Seth Woodbury MacFarlane (Born October 26, 1973) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is best known for creating his hit TV shows, Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show as well as being the creator of famous hit movies Ted and Ted 2.
MacFarlane was born and raised in Kent, Connecticut. His parents, Ronald Milton MacFarlane and Ann Perry (née Sager), were born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. MacFarlane's younger sister Rachael is also a voice actress. He has roots in New England going back to the 1600s, and is a descendant of Mayflower passenger William Brewster. MacFarlane's parents met in 1970, when they both lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts, and married later that year. The couple moved to Kent in 1972, where Ann began working in the Admissions Office at South Kent School. She later worked in the College Guidance and Admissions Offices at the Kent School, a selective college preparatory school, where Ronald was a teacher.
During his childhood, MacFarlane developed an interest in illustration and began drawing cartoon characters Fred Flintstone and Woody Woodpecker, as early as two years old. By the age of five, MacFarlane knew that he would want to pursue a career in animation, and began by creating flip books, after his parents found a book on the subject for him. Four years later, aged nine, MacFarlane began publishing a weekly comic strip titled "Walter Crouton" for The Kent Good Times Dispatch, the local newspaper in Kent, Connecticut, which paid him five dollars per week. In one anecdote from the time, MacFarlane said in an October 2011 interview that as a child he was always "weirdly fascinated by the Communion ceremony". He created a strip with a character kneeling at the altar taking Communion and asking "Can I have fries with that?" The paper printed it and he got an "angry letter" from the local priest; it led to "sort of a little mini-controversy" in the town.
MacFarlane received his high school diploma in 1991 from the Kent School. While there, he continued experimenting with animation, and his parents gave him an 8 mm camera. MacFarlane went on to study film, video, and animation at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. As a student, he had intended to work for Disney but changed his mind after graduating.
At RISD MacFarlane created a series of independent films, meeting future Family Guy cast member Mike Henry, whose brother Patrick was MacFarlane's classmate. During his time at RISD, he performed stand-up comedy. In his senior year he made a thesis film titled The Life of Larry, which became the inspiration for Family Guy. A professor submitted his film to the animation studio Hanna-Barbera, where he was later hired.
MacFarlane was recruited during the senior film festival by development executive Ellen Cockrill and President Fred Seibert. He went to work at Hanna-Barbera (then Hanna-Barbera Cartoons) based on the writing content of The Life of Larry, rather than on cartooning ability. He was one of only a few people hired by the company solely based on writing talent. He worked as an animator and writer for Cartoon Network's Cartoon Cartoons series. In 1996, MacFarlane created a sequel to The Life of Larry entitled Larry & Steve, which features a middle-aged character named Larry and an intellectual dog, Steve. The short was broadcast as one of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons. He described the atmosphere at Hanna-Barbera as resembling an "old-fashioned Hollywood structure, where you move from one show to another or you jump from a writing job on one show to a storyboard job on another". MacFarlane worked on four television series during his tenure at the studio: Dexter's Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, and Johnny Bravo. Working as both a writer and storyboard artist, MacFarlane spent the most time on Johnny Bravo. He found it easier to develop his own style at Johnny Bravo through the show's process of scriptwriting, which Dexter's Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, and I Am Weasel did not use. As a part of the Johnny Bravo crew, MacFarlane met actors and voiceover artists such as Adam West and Jack Sheldon of Schoolhouse Rock! fame. Meeting these individuals later became significant to the production and success of his Family Guy series.
He also did freelance work for Walt Disney Television Animation, writing for Jungle Cubs, and for Nelvana, where he wrote for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Through strict observation of writing elements such as story progression, character stakes and plot points, MacFarlane found the work for Disney was, from a writing standpoint, very valuable in preparation for his career (particularly on Ace Ventura). MacFarlane also created and wrote a short titled Zoomates for Frederator Studios' Oh Yeah! Cartoons on Nickelodeon. Executives at Fox saw both Larry shorts and negotiations soon began for a prime-time animated series.
Although MacFarlane enjoyed working at Hanna-Barbera, he felt his real calling was for prime-time animation, which would allow a much edgier style of humor. He first pitched Family Guy to Fox during his tenure at Hanna-Barbera. A development executive for Hanna-Barbera, who was trying to get back into the prime-time business at the time, introduced MacFarlane to Leslie Kolins and Mike Darnell, heads of the alternative comedy department at Fox. After the success of King of the Hill in 1997, MacFarlane called Kolins once more to ask about a possible second pitch for the series. The company offered the young writer a strange deal: Fox gave him a budget of US$50,000 to produce a pilot that could lead to a series (most episodes of animated prime-time productions cost at least US$1 million). Recalling the experience in an interview with The New York Times, MacFarlane stated, "I spent about six months with no sleep and no life, just drawing like crazy in my kitchen and doing this pilot".
