Phineas and Ferb just announced that it is ending this summer, making it the longest running Disney Channel original series ever. It has been on television longer than Kim Possible, That’s So Raven, or The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. There is a very good reason for that — it is smart, funny, and shockingly subversive and meta for a “kid’s show,” attracting an impressive list of guest stars including Allison Janney, Tim Curry, Tina Fey, and Michael Douglas. Its creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh previously worked on some classic animated shows including Rocko’s Modern Life, King of the Hill, Spongebob Squarepants, and Family Guy before teaming up to create Phineas and Ferb together.
In the show’s eight-year history, Phineas and Ferb has had a lot of moments that honestly should go over most kid’s heads. With hundreds of episodes, a movie, and Star Wars and Marvel cross-over specials, this is by no means a complete list, but here are some of the best moments that the kids won’t catch. Bonus — Seasons 1 thru 3 are available on Netflix Streaming so you can marathon it before the finale, and Disney XD will be airing every episode starting on June 9 and running up until the finale on June 12.
“Night of the Living Pharmacists”
“Night of the Living Pharmacists” is an homage to all things zombie, from The Walking Dead to World War Z. One of the highlights of the episode, however, was an appearance by guest stars George Romero as a doomed TV reporter and Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Feyersied, plus Simon Pegg and Nick Frost showing up as their characters from Shaun of the Dead. Pegg, in-particular, is not impressed with the science or logic behind the Doof zombies. “I mean, you can’t just grow a lab coat!”
At first glance, “Mind Share” is about Phineas, Ferb, and the gang switching minds with aliens in a strange Timeshare agreement. Secretly, “Mind Share” is an elaborate homage to The Shawshank Redemption where the gang has to break out of an alien prison. If they are going to find the parts they need to get back home, they will have to seek out help from another prisoner who is fond of voiceovers and bears a striking resemblance to Morgan Freeman.
Evil scientist Dr. Doofenschmirtz’s friendly robot assistant Norm gets too eager to please his human “father” and decides to try his hand at taking over the tri-state area. He beefs up his rockets and takes over the city, singing “Weaponry,” probably the most upbeat song ever written about armament. “You can beat ‘em up by any means/Or blow them all to smithereens/A favorite of this sentient machine/Never mind the fatalities/Where there’s municipalities/To crush a set of with the threat of weaponry!”
Richard O’Brien as Lawrence Fletcher, Phineas and Ferb’s Dad
Richard O’Brien is most widely known for writing and starring in The Rocky Horror Picture Show ,as Riff Raff, and the show sneaks in references to the cult classic as often as they can. In “Curse of Candace,” Lawrence complains about the state of horror movies, saying, “This isn’t much of a horror movie. Where are all the rock ‘n roll music numbers?” There is also this great RHPS homage in “Night of the Living Pharmacists”
Linda Flynn-Fletcher, a.k.a. Lindana, the One-Hit Wonder
Phineas and Ferb are really smart kids, but they somehow missed that their mother Linda is the famed one-hit wonder Lindana. With her bedazzled denim jacket, huge hoop earrings, and catchy-but-meaningless pop song (“I’m Lindana and I Wanna Have Fun!”), Lindana is obviously a tribute to Tiffany and her 1987 hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.” There is also a nod to Madonna with her “Toy” belt buckle, a take on Madonna’s “Boy Toy” belt buckle.
“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars”
Casual Star Wars fans will enjoy the cross-over special, but there are Easter eggs for hard-core fans, like recreating the cut scene of Luke Skywalker watching the opening battle from A New Hope or disguising Isabella’s spaceship as the Winnebago from Spaceballs. It also answers the question of what happened to all those innocent baristas, bank tellers, and bowling alley attendants on the Death Star.
“Dude, We’re Gettin’ the Band Back Together!”
