue.

  • Adam

    Maybe he could convince Chris Ware to sue over the use of young Jimmy Corrigan as Stewie. Get some class action going.

  • Mike

    How could you possibly suggest Seth MacFarlane would ever rip off anyone else’s work?! Next thing you’re going to say is he ripped off Family Guy from something else, like a cartoon family on FOX that’s been making satiric pop culture references since the late ’80s. Just insane.

    • Joe

      Uhh, both shows come from the same source material (The Flintstones, and in turn The Honeymooners)), so Family Guy isn’t ripping them off.

      • Mike

        The Simpsons does bear some slight similarities to The Flintstones and The Honeymooners, but Family Guy is too close to our yellow friends to be anything but a ripoff.

        Sorry, but MacFarlane is a hack.

      • Doug Holverson

        I think about him as an epigone.

        Which does dovetail into this article’s premise….

      • SpanielDayLewis

        I’m not a huge Seth McFarlane fan but Family Guy isn’t a ripoff of the Simpsons. It’s an animated family sitcom, that’s it. If you want evidence of Seth ripping stuff off there’s about a thousand better examples.

  • dbenson

    There was a Married-With-Children type sitcom where a divorced dad would confide in a grubby toy rabbit. Or maybe McFarlane decided to improve on that non-hip comic about a kid with a stuffed tiger, cutting out the wit and craftsmanship and aging the hero to make room for truly creative Family Guy humor.

    • beamish13

      You’re thinking of UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER, which was co-created by Ron Leavitt, who was also partially responsible for MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN. The talking stuffed bunny was named “Mr. Floppy” and was voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait.

  • http://www.talltaleradio.com Tom Racine

    It’s not like it’s a surprise that Hollywood rips things off. Hell, they find out some studio is making a meteor movie and we end up with five meteor movies. But this just felt close to home and affected a friend of mine. Sometimes, you just gotta say something. I’m sure the 500 lawyers at FOX would bury anything anyway, but hey, it’s the internet. I’ll make a stink for a good cause. :)

    • The Unknown Cartoonist

      Yeah, you’d think that. But lately, the problem becomes some studio rips off your idea (*cough*bewarethemouse*cough) and then your original comic/treatment becomes poison to everyone else because it’s too similar to an existing movie.

      Hollywood’s apparent lack of originality and desire to copy-paste seem predicated on whether or not they have to write a check to a creator or not.

  • Sarah J

    They both have similar premises, so I would only expect a lot of similarities. I’d really have to read the comic and watch the movie to decide if the comic got ripped off or not.

  • http://animationanomaly.com Charles Kenny

    You can’t copyright ideas!

    Guy living with his teddy bear = idea

    Guy living with his teddy bear called Ted who happens to be white/beige, mostly round, sounds like Seth McFarlane and is animated in CGI = copyrightable creative design.

    • The Gee

      Charles,in this instance, you’d have to revise the example of idea.

      It is an anthropomorphic teddy bear which seems to talk, have an attitude, probably drinks and lives with a guy who is at least disgruntled and probably fits some stereotype of a loser.

      I wouldn’t say it is a rip-off because I don’t give a whit about either of these projects, but, coincidence or not, there are seem to be similarities between this two comedic endeavors.

      That said, the movie idea/a treatmetn could have existed long before when that strip starting. You know how long a movie treatment can float around or sit around before anything moves forward.

    • CJ

      It can if it rips it off shot for shot.

  • Anthony D.

    I’m guessing it was just coincidence.

  • Nah

    I doubt any shenanigans. It’s not that revolutionary of a concept on either counts.

  • Joe March

    McFarlane = Turnbloom = Waterson. Whatever.

    • Denis

      I think you’re missing the mark on this. Let me explain by way of analogy: L. Frank Baum wrote a book called “The Wizard of Oz.” Decades later, an author named Gregory Maguire was inspired to write his own original take on the Oz story with a book called “Wicked.” Maguire would have no cause to complain if another author were to produce his/her own original take on “The Wizard of Oz”; but if that other author were to just rip off “Wicked,” then Maguire would have every right to be angry. The fact is: Turnbloom is a Watterson fan and has acknowledged that his original comic strip, “Imagine This,” was partly inspired by his love of “Calvin and Hobbes.” But the movie “Ted” doesn’t look so much like a new spin on a classic (“Calvin and Hobbes”) as it does a retread of someone else’s new spin on that classic. Of course, we’ve still got to hear from McFarlane’s camp — maybe it’s all an innocent coincidence — but there’s nothing wrong with asking questions. After all, Turnbloom has put at least five years into this strip.

