Phineas and Ferb’s “Last Day of Summer” marks the end of something special for creators Dan Povernmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. What started out in 2007, the Emmy Award-winning animated series gave us over 126 episodes and about 73 hours of backyard fun. As you will read below in this very emotional interview, the creators have prided upon having a show that never had a negative storyline. If you think you as a fan will miss these crazy brothers, wait until you read how much these two already to and what an impact the show has made on so many over the years.
The summer season is coming to a close and it’s Candace’s last chance to bust her brothers. She is quickly foiled, but is presented with an opportunity to redo the day when she sets off Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s Do-Over-Inator, which results in other consequences like rips in the space-time continuum, the shortening of days and the disappearance of her brothers.
Phineas and Ferb Ends
Exclusive Interview with Creators Dan Povernmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh
How much of your family life ends up on screen and do they know everything is fair game that happens?
Dan: Well they know anything’s fair game if it happens. My daughters are all now about the age of Phineas and Ferb are but they inspire stuff but it’s not usually as direct as–we’ve stolen pieces of his son’s life. (Looking at Jeff.)
Jeff: Literally. He has a lawyer now that’s all that’s changed.
Dan: Exactly. But most of our inspiration actually comes from our own childhood you know. ‘Cause “Swampy” and I were both sort of creative kids and we had creative parents that would allow us to do ridiculous things and were always building. So you know tree houses and I was the king of my neighborhood. Cause I can jump 31 pines cones on my big handle barred, banana seat bike. And me and some buddies took sticks and flashlights one day and crawled all the way through our subdivision in the drainage pipes that were about 4 ft. tall. And we came up but…you’d see light ahead and you would come up and you look out through the drainage thing on the side of a curb and suddenly realize, “Oh wait that’s, that’s Overlook Church. That’s like a mile and a half from my house. We should go back.” There was a manhole right there that we could have easily gotten out of and instead we went back through the drains again. (Laughing)
Jeff: A lot of it was like that. Starts with us putting ourselves back as you know a 10 to 12 year old boy and thinking if you could do anything…and that’s pretty easy for us to do ‘cause we’re pretty close to that maturity level.
Dan: Yes, (laughing) exactly.
Jeff: Ask anyone who knows us.
Dan: Cause you did as kids. Like we built tree-houses. How would Phineas and Ferb built treehouses? Well they’d be the tree-houses, but also robots. They would move around and fight each other and stuff like that.
Jeff: I look at some of the go carts that we’ve built out of old wheels and stuff. [LAUGHS] Like it’s really amazing that I’m here. [LAUGHS] And I have all my teeth, most of ‘em.
After 10 years and over 100 episodes, do you have any favorites?
Dan: We have a list of favorites. If I really have to be pressed for a favorite it might be Roller Coaster because it’s just the one that’s small. An idea thought of just by ourselves basically.
But the one that now when I watch it, for me is Summer Belongs To You, which is our first hour long special. And it had the Phineas and Isabela in Paris where Isabela’s trying to get him to see how romantic it is and Candace and Jeremy you know, decide to be boyfriend and girlfriend and then they all get stranded on the desert island and there’s the last 11 minutes of Summer Belongs To You I think was maybe the best thing.
Jeff: And uh the song is one of my favorites you know. It really says a lot about the series.
Dan: Yeah. There’s a couple of ending songs. There’s Summer Belongs To You, Carpe Diem and this one that was just aired. That I literally can’t watch without tearing up. Like when it was playing I actually purposely took my phone out and answered e-mails so that I wouldn’t be you know like red-eyed. (Laughs)
I think it was probably about 2 years ago I interviewed you guys at Comic Con. It’s interesting to think at that point you were at the point of the contract negotiations. Was it something where you really felt the need to move on to your next project?
Dan: Well we’d been doing this for a decade and we felt like this is a good time…you know, I feel like this show is still really good and really fresh. I’m really proud of most of the 4th season as much as I am of the first ones. And I felt like let’s go out before it starts feeling tired.
Jeff: There’s a whole new batch of kids that could start in episode one.
Dan: Yeah, exactly!
Jeff: It’s funny now you go to talk at colleges. And those people at those colleges saying, “Oh yeah.. I was in Middle School.”
Dan: Yeah, and that’s the show they grew up on.
Can you share a favorite story of inspiration attributed to Phineas and Ferb?
Jeff: I don’t have a favorite, but you would be shocked at how many letters we get of people telling us, “you got us through a really dark time.”
Dan: “You inspire my kid to be more, more creative.” Somebody sent a letter to I think Gary Marsh the head of the channel just saying before their kid was watching Phineas they would sort of get through art class to go out and play and would never draw anything, would never do anything you know. And she sent a picture that’s being drawn from before Phineas and it was like, like one line on a piece of paper. It was sorta’ like draw a line and then, “I’m gonna’ go out and play”. And then a picture that he drew after he started watching Phineas and Ferb, and all the creativity that she saw coming out of him. (Laughs back some tears) And (voice cracking) that makes me proud. We get a lot of stuff like that.
We’ve known the show’s been over for a while. We’ve sort of been over it. And a couple of weeks ago when they announced it I was waiting…(laughs) it’s a funny story. I was waiting outside courtroom for Jury Selection. I was on Jury Duty and I like looked at my phone and Cecilia had sent us the link. “Oh hey it’s finally announced.” I knew it was being announced that week, but I didn’t know what day and so I went ahead and I tweeted it because you know people, on twitter sort of suspected the show was over for a while. And so I said, “Okay it’s finally been announced. We came to let you know. It’s been a great summer you know (laughing through streaming tears) and I tweeted it and you know there were hundreds of people saying wonderful things about the show you know?
The group of us applaud.
