ToonBarn Interviews Dan Povenmire & Swampy Marsh: Creators of Phineas and Ferb
Disney is releasing a new Phineas and Ferb DVD on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. It’s called “The Perry Files”. This is what you can expect to see if you buy the DVD:
14 recent episodes of Phineas and Ferb, from “No More Bunny Business” and “Spa Day”, to “Escape from Phineas Tower” and “The Remains of the Platypus”.
2 Extras are included on the DVD:
– Nerves of Teal, an OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym) recruiting video, hosted by Major Monogram.
– Platybus Tour, an interactive bus full of activities, that toured the country to promote the Phineas and Ferb Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension.
Also included is a Perry Files Activity Pack, full of magnets, stickers, a jigsaw puzzle, and a “find the clues” game.
We will be providing a full preview of this awesome DVD before you can buy it on June 5. Watch out for that in a separate story on ToonBarn.com, coming soon.
The “BIG NEWS” here, only for fans of ToonBarn, is that Disney was nice enough to give us 15 minutes to talk to the wonderful creators of Phineas and Ferb, Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, over the phone. These two guys could not be any nicer to talk to, and their love of animation and the fans of Phineas and Ferb is evident in everything they do. For people who don’t know (nubes), here is a brief biography of these two mammoths of the animation industry:
Emmy Award-winning animation veteran Dan Povenmire is creator and executive producer of Disney Channel’s animated comedy series, “Phineas and Ferb,” for which he nabbed two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in 2008. In May 2010, he won the coveted Emmy for Outstanding Writing in Animation for the series at the 37th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards. Povenmire also writes and performs songs heard in the series and plays the voice of the ridiculously evil character, Dr. Doofenshmirtz.
He has 20 years experience in the animation industry, ranging from directing, storyboarding and/or writing the critically acclaimed series “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Hey Arnold!,” “Catdog,” “Looney Tunes” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
In 2000 and 2006, Povenmire was nominated for an Emmy Award for his directorial work on “Family Guy” and he was also recognized with an Annie Award nomination for his work on the same show Born in California and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Povenmire attended USC Film School.
Emmy Award-nominated Jeff “Swampy” Marsh is creator and executive producer of Disney Channel’s animated comedy “Phineas and Ferb” for which he nabbed two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in 2008.
He also writes songs heard in the series and voices the character of Major Monogram. Over the past 20 years, Marsh has worked for many of the top names in animation, including Hanna Barbera, Klasky Csupo and Nickelodeon.
He worked for over six seasons on the critically-acclaimed series “The Simpsons,” including three episodes that won Emmy Awards. He also worked as a storyboard artist and designer for the Emmy Award-winning series, “King of the Hill,” and for four seasons as a writer and director on “Rocko’s Modern Life,” gaining the show an Environmental Media Award. Additionally, he spearheaded production of several feature films and series for the UK-based BKN New Media Ltd. Marsh returned to the U.S. after six years of working various projects for the BBC, ITV and Carlton TV in the U.K.
Born in 1960 in Santa Monica, he now lives in Venice and has two children and three grandchildren.
ToonBarn: Welcome to ToonBarn, Dan and Swampy!
Both: Thanks, hello ToonBarn!
ToonBarn: For people who want to make the jump from amatuer to professional in animation, how can they do that?
Dan: The good thing about animation versus live-action is this: even people who don’t draw can look at your drawing and tell whether it looks like what it’s supposed to look like. It’s a lot easier if you can draw and you have something good in your portfolio to get work than if you are a screenwriter. If you’re a screenwriter, than somebody has to read your script and actually know whether that’s good or bad. A lot of people say, “Well I was able to read it. It was printed in English.” So, it’s all about the work. In your portfolio, does it display your understanding about 3-dimensionality, and form a line, and such?
Swampy: The joy I think now is that because of the internet, and all the different software available to make films, you can get your stuff out there, and seen by a wide audience, and get feedback, really quickly. Anybody has the capacity to get their work seen, and that’s incredibly cool.
