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12 Animated Facts About Family Guy

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 17 years, it’s likely you have heard one thing or another about the hit animated TV series Family Guy. For example, most fans know the story of the show’s early cancellation and subsequent revival after massive DVD sales and re-run ratings convinced Fox to give it another shot. This comes as no surprise as, for 14 seasons now, Family Guy has been the center of much talk—from the show’s many controversies, to its five Emmy Awards, to its undeniable influence over today’s pop culture.

Having said that, here are 12 facts about Family Guy and its creator, Seth MacFarlane, that you might not already know.

1. SETH MACFARLANE BEGAN HIS ANIMATION CAREER AT HANNA-BARBERA.

Two weeks before graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Seth MacFarlane received a surprise job offer: famed animation studio Hanna-Barbera wanted him to move to Los Angeles and join their team. As it turns out, unbeknownst to MacFarlane, a professor at RISD had submitted MacFarlane’s thesis film, The Life Of Larry, to a student film competition orchestrated by the company. As the winner of the competition, MacFarlane’s wit and storytelling ability caught Hanna-Barbera’s attention, so much so that they offered him a writer’s position. With Hanna-Barbera, MacFarlane would go on to contribute to several classic ‘90s animated TV shows including Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Cow and Chicken.

2. A PRECURSOR TO FAMILY GUY AIRED ON CARTOON NETWORK IN THE LATE 1990S.

While working at Hanna-Barbera, MacFarlane followed up his The Life of Larry short with a second: Larry & Steve. Utilizing the same characters as before, Larry & Steve takes the story back to the beginning, revealing how Larry (whose voice is reminiscent of Family Guy’s Peter) adopted his talking dog Steve (a la Brian from Family Guy) from the pound. The short aired on Cartoon Network in 1997 as part of its “What A Cartoon!” series.

3. FAMILY GUY WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE A SERIES OF SHORTS FOR MADTV.

Riding on the wave of success from Larry & Steve, MacFarlane next turned his attention to where any budding animator would naturally look: primetime. A Saturday night sketch comedy show with occasional animated segments, MADtv seemed like the perfect home for MacFarlane’s next project, yet it never came to fruition. “Family Guy was supposed to be a series of shorts on MADtv, in the way that The Simpsons began on Tracey Ullman,” MacFarlane told IGN. “It just came down to a budgetary thing. They didn't really have the budget to do any kind of animation at that point.”

4. FAMILY GUY OWES SOME THANKS TO KING OF THE HILL.

MacFarlane first pitched Family Guy to Fox around the same time that Mike Judge was signing a deal for King of the Hill. Uncertain of how King of the Hill would fare with viewers, Fox executives were hesitant to add another new animated comedy to their lineup. Because of this, they decided to pass on Family Guy.

One year later, MacFarlane followed up with Fox to see if Family Guy was still dead in the water. As it turns out, the success of King of the Hill was a key factor in Fox’s decision to take on another new animated comedy. They gave MacFarlane $50,000 to create a pilot; he spent six months creating the seven-minute pilot, which was enough to convince Fox to order Family Guy to series.

5. SOUTH PARK’S CREATORS (AND OTHERS) HAVE A BIG BEEF WITH FAMILY GUY’S COMEDIC STYLE.

In its tenth season, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to vocalize their disdain for Family Guy’s humor in the form of a two-part South Park episode. In “Cartoon Wars,” it is revealed to the characters in South Park that the writing staff of Family Guy is actually a group of manatees, and their ideas for cutaway jokes are generated by randomly pairing “idea” balls.

As Business Insider reported on the feud,

South Park co-creator Trey Parker explained in the DVD commentary that he and co-creator Matt Stone "don't respect [Family Guy] in terms of writing." He added that much of Hollywood felt the same way, with producers from The Simpsons sending them flowers after the episode and people at King of the Hill expressing thanks (despite both shows being on Fox). "There was this animation solidarity moment, where everyone did come together over their hatred of Family Guy," said [Parker].

MacFarlane defended Family Guy’s cutaway gags, claiming they are the hardest parts of the show to write. “When you’re dealing with story-based comedy it’s almost easier. With the cutaways, you need to develop a brand new premise, storyline, arc, all in just a few seconds.”

6. FAMILY GUY CAUSED QUITE A CONTROVERSY BY KILLING OFF A FAN-FAVORITE CHARACTER.

In the 2013 episode “The Life of Brian,” Family Guy decided to shake things up a bit by killing off Brian, the Griffins' outspoken, talking dog. To add insult to injury, Brian was immediately replaced by a new dog, Vinny, in the very same episode. While many fans cried that it was a ratings grab, others feared that Brian’s removal from the opening credits signified a permanent change. The more distraught fans quickly flocked to a change.org petition, calling for Brian to be brought back to the show. In the end, Brian returned to his rightful place in the Griffin home only two episodes later, not due to public outcry but by design of the publicity stunt.

