Why I love Phineas and Ferb.
Ahh those days of childhood summers. Back when it seemed like the days were endless and every creative fun opportunity you could think of awaited you in your own backyard. The creative genius of Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh have captured exactly that in their hit show Phineas and Ferb. The creators met while working on the Simpsons and went on to work on other animated shows such as Rocko’s Modern Life. The two enjoyed working together so much that they thought if they created their own show they could continue working together. So they came up with the concept back in the 90’s and it took about 16 years before a network would pick it up because the show was just too darn clever and complex. In 2007 Disney decided to give it a try and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular shows on that channel beating out :gasp: Hannah Montana. The New York Times has an article about this here.
|The boys build a time machine|
Well if you ask me the cleverness is exactly what makes the show great. Honestly this is probably my favorite show ever. Even Paste magazine seems to think it's a great show. The premise is creative, the characters are interesting and well developed, the humor is witty, clever and often self-referential. The show doesn’t assume a low intelligence level for it’s audience which is why it appeals to adults as well as children, since the humor is clever rather than crude and often contains references to pop culture that adults will enjoy and children will sometimes get. Every time I watch it I think things like: “Oh my gosh, I cannot believe they just referenced Edgar Allen Poe.” Phineas himself has said: “Have we learned nothing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?” As an English major this just makes me ecstatic. I don’t think there has been a cartoon this clever and referential since I don’t know when. Maybe Looney Tunes with their constant Steinbeck references or maybe even Animaniacs with their Shakespeare satires, but that’s the closest comparison you can get. Really there’s no other show like this out there. You won’t be able to find one. Trust me I’ve looked.
So exactly what is the premise of this wonderfully clever and great show and why are adult college students enjoying it just as much as the 6-11 year old target audience?
Well the show has three plots which intertwine by the end of the episode. Sound complicated? Networks in the 90’s thought so but the success of the show has proved them wrong.
|Phineas and Ferb working on plans.|
Stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb (voiced by Vincent Martella and Thomas Sangster, respectively) plan to make every day of their summer vacation the Best Day Ever. So each day they undertake a “Big Idea” where they build/invent/create something ridiculously impossible but extremely awesome be it traveling through time, the coolest roller coaster ever, flying a rocketship or creating a portal to mars.
|Candace and Jeremy|
Their teenage sister Candace (voiced by Ashley Tisdale) fills her summer giving in to her two basic obsessive impulses: the need to bust her brothers because she feels that if she was doing the same crazy things as them she would get in trouble. Her other obsession is crushing on the local boy next door, Jeremy Johnson. (Voiced by Mitchell Musso). She is pretty crazy bordering the obnoxious about both of these things but her need to bust her brothers is never fulfilled due to cartoon magic and the law of Wiley Coyote vs. Roadrunner. Every time she tries to show her mom her brother’s big schemes, the invention magically disappears and the two boys are just found sitting in the backyard under their tree along with their pet Platypus Perry, who they claim doesn’t do much. The stories change up a little each time but these basic elements remain the same which provides for endless humor that never gets old.
|Doofenshmirtz demonstrates LOVEMUFFIN|
Perry's nemesis: the evil Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. As his name would imply Doofenshmirtz is a bumbling villain. He creates diabolical “inators” to try and take over the tri-state area. Most of these are hilariously pathetic. Such as: the ugly-inator, the water evaporatinator, ball-gown-inator, the mime-inator (which would place all the mimes in the area into their own invisible box, yes “fun with irony”), and my personal favorite, the BO-AT (buoyancy operated aquatic transport, a mispronunciation of boat turned into an acronym). Sometimes Doofenshmirtz will come up with schemes, and involve other evil villains, such as L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N., or League of Villainous Evildoers Maniacally United For Frightening Investments In Naughtiness. This just reminds me of how my brothers and I would come up with strange acronyms for things to remember them or just for the fun of it. The creators of the show apparently enjoy that too.
Of course, fearless Agent P always defeats Doof, often causing the inator or invention to backfire, something to explode, etc. Which connects us back to Phineas and Ferb. Their big idea or project for the day often disappears or is destroyed as a result of Perry’s battle with Doofenshmirtz and always right before Candace tries to show her mom. Thus our three plotlines are seamlessly connected in an eleven minute time span. Brilliant? Yes, yes it is.
|Just like Beggar's Canyon back home. Episode: Out to Launch|
Which brings us to a closer look at the characters of the show. Even in a short cartoon, compelling characters are essential to making sure audiences keep tuning in for more. That’s why we love characters like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, they are developed characters.
|Phineas asks Isabella if she wants to help|
|Ferb works on the Coolest Coaster Ever.|
Ferb, his brother is the quiet handy, take action type. He is very tech-savvy when it comes to building their inventions. He says little only about one line per episode but when he does speak it’s often mind-blowingly funny and often full of wisdom far beyond his presumably about 10 years of age. Also since his Dad is British, he has a British accent which makes everything he has to say sound that much more amazing.
|The boys in a CSI Miami parody|
The relationship between the two brothers is refreshing. Often, especially on Disney shows, siblings are always fighting and irritated with each other. While I know siblings can sometimes disagree, a bickering household is not the kind that I grew up in, so it’s great that Phineas and Ferb are brothers and best friends. Even their sister Candace, who can be a bit ridiculous and obnoxious at times is capable of showing affection for her brothers, even being “seduced by the coolness” of their big ideas and participating in them.