“Dude, We’re Getting’ the Band Back Together!” is the first appearance of Love Händel, Danville’s favorite early 90s band. The episode revolves around Phineas, Ferb, and Candace orchestrating a Love Händel reunion for their parent’s anniversary, but first, they have to track down all three band members, Bobbi Fabulous (Reno 911!’s Carlos Alazraqui), Swampy (Steve Zahn), and Danny (Bowling for Soup’s Jaret Reddick), and convince them to get the band back together, if only for one night. There are references to Behind the Music and music of the ’80s and ’90s, most of which will go over kids’ heads. People of all ages can appreciate this catchy number featuring Steve Zahn, but this ode to the fabulousness of glam rock and fashion is for the older generations.
The fact that this episode exists at all is kind of a miracle. It completely relies on viewers being familiar with Phineas and Ferb‘s character dynamics, episode story structure, running gags, and catchphrases. I can only imagine the pitch meeting:
“So we are doing an entire episode set in the Stone Age.”
“Oh, like a time travel episode?”
“No, not time travel. It’s like the characters are themselves but if they were born as cave men, or cave women, or cave platypus. Oh, and none of the characters will speak English. They will speak exclusively in grunts.”
“And we will occasionally cut back to us, Dan and Swampy, as we’re animating the episode, and give a running commentary of how the episode is going.”
“Well…okay, I’m not sure I get it.”
“Just go with it. It’ll work… we hope.”
“Mommy Can You Hear Me?”
How many children could possibly understand this homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? This is the stinger on an episode about Phineas and Ferb making a special birthday message for their friend Sergei, a Russian astronaut, and without knowing 2001: A Space Odyssey, it really makes no sense.
“The Lake Nose Monster”
Phineas and Ferb is probably the only kid’s show to have a reference to Citizen Kane, complete with snowglobe, in the middle of a homage to Jaws and Deep Blue Sea.
“The Curse of Candace”
Even though Phineas and Ferb supposedly takes place during the summer, they still get away with special Halloween episodes like “The Curse of Candace.” In the episode, a vampire-obsessed Candace thinks that she got bitten by a vampire bat and is turning into an undead bloodsucker.
The opening scene is a fake vampire-werewolf romance Early Evening, starring Stephen Moyer (True Blood) as the vampire, Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf) as the werewolf, and Anna Paquin (True Blood) as the human girl caught in the middle. Paquin’s character is named Kristen, probably for Kristen Stewart from Twilight, and Moyer is named Jared, which could be for Jared Nomak from Blade II or a reference to Jared Padalecki from Supernatural, whose character loses his soul on the show. Fox’s character name, Michael, is much more straight-forward.
Older kids will probably pick up on the Twilight homage, but getting Teen Wolf himself and the stars of True Blood to voice the characters is an extra detail for the adults.
“The Chronicles of Meap”
Before the Star Wars and Marvel cross-over specials, Phineas and Ferb earned their geek cred with “The Chronicles of Meap.” In the episode, an alien ship crash-lands in the backyard, and Phineas and Ferb help the ship’s pilot, an adorable big-eyed alien named Meap, to repair his ship. Coincidentally, Candace and Stacy are going to a convention for Bango-Ru, a franchise of adorable big-eyed animal hybrids like Pokemon or Littlest Pet Shop, and they mistake Meap for a souped-up Bango-Ru toy.
The episode is full of references to Star Wars (“Look, he’s headed for that small cloud.” “That’s no cloud. That’s a space station.” “I have a good feeling about this!”), E.T., and the bizarre world of fan conventions (“It looks like a strange alien world!”). This throwaway reference to Aliens, courtesy of Candace, is just for the adults.
Speaking of geek cred, “Excaliferb!” is a tribute to fantasy adventures including Lord of the Rings, Sleeping Beauty, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The episode’s framework is Carl reading to Major Monogram, who is home sick. It is an obvious homage to The Princess Bride and gives the writers plenty of chances to break the fourth wall. Plus, Allison Janney, who has a recurring role as the former Mrs. Doofenshmirtz, makes an appearance as the Lady of the Lake:
“Meapless in Seattle”
Due to the popularity of “The Chronicles of Meap” and the fake trailer for its follow-up “Meapless in Seattle,” Phineas and Ferb eventually gave in to the fans and brought back Meap. Unfortunately, the writers were faced with the unique challenge of fitting in all the action scenes and dialogue from the fake “Meapless in Seattle” trailer, which kind of became a joke in itself. It is the kind of meta humor usually reserved for shows like Community or most of the Adult Swim line-up.
