I am bonkers in love with Phineas and Ferb, and I don’t care who knows it. And here’s why you should be, too.
1) Kooky Premise, But it Works
Phineas and Ferb is this insane mishmash of three separate storylines that intersect and impact each another in unexpectedly funny ways. The two title characters are middle-American step brothers who are living Summer vacation to the fullest by building outlandish contraptions and projects every day. Most of these projects are joyously over-the-top, such as the massive Hawaiian beach they once created in their back yard, or the enormous paper mache airplane they built just to top the record set by the Spruce Goose. The 2nd storyline follows Candace, the boys’ older sister, who’s obsessed with trying to get her brothers in trouble by showing her mom what they’re up to. But they never get caught, because their project always disappears right before Candace can bust them. Which brings us to the third storyline: the family pet, Perry the Platypus, is a secret agent engaged in a daily battle against the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, a crazy inventor who wants to take over the city. Their wacky fights always have the side effect of making Phineas and Ferb’s projects vanish. All of this stuff gets juggled and jammed into an episode, and it somehow works.
2) It’s Intelligent
When was the last time you heard of a cartoon that was made for kids but was smart enough to entertain adults? There are precious few examples to point to, since most of today’s kids entertainment is homogenized until it’s been drained of all creativity. Phineas & Ferb makes me think of old school cartoons like Loony Tunes, when animators weren’t afraid to be politically incorrect or to include things like a goofy hunter looking for a rabbit to kill (and even singing a song about it). My wife and I have been watching since before we had kids — and now both of our kids are hooked too.
3) It Rocks (Literally)
Every eleven-minute episode of the show includes an original song, written and performed just for that episode. And the songs come from pretty much every musical genre known to mankind. Not only are they appropriate to the episode, they’re downright catchy, appealing just as much to adults as to kids (much like the show itself). All of the songs are written during flash creative sessions by series creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, who then send them off to series composer Danny Jacob for recording.
4) It’s Hysterical
Modern cartoons are scripted, but back in the day cartoonists plotted out their episodes using storyboards instead. It allowed for a more random, rapid-fire nature, with non-stop gags and plots, and an emphasis on visuals. Phineas and Ferb is storyboarded instead of scripted, and as a result, it’s just wildly funny. And you don’t have to be ashamed to admit you find it funny. [Image source.]
5) The Characters
The show’s roster includes more three-dimensionality than many live action dramas. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that, whether intentional or not, most of the relationships on the show were designed to poke fun at codependency. There’s Baljeet and Buford, the nerd and the bully who can’t seem to function without one another. Or Doofenshmirtz, the villain who secretly just wants to be best friends with his heroic nemesis. And of course Candace, whose life has no meaning unless she’s busting her brothers.
The voice acting is fabulous all around (recent guest casts have included everyone from Tina Fey to Kevin Smith), but extra credit must go to Ashley Tisdale. Yeah, I know, she’s that tightly-wound blonde girl from High School Musical. That’s a turn off for me, too. But watch Candace in action for thirty seconds and you’ll see how well she melts into the character. She’s made what could have been a one-note character laugh-out-loud funny and even sympathetic. Her comic timing is perfection, and she’s not afraid to let it all hang out with her voice work. She knocks it out of the park, every time. Tisdale is Phineas and Ferb‘s surprise MVP.
7) Agent P
He’s James Bond crossed with a novelty pet, and he’s a suave dynamo of action. He not only keeps Dr. D in check, but he also manages to look out for his owners (without them finding out about his secret job). Plus, you have to love any heroic mammal who gets his own theme song.
It’s not a slave to its own continuity, but Phineas and Ferb definitely remembers things that happened in prior episodes and references them frequently. It may seem like a small thing, but anytime a show refuses to hit the “reset” button and erase its characters’ memories of things that came before, it feels like the show’s creators actually care that their viewers have memories, too.
9) It’s Gloriously Self-Aware
The show is never smarter than when it pokes fun at itself or pop culture. A recent episode was a re-do of the show’s pilot — where the boys built the world’s biggest roller coaster — but this time as a musical. It was so gorged with inside jokes and winks at past episodes that it was nothing less than a love letter to the fans. The show also has a great sense of its unique place among geekdom. The show frequently drops pop culture references that kids will never get. There’s an annual panel for the show at Comic-Con, and not long ago, there was an extra long episode set at the show’s own version of Comic-Con, where an all out “geek war” broke out over which of two movie franchises was better.
10) It’s Never Been Hotter
Disney seems to have recently recognized the value of what they have with Phineas and Ferb, because they’ve begun investing in ways to expand the empire. A full-length TV movie is airing this August. There’s a nationwide tour over the Summer that involves a converted bus that’s been dubbed “Perry the Platy-bus.” There’s even plans in the works for a big screen movie that combines live action with animation.
There’s never been a better time to jump on the Phineas and Ferb bandwagon, so hop onboard! Its greatness defies description. And between the Disney Channel and Disney XD, there’s rarely a time when it’s not on.