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Monday, July 6, 2015

“TED 2” Brings to Life the Talking Teddy Bear Anew

 
Although Ted is, well, a stuffed teddy bear, the filmmakers of Universal Pictures' new adult comedy “Ted 2” must ensure that he reacts perfectly to everything—including how he looks over his shoulder or how he does a double take. Very much so, there’s a rhythm to his performance.

What’s incredible is that when you make a comedy, you don’t want to burden the movie and slow down the process with technology,” explains producer Wellesley Wild. “So how do you create a simple way for the actors to know where Ted goes? He’s two-and-a-half feet tall, and you don’t want people walking through him by accident when you animate him. So we do a process that we call the ‘stuffy’ pass. The stuffy is basically a toy Ted, like the one you can buy at the store. We take the stuffy, and we have the visual effects supervisor mime Ted’s performance while Seth gives the dialogue from behind camera.”

 
In fact, a great deal of technical knowledge is gained from the stuffy pass. With the puppet on camera, the cast and crew hear the dialogue from where Seth is standing. This allows the actors to reference Ted’s eyeline, where he’s looking, where he walks, how fast he walks and where he goes. As well, this stuffy provides great reference for the extensive animation team, who are able to note how fast the VFX supervisor wants them to move the character of Ted, how the light interacts with his fur and what lighting he’s in—as his fur interacts with the various light.

Once director Seth MacFarlane’s team had that pass, they then shot the scene with no stuffy in the sequence, and cast and crew were able to remember the marks, eyeline and light references. DP Barrett’s camera crew now knew how fast to move the pan and how high or low to be, and the actors were more comfortable with where to look. The stuffy pass was then given to the animator, as well as the empty plate with no Ted, and they rendered Ted into that plate.

 
For his part, MacFarlane created his performance using two techniques. The first was dialogue, as the voice of Ted, which he did on the set with the other actors. This way, if there were overlaps in conversation, the team was able to capture those moments so the comedy feels natural, not stilted. As well, MacFarlane conducted sessions in which he wore a Moven, which is a motion-capture suit that records his movements as he mimics the actions of Ted. Therefore, if the production team needed a shrug or any sort of affectation, the actor/director could match that to his dialogue, and the team captured that in the moment. It also gave the animators MacFarlane’s actual physical movements as another asset they needed to create Ted’s performance.

MacFarlane acknowledges that Ted’s absence on set was a creative challenge. He says: “It’s difficult for an actor to act opposite a character that’s not there because so much of what your performance is depends on what you get from the other person. Here, we tried to make it a little easier because I was physically there doing the lines that will be in the movie. They’re at least getting the voice of the character, and not just somebody doing a read-in. Still, they got used to it pretty quickly.”

 
As Wahlberg has the lion’s share of onscreen time with Ted, MacFarlane and the filmmakers were constantly in awe of how well-adjusted he was to working with simply a voice. Visual effects supervisor Blair Clark commends: “What I noticed about Mark’s performance on set, and what always shocked me on Ted, is the subtlety with which he interacts with an empty space. We hear his performance, but he creates an eyeline and works with the empty space in which CGI Ted will eventually be added. Watching the skill and talent that Mark brings to his performance just makes you believe in John, Ted and the movie more than you know.”

In “Ted 2,” although John (John Wahlberg) is now a bachelor, Ted has settled down with Tami-Lynn, the trashy woman of his dreams. As marital problems begin to affect the newlyweds, Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to have a baby in order to save their marriage. Their hopes are crushed when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declares Ted to be not a person, but property, and therefore ineligible to adopt. He is fired from his job at the grocery store and summarily informed that his marriage has been annulled.

Angry and dejected, Ted channels his frustration and asks his best pal to help him sue the state and win him the rights that he deserves. They enlist a young, medical-marijuana aficionada named Samantha L. Jackson (Seyfried) as their lawyer and head to court. But when Ted loses his case, the three must venture on a road trip to New York in a last-ditch effort to persuade legendary civil rights attorney Patrick Meighan (Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman) to take on their appeal. If they win, they will prove that Ted is not just a beer-swilling, pot-infused stuffed teddy bear, but actually a person who deserves the same freedoms as any other beer-swilling, pot-infused American.

  Opening across the Philippines on July 15, “Ted 2” is rated R-18 (Strictly for Mature Audiences) and distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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