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Phineas and Ferb (also known as Disney's Phineas and Ferb) is an American animated television series. Originally broadcast as a preview on August 17, 2007 on Disney Channel, the series follows two suburban stepbrothers on summer vacation. Each day the pair devise ambitious, involved plans and inventions to stave off boredom, often bringing them into conflict with their snoopy sister, Candace. The series follows a standard plot system; running gags occur every episode, and the B-Plot almost always features the boys' pet platypus acting as a secret agent to fight an evil scientist named Heinz Doofenshmirtz. The two plots intersect at the end to erase all traces of the boys' project just before Candace can show it to their mother.

Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh worked together on the Nickelodeon series Rocko's Modern Life. Phineas and Ferb was conceived after Povenmire sketched a triangular boy — the blueprint for the titular Phineas — in a restaurant. Povenmire and Marsh developed the series concept together and pitched to networks for 16 years before securing a run on Disney Channel.

The series is also known for its musical numbers, which have appeared in every episode since the first-season "Flop Starz". Disney's managers particularly enjoyed the episode's song, "Gitchee, Gitchee Goo", and requested that a song appear in each subsequent episode. The show's creators write and record each number, and vary musical tempo depending on each song's dramatic use. The music has gotten the series two Emmy nods for songwriting in 2008.

Plot and humor

The show follows the adventures of stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher, who live in the town of Danville and are determined to pursue an active summer vacation and defeat boredom. Their sister, Candace, is obsessed with "busting" their schemes and ideas, and usually calls their mother to report the boys' activities. The boys' pet platypus, Perry, meanwhile, acts as a secret agent for an all-animal government organization called the "O.W.C.A." (Organization Without a Cool Acronym), fighting the evil Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz.

Much of the series' humor relies on running gags used in every episode with slight variation. For example, several episodes feature an adult asking Phineas if he is too young to be performing some complex activity, to which he responds "Yes, yes I am." Perry and Doofenshmirtz's confrontations generally lead to the destruction or disappearance of whatever Phineas and Ferb are constructing or taking part in that day. Other running gags include catchphrases, such as Phineas' line "Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today!" and Doofenshmirtz's "Curse you, Perry the Platypus!"

Aspects of the show's humor are aimed at adults, including its frequent pop-cultural references. Co-creator Dan Povenmire, having previously written for Family Guy, sought to create a show less raunchy but with the same use of comic timing, employing humorous blank stares, expressionless faces and clever wording. Povenmire describes the show as a combination of Family Guy and SpongeBob SquarePants. Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, the other co-creator, said the show was not created just for kids, but simply did not exclude them as an audience.

Characters

A platypus was included in the series due to its interesting appearance.
The series' main characters live in a blended family, a premise the creators considered underused in children's programming and which reflected Marsh's own upbringing. Marsh considers explaining the family background "not important to the kids' lives. They are a great blended family and that's all we need to know." The choice of a platypus as the boys' pet was similarly inspired by media underuse, as well as to exploit its striking appearance. The platypus also gives them freedom to "make stuff up" since "no one knows very much about [them]."

The creators sought to distinguish the show by characterizing its cast as fun-loving, not spiteful or cruel. Marsh called the characters "cool, edgy and clever without [...] being mean-spirited." According to Povenmire, their animation director, Rob Hughes, agreed: "in all the other shows every character is either stupid or a jerk, but there are no stupid characters or jerks in this one."

Music

Phineas and Ferb follows structural conventions Povenmire and Marsh developed while writing Rocko's Modern Life, whereby each episode features "a song or a musical number, plus a big action/chase scene". Both creators had musical backgrounds, as Povenmire performed rock'n'roll in his college years and Marsh's grandfather was the bandleader Les Brown.

The creators' original pitch to Disney emphasized Perry's signature "secret agent theme" and the song "Gitchee Gitchee Goo" from the episode "Flop Starz". Disney's managers enjoyed the songs and asked Povenmire and Marsh to write one for each episode.

The songs span many genres, from 16th-century madrigals to Broadwaymarker show tunes. Each is written in an intensive session during episode production: a concept, score, and lyrics are developed quite quickly. Together, Marsh and Povenmire can "write a song about almost anything" and in only one hour at most. After they finish writing the song, Povenmire and Marsh sing it over the answering machine of series composer Danny Jacob on Friday nights. By the following Monday the song is fully produced.