After six months, MacFarlane returned to Fox with a "very, very simply, crudely animated film – with just enough to get the tone of the show across" to present to the executives, who loved the pilot and ordered the series immediately. In July 1998, the Fox Broadcast Company announced the purchase of Family Guy for a January 1999 debut. Family Guy was originally intended to be a series of shorts on MADtv, much in the same way The Simpsons had begun on The Tracey Ullman Show a decade earlier. Negotiations for the show's MADtv connection fell through early on as a result of budgetary concerns. At age 24, MacFarlane was television's youngest executive producer.
Family Guy first aired January 31, 1999. MacFarlane's work in animating Family Guy has been influenced by Jackie Gleason and Hanna-Barbera along with examples from The Simpsons and All in the Family. In addition to writing three episodes, "Death Has a Shadow", "Family Guy Viewer Mail 1" and "North by North Quahog", MacFarlane voices Family Guy's main male characters – Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Brian Griffin, and Glenn Quagmire as well as Tom Tucker, his son Jake Tucker, and additional characters. Bolstered by high DVD sales and established fan loyalty, Family Guy developed into a US$1-billion franchise. On May 4, 2008, after approximately two and a half years of negotiations, MacFarlane reached a US$100-million agreement with Fox to keep Family Guy and American Dad! until 2012. The agreement makes him the world's highest paid television writer.
MacFarlane's success with Family Guy has opened doors to other ventures relating to the show. On April 26, 2005, he and composer Walter Murphy created Family Guy: Live in Vegas. The soundtrack features a Broadway show tune theme, and MacFarlane voiced Stewie in the track "Stewie's Sexy Party". A fan of Broadway musicals, MacFarlane comments on using musicals as a component to Family Guy:
I love the lush orchestration and old-fashioned melody writing ... it just gets you excited, that kind of music", he said. "It's very optimistic. And it's fun. The one thing that's missing for me from popular music today is fun. Guys like [Bing] Crosby, or [Frank] Sinatra, or Dean Martin, or Mel Tormé [...] these are guys who sounded like they were having a great time.
In addition, a Family Guy video game was released in 2006. Two years later, in August 2007, he closed a digital content production deal with AdSense. MacFarlane takes cast members on the road to voice characters in front of live audiences. Family Guy Live provides fans with the opportunity to hear future scripts. In mid-2007, Chicago fans had the opportunity to hear the then upcoming sixth-season premiere "Blue Harvest". Shows have been played in Montreal, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
MacFarlane at a Rhode Island School of Design reception on June 1, 2007 On July 22, 2007, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, MacFarlane announced that he may start working on a feature film, although "nothing's official". In September 2007, Ricky Blitt gave TV.com an interview confirming that he had already started working on the script. Then in TV Week on July 18, 2008, MacFarlane confirmed plans to produce a theatrically released Family Guy feature film sometime "within the next year". He came up with an idea for the story, "something that you could not do on the show, which [to him] is the only reason to do a movie". He later went on to say he imagines the film to be "an old-style musical with dialogue" similar to The Sound of Music, saying that he would "really be trying to capture, musically, that feel". On October 13, 2011, MacFarlane confirmed that a deal for a Family Guy film had been made, and that it would be written by himself and series co-producer Ricky Blitt. On November 30, 2012, MacFarlane confirmed plans to produce a Family Guy film.
Despite its popularity, Family Guy has often been criticized. The Parents Television Council frequently criticizes the show for its content, once organized a letter-writing campaign aimed at removing it from Fox's lineup, and has filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission alleging that some episodes of the show contained indecent content. MacFarlane has responded to the PTC's criticism by saying, among other things, "That's like getting hate mail from Hitler. They're literally terrible human beings."
Family Guy has been cancelled twice, although strong fan support and DVD sales have caused Fox to reconsider. MacFarlane mentioned how these cancellations affected the lineup of writers each time Fox approved the show. "One of the positive aspects of Family Guy constantly being pulled off [the air] is that we were always having to restaff writers".
During the sixth season, episodes of Family Guy and American Dad! were delayed from regular broadcast due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike (which MacFarlane participated in to support the writers while Fox aired three Family Guy episodes without MacFarlane's permission). On February 12, 2008, the strike ended, and the series resumed airing regularly, beginning with "Back to the Woods".
MacFarlane has a second long-running, successful adult animated series in American Dad! which has been in production since early 2005. To date, American Dad! is MacFarlane's only animated series never to have suffered an official cancellation, though it did undergo a network relocation from Fox to TBS on October 20, 2014, following the show's 11th season. TBS announced on July 16, 2013, that they had picked up the series for a 15-episode 12th season. Reportedly, the purpose of the network relocation was originally to make room for new animated broadcasts on Fox's now-defunct "Animation Domination" lineup. It was reported that the relocation of American Dad! allowed room for other shows, such as Mulaney and another animated series from Seth MacFarlane called Bordertown. Bordertown ran during the 2015–16 television season.
