“Phineas and Ferb” Still Insists It’s the Next Spongebob

Phineas and Ferb

Remember the link we posted last June to a New York Times article proclaiming the Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb as the next SpongeBob. Well, Disney publicists aren’t giving up. They convinced the business rag Fast Company to publish a longer article written by Adam Bluestein with virtually identical talking points trumpeting the popularity of Phineas and Ferb.

While the NY Times mentioned the word “SpongeBob” EIGHT times in their write-up, Fast Company mentions him ELEVEN times and even added a SpongeBob infographic just in case you’re not sufficiently clear what show Disney wants you to think Phineas and Ferb is like.

UPDATE: Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire posted in the comments. He wants to make clear that any SpongeBob references are instigated by the authors of the articles and that Disney publicists don’t reference that show. Here is Povenmire’s full comment:

Just so you know how it works, Disney itself NEVER (and I mean NEVER) brings up SpongeBob for comparison, that is the angle the WRITER OF THE ARTICLE takes. People at Disney will answer questions about comparisons the interviewer might make based on ratings and merchandise, but to insinuate that Disney is in any way trumpeting that comparison themselves demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of how this particular company does business.

Writers write what they want to write and the comparisons to SpongeBob probably sell the article to the editors.

That being said, I love SpongeBob, I worked on SpongeBob, and if the comparison means people think we’re a funny cartoon too, then I welcome that comparison. But just so you know, Swampy and I created Phineas and Ferb almost exactly the way it appears on TV today, while we were working on Rocko’s Modern life in the very early 1990s, before Steve even started developing SpongeBob.


  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    Remember when every other new cartoon from the 90′s was trying to be the “next Ren & Stimpy”? Or in SpongeBob’s case, how it was compared to Rocko’s Modern Life? The show eventually became successful enough to outgrow comparisons to its predecessor.

    As glad as I am that Phineas and Ferb breaks the tween syndrome that plagues Disney Channel these days, it should be capable of succeeding without trying to live up to the biggest toon of the day.

    • Isaac

      I… don’t. Spongebob was never presented as “the next” anything, it premiered to little fanfare and took off on its own.

      • Josef

        I remember the comparison, but only because I was a huge fan of Rocko’s Modern Life. I hated Sponge Bob for years, but my kids loved it and it grew on me eventually. (I still don’t like the character designs.) I think Phineas and Ferb is a lot like that. It will grow on people too.

  • http://pierrefontaine.webs.com Pierre

    As I mentioned last time, I still think that Phineas and Ferb is quite a brilliant show, certainly the only one that makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis.

    For me, the brilliance of the show is how the basic plot is always the same but the variations on the plot are always entertaining. There have been some clunker episodes but the plots are very well plotted and foremost, funny.

    My wife doesn’t care for the show because the two boys are always triumphant, while the sister is always defeated by her efforts to prove that the boys are doing something “dangerous” in the backyard. It’s a valid point but the show still makes me laugh.

    • Funkybat

      I like Phineas & Ferb, mainly for the side characters of Perry & Dr. Doofenshmirtz. It’s also nice to see Disney TV Animation is not completely dead. Still, The last Disney animated series I really loved was Kim Possible. It was probably the last one that felt like it would have fit in with the “Disney Afternoon” era of Disney TV animation. For my money, DuckTales, Darkwing and Tale Spin were the pinnacle of DCTVA.

  • http://itchyscratchy.deviantart.com Anthrax

    The character designer of this show must be a big Spy Vs Spy fan.

  • http://www.animationanomaly.com Charles K. (The Animation Anomaly)

    Articles such as this are a relatively weak form of marketing.

    Constantly reminding people of the show you’re trying to beat will only draw further comparisons and possibly unfavourable ones at that.

    Why did they not point out the strengths of the show that make it popular in the first place instead?

    Like Mr. Semaj says, SpongeBob didn’t become the next Ren & Stimpy, it became the next SpongeBob.

  • Rooniman

    I’m still not convinced P&F is the next Songebob, considering the former has a lot of flaws (bad design, redundent plot, annoying characters, and those Goddamn horrible songs the play in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE!!!)

  • http://mymedicatedlife.blogspot.com/ Bitter Animator

    I think they’re remarkably clever, clearly looking at Spongebob and seeing square and recognising that the next big thing could well be triangle. Genius.

