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Phineas and Ferb on DVD: The Fast and the Phineas The Daze of Summer A Very Perry Christmas

"Phineas and Ferb" A Very Perry Christmas DVD Review

Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Dan Povenmire, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh

Writers: Jon Colton Barry, Antoine Guilbaud, Kim Roberson, Scott Peterson, Jen Kirkman, Michael Ryan, Piero Piluso, Edgar Karapetyan, Bernie Petterson, Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft, Joe Orrantia, Mike Roth / Directors: Zac Moncrief, Jay Lender, Robert F. Hughes

Voice Cast: Vincent Martella (Phineas Flynn), Ashley Tisdale (Candace Flynn), Thomas Sangster (Ferb Fletcher), Caroline Rhea (Mom), Richard O'Brien (Dad), Dan Povenmire (Dr. Doofenshmirtz), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Major Monogram), Dee Bradley Baker (Perry the Platypus), Alyson Stoner (Isabella), Tyler Mann (Carl Karl), Maulik Pancholy (Baljeet Rai), Bobby Gaylor (Buford Van Stomm), Mitchell Musso (Jeremy Johnson), Kelly Hu (Stacy Hirano), Malcolm McDowell (Grandpa Fletcher), Jane Carr (Grandma Fletcher) / Notable Guest Voices: Clancy Brown (Santa Claus, The Regurgitator), Mat Horne (Blay'n), Bruce Mackinnon (Clewn't), Ariel Winter (Wendy Stinglehopper), Sheena Easton (Doofenshmirtz's Girlfriend), Diedrich Bader (Albert), Jack McBrayer (Irving)

Running Time: 92 Minutes (1 special & 5 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Closed Captioned; Extras Captioned and Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / Episodes aired February 20, 2009 - October 8, 2010
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010 / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Red Keepcase with Side Snaps in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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I wasn't crazy about "Phineas and Ferb" the first time I reviewed it on DVD. But I'm enough of a sucker for Christmas specials and episodes that I knew the show wasn't going to get a better second chance to impress me than A Very Perry Christmas. This animated Disney Channel series typically tells of two stepbrothers' efforts to make the most of summer vacation.
Clearly, the title, imagery, and timing of this release, its third compilation, suggests it's departing from that premise here.

The DVD's main attraction and reason for the compilation title is "Christmas Vacation!", a triple-length episode that aired on Disney XD, Disney Channel, and ABC Family last December. It isn't a huge leap for the series to ring in the holidays; at the start, Phineas and Ferb are looking to maximize their two-week Christmas break. The special uses that notion as a springboard for an episode more substantial and festive than usual.

It's no mere coincidence that many TV series improve in holiday episodes. Christmas in particular is one of the few topics that can sharpen a show's creativity. The holiday enters the picture with so many familiar aspects known to practically every viewer, each carrying his or her own assorted feelings and traditions. All the writers have to do is use that baggage in a positive way while summoning enough imagination to distinguish their story from the hackneyed standby Christmas Eve redemption tales.

Phineas and Ferb decide it's about time someone showed Santa Claus some gratitude in the 2009 special "Christmas Vacation!" Secret agent Perry the Platypus gets tied up with Christmas lights and a partridge placed on his bill by the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who prepares to play Sal Tuscany's holiday CD.

Without quite breaking the mold, the makers of "Phineas and Ferb" do an adequate job here, with "Christmas Vacation!" standing as the most charming and entertaining installment of the show that I've seen. As if to suggest this is a full-length movie, the packaging doesn't make clear that regular 15-minute episodes (around twelve minutes sans commercials) make up the majority of the DVD's 81-minute feature runtime.

In the chance that you're reading this review whilst unfamiliar with "Phineas and Ferb" and in the likelihood that I don't ever write about the show again, let me briefly provide some overview and final general analysis. The smart, fun-loving Phineas and Ferb supply the show's central whimsy. Taller, thinner Ferb rarely speaks, letting Phineas do enough talking for the both of them. The boys' foil is their sister Candace, a shallow, boyfriend-obsessed motormouth with a history of being just one step too slow to get them in trouble for their ambitious adventures.

Also in the mix is Perry, the boys' pet platypus, who is secretly and mutely a spy ("Agent P"), called upon to thwart the not so threatening Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. The two are regularly introduced by their own musical jingles. This spy angle doesn't add much to the show overall, besides recalling a "Kim Possible" feel with much less action and far fewer villains. At least it divvies up screentime three different ways, with no component being strong enough to deserve more.

The show's primary course -- comedy -- doesn't always hit its marks, but it fared better on this DVD than previously, with several decidedly funny bits here among the strange voices and understated responses. The show's design -- consisting of bulging eyes, floating eyebrows, bizarre hair colors and head shapes -- is still not a very pleasing one, but it is a design of its own no less.

