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Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel DVD Review

Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel (2013)
Special, Episodes & DVD Details

Running Time: 138 Minutes (special: 44, other episodes: 94) / Rating: TV-G

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

Writers: Dani Vetere, Jim Bernstein, Martin Olson, Scott Peterson (story); Kaz, Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft, Joshua Pruett, Kim Roberson, Antoine Guilbaud, John Mathot, Kyle Menke, J.G. Orrantia, Bernie Petterson, Eddie Pittman, Michael B. Singleton, Mike Diederich (writers & storyboarders) / Directors: Sue Perrotto, Robert F. Hughes; Assistant Directors: Russell Calabrese, Derek Thompson, Herb Moore

Regular Voice Cast: Vincent Martella (Phineas Flynn), Ashley Tisdale (Candace Flynn), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Ferb Fletcher), Caroline Rhea (Mom), Dan Povenmire (Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Major Francis Monogram), Tyler Mann (Carl Karl), Dee Bradley Baker (Perry the Platypus), Maulik Pancholy (Baljeet Tjinder), Bobby Gaylor (Buford van Stomm), Alyson Stoner (Isabella Garcia-Shapiro),

Recurring Characters: Richard O'Brien (Dad), Mitchel Musso (Jeremy), Kelly Hu (Stacy), Jack McBrayer (Irving)

Guest Voices: John Viener (Norm), Chi McBride (Nick Fury), Travis Willingham (Thor), Adrian Pasdar (Iron Man), Drake Bell (Spider-Man), Fred Tatasciore (Hulk), Liam O'Brien (Red Skull), Charlie Adler (M.O.D.O.K.), Danny Trejo (Venom), Peter Stormare (Whiplash), Stan Lee (NY Hotdog Vendor/Narrator), Jane Lynch (Mrs. Johnson), Eileen Galindo (Mrs. Garcia-Shapiro), Olivia Olson (Vanessa), Martin Olson (Human Fly), Samantha Bee (Lyla Lolliberry), Kevin McDonald (Professor Bannister) Jesse Spencer (Liam McCracken), Parry Gripp (Himself), Carlos Alazraqui (Morg), John Viener (Red), Jaime Pressly (Rosie), Lorenzo Lamas (Meap)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish / Closed Captioned
Episodes Originally Aired January 11 - July 5, 2013; Special Aired August 16, 2013
DVD Release Date: October 1, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video HD

Buy Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video Instant Video HD

"Phineas and Ferb": Mission Marvel is perhaps the most public declaration to date that The Walt Disney Company owns Marvel Entertainment. This special hour-long crossover episode is the kind of thing many envisioned coming from Disney's $4.64 billion purchase of the comic book empire back in 2009. Instead, the relationship has almost been like a secret from those who are less than fully passionate about their entertainment.
Sure, the newest Marvel Studios productions enjoy a presence within Disney's theme parks, stores and television channels. But the movies are attributed to Paramount Pictures and Marvel, the Disney name being buried. Like Pixar before and Lucasfilm after, Disney likes to treat Marvel as a separate, autonomous entity, the biggest in their bag of big brands. But don't you forget that Disney owns Marvel and both companies have been profiting considerably from the partnership.

The lines may blur some with the scheduled November 2014 theatrical release of Big Hero 6, a computer-animated Marvel film produced by the esteemed Walt Disney Animation Studios and presumably joining the canon that began with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the meantime, there is this summer 2013 broadcast, putting the heroes of Disney Channel's popular "Phineas and Ferb" face-to-face with Disney XD animated incarnations of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and, even the biggest superhero presently off-limits to Disney/Marvel in live-action form, Spider-Man.

In their ongoing quest to make the most of summer vacation, stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb have graduated to space exploration and surfing asteroid belts. Meanwhile, in New York City, the aforementioned fearsome foursome of superheroes is hit with a green beam of light that instantly renders them powerless. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man track down Phineas and Ferb to try to sort things out in their S.H.E.D. (that's Secret Hideout for Emergency Defense). Nemeses Red Skull, Venom, M.O.D.O.K. and Whiplash join forces with the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who is believed to have inadvertently drained the heroes of their superpowers. Furthermore, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury collaborates with Agent P, the secret identity of the boys' pet platypus Perry.

Phineas and Ferb hand out laminated S.H.E.D. access IDs to old friends and new superhero ones in "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel."

Running exactly 44 minutes without commercials, this special does what crossovers should, which is cast established characters in a new light as filtered through the perspectives of characters established elsewhere. There is unmistakable fun in Marvel's heroes questioning what makes the silent Perry such an effective agent and the villains tagging along as friends of Doofenshmirtz on aimless, relatively harmless recreation.

The plot of suddenly powerless superheroes recalls Spider-Man 2. It gives way when Phineas and Ferb's efforts result in powers being restored but mixed-up, a concept seen in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Though they're not new premises, they are ones that yield expectedly entertaining results. Thor inherits Spider-Man's insect qualities. Spider-Man assumes the Hulk's super strength. Iron Man has Thor's power, but is deemed unworthy of his hammer, curing him of his immobility but rendering him ineffective. And Hulk gets Iron Man's power, but without the armored suit, it does him little good.

This good-natured and creative outing mines the overlapping of the ordinarily distant universes for comedy, while still serving the bit of action you expect of characters conceived for comic books. The special is full of sly jokes, including a Howard the Duck reference and a recurring cameo by Stan Lee (voicing himself) as a New York hot dog vendor. With four times the runtime of a typical "Phineas and Ferb", though there's still room for some original songs, a feature that doesn't always advance storytelling but which in some episodes, along with movie nods that will float over kids' heads and fourth wall breaks, is the greatest display of the show's wit.

