When John Bennett (Mark Walhberg) was a small, lonely child he wished for just one thing—a best friend. His wish came true and Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane), his trusty teddy bear, came to life. The pair became “Thunder Buddies” for life and the subject of two movies, Ted and this weekend’s Ted 2.
Ted isn’t your usual teddy bear. He smokes pot, swears—imagine rooming with Tommy Chong and Charles Bukowski—and has trouble holding down a job.
In the new film Ted is married to a human woman but under the eyes of the law he is seen as property and not a person. When the couple decide to adopt a child he faces a court battle helmed by a young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) and a renowned, civil-rights attorney (Morgan Freeman).
Ted may be the rudest and crudest teddy bear to ever star in a movie, but there are loads of other talking teddies that are cool bears and not Teddy Bores. Remember Lancelot from Labyrinth, or the bear in AI: Artificial Intelligence who tells the young robot that 50 years is not such a long time and Winnie the Pooh? Here are three more cinematic bear necessities:
“I’ll never be like other people, but that’s alright,” says the star of the delightful Paddington, based on the much-loved children’s books by Michael Bond, “because I’m a bear. A bear called Paddington.”
The story of Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) the cuddly, orphaned Peruvian bear picks up when he, armed only with a “worrying marmalade problem” and his distinctive red hat, lands at Paddington Station in London. There, a family adopts him and learns to love the little bear, even though chaos follows his every step. The film’s co-star Hugh Bonneville says the Paddington character is so popular he is, “part of the DNA of the UK.”
The movie presents Paddington in his iconic blue duffel coat and red hat but not the usual Wellington Boots because they were not part of the bear’s original design. Manufacturers added his red Welly’s so the toy teddies were able to stand upright.
As voiced by Ned Beatty, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear is a Southern accented, strawberry scented teddy who looks cuddly, but is anything but. When a misunderstanding threatens to separate the toys, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jesse (Joan Cusack) and the gang take matters into their own tiny hands but when they meet the huggable but evil Lotso the garbage dump or the attic begin to look good.
“The guy may seem plush and huggable on the outside,” says Buttercup the Unicorn, “but inside he’s a monster.” His habit of throwing toys that don’t please him into “the box” is so evil he’s even been compared to the wicked Governor on The Walking Dead.
Unlike Ted Fozzie the Bear doesn’t work blue. The fuzzy brown jokester has been a big screen star since 1979’s The Muppet Movie where he was discovered by Kermit the Frog doing stand-up comedy in a dive bar. In the film Fozzie drives a Studebaker, but how, exactly, does a puppet manoeuvre a car? The film answers the question—“Where did you learn to drive?” Kermit asks. “I took a correspondence course!”—but the real answer is that the real driver hid in the trunk and drove the car by remote control, using a television monitor to guide his steering.
When The Muppet Movie was released in 1979 the Muppet Show Fan Club pointed out the differences between the movie and the puppet’s popular television show.
“If you think it’s a film version of The Muppet Show, you’re in for a surprise.
For one thing, it doesn’t take place in the theatre. The Muppet Movie is set in the real world — it’s like waiting in line at a gas station and looking up to find Fozzie and Kermit driving the next car over.”
In the subsequent seven theatrical Muppet movies that magic has been maintained, but the methods have changed over the years. In 2011’s The Muppet Movie all the puppets were real, but the way they were filmed changed. To give the puppets a full range of movement the puppeteers — or Muppeteers as they prefer to be called — were often in full view of the camera and digitally removed in post production.
“We removed the puppeteers later,” said visual effects artist Max Ivins, “so it gave the puppeteers a lot more freedom in that they didn’t have to hide from the camera to do everything.” It’s a technique used in Muppets Most Wanted, which sees the furry and felt puppets get into trouble on a world tour when it turns out that Kermit’s doppelgänger is the world’s number one criminal. Co-starring with the Muppets is Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey. In the years before computer generated imagery, however, Muppeteers hidden from view manipulated all the puppets. And it wasn’t always so comfortable.
Everyone remembers Kermit sitting on a log, playing his banjo, in the middle of a swamp in The Muppet Movie, but did you know that Jim Henson, Kermit’s creator and operator until 1990, was under water for the five days it took to shoot the scene?
According to the Muppet Fan Club he was wedged into a metal tube “under the water, under the log, under the Frog” while hooked up with an air hose, a monitor and a rubber sleeve which allowed him to manipulate the puppet.
Frank Oz was also submerged for Miss Piggy’s water ballet scene in The Great Muppet Caper. “I was under the water for a week,” he says. “I had three days of scuba training and then down I went.” Finally, almost every Muppet movie features Kermit riding a bicycle. How did they do it in the early days? Director James Frawley jokes, “I put him on a three-wheeler until he got his balance, and then I put him on the two-wheeler.”
In fact, the effect was achieved by intercutting long shots using a Kermit marionette and close-ups with a hand puppet operated by Henson who rode along with the bike on a low-rolling dolly.