“Phineas and Ferb”: An Animated Series All Can Enjoy
Phineas and Ferb tells the story of two stepbrothers who try to keep themselves occupied during their summer vacation by building elaborate inventions while their sister tries to bust them and expose them to her mom, hoping to get recognition.
Phineas and Ferb is an animated musical, comedy, and science fantasy series created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. They are a long-time animation writing duo who worked together on The Simpsons and Rocko’s Modern Life. With the show debuting in August 2007, the series ran for four seasons and over 120 episodes. The series finale aired on June 15, 2015.
As a warning, this recommendation discusses some spoilers for the four seasons of Phineas and Ferb.
Phineas and Ferb centers around two stepbrothers, Phineas Flynn (Vincent Martella) and Ferb Fletcher (Thomas Brodie-Sangster). They live in the city of Danville and go on adventures during their summer vacation. Often their older teenage sister, Candace Flynn (Ashley Tisdale) attempts to bust them. She also tries to garner the attention of Jeremy Johnson (Mitchel Musso), a boy she likes.
If that isn’t absurd enough, the animal companion of Phineas and Ferb is a platypus named Perry. While he acts like an animal who can’t “do anything” when around his human family, in actuality, he is a secret agent who is a member of O.W.C.A. (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). He faces off against the devious, yet bumbling, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmitz (Dan Povenmire). Doof has a rival named Rodney (Joe Orrantia) and is a member of the group of villains named L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N.
These storylines are interlaced with running gags as well as surreal and situational comedy. This involves word jokes, pop culture parodies, meta-humor, wordplay, blank stares, and breaking the fourth wall.
In many ways, the series has many similarities to Milo Murphy’s Law, a sci-fi action adventure comedy set in the same universe as Phineas and Ferb. This carries over in its tones and characters. The second season of Milo Murphy’s Law becomes a full-fledged crossover with some characters from Phineas and Ferb.
Phineas and Ferb was often promoted by Disney during its long run. There were live-action talk shows, two crossover episodes, and two television films. The first film, Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension aired in 2011.
The second Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe aired in 2020. The latter film is the most recent animation of the franchise’s characters, apart from Chibi Tiny Tales. However, revival series for The Proud Family, as well as for Moana and The Princess and the Frog film characters, may mean Disney might revive Phineas and Ferb.
The series is unique because it has a blended family. Such families are more common in pop culture now than when the series aired. Apart from Phineas, Ferb, and Candace, their mom, Linda Flynn-Fletcher (Caroline Rhea), and their dad Lawrence Fletcher (Richard O’Brien) are recurring characters. Occasionally Linda’s parents, Clyde (Barry Bostwick) and Betty Jo (Rhea), and Lawrence’s parents, Reginald (Malcolm McDowell) and Winifred (Jane Carr) appear.
This family focus is reflected in many songs and musical numbers throughout the series. There’s even a fictional rock band named Love Händel. Similarly, Disney characters in Elena of Avalor, Kim Possible, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, and The Ghost and Molly McGee sing about how families are wholesome and without fault. Kim Possible, a Disney series, has similarities, dialogue that caters to adult viewers, and visual jokes.
However, Phineas and Ferb does stand out for another reason. It lacks racial diversity among the cast. There are many White characters, such as a bully named Buford van Stomm (Bobby Gaylor), Carl the Intern (Tyler Alexander Mann), Candace’s hippyish friend, Jenny Brown (Stoner), and Doofenshirtz’s ex-wife, Charlene (Allison Janey).
PoC characters lack in this series. They include two characters of Jewish Mexican descent: Isabella Garcia-Shapiro (Alyson Stoner), and Vivian Garcia-Shapiro (Eileen Galindo). Also, Baljeet Tjinder (Maulik Pancholy) is of Indian descent, and Stacy Hirano (Kelly Hu) is of Japanese descent.
Some South Asian fans and others have criticized the series for problematic, and stereotypical character traits. In an interview in May 2021, Dan Povenmire asked people to not use the character’s name as an insult. He said that these criticisms of Baljeet, and the show, were valid. Povenmire stated that during the show, they leaned into cultural differences between Baljeet and characters from other cultures, which “may have not aged well”. He also argued that Baljeet became a “more well-rounded character” through the course of the show.
There are many non-human characters in this show as well. Apart from Perry, there’s Isabella’s pet chihuahua, Pinky, and many O.W.C.A agents. Both of which have voice effects by Dee Bradley Baker. There’s also a robot created by Doofenshmirtz, Norm (John Viener). Pinky, like Perry, faces a villain, Prof. Esmeralda Poofenplotz (Amanda Plummer). She has a boss named Admiral Wanda Acronym (Jane Leeves).
In April 2021, Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Milo Murphy’s Law and Phineas and Ferb, announced in a Tik Tok comment that Perry the Platypus was asexual. This led to discourse on Twitter. Some praised him as a “king” and an “icon”, made the show more interesting to watch, and a win for asexuals. Others said that making the only animal character in the series asexual is not something you get “brownie points” for and bemoaned the lack of asexual representation.