“We were all very surprised, in a good way, that people still cared enough about that character to be that angry,” said MacFarlane. “We thought it would create a little bit of a stir, but the rage wasn’t something we counted on."

7. PETER GRIFFIN WAS INSPIRED BY A REAL PERSON.

In countless interviews, MacFarlane has claimed that the basis for Family Guy’s patriarch, Peter Griffin, was a security guard he once knew while attending RISD. MacFarlane described the man as having a “big thick Rhode Island accent, everything was said at this volume, absolutely no self editing whatsoever.” As it turns out, in 2013, ABC 6 news was able to identify Paul Timmins, the former director of public safety at RISD, as MacFarlane’s inspiration for the character. “I'm very proud of it," Timmins joked, still wearing his signature white button-up and glasses. "I am clearly the visual of Peter because the character of Peter is an idiot."

8. WILLIAM H. MACY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BRIAN.

“It was the fact that they had heard Brian that way [MacFarlane’s voicing] in the initial pilot, and at that point they were used to hearing him that way,” MacFarlane explained of why Fox executives decided to go with his voice instead of Macy’s. “I think they just didn't want to mess with it.”

9. FOUR DIFFERENT ACTRESSES HAVE BEEN HIRED THROUGHOUT THE SHOW’S HISTORY TO PLAY MEG.

While most immediately recognize Mila Kunis as the definitive voice of Meg, she wasn’t the first to portray the Griffins’ outcast daughter. During the first season, the voice of Meg was provided by Lacey Chabert, best known for playing Claudia Salinger on Party of Five and Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls. So why didn’t Chabert come back for the second season? While rumors of being fired or having a falling out with the show’s producers over religious beliefs have circulated widely around the Internet, Chabert set the record straight: “I actually left the show of my own accord. And only because I was in school and doing Party of Five at the time.”

“I think there was a mistake in her contract,” MacFarlane further clarified, “and I guess she had not intended to be involved for, like, the full run of the show."

As for the other two Megs? Cree Summer, best known as the voice of Elmyra in Tiny Toon Adventures, was originally hired to voice Meg in the pilot. But before she recorded her lines, Summer was fired by producers for unexplained reasons (according to whatculture.com, Summer stated that, “Seth MacFarlane didn’t think a black actress would be right for Meg’s voice”). As a last resort, MacFarlane turned to his sister Rachael to provide Meg’s voice for the pilot.

10. ALEX BORSTEIN WAS ALMOST REPLACED IN THE BEGINNING OF THE SERIES.

Alex Borstein, who provides the iconic voice of Lois, had to fight to keep her role after portraying the family’s matriarch in the pilot. After ordering a 13-episode first season, Fox decided that they wanted to take her character’s voice in a different direction. “The network wanted to get rid of me,” said Borstein. “So I had to fight to keep my job. I had to re-audition for it, along with every female that ever stepped off a bus in Hollywood. And I got very lucky and I got to keep it and I was thrilled, because it was some of the funniest stuff that I had ever read.”

11. CARRIE FISHER VOICES A RECURRING CHARACTER.

Fisher, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, plays Angela, Peter’s hard-nosed boss at the Pawtucket Brewery. She also provided the voice of Mon Mothma in Family Guy’s Star Wars parody, “It’s a Trap!”

12. GEORGE LUCAS GAVE HIS BLESSING FOR THE FAMILY GUY STAR WARS PARODY TRILOGY.

As the story goes, MacFarlane quickly realized that with each new episode of Family Guy, they were creating more and more Star Wars jokes. Fearing a lawsuit, Fox’s legal team decided to clear the jokes with Lucasfilm first. Much to MacFarlane’s surprise, Lucas approved of the gags. But he had one condition: the characters had to look exactly like they did in the movies. This spawned the idea for the Family Guy Star Wars trilogy. After the completion of “Blue Harvest,” the first in the trilogy, Lucas actually invited MacFarlane and the Family Guy team to watch the film with him and his son at their ranch.

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15 Super Facts About Megamind

In 2010, the superhero craze was on the rise in the wake of such hits as Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man. which made it the perfect time to launch a silly sendup of the genre. And so came Megamind, an animated action-comedy about a clumsy villain whose world turns upside down once he actually defeats his superhero nemesis.

1. THE PREMISE WAS INSPIRED BY SUPERMAN.

Essentially, the pitch boiled down to "What if Lex Luthor defeated Superman?" Except instead of Luthor being a wealthy, vicious human, the film offers Megamind (Will Ferrell), a cowardly, odd-looking (but still bald!) misfit from another planet. Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) is more the Superman type, an alien from another planet who is strong, handsome, and can fly. It's easy for the people of Metro City to love Metro Man, whereas the oddball with the big blue head is instantly regarded as "other" and "bad." It's up to Megamind to prove himself, and find his true path.

