Old Friends

Phineas and Ferb Creators Reveal How The Show Got a Second Life With Disney

Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh look back — and foward — on their most famous creation.

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PHINEAS AND FERB - "Rollercoaster The Musical!" - In this musical, Phineas and Ferb revisit the day ...
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It’s been well over a hundred and four days since Phineas and Ferb had new episodes, but Disney’s animated hit is about to return after nearly a decade away. Fans are as excited as Candace catching her brothers in the act, but unlike their sister’s failed attempts to bust them, this outcome is nothing but positive.

Back at New York Comic-Con 2023 in October, Fatherly caught up with Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, creators of Phineas and Ferb, Milo Murphy’s Law, and Hamster & Gretel, to get a sense of how their first series received a second chance at life with Disney.

“When [Disney] came back to it, I could detect there was like a tentative nature to it,” Marsh remarked with a sly smile. “They weren't sure we were going to say yes, and I'm like, of course! We love these characters, why would we not?”

Marsh and Povenmire won’t be using a reboot-inator on the show about a pair of inventive brothers and their friends who spend their time off from school getting into unusual antics (while their pet Platypus battles Dr. Doofenshmirtz in a 007 style). The revival will be a continuation, possibly taking place the following summer of its predecessor. Their plan is to keep the spirit of the original alive, expanding on it without reinventing the wheel.

“We thought we had [run out of ideas] until we got into the writer's room,” Povenmire explained. “We were like, ‘Is this whole month in the writer's room going to be us saying ‘Simpsons did it,’ except it'll be like Phineas and Ferb did it. But, we missed these guys, so it's fun to get back in.”

As Povenmire and Marsh labored away with their writing crew, they discovered there was plenty more Summer fun to tell, new Doofenshmirtz Evil Inc. inventions to be made, and more escapades for Buford and Baljeet to stumble into.

In a way, Phineas and Ferb never really went away. While the animated series concluded in 2015, it returned for Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe in 2020, and a crossover with Milo Murphy's Law in 2019. Their popularity skyrocketed during 2020 lockdowns, which saw a massive uptick in streaming as many chose to binge all four seasons as their comfort show. Combined with these elements and the sporadic Doofenshmirtz cameo during Disney channel interstitials, these characters took an extended summer vacation while waiting for the right time to return.

Dan Povenmire with his daughter Meli, the voice of Gretel in Hamster & Gretel, as photographed during SDCC 2022

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Summer Belongs To You

Povenmire’s current hit show with Marsh has been Hamster & Gretel, an animated series starring a superpowered nine-year-old girl and her equally unstoppable talking hamster as they battle villains with the aid of her brother, and do their best to hide their secret identities from their friends and parents. The show recently announced they were renewed for a second season, with plans to premiere more episodes in 2024. One element that makes this show different from their other shows is the lead performer for Gretel is Dan’s daughter, Meli. While Dan was reluctant at first, he quickly realized he found exactly what he was looking for to bring his newest show to life.

“It's weird because it wasn't something that I really wanted, and my wife and I had actually talked about not wanting our kids to go into acting, if at all possible. I was just putting together a presentation piece like we did for Phineas and Ferb, and I was doing all the voices. And I was like, ‘Oh, I've got a little girl here. I should see if she could do it for me.’ So, she came in and read it, and she just got the humor right away because she grew up with me as her dad. She would just nail it every time.”

Dan doesn’t find it challenging to work with kids and was impressed with how fast Meli latched onto performing. Meli’s long-term aspirations may not include being in front of a camera, but Dan is enjoying every moment spent with his daughter, bringing the things he loves into one space.

“Meli doesn't even really want to be an actor. She's very good at it, but she wants to be an engineer or a vet. [Acting] is not her ambition. She’s just able to nail the humor. We record most of her stuff just from my home office. We get together and record on the weekends, and it’s just so much fun.”

Phineas and Ferb are back with their buddies for more summer fun

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Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day

Among the many perks of having a highly successful Disney animated series is seeing it come to life in their numerous theme parks. Several years earlier, Povenmire & Marsh helped put together a Phineas and Ferb dance party for Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim. Time passed, and the duo completely forgot it existed, until one fateful day when Dan, Jeff, and their respective families took a trip there – a moment Dan described as possibly the best thing that’s ever happened in his life.

“I'm there with my wife and kids, and we're hanging out and suddenly, I go wait a minute. I think there's a Phineas and Ferb dance party thing. I went and asked a park employee, and they're like, oh yeah, it's right over there and it takes place in ten minutes.

“My wife was like, honey, what is this? And I said, dude, just wait, just wait. The music started and my daughters were like, ‘Dad, can you hear that? It's the Phineas and Ferb theme!’ And they came and did this big whole thing, and they were singing all these songs that we wrote in a little office in the Frank G. Wells building two years earlier. Me and my wife just held each other and cried the entire time. And I was like, I'm glad everybody's looking at them because if they look at us, they're going to think we're having some weird psychotic breakdown.”

Jeff had a similar experience watching the dance party unfold, a memory that still gives him goosebumps to this day. “To me, the thing about that was, watching all the kids. They knew all the routines. They would jump in and do the dances along with the dancers. That was just, wow! For a kid who grew up in Southern California at Disneyland- I mean, my Grandfather used to play there! To think something we created was a part of that kind of integration into the park was just… yeah. It's cool. As cool as I dreamed it could have ever been.”

Phineas and Ferb and all of Povenmire & Marsh’s shows are streaming on Disney+.

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