Born in Connecticut in 1973, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane began working in animation in the mid-1990s. He debuted his first animated show Family Guy in 1999. It was canceled in 2002, but brought back in 2005 because of popular demand. Since then, MacFarlane developed other animated series American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. In 2012, he released his first live-action feature film Ted, and was picked to host the 2013 Oscars.
Early Life and Career
Seth Woodbury MacFarlane, creator of the animated television hit Family Guy, was born in Kent, Connecticut, on October 26, 1973. His father, Ronald, was a teacher, and his mother, Ann, was an academic administrator. The soon-to-be animator was drawing beloved cartoons like Woody Woodpecker and Fred Flintstone at the age of two, and inquiring about the mechanics of animation as soon as he could talk. MacFarlane remembers, "When I was old enough to ask the question, I was asking, 'How are cartoons made? How do I do one of these?'" He got his first paying job at age nine, when he began publishing his own comic strip in the local Kent newspaper.
MacFarlane continued drawing and animating throughout high school, and then enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to study video and animation. Though his career ambitions were initially focused on Disney, MacFarlane caught the attention of Hanna-Barbera Productions with his thesis film, Life of Larry, which contained the beginnings of what would later become Family Guy. Following his graduation in 1995, MacFarlane made the journey west and moved to Los Angeles to begin his career. At Hanna-Barbera, MacFarlane worked as both animator and writer on Johnny Bravo (1997) and Cow and Chicken (1995).
While he worked on many other animated shows, MacFarlane's heart was still with Life of Larry. He continued to work on it, fine-tuning and revamping it into a comedy short with the new name Larry & Steve. Executives at FOX got a glimpse of MacFarlane's talent and offered him a deal to work on MadTV. Although the deal eventually fell through, it cemented the animator's relationship with FOX. Soon, the studio offered him a small amount of money to craft a pilot, hoping it would lead to a prime time series headed by MacFarlane. It was a harried time of creation and anxiety for MacFarlane, who recounts, "I spent about six months with no sleep and no life, just drawing like crazy in my kitchen and doing this pilot." Despite his limited budget, he managed to convey the overall thrust of the show and to hook studio executives with his edgy humor. Fox bought Family Guy in 1998 and slated its debut for the beginning of 1999. MacFarlane was only twenty-four and already an executive producer.
Seth MacFarlane is the voice of the Family Guy's three main characters, Peter, Stewie, and Brian Griffin. The show, a satire of the American family, plays out with cutting precision in the zany dysfunction of the Griffins from Quahog, Rhode Island. Though MacFarlane cites Woody Allen and Jackie Gleason as inspirations and precursors, his own brand of humor shines through. Family Guy quickly garnered a loyal cult following. Of the show's belly-laugh appeal, MacFarlane has said, "Particularly now, with the current landscape of sitcoms, we're out to make jokes. I think that gets lost in a lot of sitcoms that get caught up in things like story and character development and emotional storytelling. That stuff is important, but at the end of the day, 'job one' in sitcoms is you've got to keep people laughing."
Family Guy was canceled in 2002, but runaway DVD sales, big rerun ratings, and a large number of complaining fans were enough to gain the attention of studio executives. After serious negotiations, FOX decided to resurrect Family Guy and thereby cash in on its moneymaking potential for the foreseeable future. Unsurprisingly, considering its tendency toward physical humor and political digs, Family Guy has not entirely avoided controversy. MacFarlane is a favorite target of conservative and family watchdog groups, who continuously take him to task for alleged indecency. Despite the political minefields, the show and MacFarlane have received numerous accolades, including two primetime Emmy Awards.
MacFarlane continued to expand his horizons beyond the Griffins and in 2005 revealed another would-be hit series, American Dad!, which he co-created with Matt Weitzman and Mike Barker. Even more political in tone, the show follows and satirizes its main character, Stan Smith, a politically and socially conservative CIA officer.
In 2007, MacFarlane worked as the executive producer on a show called The Winner that was canceled after six episodes. The animator had more luck with his next venture, The Cleveland Show, a spin-off of Family Guy starring a character from the original show named Cleveland Brown.
Although the Connecticut native has clearly made a name for himself in Hollywood, MacFarlane has moved beyond animation into live-action acting, appearing on television shows such as The Gilmore Girls, The War at Home, and Star Trek: Enterprise. In 2012, MacFarlane released his first live-action feature film Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg. The movie tells the story about a grown man who hangs around with his childhood teddy bear who had been brought to life. MacFarlane lent his own voice to Ted, the film's title-character, a talking bear. He also wrote, directed and produced the film. The comedy proved to be a big hit, earning more than $218 million during its domestic release, according to Box Office Mojo's website. Later in 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that MacFarlane would host the 2013 Academy Awards.
Outside of his television and film work, Seth MacFarlane has found time to cultivate his love for singing. A lifelong fan of big band tunes and retro-style full orchestras, he sang in 2009 at the BBC Proms with a set list of old favorites such as "Singin' in the Rain." Regarding his musical passion, MacFarlane says, "I love and am fascinated by exciting orchestration—what you can do with a band that size—and I think in many ways it's a lost art."
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