We had the chance to chat with the creators of “Phineas and Ferb” as well as the voice of “Phineas” for the new Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe on Disney+ August 28.
Based on the popular animated series that ran on the Disney Channel from 2007–2015, Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe follows Phineas and Ferb and friends as they try to rescue Phineas and Ferb’s sister, Candace, from aliens.
I had the pleasure of interviewing “Phineas and Ferb” creators/executive producers Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, as well as Vincent Martella (“Phineas”) during a virtual Q&A.
Dan and Swampy are super funny and personable. It's no wonder they are able to create a series that lasts for years. And Vincent is clearly a funny addition to their “crew.” After working with them for over a decade, he's got a report of being able to joke back and forth with them that is in no way forced.
How do you decide when it's the right time to do a movie or sequel, and what made you choose to send Candance to space and to make her the main character instead of Phineas and Ferb?
Swampy: The first part's easy. The decision was made when Disney called us and said, ‘Do you want to make a movie? And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah.'
Dan: So that's when they decide is the right time, when somebody asks you to do it.
They decided to have Candace be the main character for a few reasons. One reason was that they were trying to come up with a new story that they hadn't already told in 222 episodes of the series—and there weren't many stories left.
“What if we have a story where the boys are motivated by jeopardy,” Dan said. “Let's get somebody in some sort of danger; let's have Candace get kidnapped by aliens and they have to go and rescue her.”
“Phineas and Ferb is usually just sort of a celebration; it's all driven by them having fun,” Dan said. “We had it start a different way, but we still wanted to keep fun going while still having jeopardy.”
How did it feel to get to voice Phineas again?
For 10 years, Vincent Martella has voiced Phineas on the series, various hour-long specials, and video games. He loved being able to spend more time with Phineas again
“This is been the most significant thing that I've ever done career-wise in my life. And this world and this character mean so much to me,” Vincent said. “Phineas is so full of energy and full of excitement and just ‘wants to make every day so great and have the best time' [said in his best Phineas voice] and that's a really fun personality and energy to get to spend time within the booth.”
“And all of these episodes that we've done, and now the movie, are all their own amazing, unique adventures. There's always something to look forward to at the end of time that it takes to make something like this, in this case, this was 2 years. So it's always worth that wait.”
“Phineas and Ferb” first aired over a decade ago on Disney Channel. What do you think makes the show so timeless or nostalgic, and what kind of original storylines and catchphrases from the show can we look forward to seeing in the new movie?
“Phineas and Ferb” is timeless, in part, because it's a show about creativity and imagination—and that makes it relatable to a lot of ages. It's also a family-friendly show.
“I think that's what's kept it relevant all these years is that it's celebrating sort of what is best about being a human being,” Dan said.
“We tried to hit on a lot of the catchphrases and a lot of the running gags from the show in the movie. As long as it didn't slow things down, we would put in references to stuff. So there's a lot of Easter eggs for people.”
Dan mentioned the sound people make while they're exploding could end up being a catchphrase at some point. The aliens explode from the waist up if they get too excited make a very specific sound. “If I was watching it, that's the thing I would start repeating to people on the playground.”
“We've always said don't underestimate the intelligence of the kids,” Swampy said. “They're much smarter than you think. And I think that creates a show that they can watch over and over again, and they can watch with their whole family, and there's something in there for everyone.”
“I grew up with the show, and a lot of people I know grew up with the show. At the start of it, it would have been a gigantic surprise, had anyone said this would have been so important to a generation of people,” Vincent said. “But then working on it and seeing what obviously Swampy and Dan have done, but let alone all of our writers with the music and with these stories and with the humor, it just makes me so happy, even seeing a lot of the people here today, you know, it's parents with their kids, and everyone's equally as excited about this experience. And that's what's always really amazing about Phineas and Ferb fans, it's usually people of all ages.”
Do parents and their children need to be familiar with the series in order to understand this movie?
Sure, it's always helpful to know all the source material, but even Dan and Swampy say that's not necessary for Phineas and Ferb The Movies: Candace Against the Universe.
