Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted hit theaters more than two years ago, but a production company is still peeved about the comedy film’s similarity to an earlier web series. Bengal Mangle Productions has sued the Family Guy creator over Ted‘s apparent likeness to Charlie The Abusive Teddy Bear, a foul-mouthed stuffed animal they created four years before the release of Ted.
The facts of the suit are fairly straightforward: Bengal Mangle created Charlie as a character in their web series Acting School Academy, and he latest received his own self-titled spin-off. Like Ted, Charlie is verbally abusive, chain-smoking alcoholic who hangs out on a couch, cracks dirty jokes, and holds an affinity for prostitutes. The suit, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, claims that Ted “is strikingly similar to plaintiffs’ Charlie character,” and it claims unspecified damages for alleged copyright infringement.
I’m no legal expert, but the connections between Ted and Charlie seem circumstantial at best. The suit also cites “similar postings” on Ted and Charlie’s respective social media profiles, but the tweets presented by Deadline seem only superficially related; there are few specific passages that are phrased the same way. While some episodes of Acting School Academy did garner significant view counts, it also seems unlikely that MacFarlane, between all of his projects, would have had time to trawl the depths of YouTube in search of inspiration.
There’s also a more fundamental problem with Bengal Mangle’s decision to sue. I don’t find Charlie The Abusive Teddy Bear funny, and judging from the series’ like-to-dislike ratio, I’m not alone. There are plenty of people out there (including some very influential figures) who still characterize web content as cheap, low-rent, and/or amateur, despite the best efforts of hard-working online video creators who wish to change that stereotype. The highly public nature of Bengal Mangle’s lawsuit, when combined with the questionable quality of their work, gives web series detractors more fuel for their arguments.
For that reason, it would be best for the online video community if this lawsuit passed quickly and without much fanfare. Given MacFarlane’s deep pockets (his net worth is estimated at a whopping $150 million), a pretrial settlement is not out of the question.