  • http://inkwellbookstore.blogspot.com J.M.

    “Articles such as this are a relatively weak form of marketing.”

    Allow me to kick Fast Company in its four color face with:

    Articles such as this are a relatively weak form of writing and reporting.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Once again, no mention of Dan Povenmire being both a Spongebob and Rocko alum?

  • Donkiku

    The character designer here needs to learn how to design. I’ve watched the show. It’s all so mediocre. The art here is not good at all.

  • Kyle

    The goal should never be to become “the next” anything. It’s extremely damaging to creativity, innovation and motivation.

  • http://www.animationfestival.ca J. Zaroski

    This article found in Wired (online and print editions) is quite interesting, and only mentions SpongeBob twice…

    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/mf_phineasandferb/

  • Richie

    All of this Spongebob business is weird as hell to me, because Phineas and Ferb isn’t Disney’s version of the sponge to me, it’s Phineas and Ferb on its own right. The humor style differs so much, the only people who could claim it’s a Spongebob-wannabe are those who haven’t seen the show.

    P&F is not only the best cartoon currently airing on TV, it’s the best original ANYTHING that ever came out of Disney Channel.

    • Bucko

      You say this as if it’s something to be proud of. Let’s remember, Disney Channel is known for the remixing of old Goofy cartoons with BLAM! horribleness.

      • Richie

        I know it’s not too much of a comparison when you see what other shows are airing nowadays, but in the past the channel has brought more than competent shows, all of which I think P&F beats.

        It’s like saying Calvin & Hobbes was the best comic strip of its time. That wasn’t saying much, because mediocrity ruled the rest of the newspapers’ funnies, but the fact that C&H surpassed the quality of its contemporaries by a million country miles had to be acknowledged…

  • Scarabim

    I like Phineas and Ferb a lot, and one reason why is the way the producers handle their characters. Candace, for instance, COULD have been the Vicky (of the Fairly Odd Parents) of the show – a mean shrieking demonic pain in the ass. But the producers of P & F were wiser – Candace, despite her issues, is a likable character who’s obviously loved by the brothers she’s constantly trying to “bust”, and it’s obvious that she loves them too. In addition, Phineas’ sunny personality and Ferb’s deadpan amiability make them a great team, Doofenschmirtz, the villain, is sympathetic and hilarious, and the series’ songs are pretty catchy. As for comparisons with Spongebob – P & F is the superior show now, in my opinion. Spongebob’s newer episodes still have wonderful animation, but it’s wasted on lousy scripting. While I realize I’m not the show’s target audience, I still think it’s a little telling that, while I used to watch the Spongester on a regular basis, I now pretty much ignore him. But I do watch Phineas and Ferb. I never miss a new episode of that show.

  • Richie

    This whole Spongebob business is weird as hell to me, because P&F isn’t cool because it’s Disney’s SB, it’s great because it is P&F.

    Seriously, I believe this kind of promotions to do no favors to an incredible show, one whose humor style couldn’t differ more from Spongebob’s, one which places it on a league of its own.

    I stand by my previous comment; Phineas and Ferb is a brilliant cartoon. In fact, it’s the best original anything that ever came out of Disney Channel.

  • http://sportssyzygy.com Offy

    I wonder if this means that Disney will actually let Phineas and Ferb run for more than three seasons before pulling the plug and shuffling it off into syndication. Kim Possible was still very popular when they attempted to pull the plug the first time which led to the fourth season. I’m under the impression that P&F is even more popular so it’ll be interesting to see what Disney does. Maybe they’ll cancel this version of the show and put the boys on a cruise ship.

  • Monroe

    How big is Phineas and Ferb in the real world, outside of the Disney universe? We’ll never know as long as Disney marketing spins the facts.

  • The Beez Kneez

    Investors, businessmen and people with money in general don’t have time to think about cartoons. All that’s needed to sell them a product or even your own talent is to throw out buzzwords and name drop past successes that may or may not be related directly to you or your product to compare the thing you’re selling with.

    Animation Magic!

  • purin

    Phineas and Ferb is nothing like Spongebob. They’re just completely different shows.

    That said, it’s probably the best show on the Disney Channel. Once it started escaping its initial formula, it became a lot of fun.

