‘Family Guy’ DVD for the fans
A new animated comedy DVD — Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story — is a big shout out and thank you to the fans of the show.
“Fans saved the show,” says Family Guy writer-producer Chris Sheridan, who collaborated on the feature-length, 88-minute movie. It debuted on DVD this week under the banners: “All-new, outrageous, uncensored!” and “Pee-in-your-pants fun!”
Sheridan says: “We wanted to say thanks.”
The adult-oriented, animated Family Guy series was revived in May after being cancelled by Fox. Two factors were crucial: DVD box sets of earlier seasons sold millions, and re-runs set records on the Cartoon Network. Fox could not ignore the millons in fresh revenues.
So that saga is savagely lampooned in The Untold Story, along with a fresh Stewie adventure in which he joins the talking dog Brian and the sex-crazed neighbour Quagmire on an epic trip to San Francisco.
The movie is actually three new episodes bound together by a framing device in which the members of the Griffin clan are stars going to their movie premiere. The Griffins are allowed to break the fourth wall and exist outside their own show, allowing for the Fox insults.
“The fans are just clamouring for it,” Sheridan told The Toronto Sun about the revived show and now the new DVD during a Toronto visit with co-writers Steve Callaghan and Mike Henry (who is also the voice of Cleveland).
“Four years ago, the first time we were cancelled, we told Fox they were making a mistake, and the second time we were cancelled that they were making a bigger mistake. And it’s sort of great to be here now. We were right and they were wrong.”
Callaghan, known as the “voice of reason” in the writers room, does want to tone down the Fox criticism.
“As much fun as we had at the network’s expense,” he says, “they deserve a lot of credit for picking the show back up. Because it would have been very easy for pride or ego or whatever to get in the way of their making the decision they did. We’re glad to have our jobs back and we’re thankful to them and they’re good sports about us giving them a hard time.”
As for the caustic jokes, “we’re calling it like it is,” says Henry. “They basically made a mistake and we’re calling them on it — because that’s what we tend to do.”
The three Stewie episodes may eventually be broadcast separately, but they are joined here to create a full story in which the venomous baby searches for his roots.
“Bottom line,” Sheridan says, “he is the most popular character (on Family Guy). It felt natural, in doing the movie, to make Stewie the central character of it. You feel that, if he wasn’t the centre of it, people would be disappointed. And Stewie would be damn pissed! So that was a conscious effort.”
The finding-himself story was more challenging than having Stewie once again try to kill Lois or take over the world, Sheridan says. “It’s more emotional and more character-driven than if it became an action sequence. There are action sequences within it, but I don’t think you could drive this movie if it wasn’t emotionally based — like any movie.”
Smart folks writing smart jokes
Family Guy writer-producer Chris Sheridan figures he knows the secret to the show’s phenomenal success.
“I think the mystery ingredient, to some extent, is that we have a lot of smart writers on the show,” he tells the Sun during a recent Toronto visit.
“And there are a lot of smart people who watch Family Guy. The reality is that smart people who get a Benjamin Disraeli joke actually like fart jokes, too, and in other circles probably wouldn’t admit it. But it’s funny sometimes. It’s funny to hear someone fart.”
The classy trash factor has led to a bonanza in DVD box set sales. Family Guy: Volume 1 (which is comprised of seasons one and two) and Family Guy: Volume 2 (which is season three) are already in stores and selling millions. Volume 3 (the 2005 revived season, which launched May 1) is set for DVD release on Nov. 29.
The new DVD, Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, is a single DVD with the feature-length Stewie movie plus a group commentary headed up by creator Seth MacFarlane, as well as a risque “bonus uncensored audio track” and other less significant extras.
The writers get away with more extreme situations and saltier language than in the regular show. But even on the regular Family Guy, they push the limits.
“Look,” says Sheridan, “you get away with a lot in animation. Stewie does horrible, horrible things but he’s really cute and so you get away with it.
“On the DVD, he kills (I’m censoring this to avoid playing the spoiler). Yet he’s a baby. He’s screaming. He’s cussing. But, you put a pacifier in his mouth and he suckles himself to sleep. And I think that’s the beauty of that character, because he can be a monster and yet he’s still a little baby and you’ve got to love him!”