ToonBarn: Which makes it even harder for the companies that produce animation to pick the best ones, right?
Both: Absolutely. There is a huge talent pool out there.
ToonBarn: Let’s talk about “The Perry Files” DVD, which is available on June 5. We’ve had a chance to look at it, in both the DVD form, and the digital copy. The DVD contains 14 hilarious episodes, and a digital copy is included to take these episodes anywhere. Extras on this include: the Nerves of Teal recruiting video, The Platybus Tour, and the Perry Files Activity Pack. Do you guys get to say what goes on the DVD’s as the extras?
Dan: We are often surprised. We did not know about the activity pack until they sent it over. We were very thrilled with it. Stickers, magnets, a little puzzle in the pack. We were like, “This is cool!”
Swampy: With all this stuff, they’ve (the people at Disney responsible for putting together the DVD) been really good about keeping us involved. We get to throw ideas at them. The nicer part, really, is getting to hear the ideas they throw at us. They come up with some great stuff, and it’s clear that the people putting these together are really big fans of the show and the characters as well. It’s nice to see somebody else play with your toys in a way that makes you incredibly proud and very happy.
ToonBarn: We especially like how the magnets have different emotions, but Perry’s expression is always the same.
Dan: When Perry’s in Pet mode, he doesn’t show any emotion at all.
Swampy: But, there’s a lot going on inside.
Dan: If he has his hat on, you get a little change in emotion out of him, but when he’s a pet, he literally never changes his expression.
ToonBarn: When you’re working with Dee Bradley Baker, the voice for Perry the Platypus, who is an amazing talent, and you tell him to come up with a sound that sounds sad, or happy, does it really change, for Perry’s voice?
Swampy: The frightening thing with Dee Bradley Baker, with his level of talent, you could do something like “consternation”, and he will give you a sound that, I have no idea why, is consternation. You could give billions of the stupidest, most bizarre things to him, and sure enough, the sound you get back, you think, “My God, that’s it!” And I don’t know how he does it.
Dan: We don’t even know how he does the noise to begin with. It’s something weird, way back in his throat. He’s not built like normal human beings.
Swampy: I remember back when we started working with him, and he gave me the cow sounds for the Stampede Episode. We just started joking with him. I said, “Ok, give me a confused cow.” He gave me a sound that I swear was a CONFUSED COW! Working with him is just a joy. It’s astonishing and every moment makes you laugh.
ToonBarn: When you decided about Perry’s voice, and could have used a digitized sound effect instead, why did you go with Dee Bradley Baker?
Dan: He’s just one of those guys that does all sorts of voices. And he’s also one of the guys you go for noises, and animal noises. And I just told him, “We need some sort of purring, chirping noise that we can imagine would come from this creature.” He gave me like 20 different noises. And we sort just picked one and used that throughout. He just looked at the picture, and stretches his throat out with his hand, holds his sinuses, and bends his ear. It’s a weird process to watch him do it. That’s one of our favorite things when we do ComicCon. We always bring Dee if we can, cause he’ll just do a series of animal noises, and sort of explain how he’s doing it with his face.
Swampy: When you’re looking for somebody to create the sound of a whole character, we didn’t really know what we wanted. And you can get Dee, and it really gives you this live, textural sound, like Dan said, with 20 different noises, and find one that just makes you smile, for no discernible reason that that one would be better than the others, but there it is. And you’re only going to get that out of a human I think.
ToonBarn: We “ove-lerb” you guys. When you created Ferb Latin, did you worry that it may become another language, like Klingon?
Dan: Well, seeing how it’s really just a take off on Pig Latin, if it became as popular as Pig Latin, we’d be thrilled.
Swampy: I loved it. I’ve seen people tweeting in Ferb Latin. It’s really funny. Whenever the episode runs, a bunch of people will go on Twitter, and write things in Ferb Latin. It’s really bizarre. I like it.
Dan: It’s not nearly as easy as Pig Latin, but we have heard people talk it.
