Origin Stories: How Seth MacFarlane Went from a Student Film to 'Family Guy'

Origin Stories: How Seth MacFarlane Went from a Student Film to 'Family Guy'

May 28, 2014

Origin Stories is a new feature here at Movies.com that takes a look back at how a star became, well, a star. This week's focus is A Million Ways to Die in the West actor-writer-director Seth MacFarlane.


Love or hate Seth MacFarlane's brand of humor, you have to at least admire the man for being consistent. For example, take a look at one of his earliest pieces of animation, The Life of Larry, about a schluby husband, his wise-cracking dog, and his prodding wife making pop-culture jokes while living their middle-class lives.

MacFarlane created The Life of Larry in 1995 as his senior thesis film while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. It helped land him a job at legendary animation house Hanna-Barbera, where he bounced around from show to show, working on series like Johnny Bravo and Dexter's Laboratory. While working at Hanna-Barbera, he also freelanced for Walt Disney Television Animation, where he focused on writing for the short-lived Ace Ventura: Pet Detective TV show. During this time he also took a stab at writing a potential show for Nickelodeon called Zoomates, though that never went beyond the first short, which aired in 1998 (the laugh track for an animated show probably didn't help).

In 1996, MacFarlane struck out on his own to make a sequel to The Life of Larry called Larry & Steve, which wound up world premiering on Cartoon Network in its What a Cartoon! programming block. The producers of MADtv were impressed by the short and wanted it to join their show in the way The Simpsons began on the Tracey Ullman show. That never happened, but some other suits at Fox took notice and hired MacFarlane to create a seven-minute pilot for a show called Family Guy based on those characters. It was picked up in 1998 and began airing on January 31, 1999. The rest is history.

Even if you've only ever seen half an episode of the insanely popular (and profitable) show while flipping through the channels, you can immediately see how Peter Griffin and his snarky dog Brian truly never left MacFarlane's college-aged imagination. What's also amusing about this The Life of Larry clip is that MacFarlane has written himself into it, showing that the actor-writer-director-producer was eager to go in front of cameras long before he had a live-action career.

 

The Life of Larry (1995)
Written, directed, animated and voiced by Seth MacFarlane

Zoomates (1996)
Written by Seth MacFarlane

Larry and Steve (1998)
Written, directed, animated and voiced by Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy pilot (1998)
Written, directed and voiced by Seth MacFarlane

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