There are plenty of cartoon mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, and even fleas spread thick across the animated universe, but never before has a platypus been given the spotlight. Not until Phineas and Ferb creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh noticed the startling lack of presence this semi-aquatic mammal had in pop culture. Rectifying the problem, they introduced Perry the platypus into the pop lexicon through their hit Disney Channel series, and this teal crime fighter has become such a fan favorite in the Walt Disney cannon, he's been given his own DVD!
Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files DVD, in stores June 5th, collects and chronicles the best Perry the Platypus themed episodes, gathering them all for one exciting set. For the first time ever, the top-secret archives of O.W.C.A (Organization Without a Cool Acronym) will be exposed, as Perry's most exciting adventures are brought to light. Watch as this stealth family pet goes from one exciting mission to the next in his quest to thwart his nemesis, Dr. Doofenshmirtz.
We recently caught up with both Dan Povenmire and Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh to discuss the series, this new DVD, the upcoming Phineas and Ferb movie, and Perry's overall appeal to the general public.
Here is our conversation.
Is it even legal in the states to have a pet platypus?
Dan Povenmire: No, it is not legal in the states to have a pet platypus.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: It is not even legal to have a pet platypus in Australia or New Zealand. Or Tasmania...
Dan Povenmire: You can't even get a platypus out of those countries. There are all sorts of regulations. It's hard for zoos to even get them. And they are one of the few poisonous mammals. They have a poisonous barb on their ankle. They are not real pets. You can't have one, if that's what you are getting at. Nope. Sorry!
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: You'll have to take some other animal and modify it heavily. But we don't recommend that...
You say that...I have a duck bill and a beaver tail that I sometimes make my small dog wear!
Dan Povenmire: That is awesome! We want photos!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the history of Disney animation, there are no other platypus characters, right? Not even in the Looney Tunes...
Dan Povenmire: That's why we decided to do a platypus.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: We were the only ones!
Dan Povenmire: When people say, "Why a platypus?" Its because we hadn't ever seen one in animation before.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: And no one had any expectations about what a platypus would be. If there was one before, in animation, it has been completely suppressed and all evidence has been erased by the governemnet. Which I hope is true.
Why do you think the platypus has been so neglected in pop culture and the media? Why have they left this guy out in the cold?
Dan Povenmire: I'm going with governemnet conspiracy.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: When we looked at it, it seemed like a really obvious place to go for humor and uniqueness.
Dan Povenmire: They are such strange animals.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: We don't know why it has never been picked up before. Lord knows they've tried everything else.
Dan Povenmire: I will say this. The show was on the air for six months before Swampy's mother-in-law realized that a platypus was a real thing.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: She thought we made it up...
No way! Where is she from that she's never seen a platypus?
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: She's from Holland. I don't know if that makes any difference.
Dan Povenmire: We know that they don't have platypus in Holland, at least.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: No! They don't!
You say governemnet conspiracy. I'm sure that you are both aware of the Montauk Monster that washed up off the shores of Plum Island. Are you suggesting that the platypus is another genetically altered creature that escaped a lab, and has been thriving in the wild all this time?
Dan Povenmire: I don't think we are suggesting that...We are stating that emphatically!
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: Of course, we are doing this at great personal risk!
I don't doubt it. You hear people reveal these kinds of secrets, and then you never see them again. You might want to watch you back...
Dan Povenmire: Hopefully, with any luck, you will never see us again!
Disney is a company that is really protective of their property and its creators, and the animators...Do they have a contingency plan in place for when the Men in Black do come to get you?
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: We are never more than ten feet away from an escape hatch at any given moment, as is part of our contract with Disney.
Dan Povenmire: Yes, and we have one of those little memory flashers from Men In Black.
From what I understand, Phineas and Ferb are the new mascots of Disney now...
Dan Povenmire: We're doing well...We're doing well...
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: I know they are trying to get rid of that guy with the ears. That Mickey guy...
Dan Povenmire: Yes, he is so over! No...We are but a small cog in a large machine. But we are enjoying a modicum of success now. Its just nice to see Phineas and Ferb represented at the parks. There is a show at Disney California Adventure. They are teaching how to draw Perry, Phineas and Ferb at the animation academy, at Disney Animation Studios in Orlando.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: As animators, creators, and kids who grew up with the wonderful world of Disney on TV, and going to the parks since I was very tiny...The fact that we are included in any part of the Park is a massive honor. It is humbling, and overwhelming. I hate to get serious for a minute, but when it happens, it just overwhelms you. It is the coolest thing ever, and I don't know how to express it in a way that really explains how emotional it is to be a part of that. When you hear a song that you wrote played over the loud speaker at the park, it makes you well up with tears, and kind of freak out...Because that's what we grew up with.
