Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Fox

This article in the Toronto Star tells the story of comedian Brian Froud and writers Daniel and Steven Shehori, who created a play called Swiss Family Guy Robinson, a re-imagining of Swiss Family Robinson starring the cast of the Fox TV series Family Guy. The play was a hit at the Toronto Fringe Festival and also enjoyed a run at the Diesel Playhouse and the college circuit.

The three contacted Andrew Goldberg, Seth McFarlane's assistant, seeking approval for the show. Goldberg told them that he didn't have the legal authority to even mention it to McFarlane until Fox approved it. The three then contacted Fox's legal department which refused permission for them to do the show. Fox did not request a copy of the script or a video of the play. They did not attempt to negotiate a royalty. They just said no.

Ironies abound here. For one thing, there is a version of MacBeth called MacHomer using the cast of The Simpsons. Fox has allowed the performance of that play, which has toured 130 cities. For another thing, one of Family Guy's standard laugh-getters is parodying other pop culture. One of the latest examples of this is the wholesale rip-off of the sequence in Anchor's Aweigh where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse. Family Guy shamelessly rotoscoped animation by Ken Muse and Ray Patterson, pasting the character of Stewie over top of Jerry.

So here's a case where Fox says no to the kind of thing they've approved in the past while at the same time doing what they won't allow others to do. Besides turning down income, they're preventing exposure for Seth McFarlane's show and encouraging creative people to avoid working with Fox. Who's the genius who made this decision?

6 comments:

Michael Sporn said...

Great post. You're on top of it again.

Anonymous said...

The genius who made this decision? It's most likely the same people who normally make bad decisions, Nobody and Everybody.

The makers of the small play went to the assistant, who directed them to this department, and that person, who went to this executive, and so on and so forth. Note that not once did this path lead to Seth Macfarlane. So, in the midst of all this frustration, a good idea goes unheard.

Steve Schnier said...

It always pays to deal with the highest person on the food chain. "No" is the easy and safe answer.

JenDT said...

Brian Froud has set up an online petition against the Fox decision - you can sign it here:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/swissfamilyguy/

Mark Mayerson said...

Jen, how are you? Still with CCI?

Thanks for the info on the petition. I've signed it, for what it's worth.

Brian said...

Thanks again for the support Mark.
We now have a clip of the show up at http://www.swissfamilyguy.com, as well as an interview that I did for Entertainment Tonight Canada.
Your signature is worth a lot to us!
Cheers.
Bri.