Toonzone Interviews "Phineas & Ferb" Co-Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh
The year 2007 saw the debut of the hit Disney Channel animated series, Phineas and Ferb. In the past five years the show has become a global juggernaut, beloved to children and families around the world. Phineas and Ferb is about two boys who seek to make every day of summer the best they possibly can by coming up with new and creative things to do while their agitated sister tries to bust them. Their platypus pet is also actually a secret agent for a super spy organization constantly at odds with the mad scientist Heinz Doofenshmirtz. The creators behind the show are Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh who also give voice to two of the major characters of the show, with Povenmire providing the voice for Heinz Doofenshmirtz and Marsh voicing Major Monogram, Perry’s mustachioed boss and head of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym).
Toonzone News recently got the chance to speak with the creators for an exclusive interview to discuss the series and what’s next:
TOONZONE NEWS: What a run and incredible show you guys have had for the last few years. You’ve done a tremendous job with this show. I think really the next logical step would have to be a theatrical movie. What is going on there?
DAN POVENMIRE: We’re working on that as we speak. We’ve gotten through a first draft and we’re in the second draft now.
TZN: What would you think would be the idea behind the movie? How about the boys find out about Perry and don’t get their memories wiped this time?
*They both laugh.*
JEFF MARSH: Well you know, it’s funny you bring that up. I’ve been saying one of the things about making a feature film for an ongoing series is there are a whole lot of unique challenges. There are a whole lot of areas that you can’t go because at the end of it, you continue making the series. So . . .
DAN POVENMIRE: So whatever it is, we have to get it back to a point where we can continue to make episodes.
JEFF MARSH: And hopefully not do it in a cheap and cheesy way. So . . .
DAN POVENMIRE: We’ve gone through a couple stories we really like and we’re now settled on one we really love. So we’re happy with the progress.
TZN: Phineas and Ferb is very funny, but it’s also always about kids getting up and outside and learning and also being creative. How important was that when you created the show, to be both funny, hilarious, and to have lots of slapstick but to also have a positive message?
DAN POVENMIRE: Well, we wanted it to be sort of a celebration of creativity, but one of the decisions we made early on was that we felt like most of the kids shows we were watching at the time were full of mean, mean kids. We felt like it might be nice to make a kinder and gentler show and see if we could still make it edgy. None of the characters are really, genuinely mean, even Doofenshmirtz. He’s just trying to be an evil scientist, but he’s not really an evil guy. He’s just sort of a sad and pathetic guy who wants attention. So we’ve gone on this “standing on the fence” bit of the kids can do all these things, but they can’t think that they would get in trouble for it. They can’t think that they would be willingly disobeying their mom. Their mom can’t tell them not to do something and then they go ahead and do it. What mom says is, “You guys stay out of trouble,” and they’re like, “OK!” Never having gotten into trouble, they don’t have any frame of reference for that. And Candace is not trying to hurt the boys, she’s going for fairness. She feels like if she did these things, she’d get in trouble. She just wants Mom to see it.
JEFF MARSH: And you know, we’re parents now. So a lot of it was saying we really want to create something that we think is fun and edgy that we’re completely comfortable having our kids and hopefully will come away with a positive message that isn’t done in a really preachy, kind of beat-you-over-the-head with it way.
TZN: Most of the things Phineas and Ferb do are really kind of cool. Wouldn’t their Mom like what they are doing and be impressed by it except that one time where Candace did bust them without using a time machine?
DAN POVENMIRE: She’s busted them a couple of times. We’ve always reset it back to nothing. She’s even gotten busted before where she’s gotten the boys to build something and then Mom comes out and sees it, “What are you guys doing?” And she’s like, “No! No! That’s not fair! How do you only see this?!” But I think we decided early on it didn’t have to be something Mom would be upset about for her to want to bust them, but it had to be big enough that it would lend credence to all the other things.
JEFF MARSH: It would validate all of Candace’s rantings.
DAN POVENMIRE: Right. Like them becoming pop stars for the day is not something that would get them into trouble, but if Mom sees that she would realize that Candace was telling the truth about the rollercoaster and the giant robots and all the other things.
DAN POVENMIRE: I drew Phineas on like a butcher paper table cloth in 1993 and really liked it. I took it home and I drew Ferb and Perry and Doofenshmirtz that night and we sort of created the show around them. But we both wanted to do a show that had some sort of action element so we could have fun action scenes, because we feel like there is a lot of humor to be had out of action if you do it right.
TZN: Isn’t it true platypuses can actually be quite dangerous and poisonous if you touch them?
DAN POVENMIRE: They are. Platypuses are one of the few venomous mammals. They have a poisonous barb.
JEFF MARSH: Yes.
DAN POVENMIRE: It’s like a dewclaw on their ankle.
TZN: So it’s probably not a good idea to keep them domestically as pets, right?
DAN POVENMIRE: No. For one it’s illegal, and two it’s virtually impossible to get them out of Australia or New Zealand.