So you know and some of them were things like, “This is the show that got me through PTSD. This is the show that got me through chemo with my kid because it was the one thing that would make him smile.” They’re all these kind of things. (Sobbing a bit) And I started crying like I’m doing right now. (laughs through tears)
Jeff: I’m sitting at my desk so I can hear tweets and he calls and says, “Have you been reading Twitter?” I’m like, “Yeah.” (now Jeff fighting back tears as am I again as I write this.)
Dan: And I went into the bathroom to splash water on my face ‘cause I gotta’ go in and answer you know jury questions on this thing. And I looked at my face and I just looked like a crazy person you know and was like I should just go in like this. It’ll get me out of Jury Duty you know.
So what’s next for you guys?
Dan: Well you know the show has been in animation. You know 2 years ago we had 70 people and we were just going from meeting, to meeting, to meeting to, to animatics to re-writing to redraw and do all that sort of stuff all day for like 8 years. It was like that. And then the last year or so has been slowly slowing down for us because you know Kate and I were no longer writing new episodes you know. And eventually we were just working on one story, which we haven’t been working on just one story in forever. And so it’s been sort of relaxed into this other life.
Jeff: Like juggling one ball.
Dan: Yeah. And then we just sold another show to Disney that they picked up called Mikey Murphy’s Law and we’re just in the start of that right now. I can feel that ramp upcoming again and we’re not quite in that crazy area yet ‘cause we’re just writing it, but we’re starting to hire artists and stuff like that, yeah. So a month from now we’ll just be frantic again for hopefully a long time.
Jeff: For a long time, yes.
Successful shows always kinda’ take on a life of their own. What about this show has sort of surprised you?
Dan: Well we were surprised how well it took off and how quickly. I think we’ve felt like we’re funny guys. We can make it a funny show. I’ve worked on a lot of shows that have become successful and I felt like you know maybe I can do that. But I think it took off much quicker and much bigger than we thought it would.
Can you talk about closure. Would you like to see Phineas and Ferb make an appearance down the road?
Jeff: Never say never.
Dan: (laughing) Yeah we’ve thought, thought about it, but we you know, these kind of things have a life of their own. They’re still making Scooby Doo you know and we were sort of the Scooby Doo for a whole generation. We were the one that all the kids were watching for a large portion of that time. So I could imagine 10 years from now them sort of dusting it off and wanting to do more with or without us you know. I’d never say no.
Is there anything that you want people to know about the show?
Jeff: The thing that I want people who are making programs to get out of this is that you can never go wrong over estimating the intelligence of kids. That’s what I hope people get. You can make poor shows that appeal to everybody from adults, to teenagers, t0 middle kids, all the way on down without being mean. Without having the shows filled with jerks and idiots and that you can put big words in and it’s okay. And you can do classical music and jazz music and folk music, and rock and roll, and rap, and all of that and kids’ll get it. And if you can just stop people from dumbing down the subject matter that they feel they need to put in front of kids this whole thing will be a bigger success. That’s what I want people to get out of it ‘cause that’s what we fought for. So I’m for treating kids smart and clever and everybody that we started hearing from in the early days got that. That was so rewarding. It’s a show we can sit down with the whole family and they’ll feel really comfortable with my kids watching it and they’re inspired and I’m inspired. That’s what makes it right.
Dan: Yeah we, we made a lot of choices early on about making sure that Phineas and Ferb are never disobeying their mom. They may be doing things that will get them in trouble, but they don’t know that they would get them in trouble you know. It’s like mom doesn’t say don’t build a roller coaster in the back yard. She says,“Stay out of trouble.” They don’t really have a frame of reference for trouble since they’ve never really been in trouble. And Candace is not trying to hurt Phineas and Ferb she’s going for fairness. “If I did this mom wouldn’t get mad at me. So I just need mom to see this.” And, and they’re very subtle differences and then just like having everybody be sort of nice to each other. Nobody’s ever motivated by meanness. These are all very subtle things that we thought would go over the heads of the, of the audience but just to have a nice feel. And people have written all sorts of articles about the show in which they get all of those things. And I’m just thrilled that it actually came through and that it feels like it’s a kinder, gentler show than a lot of other shows out there.
Where did the 104 days of summer come from?
Dan: We have ta’ apologize for that because that was literally in a meeting when we were first deciding to set it all in summer. ‘Cause the show is basically the show that we had for 13 years but it wasn’t originally just set all in one summer. That was something that came out when we were meeting with the execs at Disney. I said, “Oh that would be really cool if you did it all in the summer ‘cause then we don’t have to draw desks.” And I said it to somebody, “Does anybody know how many days there are of summer vacation?” And somebody said, “Oh yeah I just had to research that. There are 104.” And what they research is how many actual days of summer there are, which is 104. There’s not anywhere that there are 104 days of summer vacation. (Laughing)
Jeff: It wasn’t that long after that show went on the air that we started getting angry letters.
Dan: Yes. (laughing) “Wait a minute. We don’t have 100…”, like people were telling us all the time. You know like “my kids were really disappointed when they counted out their days of summer vacation and they don’t have 104”.
Jeff: And that they were wrong.
Dan: There’s like 40. (laughing) Something like that. So, sorry about that, but it fit in when we wrote the song.
Jeff: It’s much nicer to sing. Then there are variably 32, 60 you know you can’t really complicate 104.
DAN: Yeah. So for Phineas and Ferb, they get the whole summer off.
Luckily, the top-rated animated series among tweens will be live on cable reruns for years to come. You can still tune into what is left of the 73-hour Phineas and Ferb marathon that began on Tuesday, June 9. Don’t miss the series finale airing on Friday, June 12, at 9 p.m. ET.
*I was invited by Disney and the Disney Channel to screen Phineas and Ferb’s Last Summer and attend a press junket around to interview the creators of the show. All opinions are my own.