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Why Family Guy Has Stayed Popular, According To A Disney Boss

Animation mainstay "Family Guy" has experienced an interesting run. Three seasons in, the series was canceled and thought to be forever lost. Instead, "Family Guy" came back from the dead to become a consistent success for Fox. The network for episode premieres isn't the only one to benefit from this satirical sitcom. Cable and streaming have further propelled its appeal (via TNR).

Much of its success can be attributed to strong comedic writing and character development. Sometimes satirical, sometimes absurd, and always on the edge, this animated series knows how to push boundaries. Set in Quahog, Rhode Island, "Family Guy" follows Peter Griffin as well as his family and friends. Many of the main characters have even made their way into pop culture over time; from the acerbic wit of baby Stewie to the oversexed Quagmire, there's a good chance that even people who don't watch the series know the fictional town's inhabitants. While some of the attention has been good, other times have seen "Family Guy" under fire for certain controversial episodes.

With over 400 episodes in its catalog, everyone involved with the animated sitcom thinks they know why "Family Guy" remains popular — that includes a Disney boss who is sharing her own thoughts on the success.

Success comes from several elements

Dana Walden has been a part of the "Family Guy" story since its debut. The chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content took time out of the series' 400th episode celebration last year to talk about what it's been like working with creator Seth MacFarlane.

First and foremost, she addressed why she thinks the series has remained a part of pop culture as it continues a two-decade-long run. For her, it comes down to Seth MacFarlane. "Seth has remained an incredibly curious person — he really thinks about the different dynamics that exist in culture," Walden told Variety. She also singled out the work of co-showrunners Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin.

It's only natural to see the series compared to The Simpsons in terms of longevity and storytelling. Walden talked about how few shows can give the latter such a timeless quality; a big reason why that works for the exec is an unchanging set of characters who never age or alter their appearance. Even though that aspect may remain unaltered, they consistently take on topics that are relevant, if not exactly breaking news.

In the same interview with Variety, Appel revealed that it's a guessing game as to what will still be important to audiences over a year. According to the co-showrunner, the production cycle runs about 12 to 14 months. "We have to think about something that entered a zeitgeist [and hope that] in a year, not only will it still be relevant, but we'll have [what feels like] a fresh take on it."