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A VEHICLE FOR BEN STILLER.

The original script by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons was pitched to Ben Stiller's production company, Red Hour Films, with hopes he'd star as its titular baddie. "[It] was written as a live-action movie," Stiller explained in the spring of 2008. "But we thought it would work as an animated movie so we brought it to Jeffrey Katzenberg [CEO of DreamWorks Animation], and now we're in pre-production."

3. STILLER TURNED DOWN THE LEAD, BUT STILL PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN MEGAMIND.

Instead of voicing Megamind, Stiller opted to executive produce the movie—but he does pop by for a quirky audio cameo as the curmudgeonly curator Bernard, who works at the Metro Man Museum.

4. PRODUCERS WANTED ROBERT DOWNEY JR. FOR THE LEAD.

Riding high off the career revitalization of his live-action superhero hit Iron Man, Downey was game to bring his sarcastic charms to Metro City's menace. But scheduling conflicts ultimately killed the deal. So producers turned to beloved funnyman Will Ferrell, who brought a zany charisma to Megamind, and some crucial gags.

5. THE FILM CYCLED THROUGH VARIOUS TITLES BEFORE MEGAMIND STUCK. 

In the fall of 2008, Stiller was teasing the movie as Master Mind. In that version, Megamind's longtime foe was named Uberman (a more overt spoof of Superman), but by spring of 2009, the title had changed to Oobermind, while Uberman had become Metro Man.

6. SEVERAL DIRECTORS TOOK A CRACK AT MEGAMIND

"There were two or three sets of directors on the movie, each of which started making a different version of the movie before it went to someone else," illustrator/author Jason Porath, who helped with the film as an employee at DreamWorks Animation, told Mental Floss.

The project was kicked off by Gary Trousdale, who had co-helmed a string of Disney animated movies including Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Next, Kyle Jefferson and Cameron Hood, who'd directed the DWA short "First Flight," were brought on. But the final version of Megamind is credited to Tom McGrath, who had co-directed Madagascar and Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa with Eric Darnell, and would go on to helm Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (also with Darnell) and Boss Baby. For their earlier efforts, Trousdale, Jefferson, and Hood ultimately received a special thanks credit on Megamind.

7. IT'S PRETTY COMMON FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE TO CHANGE DIRECTORS. 

In the case of DreamWorks's How To Train Your Dragon, credited directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders were brought on about one year before the film's release. Then, the beloved movie about a boy and his pet dragon would have been unrecognizable to its fans. "At that point, I think Hiccup was like 9 or 10 years old, all the dragons could talk, and Toothless as we know him didn't exist," Porath tells us. "Those little bug-eyed tiny green dragons he fights for fish in the first movie, one of those was supposed to be his companion dragon. It was a lot closer to the book source material."

This practice extends far beyond DreamWorks: At Pixar, The Good Dinosaur went from Bob Peterson to Peter Sohn. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman on Brave, and Brad Bird took over directing duties from Jan Pinkava on Ratatouille. At Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvania cycled through six directors before committing to Genndy Tartakovsky.

8. OTHER VILLAINS VANISHED THROUGH PRODUCTION. 

DreamWorks Animation

One version of Megamind had its eponymous fiend as part of a supervillain league known as the Doom Syndicate. To concoct this crooked but colorful crew of criminals, DreamWorks had an open call, encouraging its artists to pitch villain ideas. Story artist Ryan Savas has publicly shared his sketches for such quirky baddies as White Zombie, The Barista, The Ectopus, the Liberace-inspired Rhinestone, and Alec Baldwin, who can "hypnotize his victims with awesome acting skills." But as the script became streamlined (and the budget got tighter) the Doom Syndicate was cut from Megamind, meaning characters like Destruction Worker, a smoking skeleton, and "geriatric flame-wielder" Hot Flash never made it to the big screen—but they didn't disappear completely.

Three years after the film's release, DreamWorks unleashed the video game Megamind: Ultimate Showdown for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Some of the Doom Syndicate characters reappeared here, including Hot Flash. But Porath told us the fiery old broad made her mark at the animation's offices as well. "Every year, DreamWorks Animation has a big Halloween costume contest," he shared. "And the winner one year was one of the producers who dressed up as Hot Flash."

9. SOME CHARACTERS WENT THROUGH RADICAL PHYSICAL CHANGES. 

Concept art reveals that love interest/journalist Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) had a variety of longer haircuts before the filmmakers settled on her perky pixie cut. During his Uber Man days, Metro Man's Elvis-inspired look toyed with some more outlandish iterations, which involved fur collars, sunglasses, and plenty of glitter. Some test sketches even showed Megamind with spiky hair. But the biggest transformation came to the cunning character's devoted sidekick.