|Isabella makes a heart chain, Phineas is clueless.|
Oftentimes during my childhood in the 90’s most girl characters on shows were there to fill the politically correct quota or have creepy crushes. This led me to dislike most female cartoon characters on the shows I watched back then. Isabella however is not like that at all. She’s a 9 or 10 year old little girl who likes pink, dresses, and unicorns but also is kind, caring and enjoys running of on Phineas and Ferb’s wild inventions and sometimes getting messy in the backyard. (And she's not sweet and nice all the time, she can be tough if you make her mad or get on her bad side). Now that’s what I remember being a little girl was like. And her crush on Phineas is cute and childlike. It’s not over the top tween drama like on most shows these days. The creators really capture the essence of that first crush on a childhood friend and keep it a small but sweet element of the show. Phineas is generally oblivious to the crush. Which is true to character since he is a 10 year old boy and he just seems oblivious to certain things in general because he is the distracted genius type. Plus it provides for some tension/humor on the show. Although her song “The City of Love” during a scene in Paris brought this to an almost painful saddening level. (The French film Mime gag was pretty clever).
There is even an episode told from Isabella’s point of view, which is pretty funny and cute and one of the more clever episodes of the show. Isabella and the Temple of Sap.
|Buford and Baljeet|
Other neighborhood friends are Baljeet, the super smart academic achievement oriented Indian-American boy, and the local bully Buford, who also has a goldfish named Biff ala Back to the Future. (References people. Ahhh references). These two serve the relationship of nerd and bully but at the same time are clever and unique departures from their respective stereotypes. In one episode, Baljeet becomes the lead singer in a punk rock bad and in another baffles over how to treat his childhood friend from India now that he realizes she is a girl. (This episode is one the creators like to call, the “Love Boat” episode. It’s called That Sinking Feeling, and is definitely one of my favorites). Buford himself has a soft side as is show by his love for his pet goldfish Biff, and even caring for and watching out for Baljeet at various times. He also has the ability to speak French fluently and quote Voltaire:
Buford: Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by the imagination.
Baljeet: Voltaire, Buford? Really?
Buford: Oh, I can't help it. Paris does it to me every time.
I can’t imagine characters with more depth and intrigue on a kids’ show.
|Linda attends a Mexican-Jewish Cultural Festival|
Even the boys parents are a refreshing albeit quirky departure from the norm. While the mom Linda, is a caring supportive mother with quirky interests like free form jazz bands and being a former one hit wonder in the 80’s called Lindana. Her song was called I’m Lindana and I want to have fun. (Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, really can this show get any better?)
|Lawrence takes the kids to the museum|
The Dad, Lawrence is an average guy. He enjoys watching history type stuff on T.V., collets antiques and often makes obscure historical references, enjoys doing crossword puzzles, sometimes forgets important days like anniversaries, all while having an awesome British accent. And is not made to look like an idiot. He is just cluelessly quirky like most of the cast of this show.
I could go on about all the rest of the characters: Stacy, Candace’s best friend, with her hilariously apt advice "Candace, this is a bad idea. About as bad as you've ever had in a long line of, and I love you when I say this, really, really bad ideas."
Major Monogram, the leader of O.W.C.A who gives Agent P his mission briefings and Carl the nerdy intern who has his own theme song, works the camera and knows what all those buttons do.
|Ferb meets Vanessa|
Then there is Vanessa, Dr. Doofenshmirtz's teenage daughter who looks like a Disney rebel skater girl dark haired Goth version of Kim Possible. In one episode, her clothes and Candace’s get switched at the dry cleaners, which is quite entertaining. Vanessa is a moody teenager who is usually disinterested in her father’s evil schemes, except when she is trying to convince her mother that he is evil much in the same manner Candace tries to convince her mother that her brothers create spectacular things in the backyard. Ferb interestingly enough has a crush on Vanessa. He first runs into her while getting blue prints at Blueprint Heaven. He mixes up the prints and the boys end up building a laser instead of building the ice cream sundae maker they intended to build. In response to how this happened, Ferb simply says: “I was weak.”
|Phineas and Ferb become one hit wonders in the episode: Flop Stars|
Another great aspect of this show is the songs. I hope this show is still on when I have kids because I totally would not mind driving around in a minivan playing the songs from this show. They are all pretty catchy and clever. The theme song for the show is done by Bowling for Soup which alone makes it great. My favorite song so far though is a tie between “Gitchi Gitchi Goo”, a song the boys write when they try and become one hit wonders, and “Summer Belongs to You” the song from the recent hour long special with the same name. This song is really catchy and just leaves you with a happy feeling inside, much like the episode in which it is featured. Clay Aiken and Chaka Khan also guest star in this episode for the song: “I Believe We Can.” The 80’s/90’s power pop spoof band “Love Handel” is another great creation of this show with lyrics like: “Like a ninja of love, repelling down from above, you snuck your way right into my heart.”
|Clay Aiken's guest apperance|
Sometimes they even include a short song in the credits or just before the credits that’s often a sight gag or reference to something mentioned in the show, sort of like a cold ending. The best ones are probably “Izzie’s got the Frizzies” and “There is no Candy in Me.”
I really love this show and it’s probably my favorite cartoon show ever. Phineas and Ferb show us that fun, creativity and making everyday count really is possible. Life is an adventure so get out there and make today the best day ever. "Hey Ferb! I know what we're gonna do todayy !!
MY SINCERE THANKS TO THE " ARTSY WRITER "