Let's look at what we find here...

Phineas and Ferb's translator lets them learn the thoughts of neighborhood animals like this greedy orange cat in "Interview with a Platypus." Dr. Doofenshmirtz is less than bold in addressing The Regurgitator, the villain to whom Agent P has been reassigned in "Oh, There You Are, Perry."

1. Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation! (33:49) (Originally aired December 7, 2009)
Pushy carolers provide the motivation Doofenshmirtz needs to unleash a diabolical plan on a holiday he's quite ambivalent to. That plan sees everyone in Danville added to Santa's naughty list. As part of their efforts to show appreciation for Santa, Phineas and Ferb assume his job for the neighborhood,
with help from two North Pole elves. Also, Candace frets over the need to give Jeremy the perfect present.

Two minor complaints. First, I could have done without most of the musical numbers, which do feel like they're padding from the half-hour episode this easily could have been. Secondly, though it will float over some young viewers' heads, I found one quick joke to be in poor taste. To convince Candace that Santa Claus is real, Phineas shares some evidence, which equates the Shroud of Turin with the famed Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage and Surgeon's Photograph of the Loch Ness Monster, as all three are clearly parodied with Santa. I'll assume this wasn't the writers' intent, but the gag certainly does lump Jesus in the same class as Santa, Bigfoot, and Nessie, kind of a terrible thing to do on an episode observing his birth (as if that's what's happening here).

2. Interview with a Platypus (12:01) (Originally aired February 20, 2009)
Phineas and Ferb invent a device that deciphers animal communication. Candace spends the day playing video games at Jeremy's house. Doofenshmirtz invents a "BO-AT."

3. Oh, There You Are, Perry (11:40) (Originally aired July 11, 2009)
A reassigned Perry goes missing, to the concern of Phineas, Ferb, and even a guilty Candace. A downgraded Dr. Doofenshmirtz accepts an internship under Perry's new villain, The Regurgitator.

4. Chez Platypus (12:04) (Originally aired April 4, 2009)
Phineas and Ferb open a trendy restaurant, where Doofenshmirtz goes on a promising date while Candace and Jeremy have to wait in line.

5. Perry Lays an Egg (11:54) (Originally aired April 11, 2009)
Inspired by nature television, Candace tries to be a nurturing model of motherhood for what Phineas and Ferb mistakenly believe is an egg laid by Perry. Doofenshmirtz furthers his grudge with whales.

Cued by seamless branching, each episode's end credits images oddly derive from "Christmas Vacation" instead of their own. Though the credits themselves mostly look right, the juxtaposition gives the disc, deliberately or not, more of a holiday feel than it deserves, complete with repeated "Ding Dong, Merrily on High" instrumentals.

Doofenshmirtz finds love, briefly, on a Chez Platypus date with a woman who appreciates evil and lab coats. Candace gets in touch with her maternal side inside a platypus costume in "Perry Lays an Egg."

VIDEO and AUDIO

In case you couldn't tell from the screencaps you've seen throughout this review, Disney finally seems to have gotten with the times on Disney Channel DVDs. Unlike the two previous fullscreen "Phineas and Ferb" DVDs, the entirety of this disc is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, matching the aspect ratio of the show's high-def broadcasts. Picture quality is great too, with the simple, stylized animation not encountering any woes in what's likely a digital-to-digital transfer. Colors are bright, lines are sharp and bold, and, without any compression concerns, I'm not sure the creators could be anything less than delighted by the way this disc presents their series.

As on the previous DVDs, the audio is Dolby Surround 2.0. Many TV shows don't really bother with much channel separation in full 5.1 mixes, so I doubt we're missing major directional effects even in the more ambitious stretches of this DVD. The sound is crisp, clear, and deep, with no element drowning out another. The DVD goes one step beyond the standard French and Spanish audio offerings with a Portuguese dub. All three translations are also provided as subtitles along with an English stream. With separate default foreign subtitles for translating onscreen text, there's a lot to toggle through during playback, but the efforts are appreciated nonetheless.

Who needs the WPIX Yule Log when you've got Phineas and Ferb's Virtual Fireplace on this DVD? The Bowling for Soup-performed "Phineas and Ferb" theme tune gets a wintry update in the Christmas special's opening song, presented here with Christmas-Perry-Oki lyric subtitles.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The bonus features begin with Phineas & Ferb's Virtual Fireplace, a feature that zooms in on the main menu's cartoon hearth while instrumentals of holiday standards play. Some character sound bites and cameos spice up this 26-minute, 48-second loop. It's a cool --
Disney Store
or is that warm? -- touch, but plasma screen owners beware of burn-in (Ho-Ho-No!).