Still, Phineas and Ferb stepped up to the challenge and succeeded in making one of the show’s funniest episodes while fitting in almost everything from the trailer. That epic Banga-Ru fight sequence with Meap and Little Suzy didn’t make it, but maybe they will fit in one more chronicle of Meap before the show is over.
“This Is Your Backstory”
One of the longest running gags on Phineas and Ferb is Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s increasingly complicated and depressing backstory. His childhood in the fictional Eastern European country Drusselstein is revealed piece by piece. Neither of his parents showed up for his birth. His father had to sell the family gnome, so he had to dress up as a gnome and watch their garden. To earn extra money, he worked at the dunking booth at the carnival, but he wasn’t the person getting dunked, he was the thing people threw at the target. He was raised by ocelots, and he was shunned by the children because he smelled of pork.
“This Is Your Backstory” takes all of these little pieces and puts them together using the framework of This Is Your Life, a show that hasn’t been on TV since the 1960s, so that viewers can catch up on all of his hilariously miserable memories.
“Monster from the Id”
In “Monster from the Id,” Phineas, Ferb, and Baljeet travel with Candace into her subconscious to look for the memory of her gift from Jeremy. The set-up is based on Inception with everyone laying back in chairs and hooked up to machines, and in order to come back to reality, they have to be shocked awake. All of this is pretty easy to follow, but then the episode introduces Candace’s id, a monstrous version of Candace. After that, it takes a turn for the weird and trippy with references to Freud and the basic principles of psychology.
“Phineas and Ferb and the Temple of Juatchadoon”
In this Indiana Jones tribute, Phineas and Ferb are adventurers Ohio Flynn and Rhode Island Fletcher looking for the Temple of Juatchadoon. Isabella is cast as the femme fatale, and Candace is a newspaper reporter looking for her big scoop. Also, everyone travels by map, which is pretty convenient, and almost every transition is a George Lucas screen wipe. Even with all these stylistic details, Perry showing up to save the day sporting a fez, a nod to Sallah, might be the highlight.
“Ferb TV” breaks the usual format of Phineas and Ferb. There are no inventions, no Candace, and not even Doofenshmirtz makes an appearance except for his voice over the end credits scene. The episode channel surfs through Ferb TV, a series of fake TV shows based on characters, running gags from Phineas and Ferb, and general TV tropes. It plays out like an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with rapid-fire jokes and situations that would never happen in a normal episode of Phineas and Ferb, like Little Suzy and Norm starring in a sitcom “That’s The Norm,” or Baljeet as “Dr. Ninja Baljeet,” a ninja doctor fighting shape-shifting alien zombies.
“Delivery of Destiny”
Guest star Christian Slater is Paul, a delivery guy trying to decide if he wants to be a delivery guy the rest of his life like his father, when his delivery route puts him right in the middle of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s latest scheme. He also inadvertently wins a local radio contest for Love Händel to play at his work, but since he works in a delivery truck, they cram in the front seat and provide running musical commentary.
Phineas and Ferb is a show about dreaming big and what some imagination and engineering skills can do, so “Delivery of Destiny” is a very different kind of episode for the show. The story of a son deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps has been done many times before, but Paul’s big dilemma isn’t whether he can do the job or if he likes his job (he does), but if his work is important. In a world where kids are building roller coasters in their backyard and evil scientists are hatching elaborate schemes, his delivery job feels small, a common feeling for anyone that has ever worked retail or the service industry. By the end of the episode, though, he realizes that he loves his job, and it is okay that he loves being a delivery man. It might not be flashy, but he saved the day because he did his job and did it well. Again, this is a message more aimed at young adults and recent college grads than kids.