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"Phineas and Ferb" The Fast and the Phineas DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Creators/Executive Producers: Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, Dan Povenmire

Writers: John Barry, Sherm Cohen, Bobby Gaylor, Antoine Guilbaud, Chris Headrick, Martin Olson, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, Dan Povenmire / Directors: Zac Moncrief, Dan Povenmire

Voice Cast: Vincent Martella (Phineas), Ashley Tisdale (Candace), Thomas Sangster (Ferb), Caroline Rhea (Mom), Alyson Stoner (Isabella), Mitchell Musso (Jeremy), Dan Povenmire (Dr. Doofenshmirtz), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Major Monogram), Richard O'Brien (Dad), Bobby Gaylor (Buford), Dee Bradley Baker (Perry the Platypus) / Notable Guest Voices: Kelly Hu (Stacy), Evander Holyfield (Himself), Maulik Pancholy (Bajeet), Carlos Alazraqui (Dr. Feelbetter)

Running Time: 115 Minutes (8 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Full Screen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99; DVD Release Date: July 29, 2008
7 Episodes aired between September 28, 2007 - March 1, 2008; One Unaired
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase

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By Kelvin Cedeno

It's ironic to think that when they had no network of their own, Disney usually made television series that were animated, yet with the Disney Channel, the majority of programs are live-action. Of course, the Playhouse Disney block is home to many different animated shows, but most of the station's time is spent on sitcoms like "Hannah Montana" and "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody".
Of the few recent animated ones, only "Kim Possible" has achieved the type of popularity and success not seen since The Disney Afternoon lineup of syndicated programs. Disney Channel's latest original series, "Phineas and Ferb", marks a return to form not only in medium, but in content as well.

Each episode of the series follows a basic format: Phineas (voiced by Vincent Martella) and his quiet stepbrother Ferb (Thomas Sangster) long to find exciting ways to spend their summer vacation. Their creativity gets them into outrageous adventures that people their age hardly ever get away with. This aggravates their older sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale), who repeatedly tries to notify their mother (Caroline Rhea) about these activities. Meanwhile, pet platypus Perry (Dee Bradley Baker) leads a double life as Secret Agent P, determined to stop the latest schemes of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (Dan Povenmire). This story arc exists independently from Phineas and Ferb's for the majority of each episode, but the two threads come together at every conclusion, usually in a way that conceals what the two boys have done from their mother.

There are two aspects of "Phineas and Ferb" that set it apart from the sea of other Disney Channel shows on the air. First is its sense of humor. Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh bring the kind of offbeat humor they've cultivated on such series as "Rocko's Modern Life" and "Family Guy". Indeed, many of the jokes are likely to go over children's heads. Thankfully, this isn't due to mature content in the HBO sense of the term, but rather a more witty and sophisticated style of humor. It feels very much like Disney's own "Darkwing Duck" and even WB's "Animaniacs" and "Tiny Toon Adventures". These are animated programs that can be appreciated by both children and adults for different reasons, never polarizing either demographic.

Candace tattles to off-screen mother about how Phineas and Ferb are creating their own title sequence. Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Agent P decide to discuss their differences via a daytime talk show.

If that weren't enough to set "Phineas and Ferb" apart from the cringe-inducing hysterics of today's other Disney Channel original programming, there's another aspect that does: its sincerity. An aggravating trend is brought to each new show the network churns out, which lends a sense of smarminess and superiority to the characters. Highly amusing if done right, Disney tends to go too far to the point of making its television personas obnoxious and unlikable.

"Phineas and Ferb" completely steers clear of this trap. The two leads are not smug, ironic kids who feel the world revolves around them. Their only goal is to enjoy life, and while they do take this to the extreme,
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they never even try to cover themselves up the way their flesh and blood Disney Channel brethren often do. Even Candace, in all of her stool pigeon glory, is treated sympathetically enough that she's not really a villain. Phineas and Ferb bare no ill will towards her, and never try to take advantage of her or their friends. This is a hugely refreshing approach that, funnily enough, makes these characters far more human than those of Disney's live-action sitcoms.

If there's one weakness the show has, it's the strict formula every episode follows. They all basically share the same plot with only differing details. For the time being, it's able to get away with this since those details are sharp and clever. Eventually, however, the writers are going to need to let go of some the show's trademark story points if they don't wish to grow stale.

Outside of the potential to lock itself in a formulaic corner, there's little that "Phineas and Ferb" does wrong. The humor and voice work have a far better sense of comedic timing than that of their network contemporaries. It's a genuinely hilarious show, with a special emphasis placed on "genuine." One can only hope that future Disney Channel series show as much care and craft as this one does.

Phineas gets his friend Isabella ready for the haunted house in hopes of curing her hiccups. In one of her few moments of happiness, Candace dances with her crush, Jeremy, at her brothers' beach party.

The episodes contained on this first DVD compilation are as follows:

"One Good Scare Ought to Do It" Parts I and II (22:34) (Not Yet Aired in the U.S.)
When Isabella has a case of the hiccups,
Phineas and Ferb decide to build a haunted house to scare them out of her. Agent P must stop Dr. Doofenshmirtz from unleashing a ray machine that can evaporate anything in its path.

"The Fast and the Phineas" (11:47) (Originally aired February 2, 2008)
Phineas and Ferb spruce up their mother's car and use it to enter a race. Dr. Doofenshmirtz intends to deflate every inflatable object known to mankind.

"Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror!" (10:48) (Originally aired September 28, 2007)
Candace is shocked to find herself enjoying her brothers' latest adventure for once: turning the backyard into a public beach party. Dr. Doofenshmirtz comes to grips with his past by stealing everyone's garden gnomes.

"Are You My Mummy?" (10:53) (Originally aired February 16, 2008)
Phineas and Ferb search for a mummy to adopt after seeing a film about one. In order to make his property more valuable, Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans on submerging the rest of the city under water by destroying the dam.

Phineas and two of the FerbTones rock out to the one and only hit song of their career. Candace dreams of stardom and all of its handprint perks.

"Flop Starz" (11:42) (Originally aired February 1, 2008)
When Phineas and Ferb set out to become one-hit wonders, Candace's dreams of performing onstage run into complications. Agent P disguises himself as Dr. Doofenshmirtz's new assistant to prevent him from setting a giant robot on the city.

"Raging Bully" (11:40) (Originally aired February 4, 2008)
Evander Holyfield (guest starring as himself) helps Phineas train
for a thumb wrestling match against Buford. Dr. Doofenshmirtz develops a method of hypnosis that'll force citizens to celebrate his birthday with him.

"Lights, Candace, Action!" (10:55) (Originally aired February 3, 2008)
Phineas and Ferb help Candace reach of her goal of becoming a movie star by directing her in a picture. Agent P discovers that Dr. Doofenshmirtz has discovered a way to make people and objects age rapidly on the spot.

"It's About Time!" Parts I and II (22:34) (Originally aired March 1, 2008)
While at a museum, Phineas and Ferb fix a time machine and travel back to the time of dinosaurs. Agent P is hurt when he finds Dr. Doofenshmirtz has found a new nemesis in Peter the Panda.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Phineas and Ferb" comes in its broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 looking exactly as one would expect from a recent animated series. The image is clean and stable, colors are bold, and sharpness is immaculate. The only slight flaw with these transfers is a case of jagged edges when rapid movement occurs. These are minimal, though, and aren't enough to tarnish the excellent transfers. The Dolby surround 2.0 tracks aren't very active due to the nature of the show. Dialogue and effects sound crisp enough, and the various musical numbers help liven up the proceedings.

Phineas and Ferb survey the city before them that's just waiting to be surrounded by a giant rollercoaster in the storyboard pilot pitch. You help the puppet version of Dad embarrass himself on stage in the set-top game with the most bizarre title ever: Prance Askance Execution. Candace flees a rolling gumball machine in the animated DVD menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The first and most substantial bonus feature is the original pitch by Dan Povenmire (21:38). This intriguing feature starts with an introduction by Povenmire himself accompanied by co-creator Jeff "Swampy" Marsh.
The two explain the genesis of the show and what we're about to see. What follows is the pilot episode, "Rollercoaster", done in storyboard format and voiced entirely by Povenmire. It's surprising to see such an inclusion here instead of the usual EPK material, though one wishes the actual pilot as aired was also provided in this set for direct comparison.

The last feature is more what one would expect from a Disney Channel DVD. Phineas and Ferb's Homemade Tree Shade Arcade is comprised of four set-top games that all feature variations on pressing the arrow keys at the right time. "Agent P" has the player select the right costume for Agent P to wear as he spies on Dr. Doofenshmirtz. "Smack a Gnome" is basically the classic Whac-A-Mole game, only one must be careful to smack a gnome and not a show character. In "Fast and the Phineas", you must steer Phineas around other cars on a race track. Finally, the oddly-titled "Prance Askance Execution" involves making a puppet of Dad dance in unison with a puppet of Mom. The games range from too simple ("Agent P") to too frustrating ("Fast and the Phineas"). Unsurprisingly, no reward is offered for completion.

Via FastPlay, the disc starts with trailers for Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition, "Wizards of Waverly Place": Wizard School, Hanna Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Camp Rock, and Disney Movie Rewards. These can be accessed via the Sneak Peeks menu along with trailers for "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody": Lip Synchin' in the Rain, Minutemen, "Wizards of Waverly Place" on Disney Channel, and The Secret of the Magic Gourd.

The 16x9 main menu features a montage of clips from the included episodes while an instrumental of the theme song plays. Outside of the Homemade Tree Shade Arcade menu, no other submenus feature animation (though all contain score). The disc comes housed in a standard white keepcase containing a pamphlet for other Disney Channel DVD releases, a chapter listing insert, and a Disney Movie Rewards code.

Phineas and Ferb imagine, via a musical montage no less, what their life would be like if they adopted a mummy. Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans on using his dastardly remote to make people sing him "Happy Birthday."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"Phineas and Ferb" comes as a very pleasant surprise considering the quality of Disney's television library lately. It's smart, funny, and honest, making it stand out from the crowd. This debut DVD presents the episodes with excellent image quality and very good audio. The original pitch is a great inclusion, but there's little else of consequence in the supplements department. It's lamentable that, like other Disney Channel shows, this one will probably only continue receiving random episode compilations on DVD rather than chronological season sets. Still, this disc is recommended to fans of the show as well as those wishing Disney would return to the quality of their Disney Afternoon series.

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Reviewed July 29, 2008.