    • Donald C

      I like how it actively mocks its own formula. As if a parody of shows like it.

  • Michael F.

    Trying to net at least half a billion dollars in revenue in one year sounds impossible. I doubt P&F will do it but I can see it going with a very respectable run. It won’t be as big as some other Disney entities – Hannah Montana is slowly dying down but it’s still more visible from what I’ve seen – but it will be close.

  • Ricky B

    I thought Disney’s version of Spongebob was Fish Hooks?

  • http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/ Lazarus lupin

    Right right. It’s a weak puff piece article that only a PR flake (not flack) could love. But, given that, I can see why the PR boys would want to make the comparison. It’s not only because Sponge Bob is very popular but because the basics of it confused the straights who weren’t kids they are basically saying… ‘Hey! Remember that show that was about a SPONGE wearing PANTS and living in a FRICKIN’ PINEAPPLE? You didn’t get it right? But you found it funny, right? Well you won’t get this about two kids and their duckbill platypus spy, but we promise you’ll find it funny.”

    As for the ‘toon itself. I moderately like it. It’s different enough from the rest of what’s on. Can be funny, and frankly I thought the songs were the strong point for me. I admit with guilty pleasure listening to “Izzy has the frizzies” more than once.

  • Demetre

    I just don’t see it.The characters are so one dimensional, the stories barely build up to anything. The show seems fun in a forced corporate fashion.The Fun that its supposed to deliver doesn’t feel organic, it feels contrived. The fact that it runs nonstop daily owes to some of its success.
    I tried to give this show a chance, maybe because I’m a bit older, I don’t know. I’m not saying the show is bad but it has its certain demographic and I know there is an audience for it.
    One thing that irks me if comedy relies so much on conflict why does this show has so little of it. The kids never really get into situations where we get to see different sides of themselves.Its always the same note..every single episode.It feels like hand-holding, shielding kids from the realities of life. Spongebob is in another universe compared to this show. Spongebob is in the vain of Ren and Stimpy,and Rocko’s Modern life, where the focus is mainly on character driven stories.

    • http://youtube.com/user/Mesterius1 Mesterius

      Yep… you clearly don’t see it.

      “Phineas and Ferb” has one of the strongest and most effective formulas I’ve ever seen in a TV cartoon. The thing is, we want to see the same things happening again and again – as long as the variations within the formula are clever. Not every P&F episode is great, but many of them are already classics (mabybe especially in the first season, which was largely directed by Dan Povenmire himself). This, in addition to Kim Possible, is probably the best show Disney Channel has ever done.

      • PunkChic13

        I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see the same thing over and over again. It was fun at first but it got old, yeah Spongebob has definitely toned down since the first few seasons but what did you expect after about 14 years and 9 seasons of the same show?

  • http://kieranpertnav.tk Kieran Pertnav

    The question remains as to why Cartoon Network, having probably close to twice as many animated shows as Nick or Disney, has yet to even ATTEMPT to mount something on this scale, instead wasting time on live action garbage and sometimes barely even promoting its new cartoons.

    Of course, there’s the argument that a SpongeBob style hit can’t be manufactured, the more you force a show down peoples throats the more backlash you get. While Phineas and Ferb is a very funny, well crafted and creative show, it lacks the inspired, twisted lunacy that makes a show like South Park or SpongeBob become an international phenomenon. While very good, Phineas and Ferb plays it waaaaaaaay too safe.

    • Asymetrical

      Oh thats an easy answer…. its because there’s no one with any talent running CN these days and you wont see anything good come out of there until the powers that be are thrown out. I hope its sooner rather than later. Where’s Linda Simensky when we need her?

  • Abu

    Phineas and Ferb is def *not* the next Spongebob nor does it try to be. Its a funny, unique and clever show and deserves to be enjoyed on its own merits. To compare it to anything else is completely unfair. It is really the only thing on the Disney Channel that’s appropriate for adults to watch. They need more shows like this.

  • Jim

    If you haven’t read the link J. Zaroski posted ( http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/mf_phineasandferb/ ), you should really check it out. It’s a very interesting look at the creators’ philosophies regarding the show and the struggles they had getting it on the air.

    My favorite complaint they received from kids network executives was that the show was too smart for children.

    That explains a lot about the business.