However, for some fans, that representation, after the fact, was better than the gay vibes or subtext they saw in the series. Just as various fans support the slash ship between Cavendish and Dakota in Milo Murphy’s Law, Dakavendish, according to the Shipping Wiki fandom listing, some fans of Phineas and Ferb ship Buford and Baljeet (Bujeet), the two Doofensmirtz (Doofcest), Ferb and Bauljeet (Ferbjeet), Phineas and Dipper (Phindip), Candace and Stacy (Candacy), or Phineas, Ferb, and Isabella (Phinerbella).
However, one ship stands out. It is the one between Candace and Vanessa Doofenshmirtz (Olivia Olson). Called “Candessa” by fans, it has a following on social media platforms and even has a subreddit dedicated to it. Unfortunately, the show’s canon somewhat invalidates the ship as it shows Vanessa and Ferb together in a future episode, making Ferbnessa canon. The show’s writing and scenes make the Phinabella ship between Phineas and Isabella, and Canderemy ship between Candace and Jeremy canon. Even so, there is no heterosexual explanation for how Candace and Vanessa act around one another.
On the other hand, as Alex Henderson pointed out in his review criticizing the heteronormivity in Spy x Family, a story can “have queer themes even if it doesn’t have queer representation” and have queer readings even if there isn’t any direct acknowledgment of “any queer issues within its narrative or any of its narrative framings.” This is the case for Phineas and Ferb, with the heteronormivity and gender norms communicated through the dress, clothing colors, mannerisms, and actions of the characters. For one, Marsh has said that there are LGBTQ+ characters in the series but did not give any names.
Furthermore, Swampy hoped that the song “Rebels Let’s Go” would be an “LGBT anthem”, while the voice actor of Phineas, Vincent Martella, said that neither Phineas nor Ferb are TERFs. Additionally, at the beginning of the episode “Act Your Age”, Povenmire and Swampy said that Perry would not have a girlfriend, hinting at possible asexuality.
Some of the voice actors are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Stoner came out in March 2016, saying she was “attracted to men, women, and people who identify in other ways”. She later said that she wanted to remain fluid in how she described her sexual orientation. Stoner voiced a lesbian character in The Loud House named Sam Sharp. In addition, Baljeet’s voice actor, Pancholy, came out as gay in 2013.
Queer fans of Phineas and Ferb have headcanoned Doofenshmirtz, Candace, and Vanessa as bisexual, Roger Doofensmirtz (Doof’s brother) as gay, Ferb and Phineas as non-binary, and Stacey as trans. Others found canon support for Bujeet. This makes sense, as does the seeming acknowledgment that Perry is trans male, even if headcanons don’t make sense. After all, Martella came out strongly in support of the LGBTQ+ community, to give one example.
Some fans may headcanon Candace as trans since she has a deep voice when she is near parsnips. She also sings about changing her name to “Larry” in the song “Come Home Perry“.
The show has been very influential. Olson’s voice role in the series is one of the reasons that Pendleton Ward, the Adventure Time creator, had her voice Marceline in Adventure Time. In fact, I’m almost certain I learned about Phineas and Ferb when Pamela Adlon, who voiced a character in the aforementioned series, sang the theme song of the series. She sang it along with other characters of Better Things.
Phineas and Ferb has similarities to animated series about super spies and covert organizations. While Inside Job had a hilarious episode that parodied spy thrillers, the French and Canadian action comedy series, Totally Spies! had the most similarities. In that series, Alexandra “Alex”, Clover, and “Sam” Samantha are teenagers who fight evildoers on the side. They work for the World Organization of Human Protection (WOOHP). Their boss, Jerry, is like Major Monogram (Jeff “Swampy” Marsh) in Phineas and Ferb.
However, since it took 15 years before Disney accepted the series, and it aired on Disney, it is unlikely that Totally Spies! influenced Phineas and Ferb. Additionally, some have called Doof the most “human villain” on TV. This makes him different from villains or malcontents within Totally Spies!, which will return for another season next year.
The series also featured many well-known voices. For example, there’s Ming-Na Wen, Corey Burton, Cloris Leachman, Meera Syal, and Kari Wahlgren. There are also a plethora of guest stars such as Phil LaMarr, Keith Ferguson, Kevin Michael Richardson, John DiMaggio, George Takei, and Stan Lee.
Povenmire and Swampy have used the series to springboard into their own projects. Povenmire is leading the soon-to-premiere action-comedy-superhero series, Hamster & Gretel. In an interview with him, and his daughter, Meli, who is voicing the show’s protagonist, Gretel, he said he has ADHD. It was implied that Gretel has ADHD as well. The series will also feature Stoner as Lauren/The Destructress.
Swampy is an executive producer and director of S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters, an indie animated series by Samantha “Sam” Sawyer about a non-binary cryptid named Salem. He is the founder of the company Surfer Jack Productions.
It remains to be seen if Povenmire and Swampy will work together in a future series. They seem to be going off in their own directions, rather than collaborating together as they did on Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law.
Despite the lack of diversity in the main cast as well as the lack of openly LGBTQ+ characters in Phineas and Ferb, something that is rectified in recent Disney series like The Ghost and Molly McGee, Amphibia, and The Owl House, it still stands out as a strong series.
And yes, I would unequivocally recommend you watch it.
Currently, Phineas and Ferb is streaming on Disney+ and Prime Video, with the first season available for free on YouTube.
Author: Burkely Hermann
Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.
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