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As the old saying goes, "you only get one chance to make a first impression." When you're a performer in public- especially one trying to get a laugh- it's even harder. How did the cast and creators of Phineas and Ferb choose to do it when interviewed as part of The New York Times's TimesTalks series on Saturday? Mouthwash. Reporter Brooks Barnes, who last year wrote an article for the Times on the show's success, decided to use that success as a starting point. Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh decided to take that ball and run with it, making a bunch of jokes about how proud they were about Phineas and Ferb mouthwash and whether or not it tastes like platypus. This seemed to set the tone of the afternoon- much like Phineas and Ferb itself, the proceedings were entertaining, eye-opening, and very, very silly.
Messrs. Povenmire and Marsh were accompanied by Vincent Martella, Dee Bradley Baker, Alyson Stoner, and Maulik Pancholy (filling in for Ashley Tisdale, who was unfortunately unable to attend) to talk all things Phineas and Ferb to the delight of a full 378-person crowd at New York's TimesCenter (including your not-so-humble author). Among the topics the panel touched upon was the genesis of the character voices, whether or not the song "S.I.M.P. (Squirrels In My Pants)" could be considered "clever", how some characters (such as Carl) evolved from simple jokes into full-fledged characters as jokes kept being written around them, the fact that characters such as Ferb and Perry would be difficult to "write" for if it wasn't a storyboard-driven show due to their silence (Dan and Swampy brought up characters from Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit films as a comparison, in particular the emotionless penguin from The Wrong Trousers who still somehow comes off as menacing), and, of course, Across the Second Dimension. Besides showing the trailer and an exclusive clip, the panel talked about the differences and challenges of writing a feature-length story with Phineas and Ferb: in this case, the story starts out as a typical Phineas and Ferb plot, but eventually evolves into an action-adventure movie. In addition, whereas in most cases Phineas and Ferb themselves are used as the setting of the story rather than the focus, here they take center stage, with Phineas being given some emotion as he becomes distrustful of Perry after discovering he has been being lied to all these years about his secret identity. An anecdote was also shared about Slash being a fan of the show and wanting to write a song for the film, and how he was as starstruck to "meet Phineas" as Mr. Martella was to meet him- if not more so.
Given all they've done and that they show no signs of stopping, what will Phineas and Ferb do in the future? We were given a few hints as to what will happen in the near future as well as some ideas as to what could happen farther on down the line. Mr. Pancholy pointed out he doesn't know the difference between what episodes have been recorded and which have aired (to which Swampy added, "Neither do we!"), but we learned a few future plotlines: Isabella will ask Candace for romantic advice, Baljeet will enter the Tour de France, and he and Buford will also sing about their relationship: "Frenemies/We like disliking one another..." Dan and Swampy pointed out that they enjoy playing around with the Fireside Girls and are still contemplating the spinoff Mr. Barnes originally reported in his Times article, and Dan also contemplated that the boys returning to school could be "our Suite Life on Deck." I know I wouldn't mind Phineas and Ferb staying on the airwaves as long as Zack and Cody did.
Although all of the cast brought something to the table, two members in particular seemed to stand out for entirely different reasons: Alyson Stoner, who seemed to be as intrigued and curious by the goings-on as I assume the audience was and reacting accordingly (and comically), and Dee Bradley Baker, who had a bunch of fun doing silly voices, making weird faces, and joking about the fact that for the most part he gets paid to do nothing since the same Perry noise is used over and over.
But perhaps the real scene-stealers were the young fans of the show who asked questions, many of which were not only intelligent, but amusing as well. One brought Doofenshmirtz to task about his idea of invention naming, suggesting the reason his inventions fail is the fact that he uses "inator" in their names all the time, while another ended up cracking up both the audience and the panel and bringing something to light that Dan never realized until that moment: if Candace is allergic to dairy, how come her favorite food is grilled cheese? The cast- and the audience- also got a laugh from a kid in the audience who said "Meap" at just the right moment when "The Chronicles of Meap" was brought up in a discussion about Phineas and Isabella's relationship. For some reason, kids always know how to say the right thing at the right time.
After some particularly amusing antics from Mr. Baker (which is an understatement, as pretty much all of his antics were particularly amusing), Mr. Barnes remarked that "I want to be inside your head for five minutes." For an hour and a half, we got a chance to be inside the heads of the cast and creators of Phineas and Ferb, as it were, and the results were, not surprisingly, informative and entertaining. And on behalf of all of us here on the Wiki: thanks for the shout-out, Swampy. We appreciate it.
The TimesTalks panel may be viewed in its entirety here.