Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for Phineas and Ferb.
I called it, didn’t I? When Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe premiered on Disney+ a couple of years ago, I said I wondered whether it might lead to a renewal of the show… and here we are! Almost eight years after the series ended its run on the Disney Channel/Disney XD, co-creator Dan Povenmire announced on social media that Phineas and Ferb will be returning – not just for a one-off special or TV movie, not even for a single season, but for two whole seasons and a whopping 40 episodes!
I’m actually really pleased to hear this news. Phineas and Ferb is a fun series, and one I return to on days when I’m struggling with my mental health. I guess you could call it one of my “comfort shows,” so to know that there will be more episodes to get stuck into in the months and years ahead… it’s good news from my point of view!
I first encountered Phineas and Ferb shortly after its premiere. Back then I had a cable TV subscription (remember those?) and I can’t remember how it came about exactly, but somehow I saw a promo or advertisement for Phineas and Ferb and thought that it looked like fun. I wouldn’t have normally given most things on the Disney Channel a second glance, but even in that short promo something must’ve leapt out at me, convincing me that this was a show I needed to see. And I’m very glad I did, clearly!
Even though I was already an adult when I first watched Phineas and Ferb, it was obvious that the show had a lot to offer beyond its young target audience. The best shows made for kids have something to offer to adults, too – and no, I don’t just mean a way to keep kids distracted and quiet so we can do other things! Phineas and Ferb had subtle jokes and references aplenty that were genuinely hilarious, and the way it told two stories that often (but not always) intersected was something original in the animated space.
There was a sense, though, that Phineas and Ferb had started to run out of steam by the time of its fourth season, and I’m not alone in thinking that. Season 4 tried out several different concepts in the form of special episodes, stories that featured new characters, different premises, and tie-ins with the likes of Marvel and Star Wars. The original formula of the show – with the boys’ inventions and the conflict between Perry and Doofenshmirtz – took a back seat.
Most of those special episodes are great fun, don’t get me wrong, but there was definitely a reason why they were made – there were fewer ideas on the table and arguably, as the show had developed and fleshed out its main characters, fewer places to take them in a way that felt interesting. This is a hurdle that the renewed Phineas and Ferb will have to overcome – and it may not become apparent at first.
When the show returns, I expect that most fans will welcome it back with open arms. Those first few episodes will re-establish Phineas and Ferb and its format, reintroducing its characters, and if the show basically does what it did from Seasons 1-3, a lot of folks will be thrilled. The question, though, is really whether that format can sustain another forty episodes without something happening to shake things up.
I’m not particularly concerned about questions of “canon” in a show like Phineas and Ferb. It is worth noting, though, that the show has an internal timeline of sorts, and not only that, but Season 4 provided two episodes that come together to give its story a pretty definitive finale: Act Your Age and The Last Day of Summer. There have also been main character crossovers in the series Milo Murphy’s Law – but as far fewer people watched that show, I don’t think it matters in the same way, and there’s definitely enough creative freedom to overwrite some of these things.
Having said that, the questions of timing and setting crop up. Will these new episodes take place in the same endless summer as last time, or would they be set further along the timeline – perhaps during the school year or even in the next summer? With Doofenshmirtz supposedly converted to the “good” side by summer’s end, how would that work for his character?
I don’t think that Phineas and Ferb could realistically get away with making Doofenshmirtz a “good guy.” The original format worked so well specifically because his story and his evil schemes stood in contrast to the boys’ shenanigans, so somehow that has to be retained. But it has to be done in a way that doesn’t undo all of the development Doofenshmirtz got over the course of the show’s run; it’s not unfair to call him the breakout character, and a big part of that is because his character arc, such as it is, portrayed him sympathetically, despite his self-described “evil” nature.
It’s a challenge to walk that line: to bring the show back and retain its signature formula, all the while avoiding taking key characters backwards and regressing their development. The most important one to get right in this regard is Doofenshmirtz, though Buford’s status as a semi-reformed yet still self-described “bully” is also of note.
Speaking of characters, it hasn’t been confirmed at this stage whether all – or even any – of the original voice cast will be back. With one notable exception, they all returned for Candace Against The Universe in 2020, though, so I would hope that negotiations are at an advanced stage and the voice cast will all reprise their roles. One or two absences can be worked around – this isn’t a Rick & Morty type of situation, where that series has just lost (for totally understandable reasons) its main voice actor and the person who voiced both of the titular characters. It would still be unfortunate, though, if Phineas and Ferb had to make significant changes to its cast.
Someone else who doesn’t seem to have signed onto the project yet is co-creator Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. Marsh and Povenmire created Phineas and Ferb together, and it’s noteworthy that Marsh has yet to comment publicly on the series being revived. He also provided the voice of Major Monogram, directed a handful of episodes, and was credited with writing more than a dozen – including some of the show’s most popular and best-remembered stories. I’m sure that Disney (and Dan Povenmire) will be working in private to get him back, but his loss would be significant for the show if those efforts fall through.
Without Marsh, and with the main voice actors also not being signed up, I can’t help but wonder if this announcement may have been a little premature. If things don’t go to plan and major voice actors aren’t able to rejoin the project, that would be a real shame – and would put a downer on things as Phineas and Ferb returns, so I really hope that Disney will pull out all the stops to make it happen.
Although Disney Channel shows have tended to be one-and-done things, it’s hardly something new in the animated space for a series to be continued. Look at the likes of Tom and Jerry, the Looney Tunes, or Scooby-Doo – the latter of which has just been reworked on HBO Max as Velma… actually, maybe the less said about that last example the better!
But the point stands: some animated shows become classics, and have a lifespan far beyond what may have been intended – or even hoped for – at the time they were created. If you’d told William Hanna and Joseph Barbera that new incarnations of their characters and stories would still be being created and enjoyed in the 2020s, I doubt they’d have believed it! So there’s plenty of scope for Phineas and Ferb to come back, and perhaps even to iterate and modernise some of its stories for a new decade and a new audience – some of whom will literally be the children of the kids and teens who watched the show when it first debuted.
So I’m thrilled to welcome back Phineas and Ferb, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the first batch of new episodes when they’re ready. I’m not expecting to see anything imminently – animation takes time, and although the announcement has been made, it’s clear that the revived Phineas and Ferb is still at a very early stage in its pre-production. In addition to the obvious voice cast, producers, directors, writers, and animators all need to be signed up before work can begin. We’re probably a year or two away from the first episodes being ready… but I’m happy to wait.
This was a bit of a surprise announcement – albeit one that I felt Candace Against The Universe paved the way for – and although it may have been a little early or even premature, it’s certainly succeeded at getting fans hyped up and talking on social media. I’m genuinely excited to have more adventures in the tri-state area with Phineas, Ferb, Candace, Perry, Doofenshmirtz, and the whole gang when the series is ready!
Phineas and Ferb Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Disney+. Seasons 5 and 6 are currently in pre-production and have no premiere date scheduled. Phineas and Ferb is the copyright of The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.