"Dr. D's Xmas Jukebox-inator" does nothing more than treat you to the six songs from the Christmas special, playing any one of them you choose and then returning you to the menu. There aren't even onscreen lyrics, making this little more than a song selection menu. Fair enough. By the menu's spelling and punctuation, the songs are: "Winter Vacation", "I Really Don't Hate Xmas", "That Xmas Feeling", "Where Did We Go Wrong?", "Danville for Niceness", and "Thank You Santa."

"Christmas-Perry-Oki" offers more of a sing-along, playing the entire episode with song lyrics subtitled. A two-colored rendering of the platypus is the equivalent of the proverbial bouncing ball. That alone makes this one of the most inspired uses of player-generated subtitles I've ever seen.

The holiday wishes of tiny Baljeet Rai are read in "Letters to Santa." Albert, a nerd with spy cameras, helps Candace try to bust her brothers' moon-scraping construction in the bonus episode "The Doof Side of the Moon."

"Letters to Santa" is an interactive feature that shares with us ten characters' requests for Santa Claus. To get around voice actor issues, Santa reads the letters, although they are very much written in the characters' voices. Each letter is accompanied by precisely-edited clips of the characters in action. Those featured: Phineas, Ferb, Perry, Candace, Doofenshmirtz, Baljeet, Buford, Jeremy, Isabella, and Major Monogram.

Perhaps the most meaningful bonus feature is "The Doof Side of the Moon" (10:57), a "Phineas and Ferb" episode that is set to debut tonight. In it, Phineas and Ferb build the world's tallest building. To bust her brothers, Candace accepts help and spycams from a nerd named Albert. The episode has its own end credits but not its opening title sequence, the rear channel of a Surround track (it's plain stereo), nor the foreign dubs afforded the disc's featured episodes.

Co-creator Jeff "Swampy" Marsh discusses writing songs in an hour and not worrying about looking foolish in "Keep on Buildin'." Though it's decorated for Christmas, there are Easter eggs to be found on the DVD main menu.

"Keep on Buildin': A Jam Session with the Phineas & Ferb Creators" is an unexpectedly substantial 12-minute featurette. It deals foremost with the show's fast-paced songwriting process as it pertains to the tune penned for "Doof Side to the Moon".
But it also touches upon the series' general intentions and philosophies, with much information and a touch of sarcasm.

Finally, there are two Disney DVD staples that hardly seem to qualify as bonus features: the Sprouse brothers' Blu-ray infomercial (4:45) and a 1-minute how-to on DisneyFile digital copy, neither of which apply to this title, as if that makes any difference to Disney's master indoctrination plan to sell you more than you need at a price higher than what you should spend.

Seven Easter eggs are scattered around the Main Menu. Most of them just prompt an animated menu gag, but one plays a featurette (6:10) showing creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh initiating the Rob Hughes Project. It has the whole fun cast and crew covering a vacationing crew member's office in Post-It sticky notes. I guess it's what the rear cover refers to as a "Surprise Gift from Santa".

The multitude of Easter eggs does make the main menu harder to simply navigate than usual. Still, it at least displays a festive living room scene of presents, lights, stockings, and garland.

A Very Perry Christmas's extensively embossed cardboard slipcover slides over a red keepcase (side-snapped to deter the widespread "Phineas and Ferb" theft). Besides the usual Disney Movie Rewards code sheet, there is an insert-sized Perry iron-on transfer for making a tiny graphic T-shirt (the other candidate for the "Surprise Gift" reference).

The DVD opens with Disney's "families love Blu-ray" promo and trailers for Tron: Legacy, Oceans and The Crimson Wing, and Alice in Wonderland: Special 60th Anniversary Edition. Without repeating the disc-openers, the menu's Sneak Peeks listing plays ads for Disney Movie Rewards, "Genuine Disney Treasure" (a new vaguely anti-piracy spot featuring Toy Story 2's cleaner Geri), "Kick Buttowski", Toy Story 3, A Christmas Carol, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2.

Ho ho ho! Santa Claus makes a Christmas Eve visit to Danville after all, to the delight of these nice children. Most of big sister Candace Flynn's (voiced by Ashley Tisdale) thoughts involve her boyfriend Jeremy Johnson (Mitchel Musso).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I enjoyed "Phineas and Ferb" more here than in my previous exposure to the series. I still don't like it enough to recommend, but I recognize that it's got a little more going for it than most of the other contemporary Disney Channel shows I've seen. There's less featured content on this disc than the two that preceded it, but the episodes seem to be stronger, the widescreen picture is much preferred, and there are some pretty good bonus features to boot. All things considered, this may be your best bet for preserving a tiny taste of the series, which is the most fans will legally be able to do as long as Disney remains opposed to Disney Channel and animated season set DVDs.

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Reviewed October 8, 2010.



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