“Well, I can highly suggest that you watch the entire series, have a big giant stream of everything first, because you'll get some bonuses, but it's not required,” Swampy said. “Yeah, we can, we can definitely advise watching and listening to ‘Phineas and Ferb'.”
Dan said they made sure that the movie could be a starting point for anyone who have never seen the series. There's a whole generation of kids growing up now who are the right age for this show that didn't grow up with this show on TV. They wanted to ensure that it was a good entry point for anyone to be able to enjoy
What was it like to get the original cast back together again to revisit these characters and their stories?
Who doesn't love a good reunion??
Getting the gang back together was like a reunion, Dan said.
“It's all these people that we spent 10 years with. You know, we see them periodically, a lot of them, but, it was great to just get back together and do the thing that we used to do together,” Dan said. “It's been just a joy every time we have somebody new come into the studio, it's like, ‘Oh, hey, Bobby's back,' or, you know, ‘Ashley's back.' That was it. It was just so much fun. It was a great time.”
“It wasn't so exciting to see Vincent again, because we're friends with him,” Swampy joked. “We talked to him all the time.”
“Yeah. As a matter of fact, they've seen me too much,” Vincent said. “‘When you come into the studio, just wear a bag or something, we don't need to see you'.”
“‘We're thinking of seeking a restraining order against you', Dan laughed.”
“‘No more seeing you, everyone else it's getting out of our lives.' It's bad. Yeah,” Vincent said.
It's a good thing we knew these three were all joking, or I'd be a *little* concerned.
If you could go on any adventure with Phineas and Ferb what would it be?
The consensus is that space adventures are the best.
“We've sent them into space a couple of times, and not ever as far as this one, I think, but that sounds like fun to me exploring out in the great beyond,” Dan said.
Swampy loved the idea of chasing the sun around in an epic adventure, an episode where they tried to make the longest day by circling the globe at the same speed as the sun and he's down for letting Vincent come along for that adventure.
Will Phineas and Ferb's mom ever actually finally see one of their inventions. And how do you think she would actually react?
Dan: Well, she does in the episode “Quantum Boogaloo,” but everybody's grown up, so it's sort of a hollow victory for Candace. I think that the reaction that we did in the episode that turned out all to be Candace's dream inside of Perry's dream, maybe a little intense for mom, but she would be really shocked if she found out that everything that Candace has been telling her is all true all summer, I think.
Swampy: And mom's a pretty good mom. I think she would be equal parts impressed with her kids' creativity and ingenuity, as well as also being aware that this might not be the smartest or safest thing to do in the backyard, but mom's pretty good and understanding. And I think she loves the creativity of her kids, so it would be a difficult call. It's like, ‘This is this just really amazing and totally impressive, but probably something you shouldn't be doing here.'
Vincent: And also, she technically saw one of our amazing—it wasn't an invention—but achievements, in ‘We're Getting the Band Back Together,' but we did also see that occur and she seemed pretty cool with that.
Dan: So I've realized that the boys set that all up, but she didn't see it.
Swampy: Yes, and it was impressive.
It's nice that Candace finally has a breakthrough in her relationship with her brothers. Is that the point of this film or is there another message that you're trying to convey?
The main emotional message of the film is Candace's relationship with her brothers.
“Our favorite moments tend to be when we understand what their relationship is, but when you remind people that they're siblings who love each other very much, and you have those emotional connections, it's really satisfying,” Swampy said. “Cause I think we're all like that to some degree with our siblings. Sure, they drive us crazy, but they're there for you. And those are really moments worth working for in storytelling.”
What have been some of your favorite songs for this series and will there be any songs like “Gitchee Gitchee Goo” or “Rollercoaster” that fans will remember and be singing for years to come that are in the new film?
Some of Dan's favorite songs from the movie and series include “The Brick Theme Song,” “Summer Belongs to You” from the first hour-long special, “Carpe Diem,” and the fun Bobby, Bobby song “Get You, Get You.”
Dan mentioned that the finale song “Curtain Call/Time Spent Together” is really a hard one for him to get through without being sad.
“Come Home Perry” is a favorite of Swampy's.