Dan Povenmire: The first time I saw the Phineas and Ferb show at California Adventure, my wife and daughters were with me. I said, "I think the show has started!" We asked when it was, and we showed up for it. My wife and I burst into tears midway through it. We were hugging each other, laughing and crying over how cool it was. I hope people weren't really paying attention to us. They are going to wonder why this couple is having a psychotic break..."Boy, this couple is really excited by this...Let's stay away from them!"
Image the kids seeing this with no point of reference...
Dan Povenmire: "Why are they crying, Mommy? What happened?" Just don't stand too close...
Is Perry walking around the parks?
Dan Povenmire: Perry doesn't walk around the parks much, yet. I have seen Phineas and Ferb walking around, which is cool. There is a Phineas and Ferb meet-and-greet that you can go to in Hollywood Studios in Florida. There is a whole street show they do at California Adventure.
Are you at all surprised by just how much adults have embraced the show?
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: The thing about it is, we make this show to make each other laugh. We're adult-ish...So it doesn't surprise us. But when it goes out on the Disney Channel you don't realize that there is going to be much opportunity for adults, other than parents, to be exposed to it. That surprised us. Like, when we found out that there are groups in college who get together and watch it. And high school kids. That they were exposed at all to finding it is a little odd...
I understand how kids in college are finding it...But what about these older adults who don't have kids? Are parents telling their single friends about it?
Dan Povenmire: What we find is, people who have friends that are parents...They hear their kids talking about it, and they are like, "Huh? Maybe I better check this out." They start watching, and they get addicted. That is always fun. Swampy's dentist was asking all of these very specific questions about the show. He'd obviously watched most of the episodes. He was asking these geeky questions, so Swampy asks, "Are you watching it with your kids?" And he says, "No. We don't have kids." (Laughs) It's very fun. We love that. And we love to hear that families are watching it together. We feel, for a long time now, there has been TVs in separate rooms. Each family has a different TV for each age group. We feel that has made TV very fragmented. For us, TV was all about the family getting together and enjoying something together. We love that we hear it a lot, "It's the one show I can watch with all of my kids. My fourteen year old loves it, my eight-year-old loves it, and my six year old loves it. Its the one thing we can all agree on." It's their family TV watching time.
You guys have a movie coming out in 2013, right?
Dan Povenmire: That's what we hear!
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: Why, have you heard something different? Is there something we don't know?
I hear its still moving forward...
Dan Povenmire: Good! We're sill working on that. Hopefully, the movie will play to both audiences better than the show itself does. We're really keeping the adult audience in mind for the feature. Its still in the development patterned. The second draft is being worked on right now.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: I think making a feature for an ongoing series presents a whole lot of specific and unique challenges. We want to make sure we get it right. Everyone at Disney seems to love the show as much as we do. So, everybody has a vested interested in making sure it can be the best it can possibly be. That it checks all the boxes. We're working on it!
How is the soundtrack coming along for the movie? I know each episode of the show has one new song. Are you creating quite a few new tunes for this?
Dan Povenmire: We are moving through the same process. We go through the story first, and then we figure out where a song will fit in. Then, we write the song around that. The songwriting on the show has become an easier process for us than writing songs for the bands that we were both in. Because, we are not trying to get out our inner demons. There is no angst involved. We have to write a song about this specific thing, and we have about a minute to do it.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: We are singing about muffins, and giraffes...We have sixty seconds to fill, so...Go!
Dan Povenmire: We are just writing silly little pop songs about these different little things. We decide on a musical genre. Then the story dictates the musical chorus. We work towards that to make a melody that we like...
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: The difference on a movie is that we are going to write the entire song. When you are working within an eleven-minute format, you tend to write a song, and only use a small portion of it. You only have eleven minutes, so you can't do a whole three to five minute number. In the movie, we will have the joy and freedom of writing the whole song. We actually have a list of songs that we keep saying, "One day we must finish this!" They are really great songs, and we only have about 45 seconds of them.
Dan Povenmire: Yeah, you get a verse or two and the chorus. Then it's over. Because of these time constraints.
In regards to the new DVD specifically, are these episodes edited to include only Perry and his adventure? Or is it the full, uncut episode in which he appeared in?
Dan Povenmire: They are the episodes as they originally aired, they are just heavily Perry themed.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: They are the ones that are Perry weighted.
Dan Povenmire: We didn't cut out any of the references to the boys. We didn't cut out all of the Phineas and Ferb stuff just so we could show you Perry.
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh: Though, that is a darn good idea! (laughs)
Dan Povenmire: They chose episodes that had Perry doing some very fun stuff. That's what it is!
Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files DVD is in stores Tuesday, June 5th, and Phineas and Ferb is currently airing on The Disney Channel.