The title sequence music, performed by American band Bowling for Soup, was nominated for an Emmy award in 2008. The creators originally wrote a slower number, more like a "classic Disney song", but the network felt changes were needed to appeal to modern children and commissioned a rock/alternative version which made the final cut.

A season 2 clip show broadcast in October 2009 focused on the music of Phineas and Ferb, featuring a viewer-voted top-10 of songs from the series.

Origins

Early inspirations

Co-creator Dan Povenmire attributes the show's genesis to growing up in Mobile, Alabamamarker, where his mother told him never to waste a day of summer. To occupy himself Povenmire undertook projects like hole-digging and home movie-making. Povenmire recalled, "My mom let me drape black material all the way across one end of our living room to use as a space field. I would hang little models of spaceships for these little movies I made with a Super 8 camera." He was an artistic prodigy and displayed his very detailed drawings at art shows. Meanwhile, Marsh grew up in a large, blended family. As with Povenmire, Marsh spent his summers exploring and taking part in several different activities in order to have fun.

Conception

When Povenmire grew up, he went to the University of Southern Californiamarker and started a daily comic strip called Life is a Fish, getting money from the merchandise that was designed based on his series. Povenmire eventually dropped out and started drawing people on street corners to make a living, until he was finally called by Tommy Chong to work on a short bit of animation in the film Far Out Man. Povenmire began to take up animation professionally, working on shows such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Marsh had become a vice president of sales and marketing for a computer company, until he "freaked out" and decided to quit. His friend helped him put together a portfolio and go into the animation business.

Povenmire and Marsh eventually started working across from each other as layout artists on The Simpsons. The two bonded over mutual tastes in humor and music, becoming fast friends. They continued their working relationship as a writing team on the Nickelodeon series Rocko's Modern Life, where they conceived the idea for their own series Whilst eating dinner at a Wild Thyme restaurant in South Pasadena, Californiamarker, Povenmire drew a quick sketch of a "triangle kid" on butcher paper. He tore it out and called Marsh that night to report, "Hey, I think we have our show."

The triangle doodle sparked rapid development of characters and designs. Povenmire decided that his sketch "looked like a Phineas", and named Ferb after a friend who "owns more tools than anyone in the world." The creators based their character designs on angular shapes in homage to the famous Looney Tunes animator/director Tex Avery, adding geometric shapes to the backgrounds for continuity.

Pitching and pickup

Their early attempts to pitch the show failed and, though they remained committed to the concept, Povenmire and Marsh began to drift apart after their work on Rocko's. Marsh moved to Londonmarker and worked on shows including Postman Pat and Bounty Hamster. Povenmire began working on the primetime FOX show Family Guy, always carrying a Phineas and Ferb portfolio for convenient pitching to networks like Cartoon Network and Fox Kids. These networks passed on the show, believing the series' premise was too complex to succeed.

Povenmire persisted and later pitched the series to Nickelodeon, where it was considered by high-level executives but rejected again as too complicated. Then, after 16 years of trying, Povenmire landed a pitch with Disney. The network did not immediately accept the show, but told Povenmire they would keep the packet. Povenmire assumed this meant an end to negotiations, aware that the phrase usually "means they throw it in the trash later." Disney then surprised him by accepting. Said Povenmire, "Disney was the first to say, 'Let's see if you can do it in 11 minutes.' We did it in the pilot and they said, 'Let's see if you can do it for 26 episodes.'"

Povenmire worried that his work on Family Guy — an adult show known for its lowbrow humor — would concern Disney, which markets primarily to children. However, the Disney Channel's Senior Vice President of Original Series, Adam Bonnett, was a Family Guy fan who appreciated Povenmire's connection to the show and received his pitch well.

In 2006, after the Disney Channel accepted the show, Povenmire and Marsh turned their attention to the company's overseas executives. Instead of a normal script, the two drew out storyboards and played them in a reel. Povenmire voiced over the reel with his dialogue and added sound effects. This novel approach secured the executives' support.

Production

Writing style

The show uses four major writers to devise story ideas according to "strict guidelines", such as that the boys' schemes never appear to be "magical". Stories are reviewed at weekly sessions on a Monday, then simultaneously scripted and storyboarded. A very rough design is built before the storyboard, featuring little more than suggested scenes and dialogue, is drafted; the writers then gather for a "play-by-play" walkthrough of the storyboard in front of the whole crew, whose reactions to the jokes are assessed before rewrites are made. The writers as well include running gags in every episode, which are generally lines spoken by characters. Almost every episode is set into two eleven-minute segments.

