Did Seth MacFarlane plagiarize Imagine This?

Tall Tale Radio podcaster Tom Racine noticed several similarities between scenes in the trailer for Seth MacFarlane’s new movie Ted and Lucas Turnbloom’s webcomic Imagine This. Tom created a side-by-side comparison of some of the images from the trailer with Imagine This. You can see some similarities.

Click for larger view

But the question boils down to whether Seth “borrowed” some of the concepts from the webcomic.

Rob Tornoe asked Lucas who says he’s not going to press the issue.

“Many cartoonists, myself included, hope that their strips might someday be developed into a movie or a TV show,” he said. “I guess ‘Ted’ proves I was right to believe that my strip had cinematic potential.”

There is no evidence that MacFarlane was influenced by “Imagine This,” and the cartoon world (and Hollywood, for that matter) is replete with stories about stolen jokes, reworked gags, and outright theft of ideas, all of which are extremely difficult to prove. Turnbloom himself isn’t pressing the issue or accusing MacFarlane of stealing his work.

Imagine This has been running on GoComics.com since 2009.

Ted stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Seth who plays title character.

39 thoughts on “Did Seth MacFarlane plagiarize Imagine This?

  1. Not having seen the movie or knowing how MacFarlane came up with the idea, its hard to say. Imagine This is a great comic! If it ever did become an animated movie or television series, I would definitely watch!

  2. The Avengers is a complete rip off of my strip Charmy’s Army!!!! I was going to sue until I realized that the Avengers had been around longer than my strip and I was the one ripping them off…. So I changed my characters to ants and changed the Green one’s catch phrase from “Bulk Smash” to ” Bulk Smashed” and had them all hang out at a bar….

    Sorry about that comment. I need sleep.

  3. I think it would be a different story if Lucas had pitched IMAGINE THIS to Fuzzy Door prior to TED coming out. Then there would be a connection. Otherwise, it’s really tough to prove that it isn’t just a coincidence they both had the same idea. It really does happen all of the time.

    There was this guy some years back you had a web comic strip with a kid who kept a squid on a leash. He accused me of plagiarism on some chat board somewhere. I honestly had never heard of his strip or seen it, but truth be told, the concept of a boy keeping a pet squid is not so incredibly original that two people couldn’t think of it. Like I said, it does happen.

  4. In addition to a film pitch, the other connection would be tracing an IP address to the film’s creators. Lucas may have never pitched the idea, but someone may have still researched his feature.

    Did McFarlane storyboard the film too? The story artist(s) may be the ones to blame for plagiarism — if this is indeed true.

    While the idea of a grown man and his teddy bear could be considered a dime a dozen, what’s worth considering here are the odd coincidences beyond the basic concept. Out of all the potential story situations, why these?

  5. I’m inclined to answer “yes”. With the caveat you need to see the movie to make the call.

    But if TED in fact plagiarizes CLOVIS, goes on to do big box office, tie-ins, becomes a franchise and Lucas Turnbloom continues to draw IMAGINE THIS, it’s not inconceivable that Seth McFarlan lawyers send him a cease&desist.

    And to head off any false accusations, I have a trademarked character who has a plate of calamari on a leash.

  6. My suspicious nature remains suspicious, but I do remember one of the syndicate acquisition editors (a long time ago) giving an example of a strip idea that they couldn’t use of a teddy bear who came to life. It was too close to Calvin.

    If it’s any consolation, I love Imagine This but have never managed to sit through a MacFarlane show.

  7. The Toys Coming to Life concept has been a staple of popular fantasy for a long time…Raggedy Ann & Andy, the “Dooley’s World” strip from the 70’s, Calvin & Hobbes, “Toy Story”, there must be dozens of other examples. The idea of a kid’s toy teddy bear coming to life, well, that goes back to Winnie the Pooh. Anyway, MacFarlane made his millions with a sophmoric knock-off of The Simpsons, so he’s pretty good at re-purposing other people’s ideas and burnishing them with his own brand of potty-brained vulgarity.

  8. total ripoff. No one else could have thought of that night shot of the side of the building–that’s totally original. And a boy hugging a teddy bear?? No one else could have come up with that!!!

    Total. Complete. Theft.

  9. Now that look into this, WOW!!!! I wish Seth would steal MY strip too!!!!! I’d be rich!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, like any of us would win a case against THAT much money… lol………

    Seriously, it is such a simple concept really. I say Co-incy-dense….

  10. It’s Movie review Friday, opening night and it’s this simple: Lucas, read the reviews, go to the movie and tell us if the main character (TED) is yours. You’re the only one who can make the call. If it’s not your idea, say so. My guess is you leave the theatre more pissed than entertained.

  11. Lucas: Mike’s suggestion is good but I think you should go to a huge multiplex, see The Avengers or something first and then sneak into Ted afterwards. Don’t pay for that crap.