“Come Home Perry” was nominated for an Emmy, unbeknownst to Vincent.
“It was nominated for an Emmy, and it didn't win, which is why we never told you about it,” Dan said.
Vincent likes “Kick It Up a Notch” with Slash. “Sang a song with Slash, it was really cool.”
“I will admit even when we did it, which is the song that we just premiered in the credits. I mean, we recorded that pretty recently. I think we can say that we recorded it during the quarantine,” Vincent said. “So that came to me a lot later than the other music in the movie. And there's one song near the end of the film that we have…'If It Belongs To You'…it is really, really good, but also ‘We're Back'.”
“I felt that way, where I was like, ‘This is so remarkably catchy, this is so, so catchy. I feel like people are going to want to sing it a lot,' when I finally heard the mix of it when I got it back with like all of the music with it and not just me singing it in my bedroom. So I do think there's stuff in this movie that people are really gonna like.”
Where did you get the shape for Phineas' head, and how long has the animation process from original drawing to final animation?
Swampy: It's based on a real person. It's practically just a portrait.
Dan: I'd worked on a lot of shows at the time, and usually, you start with a specific shape that everybody can draw to sort of building the head on—Homer was a fireplug, Bart was a coffee can, you know, a lot of the old Looney Tunes was like an oval here and then in two ovals here, and I was thinking nobody had ever really done a character whose head was based on a triangle.
And so I was just sketching out some stuff at a restaurant. And I came up with this triangle-headed kid, and I just immediately fell in love with him. And I felt like this is the show that I would want to see.
Dan: From the first drawing of Phineas to the final animation, when the first episode was about 16 years, but for one episode, when we started the writer's room, it's about 10 months to finish one 11-minute episode.
Vincent: Just because it takes me so many times to get it the way they like it. That's a lot of takes. That's like swapping again.
Dan: Exactly. ‘You want to break? Breaks are for winners!'
Swampy: ‘You'll break in 10 months when you get it right.'
Dan: No, there's a lot to be done in an animated show. So, it's 10 months for an 11-minute episode. The movie actually took us 2 and a half years. So it's a big, tremendous labor and involving lots and lots of artists and editors and writers and musicians. It's a monumental feat to finish an animated film.
What Easter eggs can fans keep an eye out for in this new movie?
Dan: I made a list at one point for somebody of all the Easter eggs in the movie and there was a whole bunch of references. We tried to put as much as we could as long as it didn't slow down the story at all. There are references from the very first musical number.
There are some backing vocalists that people remember from two episodes of the series, there are callbacks, the things that work. We always try to say, as long as it works by itself, that's fine. As long as you don't have to have seen these episodes to enjoy this movie, that's fine, but we tried to fill it with as many Easter eggs as we could for the real fans.
What's your favorite invention that Phineas and Ferb have made over the years?
Dan: And that's a tough one. I still go back to the rollercoaster, cause that was sort of the purest, what would a 9-year-old boy make if he was unhampered by budget or schedule or reality. That was the first thing that Dan and I both thought when we were brainstorming that, ‘What would you do?' It's like, ‘Oh yeah, build a roller coaster in the backyard?' ‘Absolutely.'
And I have now seen on TikTok three different roller coasters, two in the United States. One in, I think it's either Brazil or Argentina or something like that, where they've hit me on TikTok and they're building an actual rollercoaster in their backyard and theming it around Perry the Platypus.
And that, to me, just sort of makes my life, when I see people doing that and taking the time to make something that actually works and having their friends write it and stuff like that.
That's legacy, the fact that these, these 20-year-olds are now going to the trouble, doing the engineering and everything to make a roller coaster that has a big drop. And then it goes up a tree at the end so that it slides back down. And one of them had hydraulics that sent it off on its way. It's really spectacular. I don't know how these kids learned to do this, but it's spectacular.
What is the message that you hope kids will take away from seeing this film,
Dan: Go to space now, you should definitely go to space if you can. I think the message is really to appreciate what it is you have and appreciate the people around you that love you, even if they're getting on your nerves. I think it's if you're going to coalesce it into an actual message that would be it.