JEFF MARSH: One of the advantages of having Perry as a pet is that kids wouldn’t all race to the pet store and get one.
DAN POVENMIRE: A lot of Dalmatians ended up in rescues after 101 Dalmatians.
JEFF MARSH: And Chihuahuas.
DAN POVENMIRE: And Chihuahuas, so that’s a plus for us.
TZN: I think my favorite song that comes from the show is “Squirrels In My Pants.”
DAN POVENMIRE: Oh, thank you very much.
DAN POVENMIRE: Well you know, when we did “Squirrels In My Pants,” we thought this is one song that could not possibly have a life outside of the show because it’s about squirrels in somebody’s pants.
JEFF MARSH: It’s so silly and so specific.
DAN POVENMIRE: So specific to that episode and then it turns out that the NBA used it for some dunking montages that they showed on their dyna-divisions and different things. And I was like, “Really?!” And then I was listening to the words and it was like, “Well, I guess it’s got *Sings* Step right over and watch me put it down!” And I was like, “OK. That sort of works.” It’s like *Sings* “Tell me what’s making me jump like that!” And it’s like, “OK. I guess it does.”
JEFF MARSH: In hindsight it makes lots of sense. When we wrote it, it certainly did not.
DAN POVENMIRE: That was the silliest writing session we ever did because we just wanted to do like a hip-hop song about squirrels in somebody’s pants.
JEFF MARSH: We just got out a rhyming dictionary and started rhyming every one.
DAN POVENMIRE: It was like the most ridiculous things.
JEFF MARSH: It leads to “How do I qualify for government grants.” And “Got an Aunt Florence living in France.”
DAN POVENMIRE: It was just like let’s try and figure out how many rhymes for pants we can come up with that are really silly.
TZN: I’m really curious, Dan, about Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Is there a real Heinz Doofenshmirtz or is that basically you? What’s the story behind Heinz Doofenshmirtz?
DAN POVENMIRE: Well, my sisters always laugh at Doofenshmirtz because to them, it sounds exactly like me. Apparently, that’s the voice that I used to use when we were kids and playing and whenever I was the bad guy, *In Doofenshmirtz voice* “I would talk like this!” I didn’t even remember doing that, but they both laugh and say, “Yes! That’s the voice you would use all the time” when I was a kid. So apparently, Doofenshmirtz apparently is my alter-ego from when I was a kid.
DAN POVENMIRE: None of that actually came from my childhood. The back story wasn’t even part of the original concept for him. The back story started in the “Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror.” That was Chris Headrick and Jon Barry pitching us this back story for why he would want to destroy the lawn gnomes and we just laughed until we were crying. And suddenly that became, “OK, we should find out why he does the ridiculous things that he does.”
JEFF MARSH: It was such an outlandish back story that it was really easy to say, “You know what? It doesn’t really matter if any of his back stories really make sense or really have a timeline.” It’s OK that we don’t know whether or not these are in his own imagination or really real.
DAN POVENMIRE: Yes, very fun.
TZN: Are you saying all those aren’t real?
JEFF MARSH: We don’t know. And we like to make sure we write them in a way that feels real and that always has that quality that this could all be in Doofenshmirtz’s head, for all we know.
TZN: I believe everything Doofenshmirtz says is 100% real and the truth in animation and in real life. There you go.
JEFF MARSH: Thank you.
DAN POVENMIRE: Thank you.
TZN: Jeff would you talk at all about basing your voice of Major Monogram on Walter Cronkite?
JEFF MARSH: Absolutely. When I grew up, Walter Cronkite was the voice of America, the most trusted man, and when I thought of someone who would lead a super secret spy organization, he needed that kind of gravitas and trustworthiness. And I always thought Walter Cronkite was a cool dude.
TZN: Do you have any hints or tidbits of some upcoming episodes?
DAN POVENMIRE: We have a fun episode coming up where Doofenshmirtz and Perry get lost in the desert and the entire episode is them trying to get back. It’s all sort of about them and their relationship and how frustrating it can be. We literally only see Phineas and Ferb at the very beginning, like in the first thirty seconds, and the last thirty seconds at the very end. The rest of the time, it’s just Doofenshmirtz and Perry on the road. It’s called “Road to Danville” and that’s a fun episode coming up.
DAN POVENMIRE: We’ve got a cliffhanger. The end of the third season is a cliffhanger with Perry disappearing at the end of the first half hour in July.
JEFF MARSH: And then in August you’ll get to see what happens.
DAN POVENMIRE: You’ll get to see what actually happened to him.
TZN: And when do you think we might see the movie?
DAN POVENMIRE: The movie, well who knows? At this point I think 2013 sometime. There’s a date that we may or may not make.
JEFF MARSH: Yup. All we know is that we’re keeping our head down trying to write the best film we can. So we’ll get it done as soon we can and see when that is.
DAN POVENMIRE: Yeah.
Thank you to Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Dan Povenmire for taking the time to speak with us. Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files is due out on DVD on June 5, 2012.