  • Patrick

    I’m going to find this incredibility sad if this is true

  • Oliver

    If one day the world degenerates to the point depicted in the film ‘Idiocracy’, Seth MacFarlane will have been more responsible than most.

  • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/amid amid

    The online comic Sam and Fuzzy also thinks Seth MacFarlane’s Ted might have been inspired by its webcomic. The creator Sam Logan writes:

    “It’s hard for me not to look at a screencap like the one below and feel, just for a second, like I am peering into some alternate universe where someone was actually crazy enough to make a live-action/CG Sam and Fuzzy film.”

    What makes MacFarlane popular in the first place is his ability to tap into the zeitgeist of young/contemporary/online humor, so much so that everybody thinks he’s copying them. Sadly, MacFarlane isn’t that original and neither are these guys.

    • Snagglepuss

      I couldn’t agree more with this. There are no new ideas left in the world,and making cute things mean is pretty common.

    • http://www.sweetposer.tk/urbmn/ Cameron A.

      I honestly don’t think Seth MacFarlane taps into contemporary humour. His influences and interests – big band, Jackie Gleason, Star Wars and Star Trek, a heavy fixation on 1940s-to-1960s popular culture – don’t bear that out. He’s just skilled at maintaining a formula for his cartoons. It’s easier to cram The Music Man and Conway Twitty references, in the guise of anti-humour.

      Neither Lucas Turnbloom nor Sam Logan come across as that upset about Ted. They’re not failures in their fields. At the same time, I understand where they’re coming from. Why try to take a formula concept – a living, “adult” toy, in this case – and make it distinctive, when you can give the public more of something it’s familiar with – in this case, Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humour, mixed with the living toy concept? Ted‘s trailer looks like almost everything MacFarlane’s ever done, up to this point.

    • http://www.samandfuzzy.com Sam Logan

      For his next trick, Amid will take the post where I said Ted clearly ISN’T a rip-off of my work and only bore a split-second passing resemblance, and somehow interpret it as an indignant accusation of plagiarism.

      • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/amid amid

        Sam – Do you write posts on your blog every week about new movies and explain how the film concept has nothing to do with your comic? It’s obvious that you’re trying to have your readers make a connection between these two properties, even if none exists.

      • http://www.samandfuzzy.com Sam Logan

        I write comics with jokes in them, Amid! When “Ted” was announced a year ago, a lot of my readers emailed me about it. So I said MacFarlane was going to take over my comic and then adapt his run into a film. It was just meant to be absurd.

        Maybe this would be clearer if you were a reader of my comic, like most of the visitors to my site are. But Ted’s two male leads have, at best, only the slightest, most cursory surface resemblance to my own. The plots are like night and day. I do an action-comedy comic about supernatural monsters and warring crime syndicates. It’s about as much like Ted as the Simpsons is like the Incredibles.

        All my post yesterday was meant to convey is how surreal it feels to see a still from a Seth MacFarlane film that kind-of, sort-of, just-for-a-second ALMOST looks like it might have been based on your work, until you actually watch the trailer and see it’s nothing like it at all. Talking teddy bears are as old as time. I’m pretty sure there are cave paintings about them.

      • Snagglepuss

        After reading Sam’s comments, I take back my approval of Amid’s statements!

  • http://www.onanimation.com Daniel

    Everything’s a remix…

    • The Gee

      Ah. The There’s No New Ideas notion.

      It’s like Creative Fatalism in a Jar.

  • neil

    The question is, has MacFarlane ever done anything that wasn’t a blatant ripoff?

    • Sarah J

      American Dad doesn’t seem to be ripped off of anything. Some people accuse it of being a Family Guy rip-off but the shows are completely different.

      • The Unknown Cartoonist

        Yes, completely different, just like all of his other shows:

        http://pics.blameitonthevoices.com/022010/seth_macfarlane_formula.jpg

        He does okay with short animated sketch-comedy (if you don’t mind half of the jokes having “penis” as the punchline), but his characters and plots are anything but original or compelling.