    • DanPovenmire

      Amid,

      Just so you know how it works, Disney itself NEVER (and I mean NEVER) brings up SpongeBob for comparison, that is the angle the WRITER OF THE ARTICLE takes. People at Disney will answer questions about comparisons the interviewer might make based on ratings and merchandise, but to insinuate that Disney is in any way trumpeting that comparison themselves demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of how this particular company does business.

      Writers write what they want to write and the comparisons to SpongeBob probably sell the article to the editors.

      That being said, I love SpongeBob, I worked on SpongeBob, and if the comparison means people think we’re a funny cartoon too, then I welcome that comparison. But just so you know, Swampy and I created Phineas and Ferb almost exactly the way it appears on TV today, while we were working on Rocko’s Modern life in the very early 1990s, before Steve even started developing SpongeBob.

      • Inkan1969

        Congratulations on the success of your show, Dan. The show’s back story is inspiring. I’m impressed that you and the rest of the creators stuck by the show for so many years, and that your perseverance paid off in the end. Good luck on your future.

    • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

      “My favorite complaint they received from kids network executives was that the show was too smart for children.”

      The very type of thinking that led to The Proud Family; a show that insulted EVERYONE’S intelligence.

      • Willy105

        Huh? The Proud Family was great. First time I’ve heard hate for it.

  • Rezz

    “The question remains as to why Cartoon Network, having probably close to twice as many animated shows as Nick or Disney, has yet to even ATTEMPT to mount something on this scale”

    easy, cartoon network can’t advertise at all. What was that? You want more than just season one of the misadventure’s of flapjack on dvd? nah its cool……even though we are on season 3 meh, well get back to you on that.

  • Martin Juneau

    The worst part of it is where i live, the youth-oriented channel Vrak.TV air both of this shows (Phineas/Ferb and Sponegbob), but i gave up to this awful network since they started to play those horrible and badly-dubbing Disney tweencoms.

    I wanna give to Phineas & Ferb a second chance, but i can’t since i find the Dan Povenmire name. Remember the awful Doyle’s Looney Tunes revivals?

  • Was my face red

    Kids love it. In the UK it’s currently all over bus shelters. It’s a show made by creators who are interested in kids and what They want to watch. Not fandom. Or Students. But they put in bits from grown ups too.

    It won’t be a huge crossover hit like Spongebob was or cool with ‘fans’ (The Brew virtually ignores it unless it can find something a bit critical to tag to it) but it is one of the good shows.

    I worked with Swampy over a decade ago and he was doodling the characters even then, This isn’t the product of a corporate machine (well it is now, but they seem to still be at the controls!) and it’s worth your celebration and support.

  • what in the cel?

    seriously… who cares.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dylan.h.king Dylan King

    It surprises me that two extremely creative people who have worked on many of my favorite shows can make such a annoying, cliché program. P&F is just another animated money cow Disney owns to attract tweens – which is sad to see myself saying that since I admire all the work they’ve done for Family Guy, The Simpsons, (King of The Hill?), Rocko’s Modern Life, and Spongebob Squarepants. I don’t know… maybe I just don’t get the show’s humor, but apparently, a lot of other people do. Even though I have no interest in the show whatsoever (Though I occasionally watch it when I’m hired to babysit), you have to give the creators credit for opening up a few windows for animators at Disney. I think because of the success they’ve had with P&F, they’re letting animators now be a bit more free when it comes to creating content.

  • Inkan1969

    I agree that “Phineas and Ferb” is sometimes very funny. The inventions the duo come up with are imaginative, and the songs are catchy. But I’m lukewarm over two issues.

    The premise – For a while I thought they were evolving beyond the basic premise; Candace seemed more willing to use P&F’s experiments than to just bust them, and Doofenschmirtz’s schemes got more personal. But that evolution seemed to fade, and now more often than not the show is locked into its premise. By now, therefore, I find the premise frustrating. I just don’t understand Candace’s motivation: Is she trying to hurt her brothers by getting them in trouble? The premise make her look like a real jerk. The same goes for her mom. Her dad knows about P&F’s stunts. So Lynda Flynn is the odd one left out, making her look clueless and dumb.

