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The Forgotten Mandy Patinkin Sci-Fi Classic That Inspired Seth MacFarlane's Ted

The 2012 film "Ted" has, as is typical for a Seth MacFarlane project, a wide and somewhat esoteric frame of reference behind it. A raunchy, R-rated spin on the idea of a childhood toy coming to life, MacFarlane packs his film with references to everything from "Airplane!" to the surprisingly prominently featured 1980 "Flash Gordon" feature film. The creator of "Family Guy" recently revealed yet another bygone classic that served as an inspiration for "Ted," and it's not likely to be one that you'd expect — if you're even familiar with the movie at all.

"Ted" stars Mark Wahlberg as thirtysomething slacker John Bennett and MacFarlane himself gives voice to the sentient teddy bear Ted, who's sort of a cross between Teddy Ruxpin, Peter Griffin, and maybe a pinch of Fozzie Bear. And when crafting the world of the film, MacFarlane took inspiration from a certain movie starring Mandy Patinkin that has nothing at all to do with teddy bears or magical childhood friends.

MacFarlane says he was inspired by Alien Nation when dreaming up Ted

The film is "Alien Nation," the 1988 science-fiction thriller starring Mandy Patinkin and James Caan as two mismatched police detectives, one of whom happens to be an alien from outer space. The movie takes place several years after the epoch-defining introduction of a race of extraterrestrials into human society. The aliens are not invaders, but refugees, and they enter into an uneasy relationship with the human population, some of whom are more sensitive to their situation than others.

What does any of this have to do with Seth MacFarlane's stoner comedy "Ted"? Not much on the surface. But in a GQ interview where Seth MacFarlane discussed some of the most noteworthy characters he's played throughout his career, he cites "Alien Nation" as having a key influence on the creation of "Ted."

"There was a movie called 'Alien Nation' with Mandy Patinkin," recalls MacFarlane. "It actually took place five years after the aliens had invaded ... that was oddly an influence when it came to 'Ted.' It's like, okay, we all know the magical fairy tale story of the thing that comes to life, what's the story that takes place 30 years later?"

So it seems that, while the subject matter is quite different, MacFarlane was inspired by the setup for "Alien Nation" and how it plays on the audience's familiarity with that sort of movie trope. Like the narrative of "Alien Nation," "Ted" doesn't dwell on the magic of its sentient teddy bear, instead dropping viewers into a story that takes place long after the characters in the world have accepted it as part of their reality.