While MacFarlane regularly does extensive voice acting work for American Dad!, he has left much of the show's creative direction up to Weitzman and Barker. MacFarlane has credited this move with helping to give the series its own distinct voice and identity. Though, as announced on November 4, 2013, Barker departed American Dad! after 10 seasons of serving as the show's producer/co-showrunner, resulting from creative differences as production for season 11 on TBS commenced.
American Dad! was first shown after Super Bowl XXXIX on February 6th, 2006, debuting with the episode "American Dad!", which MacFarlane co-wrote. This February 6th, 2005 series premiere was somewhat of an early sneak preview as the program would not begin airing regularly as part of Fox's Animation Domination until May 1, 2005. Because of atypical scheduling of the show's first 7 episodes, American Dad! has a controversial season number discrepancy in which many are divided as to how many seasons the program has had. Beyond division between media journalists and fans, there has been conflicting reports as to what season the show is in even between American Dad! creators and the show's official website—both from its original Fox website and now from TBS website. At Comic-Con 2013 on July 20, American Dad! co-creator Mike Barker hinted that an American Dad! movie—centering on the Roger character and set from his birth planet—is in the works and partially written. What with Barker's departure from the series however, it is unclear if any of these plans have been scrapped or modified in any way.
MacFarlane has described the initial seasons of American Dad! as being similar to All in the Family, likening title character Stan Smith's originally bigoted persona to Archie Bunker. MacFarlane has also stated that his inspiration to create American Dad! derived from his and Weitzman's exasperation with George W. Bush's policies as former United States President. After the early couple of seasons however, the series discontinued using these elements of political satire and began to serve up its own brand of entertainment and humor. MacFarlane was described as having difficulty understanding the series in its early going; however, he heavily warmed up to the series after its early seasons once he felt the show truly came into its own. His fellow co-creators have sensed this through MacFarlane's greatly increased attention to the series after its early seasons. MacFarlane has also revealed he is an American Dad! fan himself. He has taken note of the positive reaction to the "Roger" character by fans via his Twitter.
The show focuses on the Smith family: Stan Smith, the endangering, dog-eat-dog, rash and inconsiderate head of the household. He has an exaggeratedly large chin and masculine manner about him. As the family's breadwinner, he works as a CIA officer and was initially portrayed in the series as an old-fashioned conservative bigot but has since grown out of these traits (the show is known for its story arc elements and other distinguishing plot techniques); Stan's paradoxically moralistic yet simultaneously inappropriate, corrupt wife, Francine; and their two children, new-age hippie daughter Hayley and nerdy son Steve. Accompanying the Smith family are three additional main characters, two of which belong to non-human species: zany, shocking, blithely cruel and rascally alien Roger, who's full of disguises/alter egos and has few if any limits on his behaviors. He was rescued by Stan from Area 51; Klaus, the man-in-a-fish-body pet. Klaus's unenviable situation came about from the brain of an East German Olympic skier being shrunk and transplanted into a fish body; and Jeff Fischer, Hayley's boyfriend turned "whipped" husband, known for his infatuation with Hayley's mom, Francine. Together, the Smiths and their three housemates run what is only at a first glance the typical middle-class American lifestyle, but is anything but.
Seth MacFarlane provides the voices of Stan and Roger, basing Roger's voice on Paul Lynde (who played Uncle Arthur in Bewitched). His sister Rachael MacFarlane provides the voice of Hayley.
The Cleveland Show
MacFarlane developed a Family Guy spin-off called The Cleveland Show, which focuses on the character of Cleveland Brown and his family. The idea for the show originated from a suggestion by Family Guy writer and voice of Cleveland, Mike Henry. Fox ordered 26 episodes and the series first aired on September 7th, 2008.
Seth MacFarlane voice acted for Tim the Bear and Dr. Fist for the first two seasons of the show, before quitting and having the characters be replaced by Jess Harnell and Bryan Cranston, respectively.
The Cleveland Show was pronounced, cancelled on April 17th, 2012, leaving it with a total of 4 seasons and 104 episodes. Shortly after word got out about the cancellation, FOX stated that they would be allowing the series one last hour-long episode, to help the series "wrap up nicely". This episode, entitled "Cleveland Moves Out", was released December 16th, 2012, just before the premiere of the Family Guy episode, "He's Bla-ack!", which featured Cleveland and Junior returning to the series as well as the introduction of Donna, Roberta, Rallo, and Rock Hudson to the recurring cast.
Bordertown is an irrelevant piece of shit that lasted for one season.
On May 4, 2016, FOX picked up a sci-fi comedy-drama series called The Orville. The show is created, executive-produced, and starred in by MacFarlane. The show is set 400 years in the future aboard the Orville, a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship in the Union interstellar fleet.
The series premiered during the 2017–2018 season, on Sunday, September 10, 2017.
- Family Guy
- American Dad!
- The Cleveland Show
- A Million Ways to Die in the West
- Ted 2
- The Orville