Visual aspects and animation

Rough Draft Studios in South Koreamarker and Wang Film Productions In Taiwanmarker animate the series in traditional 2-D. Povenmire undertakes the bulk of production direction, along with Zac Moncrief and Robert Hughes. The series adopts artistic features from animator Tex Avery, such as geometric shapes integrated into characters, objects, and backgrounds. Dan Povenmire said of this inclusion, "There's a little bit of Tex Avery in there — he had that very graphic style [in his later cartoons]." Triangles are featured as an easter egg in the background of every episode, sometimes in trees or buildings.

Bright colors are also a prominent element of the animation. Marsh elaborates, "The idea at the end of the day was candy. One of the things that I think works so well is that the characters are so bright and candy-colored and our backgrounds are a much more realistic depiction of the world: the soft green of the grass, the natural woods for the fence. In order for all of the stuff that they do to work, their world needs to be grounded in reality." The designers sought to keep their characters visually simple, so that kids "would easily be able to draw [them] themselves." Characters were also crafted to be recognizable from a distance, a technique the creators say is based on Matt Groening's goal of making characters recognizable by silhouette.

Cast

Phineas and Ferb are voiced by Vincent Martella and Thomas Sangster, respectively. Sangster was one of many British actors cast; Marsh lived in the United Kingdommarker for seven years, and developed a fondness for its people. The rest of the cast includes Ashley Tisdale as the sister, Candace, Dee Bradley Baker as the secret agent platypus, Perry, and Caroline Rhea as the mother, Linda. The co-creators also voice two regular characters, Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Major Monogram.

The show's casting organization is responsible for selecting most of the voice actors and actresses, choosing actors such as Vincent Martella and Mitchel Musso for major roles based on perceived popularity with target demographics. Povenmire and Marsh select guest stars, casting people that they "really want to work with". They also solicit guest roles from actors they feel would lend an interesting presence to the show.

Guest stars have included pop culture figures like Damian Lewis and film star Cloris Leachman. Povenmire and Marsh have also solicited several stars of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to make guest appearances, including Richard O'Brien, Tim Curry, and Barry Bostwick. O'Brien's participation eventually became regular, as he was cast to play Lawrence Fletcher, the boys' father, who appears in a majority of episodes.

Main cast members
Vincent Martella Thomas Sangster Ashley Tisdale Dee Bradley Baker Dan Povenmire
Phineas Flynn Ferb Fletcher Candace Flynn Perry the Platypus, others... Dr. Doofenshmirtz, others...
170px-Jeff_"Swampy"_Marsh.jpg" style='width:170px' alt="" />
Alyson Stoner Caroline Rhea Richard O'Brien Mitchel Musso Jeff "Swampy" Marsh
Isabella Garcia-Shapiro Linda Flynn, Grandma Betty-Jo, Loraine Lawrence Fletcher Jeremy Johnson Major Monogram


Reception and achievements

Reviews

Phineas and Ferb has received generally very positive reviews. The New York Times commented favorably, describing the show as "Family Guy with an espionage subplot and a big dose of magical realism". It considered the pop-culture references ubiquitous "but [placed] with such skill that it seems smart, not cheap." Whitney Matheson wrote in her USA Today blog "Pop Candy" that the series was an achievement in children's programming. Matheson applauded the writing and called it "an animated version of Parker Lewis Can't Lose." Emily Ashby of Common Sense Media praised the show's humor and plot, giving it three out of five stars. The Seattle Times wrote that the story of the show was "valiant" and that the main characters of Phineas and Ferb were "young heroes".

Variety noted the show's appeal to all ages with its "sense of wit and irreverence." Similar reviews have emphasized the series' popularity with adults; Elastic Pop's Rebecca Wright wrote, in a review for the volume one DVD, "As an adult, I really enjoyed watching this Phineas and Ferb DVD, and I think it is one that the whole family can enjoy." Wright also called the series' "irreverent style" reminiscent of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Wired's Matt Blum has stated in reviews on the series that he "can stand to watch just about anything with [his] kids, but [he] actually look[s] forward to watching Phineas and Ferb with them."

