GeekDad Interviews Phineas and Ferb Creators Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Dan, Swampy and Agent PDan, Swampy and Agent P

Dan Povenmire, Agent P, and Swampy Marsh (L to R). Photo: Disney XD.

As the 104 days of summer vacation start to dwindle into the hot and lazy dog days, our favorite creative and inventive pair of stepbrothers, Phineas and Ferb, have a couple of summer spectacular events on the way to put a little bounce in your house before the kids head back to school.

First off, as we wrote about a few days ago, is an hour-long episode called “Summer Belongs To You!” which debuted at Comic-Con this past weekend. You’ll be able to see it on Disney XD beginning on August 2 and on the Disney Channel beginning August 6. The episode features an original duet from Chaka Khan and Clay Aiken and follows the stepbrothers on their quest to get the most out of the longest day of the year. Music from the episode can be heard all this week on Radio Disney.

Next, on August 16, is an episode called “Nerds of a Feather,” featuring Seth MacFarlane and Kevin Smith. In this episode, Phineas and Ferb will go to their local science fiction and comic book convention, where they are swept into a duel between fantasy fans and sci-fi geeks. (I think I just lived this in San Diego last week.) The episode will follow on the Disney Channel at the end of the month.

When I was at Comic-Con last week, I was lucky enough to sit down with Phineas and Ferb‘s co-creators, Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, to talk about the show.

GeekDad: Phineas and Ferb has a huge appeal, attracting both young and older viewers – why do you think so many older viewers are attracted to a Disney kids’ show?

Dan Povenmire: A lot of kids’ shows today are geared toward one age group and we just try to make the show funny for ourselves. We have a childish enough sense of humor that the stuff works for the kids …

Swampy Marsh: … and deep down most parents do have a childish sense of humor …

DP: … we just try to make each other laugh. We just don’t put anything in that we wouldn’t want kids to see or hear.


GD: One of the things that’s unique about Phineas and Ferb is that these kids come from a non-traditional family. These days, we are seeing that we have more single parent, remarried and non-traditional families. Phineas and Ferb is unique in that these two are stepbrothers – we really don’t see that elsewhere. Why do you think that is and what’s the inspiration?

DP: Disney didn’t push back at all on the step-brother idea because I think half of their audience comes from blended families at this point. But in a way, that’s become the conventional family in a lot of ways in the United States. And we had meetings where we talked about whether we could say “divorced” because Doofenshmirtz is divorced and he gets to see his daughter every other weekend.

SM: And I’ve been through divorce six times – not me – but my mom. And I got a little incensed that anyone would shy away from that because it’s the reality. And if you don’t say it, it does stigmatize what kids’re going through. I remember, growing up, if I had have ever heard that there was some normal family represented in the media that was divorced I would have felt so relieved, because I spent most of my life walking around thinking “it’s just me”. So I believed this was something we really needed to fight for.

DP: And we hear it from kids all the time – who are going through divorce – that they like the fact that this family is kind of like their family.

GD: Where do you get the ideas for the different summer vacation projects?

DP: We think of ourselves as nine-year-old boys and think what would we do with our time if we were not hampered by reality or physics or fiscal needs of building because we always built tree houses and …

SM: … and a time machine that we are currently building in the backyard. We haven’t finished it yet because the cartoon takes up a lot of time …

GD: Can I borrow it when you get done?

DP: It turns out you already have borrowed it. And you returned it and it was spotless, so thank you.

GD: Speaking of the projects, is there anything that you wanted to do, but chose not to do because it might prove too dangerous to kids?

DP: There was something that took us a while to figure out: We kept pitching that we wanted to do a bull riding and rodeo-type thing and there’s a school of thought that it’s cruel to the animals so we just made them into robots. Another thing is that if we have them in cars, they have to have seat belts on, but they can fly around on a magic carpet, a thousand feet in the air just sitting there. We shy away from things that seem repeatable by children. We don’t want a kid to watch our show, go out and do something that hurts them, trying to do what we did on our show.

SM: It’s kept us from doing the bank robbery episode, which has been suggested to us many times by fans.

DP: We’re also not going to have them knock off a liquor store. We thought about it, just can’t come up with a way around it.

GD: You’ve been pretty fortunate to have a long list of people lend their voices to the show.

SM: We’re finding out we have more fans than we thought. We come up with a name we want to ask, we ask and they almost always say “yes,” which is great. We think the worst that can happen is they’ll say “no” and then we get a “yes” back and we think “Really – they said yes? Oh cool! Because we didn’t think they would!”

DP: Most people don’t know that Mitchel Musso was the original voice of Ferb in the pilot and then we decided to make Ferb British, but we liked Mitchel’s voice so much that we wrote Jeremy into the script more. Originally, Jeremy was just spoken of off-screen and he wasn’t going to be seen on-screen. But we changed that because we liked Mitchel’s voice so much.

GD: So, is there anyone on the list for voice-overs that you’ve wanted, but haven’t been able to get?

SM: We just recently started talking about whether or not we can get Christopher Walken, but there’s also things like getting Clay Aiken and Chaka Khan to sing a duet for the summer special. Since we’re both old music fans, we think “We got Chaka Khan – how cool is that?” We called her up and Chaka said yes.

DP: We wrote a song that would only be funny if Phineas and Ferb hired Clay Aiken and Chaka Kahn to be their stunt singers and we thought we had written ourselves into a corner because if we don’t get Chaka Kahn and Clay Aiken, we have to rewrite this bit of the episode, but luckily they both said yes.

Phineas and Ferb can be seen on Disney XD and the Disney Channel.

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