Candace Against the Universe felt very sentimental. What are some of the best memories you have creating this film?
Dan: The fact that Swampy and I finally got to make our show together; it was something that we had been trying to do for so long. To me, the Rollercoaster episode, the first thing that we did, where it was really just him and me and, I boarded it in vacation in France with my wife's family, where we would go out and do day trips, and then I'd come home and draw all night.
And then on the way back, we stopped in the UK and stayed at Swampy's place. And he and I put all the storyboards out on his kitchen table and sent our wives to the museums—which I think they ended up going shopping instead of museums. And we just punched up all the gags and we're putting posters here.
Oh, if we do this, we move this to here. That to me was the thing that I always remember as the most fun. And when we finally got Vincent Martella for Phineas, that was the hardest casting we had in the entire show there. It was so hard to find somebody whose voice sounded optimistic and positive without sounding either nerdy or false or arrogant. There's a very fine line there.
Dan: A lot of the success of the show rests on Vincent and Ashley's performances. I think that that they're so good and Vincent's voice makes him so likable from the very beginning. The first time kids hear that voice, seeing that character with that voice, he's a likable character. He's cool without being aloof. He's smart without being nerdy. He's everything because of that. And then Ashley playing off of that was fantastic.
And it was that one line, ‘Aren't you a little young to be a rollercoaster engineer,' and ‘Yes, yes I am.' Can either sound like, ‘Yeah, sure. Of course.' Or it can sound like, ‘Thank you. Yeah.' Since he made that, so clearly sound like, ‘Thank you. Yeah.' That just, just like, ‘Oh yeah. Okay. We're done well, thank you.'
Vincent: That's very nice of both of you to say. I appreciate that.
Swampy: We didn't, we weren't going to tell him that. Dan, why did you do that?
Vincent: Yeah, it's been over 10 years. They never said something so nice about me.
Dan: Well, we want to keep his head to a regular size.
So when summer vacation finally ends well, Phineas and Ferb be attending in-person school or doing virtual learning at home.
Swampy: First of all, thank you for being a teacher. My daughter's a teacher and that's just the coolest gig. Thank you.
Dan: If we were doing the series right now, we would probably do a bit about quarantine. I think that that would be something that I'd like to explore, what they would do during that time. I think hopefully by the time anything that we would make now we would be done, hopefully, the quarantine will be over. That's like knock on wood. But we did do an episode where everybody was sick and they did a Zoom call together. It was sort of before Zoom actually existed, but they,
Swampy: No everybody's posting on social media. Like we're some sort of future prediction wizards.
Dan: I think it would be interesting to see how they would handle being stuck in the house. I think that would be a fun episode to write.
How intentional were all the jokes that went over kids' heads? For example, jokes about Alexa, technology, misunderstanding, humans, grammar jokes, and were these put in just for the parents.
Swampy: Well, two things, I think many of the jokes that you think are going over the kids' heads probably aren't, but the truth is, Dan's always said that we do these things just to make each other laugh. It's a bunch of people sitting in the room trying to make each other laugh.
So we just never take out a joke because we specifically think that the kids might not get it. It's okay. That there's stuff in there for the parents and the grandparents and the older siblings and the aunts and uncles. We leave those in, but I also think the kids get a lot more of them than people think they're going to.
Dan: And also we try to put in as many jokes as we can so that if the kid doesn't get a joke, they don't have time to get bored. There's another joke coming for them in 5 seconds. So we always try to do that. And kids love jokes about the intricacies of grammar.
Swampy: That's true. Once the Star Wars crossover episode kids just loved Tom Stoppard references. They don't.
About Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe
Stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb, their older sister Candace, Perry the Platypus, and the Danville gang are back together again in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe, an out-of-this-world animated adventure from Disney Television Animation. Executive-produced by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (creators and executive producers of the long-running Emmy Award-winning series “Phineas and Ferb”), the movie centers on Phineas and Ferb as they set out across the galaxy to rescue Candace, who after being abducted by aliens, finds utopia in a far-off planet, free of pesky little brothers.