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Alive & Kicking: “Ted” and “Doc McStuffins” are worlds apart but oddly very much the same! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:36
“Doc McStuffins” follows the imaginative adventures of a little girl who wants to grow up to be a doctor. In the meantime, he treats her stuffed animals and toys.
It’s hard to believe that Disney Junior and Seth MacFarlane have much in common, but “Ted” also involves a young boy’s wish to have a living teddy bear pal.
The reception to “Ted” was huge in Hollywood: big box office, great word of mouth, buzz for a sequel. Co-stars Ted the teddy bear and Mark Wahlberg appeared together at the Oscars.
“The Adventures of Johnny T. Bear” was written several decades ago, but this Jazz Age critter was one of the first stuffed toys to have a secret life of his own.
The toys that tie into Doc McStuffins have won many family-friendly awards and have garnered great parenting reviews.
The hippo, Hallie, is one of Dottie McStuffins’s closest friends and allies. The stuffed-toy version is hilarious. Hallie is one of the hardest-to-find bits of merchandise.
The aptly named stuffed animal Stuffy has a noble and kind look to him. His toy version is very popular with collectors.
The main character in “Ted” is the all-grown-up John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), who finds himself torn between two forces in his life: the uncivilized Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and his serious, no-nonsense girlfriend (Mila Kunis).
“Doc McStuffins” follows the imaginative adventures of a little girl who wants to grow up to be a doctor. In the meantime, he treats her stuffed animals and toys.
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The other night, we were watching the news and there was a heartbreaking story about a local fire that wiped out several houses on a block. As always, the film crews caught the scenes of flames shooting high into the air; firefighters standing and aiming high-powered hoses, attempting to extinguish the inferno; witnesses gathered around, trembling in the cold weather, watching half their neighborhood incinerate and become a memory.


One of the reporters asked a young girl, who was in the crowd, if she lived on the block. She said she did, but her house was spared. With a shy smile, she said, “My toys and dolls are safe.” As you can imagine, that statement really affected me. It also touched a spot in my daughter’s and son’s hearts. They began to talk about how devastated they’d be if their playthings were burned to the ground. Jane, who is now 8, declared, “I am going to make sure Lambie and Cat stay with me my entire life. I will never let anything happen to them.”


These two stuffed animals are Jane’s oldest and most treasured toys. It’s interesting to watch how she relates to them. On the one hand, she acknowledges that they are playthings—gifts that came to her in her babyhood. Conversely, she seems to envision them as her children—her offspring that she has been charged with protecting, nurturing, and loving. They are obviously stitched and sewed creations, but, for Jane, they have hearts, souls, and a purpose.


The idea of imaginary friends taking on the shapes and silhouettes of soft toys is not unique to Jane. In fact, one of the earliest books I can remember handling and thumbing through is “The Adventures of Johnny T. Bear.” There was an old, battered copy of that book languishing in my family’s basement. As a kid, I recall, I would find it and turn the pages, sounding out the travails and travels of a teddy bear that sprang to life. I’d be fibbing if I said I remembered Johnny’s encounters and the lessons he learned along the way—I really don’t—but I can completely channel the feeling of sitting with that book and wishing my stuffed critters and dolls would join me for conversations and discussions.


That childhood wish to have relationships with our dolls, bears, and toys is so encompassing that it’s the backbone of two very different 2012 hits. Both Disney Junior’s animated series “Doc McStuffins” and Seth “The Family Guy” MacFarlane’s raunchy movie “Ted” orbit that simple premise: we all want our toys to become alive and befriend us.


In the case of “Doc McStuffins,” the heroine, Dottie, wants to grow up to be a doctor. Armed with her toy medical kit, she hangs out a shingle for her business and proceeds to administer checkups to dolls, teddy bears, bunnies, and other stuffed toys. She is assisted by her loyal group of playmates, which are all soft toys—Lambie the lamb, Stuffy the dragon, Chilly the snowman, and Hallie the hippo. The series creator, Chris Nee, wisely compared this program to “the TV show ‘Cheers,’ but for preschoolers.” That’s very true because it’s the interplay amongst Dottie and her supportive, quirky pals that makes the show so endearing and touching. (Jane, who is now in second grade, has confided to me that she loves to watch this program—even though it’s for really little kids. “I just want to watch baby shows sometimes,” she confessed. “They remind me of when I was little.”)


“Ted,” which probably is one of the most “adult” comedies to arrive since “The Hangover,” also gravitates around that same subject: wishing for a toy to become a real-live confidant. In this MacFarlane script, a young boy hopes for a mohair miracle, and—lo and behold—his desire does come true. His one loyal friend—his teddy bear that he got as a Christmas gift—does become alive. But as the little John Bennett ages and becomes coarsened by life, so does Ted. While John grows up to be a regular guy (played by Mark Wahlberg), Ted remains a small, eminently huggable sidekick. However, despite his Care Bears physique, Ted is an out-of-control, unapologetic frat boy . . . and then some!


“Ted” had one of the biggest box-office results of the year (was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Song) and its creator, MacFarlane, hosted the Academy Awards this year. Co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Ted were co-presenters—a snazzy bit of special effects—and there is much talk about there being a sequel.


Much of the humor for this flick comes from the rather jarring notion of a teddy bear—such a symbol of childhood innocence and purity—doing such unwholesome things and spouting off such racy dialogue. But there are a lot of gross-out comedies that don’t gross anywhere near what “Ted” did. Despite its mature/immature scenes, wicked wordplay, and cringe-worthy sight gags, this movie probably owes a lot of its success to that primal desire that we all had as children—and maybe even have today.


In a world that can so often disappoint and is filled with many moments of despair, how nice it would be to have a friend that is ever loyal, ever present, and ever there. Though a chum like Ted might be a bit too hot to handle, I think Dottie McStuffins has a crew I’d enjoy spending an afternoon with.


Count me among her fans. I’m glad she has office hours and a sign that proudly proclaims, “The Doctor Is In.”