Multi-hyphenated creative and producing executive Seth MacFarlane struggled to explain the complicated relationship he currently has with Fox Network at the 13th annual Produced By conference Sunday.
Fox has long been home to many of MacFarlane’s signature television ventures, such as: Family man and Cosmos. The conflict stems from his feelings about Fox News, while also revealing that he has had a refreshingly easy association with Disney after it took ownership of many of his properties.
Speaking remotely at the conference – which was ironically held on Fox Studios premises – MacFarlane spoke with Erica Huggins, president of his production company, Fuzzy Door, and took a moment to discuss the persistently ambivalent feelings he has about the network. to articulate. He parted ways with Fox to pursue a lucrative pact with NBCUniversal’s UCP in 2020, largely because of his objections to the tone and content of sister division Fox News.
“It’s an incredibly complicated relationship I have with that company,” MacFarlane explained. “There are people there with whom I have great personal relationships. There are people I love very much. But it’s a different business than when I started. It’s very difficult for me right now to reconcile exactly what my relationship with that company is.”
He added: “I, like many people, have many problems and many objections to their practices.” “Certainly, the news department and the entertainment department operate relatively independently of each other, and that’s something that helped many of us sleep a little better.” But he pointed out controversial former New York City mayor and Trump administration insider Rudy Giuliani on the network’s hit reality contest. The masked singer as “disturbing”.
“My general reaction – and I know I’m not alone – to what the company does and how they communicate what they want to communicate and what they find acceptable is that I have a lot of objections.”
MacFarlane noted that despite his public criticism, Fox has never attempted the often left-wing, often groundbreaking content on a series like Family man, who has featured his share of satirical commentary on Fox News.
“I dump a lot on Fox, but I will say that the entire time I was there, no one ever tried to censor the show politically,” he revealed. “There is a very never mind attitude that worked great for us… I was never censored and I was never pressured to project a different political vision.
He added that he felt the news media would benefit from conservative news with an honest, reasonable, conservative perspective. “The tragedy for me is that I think in this day and age there is really an opening and a need for, God help me, a conservative news outlet that is rational and that presents an opposing point of view in a thoughtful way and that acknowledges the truth and acknowledges science and recognize the reality of the world around us. And that doesn’t really exist.”
“At some point you could make the argument that Fox News went in that direction, and they really took a good turn that went in a radically different way,” he added. “For me, the ideal situation would be if they could correct course and make a conscious moral decision to try to be that, to let that be their part in the future. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell, but you never know.”
Meanwhile, MacFarlane said his relationship with the famously family-friendly Walt Disney Company has been going well since they acquitted some of his disgraceful IP in the purchase of 21st Century Fox in 2019.
“It was great,” he said, noting his long, close relationship with former Fox TV director Dana Walden, who was recently elevated to chairman of general entertainment content at Disney. “She’s a great friend and a great executive, and she’s just an absolute joy to work for. She’s one of those people that you can see yourself following across the industry just to work with her over and over.”
MacFarlane found Disney an “interesting comparison” to his experiences with Fox. “The company as a whole has been admirable for the most part — not always, but for the most part,” he said. “They try to be culturally aware. They try to be ethical. And creatively, my relationship with them was amazing.”
He pointed to the transition of his science fiction series the Orville’ from the original network on Fox to a third season on Disney-owned Hulu as “one of the best creative experiences of my career, and the support I’ve gotten from Disney and from Hulu to the extent that it gave us the resources to do It and to compete with some of the most visually ambitious shows on television was really gratifying. And I can’t say enough good things. I really had a good time there.”
Meanwhile, MacFarlane and Huggins were high on some of the upcoming content they’re producing for Peacock as part of Fuzzy Door’s NBCU pact, including a series adaptation of his movie franchise. ted, starring the foul-mouthed teddy bear full of questionable lifestyle choices, who will act as a prequel to the movies.
“I love doing something that no one has done before, as far as I know,” he said of producing a series where the lead character is a detailed, CG-rendered creation. He noted that Peacock had approached him with the idea for a series, “and I was thrilled that it was something they even considered.”
While Ted’s CG-animated nature would present production challenges that would require time and computational power, MacFarlane, who directed, co-rotated and voiced the titular teddy in both films, was more concerned with where and how to pick up the story with the participation of the film’ human star Mark Wahlberg. “If you look at the raw footage before the bear was put in there, a lot of it was Mark: he actually saw that thing, and so the bear slid in very organically.”
MacFarlane turned to an original story approach, with teenage actor Max Burkholder now in the role of Wahlberg. “Really the only way in, to me that seemed interesting, was this idea of a prequel going back to the 90s, which people are now always happy to revisit,” MacFarlane said. To explore this part of his life that we’re entering, that in the opening cut of the film, and now to dig deeper into it and find out how this came about, what exactly was the sequence of events that led to the character of John such an underachiever and such a disappointment in his adult years.”