    The animation and art quality – I have to confess, the article’s claim that this is a storyboarded show surprised me. The humor is almost entirely dialogue based. I also don’t find the character designs appealing. They just look like a bunch of shapes stuck together. And the animation is very lifeless. Look at this scene for instance.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrM7jZ9pUAo

    I think this scene could’ve been hilarious. But the bland animation just kills it. This might not be the creators’ fault. Maybe Disney can spring for a better animation studio?

  • http://artofguy.deviantart.com Guy

    Man, who could actually like this?

    Is there even any other animation on the Disney channel being made right now?

    • DNAndy

      Well, there’s Fish Hooks…..

    • Inkan1969

      The Disney Channel has “Fish Hooks” and Disney XD has “Kick Buttowski”.

      The former is so-so. I like the clip art look for the background characters and the settings. But the premise is run-of-the-mill “kids in school”, and the characters tend to be obnoxious. “Fish Hooks” has many talented artists like Maxwell Atoms and Carl Greenblatt working on it, but the premise still doesn’t quite work.

      I think the latter is a dud. Now I like KB’s appealing character designs, but just that. “Kick Buttowski” depends way too much on tasteless jokes and idiot plot syndrome. I find most plots repulsive.

      And there’s “Stitch!” the anime reimagining of “Lilo and Stitch” that Disney made for Japanese TV audiences, with Stitch and some of the other alien characters living a whole new continuity in Okinawa. I like the show; I never miss it on youtube. There’s a dub coming to the U.S. eventually, but what I’ve seen of the dub is pretty bad. I really regret that.

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    I like both Phineas and Ferb and SpongeBob. Really getting Phineas and Ferb completely busted would be just like Plankton stealing and REVEALING the Krabby Patty secret formula.

    In school for a brocure technology assignment I did an O.W.C.A.-sponsored free “top-secret” guide to animal secret agents (i.e. Agent “Perry the Platypus” P). It took me some fan wiki research to refresh my memory of the saga.

  • Adam B.

    Interesting discussion. I wrote the Fast Company story, and won’t take the disses personally, but thought I could shed some light on how the sausage gets made. This story came about because I love the show, and pitched the idea to the magazine. When they showed interested, I set up interviews through Disney. At no point did Disney tell me, or even suggest, the story I should write. They talk about SpongeBob only if you ask them about it. I don’t like SpongeBob, personally, and find Phineas and Ferb way more clever. I don’t think that stylistically the shows have much, if anything, in common. Since my story was focused on the business side of the show, we make the SpongeBob comparison because of that show’s incredible financial success, and its crossover appeal beyond the kid audience. That’s it. No conspiracy. I’m pretty sure the Wired story came about in exactly the same way. Thanks.

  • Adam B.

    Also, I don’t think many commenters have actually read the Fast Company story, which among other things, does mention Dan and Swampy’s backgrounds working on Rocko, SpongeBob, and other shows; goes into quite a bit of detail regarding what makes this show unique; and quotes Disney exec saying that you can’t try to make “the next SpongeBob,” even if you wanted to. I appreciate an honest critique and all, really, but check out the writing first.

  • Maggie Simpson

    Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t necessarily say that P+F would be “the next SpongeBob”, that’s too “cliche” as my mother says. In my eyes, Phineas and Ferb the most underrated, underappreciated TV series, cartoon or not, of our generation(is finding a good way to spend it..)!
    As an honest Phinatic myself, SpongeBob died after the Atlantis Squarepantis debacle!Take from a person with P+F comic books, a beach towel, an alarm clock, and a toy Perry on its way from Amazon, even if I remembered seeing anything from SpongeBob inn the past seasons, it’s not going to be memorable! Rather, P+F has the story structure that they preach to children in elementary school, imagination! As soon as I stayed up past 8:00 pm, August 17,2007 marvelling at what would soon be the MOST memorable show of my childhood! I JUST figured out how to sound like Perry,and alas,my peers say nay. And no, it has clever, almost sophisticated writing a’la The Simpsons, Rocky and Bullwinkle storytelling, without a narrarator, but with Perry, conventional design darn close to the legendary Looney Tunes director Tex Avery’s later animation brlliance! And yes, I’m 12 years old!

  • Gigardly

    I fucking love this show. I actually listen to music quite often.

  • Dan

    I hate the way Spongebob is now. I like Phineas and Ferb now.