    • wever

      His early short “Life With Larry” didn’t seem to be ripping anything off.

      • CJ

        Yeah but how many people did he collaborate with (while at HB) and then take all the credit for the project. BTW Stewie’s voice was not his idea. The only thing Seth is good at is stabbing friends in the back when a little money comes his way.

  • http://www.talltaleradio.com Tom Racine

    “Revolutionary” isn’t the point. You can trace every plot point back to the Greeks. :) And let me be clear…Lucas has been a pro about this since he heard about it months ago. I’m just a little pissed. I have film and TV experience…I know the score and have seen the shit that goes on. Just felt the need to poke a little. Hollywood stole ideas. And the sun came up in the East today.

    • Matt Brown

      Just nitpicking, but storytelling did exist before the Greeks.

    • T.Bear

      I think it’s a ridiculous case of hubris to ever even think that McFarlane has ever heard of this particular webcomic.

      If McFarlane stole this idea from Imagine This, then Imagine This stole the idea from Unhappily Ever After.

      But no, Hollywood’s the only one that steals ideas, right?

      • Dennis

        Since the comic is syndicated with the largest comics syndicate in the world (Universal), it’s not outside the realm of possibility that SM could’ve have seen it.

  • Andrew O

    Has McFarlane ever done anything original? I mean his senior film was a straight rip off of the Simpsons and now a comic strip…

  • tom

    I have to say.. I really like Seth McFarlane. My favorite work of Seth McFarlane is his singing! I love his “Music is better that words” album and he is totally channeling Frank Sinatra. It is really well done to the point that you don’t know if he is actually serious or is he spoofing the whole genre. I guess you could say he is ripping off Frank Sinatra but that would be missing the point. He is a really great singer! Who would have thought it could be true? You have to admit that the guy has talent.

    • Sarah J

      True, I definitely like his singing and voice talent. He’s great for voice acting, he can do a ton of voices and sing in all of them. (and his regular singing is great too) Though his TV work is pretty hit-or-miss. Family Guy can either be really good or really bad. American Dad has been consistently good throughout its run. The Cleveland Show sucks, but judging from watching it, it doesn’t feel like anyone working on it actually cares about the show much.

    • CJ

      Ah…no he’s just a slimeball.

  • tim elliot

    I don’t think anyone can cry foul if they’re creating characters on broad stereotypes: play against the cute and cuddly teddy-bear type, merge it with a “guy on couch” stereotype — and boom, you have a pissed, drinking stuffed animal that eats from cereal boxes.

  • http://www.nickbruel.com Nick

    And yet the first time I saw this “Ted” I was immediately reminded of a greatly underappreciated independent comic strip called “Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles” that’s been around since 1999 by Neil Swaab.

    http://www.mrwiggleslovesyou.com/

    Animation folks may be familiar with Neil Swaab as a character and layout designer for “Super Jail.”

    Are they similar? Absolutely. Are they the same? No. Was Seth MacFarlane copying Neil Swaab. Doubtful. Was he inspired by Neil Swaab? Possibly, but who’s to say? Such is the thorny conflict between inspiration and creativity. Can there be one without the other? Because in the long run perhaps everyone mentioned… MacFarlane, Swaab, Waterson, and so on… owes a great debt to A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh that can never be paid.

    It makes me think… I wonder what it would be like if “The Honeymooners” were set in the stone age. Hmmm…..

  • Mike Russo

    Yeah yeah yeah. And Mr. Hankey ripped off something John K did years ago. Big deal. ;)

  • Scarabim

    Looks like the “Jimmy Corrigan” situation all over again (McFarlane has been accused of basing Stewie on Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan” character):

    http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=294129

    I guess it’s not a stretch to believe that a guy who constantly recycles his own ideas is incapable of originality, but is he a thief as well?

    • The Gee

      From that brief topic you linked to:
      “I don’t want a book of seven years’ worth of my stuff to become available and then be accused of being a rip-off of Family Guy.”
      -Chris Ware

      That’s the problem with this situation even if it is just a coincidence. If the movie gains more “mindshare”, awareness, than the comic strip then the comic strip becomes “like that movie.” That sucks.

      There are a lot of incidences of coincidences when it comes to MacFarlane created shows though. I’m less likely to blame him personally for those coincidences though.