  12. George Harrison was sued for plagiarism over one his
    biggist hits, and lost. And the case wasn’t as blatant
    as it appears to be with Macfarlane and these two comic strips
    and his movie and show.

    If someone can sue a Beatle and win, I wouldn’t shy away from
    taking on a slug when the alleged theft seems
    pretty obvious.

    This is why UClick has copyright attorneys

  13. I don’t know… I’ve been in the position of pitching an idea to an editor/publisher/producer-type only to be told they already had that exact same idea in production. And son of a gun, weeks or months later there it was, with eerie specific similarities. If I hadn’t known it was impossible, I would have sworn in court they’d stolen it from me. Happened at least three times I can recall.

    Another example: in 2005, I met a great cartoonist named Frank Cammuso who created a comic book series titled “Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective.” In the years since, there’ve been dozens of comics, TV programs and films sharing Frank’s idea of bringing fairy tale characters into real life. Some even borrowed his twist of doing it like a Dash Hammett film noir. I always felt for Frank–“that should’ve been him”–but did all those people really steal from him? Did the idea pre-date Frank (probably–I remember Walt Kelly doing something like it with “Pogo”)? Or was there just something in the zietgeist that everybody including Frank tapped into? Does it matter?

    Lesson for me: ideas are surprisingly common, even really weird ones. If you can’t prove they actually read your material, or cite significant line-by-line copying (not just a single situation or punchline), it’s a tough row to hoe, and bad for your blood pressure. My thinking is that an idea is a lot less important and precious than its execution.

    My 2 cents.

  14. Has anyone noticed that this movie is being released by “Universal Pictures”? I just noticed that while checking my Sherpa/GoComics account this morning. “Ted” ran across the web page and spray painted his name on the screen. What exactly is the relationship between Universal UClick and Universal Pictures? Does anyone know?

  15. When exactly do our plagiarism laws apply to comic strips? I’m just asking.

  16. I think if anyone thought about a story involving an adult with his best friend being an animated teddy bear that they would come up with the same gags. Eating cereal on the couch, the pouncing and having the bear be a drunk? I think we’re leaning towards Trope Territory, why not say he’s ripping off Calvin and Hobbes or Alf they have similar characters as well.

  17. Reading the Reuters’ story Mike linked to I came across this gem:

    “Ted” set a record as the highest-grossing opening weekend for an original, non-sequel R-rated comedy in North America, topping 2009’s “The Hangover,” which debuted just under $50 million.

    Putting aside the word “original,” doesn’t it seem ridiculous to be able to claim highest grossing movie if you qualify it to absurdity?

    “Ted” set a record as the highest-grossing opening weekend for a movie characterized as may-or-may-not-be-original, non-sequel, R-rated, comedy, featuring a teddy bear, released after a Venus transit across the sun, but before the predicted Mayan end of the world, starring Mark Wahlberg. In North America.

  18. @ Alan
    ” ?Ted? set a record as the highest-grossing opening weekend for a movie characterized as may-or-may-not-be-original, non-sequel, R-rated, comedy, featuring a teddy bear, released after a Venus transit across the sun, but before the predicted Mayan end of the world, starring Mark Wahlberg. In North America.” Ha,ha,ha! Outrageous

  19. I just saw Men In Black 3 last weekend… awesome film… but that time machine that J uses looks a little bit like Cassie’s. Kinda makes me wonder if one of the script writers (or prop designers) is a regular reader of my comic. But I’m not gonna raise a stink about it. 🙂

  20. Before we move on: A.O. Scott of The New York Times believes some overgrown spoiled brat in Tinseltown is phoning it in. “The sin of ‘Ted’ is not that it is offensive but that it is boring, lazy and wildly unoriginal.?


  21. I recently saw Ted being promoted on GoComics, the same site that hosts Imagine This.

  22. Here’s the thing to consider about throwing the whole “plagiarism card” at someone who has the same ideas as another person.

    U.S Copyright law states:

    “Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.”

    I know someone on deviantArt who has stolen an idea from me THAT I know for a fact. SHe and her girlfriend had done so.

    They know me, knew an old friend who was bitter and read hers and my emails to these plagiarists. I had my idea in one of these emails and they lifted it from there.

    HOWEVER, these people claiming MacFarlane Ripped them off is just ridiculous.

    They do not OWN these ideas.

    They do not own the idea of a talking bear nor
    the concept of the bear being disgusting, lewd, perverse, and a drinker.

    Even IF these people have proof, it still wouldn’t matter.

    I have to come to terms with this disgusting artist stealing my idea and passing it off as hers and her friend’s own idea and calling ME a plagiarist when I have CLEAR PROOF that SHE and her girlfriend STOLE MY idea.