Though brisk, the program is substantial enough and it breathes some welcome life into a show that relies heavily on formula. If you're not able to get behind the fixtures (Perry's double life, Doofenshmirtz's always-thwarted villainy, big sister Candace's eternally futile efforts to bust Phineas and Ferb), "Phineas" grows tiresome after just a few episodes. By tripling the cast and with characters who largely require no introduction, Mission Marvel turns up the entertainment value and effortlessly finds worthwhile roles for regulars, like Candace (a fangirl whose help backfires) and Baljeet (a petite Indian boy who develops the unlikely ability to Hulk out).

Agent P (Perry the Platypus) teams with Canadian agent Lyla Lolliberry to stop Doofenshmirtz on a train ride over the international border. Baljeet multiples every time he has to make a decision, though Candace can't convince her mother of this in "Primal Perry."

Though billed as a "Full-Length Adventure", Mission Marvel is not asked to sell a DVD on its own.
It is joined by ninety minutes' worth of additional "Phineas and Ferb" episodes from the ongoing Season 4 previously unreleased to DVD. They are as follows:

"Fly on the Wall (12:18) (Originally aired January 11, 2013)
Phineas and Ferb's souped-up tire swing turns Candace into a fly. Perry helps Doofenshmirtz overcome his "evil scientist's block" in the park.

"Sidetracked, Parts 1 & 2" (22:32) (Originally aired March 1, 2013)
Perry gets this episode mostly to himself, as he teams up with Canadian Agent Lyla to stop a hijacked train running across the US/Canada border.

"Primal Perry, Parts 1 & 2" (22:32) (Originally aired March 2, 2013)
At the Danville Botanical Gardens, Perry and Doofenshmirtz are hunted by a determined Australian platypus hunter. Phineas and Ferb help Baljeet with his indecisiveness by multiplying him with every possible choice he makes.

"Backyard Hodge Podge" (12:07) (Originally aired April 19, 2013)
Phineas and Ferb repurpose scraps from past inventions. Perry wrestles with Doofenshmirtz, who accidentally hits himself his vision-blurring Eye Fog-inator.

"Knot My Problem" (11:53) (Originally aired July 5, 2013)
Phineas, Ferb and friends recreate a Gordian Knot and try to unknot it. Doofenshmirtz unveils his newest "Inator" to Perry at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Jeremy gives Candace an old safe he can't open or remember what's inside of.

"Mind Share" (12:08) (Originally aired April 5, 2013)
Phineas, Ferb and friends switch bodies and places with some alien prisoners in space. Perry is assigned to keep Doofenshmirtz away from square dancing.

VIDEO and AUDIO

It's a little surprising and unfortunate that the presence of some of the world's most popular superheroes isn't enough to land "Phineas and Ferb" its first Blu-ray Disc. Instead, like most Disney Channel fare, the special has to settle for a DVD release. To someone accustomed to watching Blu-ray, the limitations of standard definition are glaring. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentations are clean and sharp, but prone to ringing around lines and the limited animation.

Isabella and Phineas do their part to unravel a giant Gordian Knot in "Knot My Problem." Phineas, Ferb, and their friends switch places with alien inmates in "Mind Share."

Surprisingly, the feature presentation also is denied a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It's plain old Dolby Surround 2.0 for this special, and the audio feels a lot less potent than it can and should be. It's no worse than what was broadcast, I'm sure that's still guaranteed to be pretty solid these days. But, anything less than high definition picture and 5.1-channel sound does feel subpar in 2013, especially when it includes Marvel action.

Phineas, Ferb, and their superhero pals rock out on the Mission Marvel DVD's animated main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

For some reason, the episodes beyond Mission Marvel, which are presented complete with opening titles and end credits, are listed both among Episode Selection and Bonus Features. They're even automatically replayed with FastPlay.
Otherwise, this release doesn't have any other extras, on disc that is.

The uncut black Eco-Box keepcase, topped by an embossed and reflective slipcover, does hold a few other goodies. Beyond the Disney Movie Rewards code, the Disney Movie Club and video game ads, the set supplies a 12-page, staple-bound comic book. It interviews "Phineas and Ferb" creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh and Marvel Studios VP of Animation Development and Production Cort Lane about this special crossover episode before serving up "Double Agent Danger", a short, original comic that finds Agent P trying to sniff out the double agent. Affixed to this booklet is a poster that unfolds to around 17" x 24". There are apparently three different designs you can get; mine features Perry in his masked Mission Marvel costume.

The DVD opens with trailers for Frozen, Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, and Monsters University. Post-episodes and repeated episodes with FastPlay or from the menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing, we get additional ads for Disney Movie Rewards, "Avengers Assemble", "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.", and The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition.

The main menu animates Phineas, Ferb, and their Marvel superhero friends to a looped bit of rock score. Submenus are static but scored.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz relishes the company of evildoers Venom, M.O.D.O.K., Red Skull, and Whiplash in "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I've been underwhelmed by "Phineas and Ferb" in the past, so it's not hard for me to proclaim Mission Marvel the best that I've seen from the show to date. But this is an entertaining crossover, which today's kids should enjoy in much the same way that children of the '70s ate up Batman and Robin's collaborations with the Scooby-Doo gang.

Disney deserves credit for not asking fans to buy the special on its own, but as a reasonably-priced disc filled close to capacity with other standard recent episodes, which when viewed in small doses, are moderately enjoyable. The lack of a Blu-ray combo pack is not surprising, but is a tad unfortunate.

Though this is clearly a "Phineas and Ferb" production, it's conceivable that Marvel superhero fans with no prior knowledge or passion for Disney Channel animation can appreciate this as a fun and different outlet for these classic comic book personalities. Far more fresh and diverting than typical episodes, this one-off holds promise for the "Phineas and Ferb" Star Wars crossover slated to air in 2014.

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Reviewed October 8, 2013.



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