Among the negative reviews is one that charges the series with a lack of originality. Maxie Zeus of Toon Zone argued that the show is "derivative, but obviously so, and shorn of even the best features of what has been stolen." Zeus took issue with the writing, feeling that certain jokes and conventions were "ripped-off" from other shows. Kevin McDonough of Sun Coast Today criticized the show for its plot complexity, constant action, and "characters [that] can do just about anything." McDonough stated that "it's never clear whether P&F are intended to entertain children or are merely a reflection of grown-up animators engaged in a juvenile lark." Marylin Moss of The Hollywood Reporter described Phineas and Ferb as "Pretty mindless but kids of all ages might find a humorous moment in it." Moss called the plot lines redundant but did praise the music styles and guest stars.

Ratings

The first episode, "Rollercoaster," garnered a total of 10.8 million viewers when aired as a preview on August 17, 2007. When Phineas and Ferb officially debuted in February the next year, it proved cable's number one watched animated series premiere by "tweens". Throughout the first quarter that followed, it peaked as the top-rated animated series for ages 6–10 and 9-14, also becoming number three animated series for all of cable television for viewers age 6-10. By the time the commissioning of the second season was announced in May 2008, the series had become a top-rated program in the 6-11 and 9-14 age groups.

The Disney Channel's airing of "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" was the show's second most watched telecast, peaking at 3.7 million viewers. Episodes "Perry Lays an Egg/Gaming the System" on the Disney Channel achieved the most views by ages 6–11 and 9-14 of any channel in that night's time slot. This achievement propelled the series to the number one animated telecast that week for the target demographics. On June 7, 2009, Disney announced that the show had become the number one primetime animated television show for the demographics 6-10 and 9-14.

Marketing and merchandise

Disney has licensed a number of products from the show, including plush toys of characters Perry, Ferb, and Phineas. Disney released several T-shirts for the show and launched a "Make your own T-shirt" program on its Disney website. Authors have novelized several episodes. Two season one DVDs, entitled The Fast and the Phineas and The Daze of Summer, have been released; the discs include episodes never broadcast in America. Some reviewers were displeased that the discs covered selected episodes rather than providing box sets of whole series, but noted that Disney does not generally release full-season DVD sets.

In 2009 Disney licensed a Nintendo DS game, simply titled Phineas and Ferb. The game's story follows the title characters as they try to build a roller coaster to alleviate boredom over the summer. The player controls Phineas, Ferb, and occasionally Agent P. Phineas scavenges for spare parts for the roller coaster while Ferb fixes various objects around town, gaining access to new areas as a result. Ferb can also construct new parts of the roller coaster and its vehicle-themed carts. Each activity features a short mini-game. The game was well received and garners a 76.67% on GameRankings. Povenmire and Marsh have announced that there is a Phineas and Ferb Wii game in development.

Homages

The United Kingdommarker Disney Channel has aired a series entitled Oscar and Michael's Phineas and Ferb Fan Club Show in homage to the animated series. The show features two boys who attempt to be like Phineas and Ferb by taking part in adventures to alleviate boredom. The series aims at educating children and promoting activity and creativity. It entered its second season on April 10, 2009.

Phineas and Ferb also has been briefly referenced in a few literary works in recent years. Love through the Eyes of an Idiot: A True Story of Finding the Secret of Love and Romance uses an analysis that states that a woman the author met was the "Phineas to [his] Ferb." Lost and Found: How Churches Are Connecting to Young Adults uses the titular characters of the show as an example of television characters who have an impact to the lives of children and the family they live with.

Awards and nominations

Awards Outcome
2009 British Academy Children's Awards
Best TV TBA
2009 Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Special Class - Short-format Animated Programs Nominated
2009 Pulcinella Awards:
Special Mention — Best Flash Animation Won
2009 Pulcinella Awards:
Best TV Series for Kids Won
2009 Annie Awards:
Best Animated Television Program Nominated
2009 Kids Choice Awards:
Favorite Cartoon Nominated
2008 British Academy Children's Awards
Best International Nominated
2008 Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music (for "Today Is Gonna Be a Great Day") Nominated
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (for "I Ain't Got Rhythm" from the episode "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together!") Nominated


1. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced that they would not present the award to either nominee in the category.


References

  1. {{cite web|url=http://www.animationinsider.net/article.php?articleID=1725|title=Phineas, Ferb and Springtime Fun|work=Animation Insider|author=Bynum, Aaron H.|date=May 9, 2009}|accessdate=2009-08-26}}


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