    I don’t doubt that Seth stole ideas instead of it being coincental. I mean, Stewie Griffin VS Jimmy Corrigan, those two are pretty similar.

    Like my plagiarizing, and hateful friend Atomikamikaze on deviantArt, I can’t say I trust Seth when he said, the similarities of Stewie looking like Jimmy was surprising for him. He went on to say that he maybe saw the comic before.

    The characters are way too similar and their motives are also very similar.

    That to say, even IF we come up with a TRULY ORIGINAL idea, it can’t be copyrighted.

    And yeah, I have to say that sucks. I’ve come to terms with Deanna (AKA Atomikamikaze@deviantArt) with this, and have accepted it even with the evidence in my hands.

    It’s best not to pursue it.

    An idea or concept cannot be protected. But I really didn’t like it when she called me a plagiarist on my profile when really she and her girlfriend are the true plagiarists.

    But, C’est la vie!

    Word to the wise: don’t tell ANYONE your original ideas in an email or in person or they might think that idea is pretty cool and steal it. And then, when you use that idea, they call YOU a PLAGIARIST.

    P.S. any of you guys on deviantArt run into this Atomikamikaze person or her girlfriend Zerosen2, I’d STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM EITHER ONE OF THEM.

    Piss them off just an eency weency bit, and they’ll try to make your life hell for you.

    *KOFF!* Genbe89! *KOFF!* AKA Andrew Mallin!

    With that being said, plagiarism is pretty sad. When people plagiarize, it just shows the lack of imagination these people have and therefore, they need to rip-off other people’s work.

    Did Seth MacFarlane plagiarize Turnbloom? I honestly don’t think so. The smart-mouth lewd misanthrope Teddy bear/stuffed animal has been around for a long time.

    Calvin and Hobbes kind of comes to mind, though talking Hobbes was only in Calvin’s imagination. and seriously, some other disgruntled drinking talking Teddy bears are probably out there. It’s a common concept.

    P.S. Why won’t they make a live action CGI Calvin and Hobbes already? Hell, I’d love to see that more than this movie! This movie just looks like its going to be flat-humored and dull. :/


  23. @Laluna If your “idea” is anything like your disjointed rant, it probably wasn’t much of an idea.

    Also — clicking “LALUNA” takes me to a phishing site warning.

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  25. Seth Mcfarlane plagiarises everything. I bet if someone could stand to watch any of his rubbish and analyse the content they would find most of the so-called humor is stolen from many other shows movies and comics. Has the viewing public become that stupid they can’t see blatant theft? Now the moron has three shows and a pathetic movie. Grow up planet earth.

  26. #38 Holomookie smith, is 100% correct. I *so* do NOT want to call $eth out for his obvious plagiarism as I think he is a … well deep-down somewhere a decent guy, and a talented one – and I see a lot of me w/him. (no, not saying I am talented, but a ton of the same writings and interests – however, being a Simpsons fan, and a movie nut, and a writer, and a fair soul-filled person, it is easy to see and call him out on his b.s. which sadly the dim kids of today just can’t fathom. (See also: “the worst witch” to “harry potter”. Seth and his friends have ripped off the simpsons so much it has become fox news. Do you understand that? That means, they know they will get caught, so they go even further to make it look like (place bad acting here) “gee that is odd, you’d think we’re TRYING to get caught!” Seth does not just rip off scenarios from the simpsons, he takes word for word dialogue, shot for shot, same animal in the joke, same ‘let’s hide-out at this farm house’ hick jokes, on and on and on and on. And like fox new$, wins the dim folk who just can’t see the forest thru the trees. (See also: “the killing” taking everything from ‘twin peaks’). It is so SAD that so many slow kids are typing on this page and others and youtube comments with genius comebacks of, “Well, so what.?” Ungh. no soul, no penis, no brain, no backbone. Just a hoody and there mouth left hanging open, “Wait, whuuuut….?” “Ted”? See “Hop” (Russell brand did voice) and “imagine this” cartoon strip. “Family Guy”? See ‘The Simpsons’, every other piece of American pop culture and tons of jokes/ideas taken from blogs & forums. “American Dad” – (same). “Cleveland Show” (thank you Mike Henry for saving it). Now he is tied into the new version of “Cosmos” simply because he has a TON of money. ‘family guy’ alone was just re-signed for 100 million $. (this does not include toys, all naming rights, back-end, etc…). We should have seen this during the very 1st opening sequence (song part) for family guy when seths name flashes in lights (soft fade-in) not once as the biggest view, but 3 x. Simpsons: Carl & Lenny driving straight at each other whilst talking to each other on their cell phones, not realizing that the other car is the 1 they are talking to. They tell their friend on the phone about ‘this guy’, his driving, etc… they crash – and think nothing of it. (See also: Family copying every single bit of this)> Seth, care to weigh-in on these?

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