      The thing is: the “Family Guy” show in particular, like other shows that deal in pop cultural references, is bound to rely way too much on pop culture and marginal, niche stuff for the humor. It’s got to suck from a creative standpoint but I’m sure the money is there, so why would any writers or MacFarlane himself care about such accusations. This is especially likely since they beat that suit from Carol Burnett on the slavish parody of that animated title bit from her old variety show.

  • Julian

    Someone told me a couple years back, “No, Seth’s not a genius, but he’s not an idiot either, he simply has the business smarts to latch on to a young loyal following and is simply riding the easy wave of success it brings.” And now that I’m a bit older, it’s starting to make a lot of sense. He’s never struck me as a serious cartoonist, just more an entertainment/business guy. Is he original? Not really, but so what? Most things we know and talk about can be derived out of something that came before it, and what came before it probably was taken from something else and so on. As for plagiarism, I don’t think he’s copying this guy story for story, scene for scene, but I can’t say he just had this idea pop up in his own head either.

  • http://wingingitstudios.deviantart.com/ Alissa

    Turnbloom’s bear is way cuter the MacFarlane’s demon bear. Then again, words like ‘cute’ and ‘appeal’ don’t appear to be in Mr. MacFarlane’s dictionary.

    Snarky/bad tempered/rude imaginary friends are hardly unheard of. Some can pull off the concept and keep it fresh and fun and giggle-fit inducing. Will Ted deliver on that? Ah, um… we’ll see?

  • Was my face red.

    When we pitched The Mr Hell Show seventeen years ago one of the regularly characters was going to be, guess what, a guy stalked by the hard drinking, vengence seeking teddy bear he had thrown out as a child. And execs said no, we’ve heard versions of that a hundred times. A couple of years later Aardman made a sketch show for kids and amongst the regular characters was a kid who was stalked by a slightly less hard drinking bear he had…

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    Although responsible sources largely advise against the practice, it is possible to recycle urine a number of times in dire circumstances. Applying similarly relevant caution to pop culture, the big questions is: where are we in the cycle, and how long before toxins shut everything down?

  • A Writer

    Seth is a genius. that is all

  • Toonio

    Well, this settles the case of MacFarlane has no imagination against The Honeymooners based comedy.

    • The Gee

      Did the Honeymooners based comedy ever take place on more than one set?
      Did it ever show the characters at their workplaces, interacting with others?

      I know you are joking about the topic/comments.

      The thing is The Simpsons came about when Dysfunctional Families were becoming the rage in sitcoms. It had much more in common with ‘Married With Children’ than with ‘The Honeymooners.’

      With ’The Flintstones’, there was the loudmouthed, rotund lovable schlub as the head of the household and best pal with whom he schemes, yeah. But, that dynamic was pretty common in comedy teams in movies and and it became somewhat normal in sitcoms. The formula for ‘I Love Lucy’–a great show–had more in common with ‘The Honeymooners’ formula than ‘The Flintstones’ had in common with that Jackie Gleason show.

      As it goes, a cartoon could probably get away with using Live Action Whatever as a template than using another cartoon in whatever form as a template…to bring this comment back around to the topic at hand.

  • T.Bear

    So why aren’t we accusing Mr. Turnbloom of ripping off C. Bear and Jamal? Or Unhappily Ever After? Or any other of the myriad of childhood toy come to life stories?

    Oh, because it’s fun to pick on the popular guy. Wretch.

    • Dennis

      Nobody would be picking on Seth if:
      – the projects weren’t so similar.
      – And if the comic wasn’t syndicated with the largest comics syndicate on the planet.

      • FilmBuffRich

        Not really, Dennis. There are some here who would criticize MacFarlane if he cured cancer.

  • tredlow

    Well, both has the premise of a drunk, rude teddy bear, so it makes sense that there will be overlapping ideas. Both are basically “What if Calvin and Hobbes grew up?”, and the examples above are very basic; a teddy bear chugging booze, a teddy bear and his human friend sitting on a couch, eating cereal from the box, a teddy bear and a human fighting. We can’t blame an alien invasion movie for having its aliens come from space because it’s been done before.

