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'Family Guy' Pays Back DVD Biz

20 Jun, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Seth MacFarlane said he's “very excited” about the long-awaited direct-to-DVD “Family Guy” feature he's now preparing for a Sept. 27 release by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“It's been an enormous undertaking, to juggle this with doing 35 new episodes of the show, but we think it turned out great,” MacFarlane said of the film, his first-ever full-length feature.

The 83-minute, unrated Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story ($29.98) is based on the animated “Family Guy” series MacFarlane created for Fox Television in the late 1990s. The irreverent series, aimed at adults rather than kids, went on the air in early 1999 and was canceled in 2002, only to be resurrected last month due to overwhelming demand for the show on DVD.

The first DVD set sold more than 2.5 million units, the second-highest sales tally of any TV DVD release save the first season of “Chappelle's Show,” and two subsequent packages lifted the franchise's total sales to an estimated 4.5 million units.

That prompted Fox to take the unprecedented step of bringing the show back on the air. The new season debuted in early May and has since featured a bevy of guest voice talent, including Drew Barrymore, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Tilly and the original “Batman,” Adam West.

Family Guy Presents is something of a “thank you” to the shows' fans who bought so many DVDs, MacFarlane said. “Fox had such a great amount of success with the previous DVD releases that I think they felt there was a built-in, surefire market for a ‘Family Guy' DVD,” he said. “It's also a lot easier to put out a DVD release than it is a theatrical film while you're doing a television series.”

Family Guy Presents finds Stewie, the maniacal baby genius, having a near-death experience that prompts him to change his ways. Instead of seeking to dominate the world, he sets out on a road trip to find his real dad.

Guest vocal talent includes Barrymore and Ron Livingston, as well as three cast members from “Beverly Hills 90210” — Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling — “in a special gag,” MacFarlane said.

The DVD will include several special features, such as deleted scenes, still galleries, animatics and a commentary MacFarlane plans on taping this week.

“We also sandwiched special features around the movie,” he said. “It begins with an animated movie premiere, with the family arriving to watch it, and then there's an after-party at the end.”

Fox plans the biggest marketing campaign ever for a TV-spawned release, according to division worldwide president Mike Dunn. The release is a big deal for Fox, Dunn said. “It's the first direct-to-video ever made off a TV franchise,” he noted.

Fans of “Family Guy” “have really gotten into the habit of buying it on DVD, and this is a prime opportunity to give it to them directly,” added Fox SVP of marketing communications Steve Feldstein.

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