ToonBarn: With the tons of interviews you guys have done, I would have to say you’ve probably answered half of all the questions with your Animatin’ Rap. It describes your whole process of creating Phineas and Ferb episodes, in a really cool way. How fun was that to do?
Swampy: That’s the reason we did that Rap, so we’d never have to explain animation again.
Dan: Whenever we’re talking, we usually say at the beginning of break, “We created a little instructional video that will hopefully answer a lot of your questions.” So, we play that. It was a lot of fun. It was sort of inspired by “Lazy Sunday”, the SNL Rap, that was like the first viral video. There were these guys in a church in Omaha or something, that just did a Dad’s Life Rap, sort of like were throwin’ down at the camera about how tough they were for doing things like (Swampy: mowing the lawn). We said, “We should do something like these guys are doing except about the animation. Because, there’s always these behind the scenes in the DVD extras. They’re always very dry. There are things like, pictures of people drawing, and we felt that this was a much more Phineas and Ferb way of doing one of those. So, we had a great time. Everybody got involved.
Swampy: We would be so proud to have it in your story. Because I gotta tell you, that was the most “street” I have ever been in my whole life. Clearly, the most “street” I will ever be.
Dan: We had a hard time getting Swampy to look tough. And to sound tough. But, he looks really tough in the video. I was really impressed. He looks tougher than me. 36 takes, but we were able to get it out of him. I was really impressed.
For those of you wondering how a typical episode of Phineas and Ferb is made, Dan and Swampy have provided this video to answer ALL your questions:
ToonBarn: We have a copy of Agent P’s Top Secret Joke Book. My son wanted to ask you this joke: What does Dr. Doofenshmirtz call the invention that will eventually make him ruler of the Tristate Area?
Dan: I give up.
ToonBarn: His sooner or later dictator – inator.
Swampy: Oh, that’s good.
Dan (in his Doofenshmirtz voice): ah, the Sooner or Later Dictator-inator.
Excellent, well tell your son, “thank you”.
ToonBarn: Now, this may seem unfair to ask, but if you were stranded on a desert island, doomed to create Phineas and Ferb with limited resources, and could only have one singer for all the songs, and you can only choose between Danny Jacob, Laura Dickinson, Bowling for Soup, or one of the cast members, who would it be?
Dan (with no hesitation): Danny Jacob. Danny has done the vast majority of our music.
Swampy: Don’t tell Danny that. Tell Danny we picked Bowling for Soup (laughing).
Dan: Danny will figure out all the harmonies for us by himself. He’s all the voices in (sung out) “Doofenshmirtz, Evil Incorporated!”, which I think is like 9 different harmonies, he does.
Swampy: I mean, we are staggeringly lucky with the musical talent we have on the show. We have Olivia Olson on the staff. We have Vincent, who also sings. Alyson Stoner sings. Ashley (Tisdale) sings. Dan and I can occasionally carry a tune, Dan incredibly well. As long as it’s the right song for me, I can sing it. No cast that I know of out there has that many people on staff who sing so well.
ToonBarn: It’s an amazing cast. Are you going to be able to keep this cast together as long as The Simpsons?
Dan: Well, let’s hope.
Swampy: I certainly hope so. None of them are showing any signs of leaving.
Dan: Let’s hope that we have that problem.
ToonBarn: Thank you very much for the interview. Our ToonBarn readers really appreciate it.
Dan and Swampy: Well, thank you so much.
From the DVD packaging: Join Perry the Platypus – a.k.a. Agent P. – on his most exciting adventures as he thwarts his nemesis, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, at every turn. With groovy gadgets, mad skills, and his trademark brown fedora, this semi-aquatic, egg-layin’ mammal of action is unstoppable! Experience the hilarious havoc as he defends the Tristate Area against Doof’s “inators”, battles rogue agent “Dennis the Bunny”, and much more. When it comes to secret agents, Perry’s not only the real deal, he’s the real teal!
Go here to see ToonBarn’s preview of “The Perry Files” DVD, only on ToonBarn.com.