    Of course, using these ideas also mean that Seth Macfarlane is just using the easy, obvious jokes, and is a hack. But, just remember that we haven’t seen the whole movie, so none of us can provide good judgement just yet, especially not based on scenes from a trailer. I’m not a big fan of Seth MacFarlane, but he has surprised me before. The movie might go on a different direction.

  • Rufus

    WAIT! Seth McFarlane rips off stuff?! NO WAY!!!! Someone call the Sherlock Holmes!

    McFarlane is everything that’s wrong with the industry today. And the fact that he has no imagination is undisputable.

  • Emily Brundige

    Sorry, but has anyone here read Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth? It’s supposed to be ironic. He’s just a regular guy, if not “loser-type.” As far as Stewie being based on that character–I see the similarities in shape, but that is all.

    I feel the need to mention, I strongly dislike Family Guy. But I do like independent comics.

  • Steven M.

    MacFarlane’s lack of creativity astounds me.

  • http://www.toonocity.com fremgen

    Well wether or not Seth is a hack and are there any original ideas is kinda moot- kind of unanswerable.

    The bigger question is did they know about “Imagine THIS” before they came up with “Ted” and what part did it play in the creation of “Ted”. I know nothing of both of them, so I’d like to believe both are grooving on a ‘anti-cute teddy’ thing.

    If it’s really a case of Kimba vs Lion King, I’m sure once the movie is released, it will become very apparent.

  • http://www.befoakes.com Oakes

    Amid,

    This is what you wrote to me, when I mentioned that Ted resembled my student Thesis film “Teddy Huggsbeary.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVo0KBDXX1E.

    “None of the descriptions you sent me say that the bear in MacFarlane’s film is a potty-mouthed misanthrope. Regardless, it’s impossible to say until the film comes out whether there was any theft. A child’s toy that comes to life is a general concept that has been done a million times (Calvin and Hobbes, for one). John Dunn developed a concept in the ’60s called Mr. Bruno about a teddy bear that comes to life. In other words, neither the short nor MacFarlane’s concept are unique. I would recommend you read up on the concepts of general similarity, probative similarity, and striking similarity, and then wait for the film to come out before making irresponsible and unfounded claims that somebody stole somebody else’s idea. If you can’t tell, we get a lot of these baseless accusations.”

    Amid

    P.S. Both myself and the other writer formerly worked for Fox Animation.

    • Robuttnik

      This just makes me shake my head, especially with Sam’s response to Amid further up the page.

      What are you doing, dude?

  • Sarah

    Seth MacFarlane is nothing more than a shallow, uncreative, egotistic jerk. If they ever made a remake to Shallow Hal, he should play the lead.

    He’s always saying women who are a little bit chubby are fat and ugly (Seriously anybody with EYES and a BRAIN can see that Meg looks like Lois with brown hair and glasses).

    • CJ

      You hit the nail on the head.

  • Squiggy

    May I make an observation? T. Bear appears to me to be an obvious “shill” for this MacFarlane guy…maybe even is him. What a joke!

  • No Thanks

    While the Internet whines, Seth MacFarlane sleeps on a bed of money.

  • Craig L

    Has anybody here actually read Lucas Turnbloom’s very entertaining comic? It’s not about a guy and his snarky talking teddy bear, it’s about a guy and his whole menagerie of too-human toys and other things. Clovis is the top non-human character by far, but he is not alone – there are Dewey the dinosaur, Stedman the much-nicer teddy bear and Robert the plant. Other toys come to life on a semi-regular basis – a Cobra Commander action figure had a recent guest appearance. There was also a corporate-mascot bear named Snuggle Evilnuggen who is even more evil than Clovis.

    And Darin and Clovis sharing hits off a bong, like in the “Ted” preview? Never happen. Turnbloom keeps a drug-free environment to avoid the suggestion that all the talking animals are just a ‘bad trip’. And besides, Clovis never shares anything with anybody. He is that much the antagonist in the story.

    Now, this is not to say that MacFarlane’s movie could possibly be good, because MacFarlane just isn’t very funny.

  • http://www.puppetaday.blogspot.com Jon

    I made a movie 3 years ago that’s been screened and bootlegs have been floating around a bit called “Josh and Todd: The Story of a Man and His Puppet”… And it’s also kinda similar. MacFarlane’s made pretty much nothing totally original in his career, and that may be why he’s so popular.