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Phineas and Ferb: Targeting Boys and Saving Lives

Mobo85 July 13, 2011 User blog:Mobo85

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Although Phineas and Ferb always do something big every day, in the end they usually do it for the enjoyment of others. That seems to be the case with the series Phineas and Ferb itself, based on two recent news stories- although Disney executives are looking at the series itself and how it's filling a marketing niche they haven't really been able to target, one of the people behind the series is doing something very special to help support an old classmate.

The Wall Street Journal, one of the most famous newspapers reporting on American business and finance, recently reported on cable networks's attempts to target the 6-to-11 male demographic. (See also video report) The article takes a look at how the major kid cablers are trying to shift away from a sea of female-skewed comedies, such as Hannah Montana and iCarly, into series that can appeal to a male demographic- one that, in the 6-to-11 age range, prefers more action-oriented series with male leads. Highlighted are Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon's revivals of classic franchises such as Star Wars, Power Rangers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but the main focus is Phineas and Ferb.

According to a Nick rep, Disney had been looking for a while for a show of its own to rival the Orange Network's 800-pound gorilla in a pineapple under the sea that could be licensed as much as you-know-who. According to Disney Channel's president Carolina Lightcap, the network, which had before focused mainly on live-action sitcoms and preschool shows, was indeed looking for a breakout animated hit, in part due to the fact that animated series have a longer shelf life than live-action ones. (Most likely due to the fact that cartoon characters don't age or have personal problems- this year alone, three of Disney's top live-action series- Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, and The Suite Life on Deck- all ended production, with a fourth, Sonny with a Chance, retooled as So Random! due to unfortunate circumstances involving series lead Demi Lovato.) Disney seems to have gotten their wish- though if the producers gave into their demands, they might not have, as Disney wanted the oddly-shaped characters to have rounder heads and, like so many other marketers who want to appeal to young children, make them more XTREEEM- at least in terms of what they were wearing. Thankfully, the producers decided not to give in because, as Jeff "Swampy" Marsh put it, "Things become successful because they don't look like anything else. People don't like Bugs Bunny because he's got a trendy backpack."

And just like the scwewy wabbit, the two boys who do have heads that look like nothing you've ever seen but don't wear trendy clothes seem to have become a hit, not only with their target demographic of young boys, but others as well, giving Ms. Lightcap her wish of "our first animated hit, starting with kids but broad based." Especially in that target demographic- although Disney Channel as a whole usually gets a 39% male audience, 48% of Phineas and Ferb's viewers are male, a surprising feat for a company that, as the article points out, was until recently not considered a place for cutting-edge animation ideas and one mainly focused on marketing princesses. And, yes, there's the obligatory roll call of merchandise to show just how much of a success that the show has become: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid bandages, Kellogg's Fruit Snacks, and products targeted for somewhat older males so that young boys can dream of having them someday, such as guitars and skateboards. Also touched upon are the live tour, the Platy-bus promotion, the feature film in development, a promotion to start with Nestlé Nesquik this September where Perry the Platypus will take the place of the Nesquik Bunny, and perhaps the most famous pastime of young boys, video games. But given as video games are filled with one of the things boys love that Phineas and Ferb mostly lacks- violent, heart-pounding action combat- how could Phineas and Ferb do such a thing in theirs? Well, as Dan Povenmire points out, using a launcher to shoot baseballs at robots, of course.

And as far as Mr. Povenmire is concerned, an article in the Alabama Press-Register points out that when he's not helping Disney give young boys what they crave while still maintaining the quirky creativity of Phineas and Ferb, he's helping out others as well. Our own The Klimpaloon did a blog recently about Mr. Povenmire returning to his old stomping grounds of Mobile, Alabama for a fundraiser, but this article fills in the touching details of why: Cheryl Brantley, a former reporter for the Press-Register, was forced to retire last year due to complications from lupus, which she had been battling for over a decade. Until a few weeks ago, Ms. Brantley was as good as dead. That is, until an old friend, Linda McWhorter, came in after it was discovered she was a match for the kidney transplant Ms. Brantley so desperately needed. To pay for this expensive operation, Ms. McWhorter's brother will be holding a fundraiser at E.R. Dickson Elementary School in Mobile this Saturday.

And what does this have to do with Phineas and Ferb, you ask? Well, Ms. McWhorter's brother is none other than Dan Povenmire, who was a classmate of Ms. Brantley's in high school. He was going to be in the area anyway for his high school reunion, and in one of those lucky breaks, things were able to work out just right. The fundraiser will feature a presentation from Mr. Povenmire as well as a silent auction of Phineas and Ferb memorabilia, including a trip to the Walt Disney Studios for a behind-the-scenes tour. Cost is $10. If you're not in the Mobile area and wish to help Ms. Brantley, Ms. McWhorter, Mr. Povenmire, and their very worthy cause, you may donate to Cheryl's Kidney Fund online. (If you're under 18, please ask parents permission.)

These two articles are very intriguing to me, as they show Phineas and Ferb as a business as well as a very touching twist of fate on a very personal level. Perhaps the two are connected in a way- the success of Phineas and Ferb has given Mr. Povenmire the clout to help his sister help an old friend with the greatest gift of all- the gift of life. And that is perhaps more important than any money or merchandising. So, thanks, Phineas and Ferb. Not just for your success, but that said success is helping to save someone's life. Hopefully, may you stay around as long as Bugs Bunny has- not only since you're doing so well, but because there may be someone else down the line who will benefit from it unexpectedly.

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