Though fans of the film have come to know Minion as a fanged, talking piranha who gets around in a robo-ape mechasuit, his origins were once far less fantastical. Early concept art shows a version of the character imagined as a chubby man with a tiny jetpack.

10. STILLER WANTED TO SATIRIZE THE SUPERHERO GENRE.

This is an image of Ben Stiller.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

"This genre's been done so many times, that it's always interesting to try to find a postmodern version of it," Stiller told MTV. So he spearheaded a story about how people are not always what they seem.

Notably, this wasn't Stiller's first tme parodying superheroes and villains. In 1999, Stiller starred in the comedy Mystery Men, which followed a batch of wannabe superheroes as they face off with a nefarious foe who was way out of their league. Their powers included farting, bowling, being furious, and shoveling "well."

11. MEGAMIND UNDERWENT A GAG PASS TO MAKE IT EVEN FUNNIER. 

In an informative blog post, Porath explains that a "gag pass" is essentially the part toward the end of production where filmmakers find opportunities to work in more jokes. In this case, the writers and storyboard artists crafted humorous dialogue and visual gags. Meanwhile, Ferrell was encouraged to improvise to bring some more of his unique brand of comedy to the mix.

12. THE FILM'S MARKETING CAMPAIGN ACHIEVED A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

To promote the film, Ferrell invited all wannabe superheroes to suit up and join him for a party on October 4, 2010, just a month before the film's opening. But the event also set a Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Superheroes. With 1580 costumed attendees, Ferrell and his friends made hero history, breaking the old record by 79 superheroes.

13. THERE'S AN ANCHORMAN EASTER EGG

Toward the end of the movie, Megamind is channel surfing and crosses a news report about a water-skiing squirrel. A very similar story is covered in Ferrell's 2004 comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

14. MEGAMIND WAS HURT BY DESPICABLE ME

Cruel timing meant that Megamind opened four months after audiences went wild for Universal's Despicable Me, an animated movie about a villain who goes good. While Megamind pulled in a decent $321 million worldwide, Despicable Me boasted $543 million, spawning sequels and a spinoff for its cuddlier Minions.

The closeness of their premises and release dates hurt Megamind with critics, too. Roger Ebert wrote, "This setup is bright and amusing, even if it does feel recycled from bits and pieces of such recent animated landmarks as The Incredibles with its superpowers and Despicable Me with its villain." USA Today's Claudia Puig was even more cutting, concluding, "Do we really need Megamind when Despicable Me is around?"

15. MEGAMIND FOUND REDEMPTION AS HOME ENTERTAINMENT. 

Released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 25, 2011, Megamind pulled in another $74 million in domestic sales. Readily available in this fashion, its popularity grew. Today, Megamind is warmly remembered and rewatched by fans happy to mispronounce "Metro City," "school," and "spider" like the lovable villain at its center. And despite its bumpy ride through production, it's fondly remembered by the fleets of artists who brought it to life.

You can see their enthusiasm in the blogs linked above, where they've proudly shared concept art and sketches. But perhaps Porath puts it best, declaring, "To put in perspective: almost every movie goes through radical shifts like this. Megamind had a bit longer journey than others, but not by much. I would by no means consider it an outlier. There were a phenomenal number of talented, funny people working to make it great, and it was a fun time at the studio. DreamWorks treated us all really well; I will never work for somewhere that took better care of me."

Original image
Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS
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Hayao Miyazaki's Greatest Hits Are Coming Back to Theaters This Fall
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STUDIO GHIBLI FEST: Castle in the Sky
Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS

Get ready, anime fans. As part of an upcoming film festival, some of Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki’s best-loved films will be coming back to U.S. movie theaters this fall.

Fathom Events and the North American animation distributor GKIDS are running a film festival devoted to Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki's Tokyo-based animation studio. As part of a series of monthly events that began in June, the festival will be showing Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Earlier this summer, the festival showed My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Due to the festival’s popularity, Studio Ghibli Fest is adding an extra day of showings, beginning with the August re-release of Castle in the Sky. Instead of two days of movies, there will be three screenings on three different days.

The films will be shown on the last Sunday of the month, with subsequent screenings the following Monday and Wednesday. The Sunday and Wednesday films will be dubbed in English, while the Monday showings will have subtitles. The festival runs until November 29.

Since it’s through Fathom Events, the films will be shown at hundreds of theaters around the country. You can check where screenings are available near you by entering your ZIP code here.

Miyazaki is technically retired, but he hasn't been able to resist the call of Studio Ghibli. He's scheduled to release Boro the Caterpillar, a film he's calling his last (several years after saying the same about 2013's The Wind Also Rises) in 2019. So maybe we can expect an extended Studio Ghibli Fest in a few years.

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