If you’ve ever seen an episode of Disney’s Phineas and Ferb series, you’re aware that the show is based in the summertime — heck, it’s even in the theme song. Last December, though, the show branched out into winter with Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation, and as we head into the winter holiday season once again the special is coming back — but this isn’t just a rerun.
The Christmas special by itself is a lot of fun, as I wrote about last year, and as evidenced by Peanuts and the Grinch, there’s nothing at all wrong with re-airing the same Christmas special every year. But this is 2010, and Phineas and Ferb is very much a 21st-century TV show. It’s spawned two Nintendo DS games, several music albums, and a very cool Father’s Day e-card maker. And now they’ve created something even cooler (pun intended) to go with the re-release of Christmas Vacation.
You and your kids can go online and take command of Phineas and Ferb’s “Winter Wonderland.” At first sight it looks like a fairly standard Flash game, but it has a very creative addition I haven’t seen elsewhere: it lets you tell the characters what to do by talking to them. All you need to do is hook up a microphone — the one in a webcam will do fine — and you can give them any of a list of fifteen simple commands (which are listed in the game, of course). It definitely seems (appropriately) to be programmed to listen for kids’ voices, so if, like me, you happen to have a very low speaking voice, you may find you have to raise your pitch a lot to get it to register. For people who don’t have a mic or have trouble with the voice interface, you can type the commands instead. I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I won’t describe the animations in detail, but suffice it to say they’re very amusing and very much in line with what you’d expect from the show. There’s an e-card maker associated with the game as well, which allows you to send certain animations to friends and loved ones.
Once you’ve had some fun playing around with the game, you can put on the new Phineas and Ferb Christmas album they’ve come out with. “Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites” (iTunes link) has several of the better songs from the Christmas special, but also quite a few winter standards. Some, like “Let It Snow,” are recorded exactly as they usually are, but some, like “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” are hilariously updated with participation from pretty much every character from the show, including Perry (though not the kids’ parents, for some reason). I’m not a big fan of Christmas music in general, but I really enjoyed this album.
And then there’s the expanded version of the Christmas special, which will air this Friday at 8:30pm Eastern and 9:30pm Pacific on the Disney Channel and Saturday several times during the day and evening on Disney XD. The re-airing includes a new song and animated sequence of Candace singing “What Does He Want?” (which is on the new album as well). As it was last year, the Christmas special is highly recommended.
Oh, and come visit GeekDad again on Thursday for my preview of the new Phineas and Ferb TV project called “Take Two.”