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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

‘Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today!’: Fifteen years of ‘Phineas and Ferb’

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There’s 104 days of summer vacation, and it’s been 5,488 days since the official debut of the first episode of “Phineas and Ferb” on Disney Channel. As a lifelong fan of the series, it is my pleasure to bring you through the show’s development, what came after it ended and what the show means to me.  

The show

The show was created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, two animators both with impressive backgrounds, ranging from “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.” Despite this, the duo had a hard time pitching “Phineas and Ferb,” with studios worrying that the episodes’ plots would be “too complex.” The duo started their work on the show’s pitch in 1993; it wasn’t until 2007 that the Walt Disney Company picked up the show for an 11-minute pilot after turning down their initial pitch.

The episode centered on the titular characters building a giant rollercoaster for themselves and their friends. It saw a North American “sneak preview,” airing immediately after the premiere of “High School Musical 2” on Aug. 17, 2007. The pilot was a smashing success with viewers, leading to a two-season order. The first “official” episode, “Flop Starz,” debuted on Feb. 1, 2008 and gave the world the hit-song “Gitchee Gitchee Goo.” It’s better than it sounds.

I could go on to explain the show’s typical plot, but it’s really simple. The kids build something, their sister tries to tell their mother, their pet platypus foils the plans of an evil scientist and the episode ends with all the plotlines converging into one resolution. Like I said, simple. The show stayed close to these plotlines nearly every episode, but its formula was more of a blueprint for the show to build off of in various ways. The episodes became a showcase of creativity from the writers, seeing how they could bring the stories in new directions.

One of the show’s greatest strengths was its running gags. While catchphrases like “Ferb, I know what we’re gonna do today” and “curse you, Perry the Platypus” are instantly recognizable, I feel the most memorable recurring element of the show is the ridiculously tragic backstory of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Some highlights include: the fact that his parents did not show up for his birth; he was adopted by wild ocelots; and that his best friend was a balloon he won and drew a face on named Ballooney, who would go on to haunt his adult life. 

Additionally, a notable element of the show was that nearly every episode had an original song written for it. After so many episodes and so many songs, it’s hard to remember them all, but my favorites remain “Big Honkin’ Hole in My Heart,” “Ain’t Got Rhythm” and “When We Didn’t Get Along,” the last a ballad mourning the dissolution of Perry and Doofenshmirtz's antagonistic relationship.

What happened next

The show ended in June 2015, but that was far from the last we’d see of “Phineas and Ferb.” The first return was in a one-off episode titled “The O.W.C.A Files,” centering on Doofenshmirtz joining Perry’s spy agency, the Organization Without a Cool Acronym. The episode was intended to lead into a spin-off show, but nothing came of these plans.

In October 2016, Povenmire and Marsh’s second show with Disney debuted, “Milo Murphy’s Law.” The show started with subtle references to “Phineas and Ferb,” such as the show taking place in the same general setting and characters referencing events of the preceding series. Eventually — and allegedly due to waning interest in the show — Perry and Doofenshmirtz eventually became main characters in its second season, followed by guest appearances from the other central cast of “Phineas and Ferb.” This was followed by a movie produced for Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, titled “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe.” 

On Jan. 13, 2023, about half a month before the show’s 15th anniversary, Povenmire announced “Phineas and Ferb” would be producing 40 new episodes on Disney+, with many cast members from the original series and film returning for the revival. Details haven’t been revealed since then, but that was enough for me. We were getting more “Phineas and Ferb,” and that brings us to my last point. 

What it means to me

I’ve been a fan of the show for as long as I can remember. I had “Phineas and Ferb”-themed birthday parties, I dressed as Dr. Doofenshmirtz for Halloween once, and I can recall almost every episode with a decent degree of accuracy. The show has clearly left a deep impression, and when days get rough and I need a break, it’s always been a comfort show for me that could lift my spirits.

But the show means more to me than that. The show was also something me and my older brothers could all sit down and watch together, or even something my whole family could watch. When I think of the time I’d spend watching TV with my family, this is the show that I think of. I still quote the show to this day, and the other week, my friends and I sang through the theme song together at the dining hall. 

As ridiculous as it is to say, the show also taught me a lot of things that I’m sure I would have learned eventually, but likely wouldn’t have stuck with me as much as they have. For example, do you know what the plastic tip at the end of a shoelace is called? It’s called an “aglet,” and if you knew that, did you learn that from “Phineas and Ferb?” Because I did. I learned what an “aglet” is, that a platypus is an egg-laying mammal, the difference between bratwurst and hot dogs, the benefits of the chemical zinc and that “the enemy of the platypus is man.” 

The show means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to many other people, as well. With the 40 new episodes coming out in the future, I hope that the new generation and old fans alike tune in, meeting “Phineas and Ferb” for either the first or hundredth time. I know I will.