“Phineas And Ferb: Star Wars” – Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh Take On A Galaxy Far, Far Away
BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor
When Dan Povenmire was a young teen, he begged his mom to drive to their local movie theater hours before “Star Wars” had its first screening. Thinking it would either be the “coolest thing or just stupid,” he raced to be first in line. The magic of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga has remained with him through the years as he worked alongside partner Jeff “Swampy” Marsh on groundbreaking series “The Simpsons” and their 2014 Emmy nominated Outstanding Short Format Animated Program (and past Emmy winner), “Phineas and Ferb.” Finally, Povenmire and Marsh have been able to mix that magic with their own.
“Five seconds after it was announced Disney brought the rights, one of our engineers shared the news with us,” said Marsh. Added Povenmire, “We were working on a mix for ‘Phineas and Ferb’ and knew immediately we had to start creating the script.”
Choosing to avoid creating a spoof, such as “Space Balls” or traveling down the road “Family Guy” took, Povenmire and Marsh wanted to create something that was much more cohesive to the original material. They gathered with “Phineas and Ferb” writers to brainstorm storylines, taking time to find the best approach. It helped that many of the team were massive “Star Wars” fans.
“Our head writer Scott Peterson came up with creating a parallel path, sort of a ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead’ type story,” said Marsh. Added Povenmire, “The hardest part was creating the plot. Finding a way to have the story line bump in and intersect with the original took months.”
The key to crafting an effective storyline lay in integrating an essence of the regular “Phineas and Ferb” characters in the settings of “Star Wars.” Phineas and Ferb are living in the moisture farm next door to Luke Skywalker. Sister Candice is a storm trooper trying to bust the rebels and reclaim the Death Star plans. Perry the Platypus (Rebelpus) who’s attempting to stop Doofenshmirtz (Darthenshmirtz) from creating his “Sith-inator.” These characters interact with all classic “Star Wars” characters, and support the original story in an entirely organic way.
To storyboard the episode, Povenmire and Marsh knew they’d have to create a palette that was less conducive to “Phineas and Ferb” in order to serve the “Star Wars” galaxy. With a near photo-realistic quality of buildings, landscapes, and crafts (both land and air), the team turned to a desert palette to finalize the look.
“The show’s colors are generally like a box of candy,” said Povenmire. “’Star Wars’ is so much about the desert; it’s dry and sun-drenched. It’s very orange, red and brown. For the Death Star we used shades of grey and black.”
In order to achieve movement in the flight sequences that correctly replicated the original, CG was employed. Elements of R2D2’s movement also required some CG enhancement, as well as details in the use of lasers.
“Lighting, reflection and color – it was important to get those all down correctly. We were very picky about all the details,” said Marsh.
Keeping with traditional ‘Phineas and Ferb” episode structure, music plays a major role in the ‘Star Wars’ special. Phineas and brother Ferb open by singing a calypso-esque number. “Tattonie is one enormous beach – it’s got summer all year long with its two suns,” said Povenmire. Additional styles include a pop-infused march, a Broadway style number and a big, celebratory dance number that concludes the episode.
In addition to the Phineas and Ferb cast, a few guest artists supply voices on the “Star Wars” special. Povenmire and Marsh reached out to Simon Pegg – an avid ”Star Wars” fan who created his own parody with fellow collaborator Nick Frost – to voice C-3PO (“We didn’t get to finish the sentence before he said yes,” stated Marsh). Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of “Myth Busters” voice members of the Empire, and comic Wayne Brady wrote a pop-march song performed by Candice.
“One of our staffers has an encyclopedic knowledge and told us the voice at the beginning of ‘Star Wars’ saying ’There goes another one’ was redubbed by Harry Shearer,” said Povenmire. “We tried to see if he could do it again, but his schedule conflicted and it didn’t work out.”
To ensure their take on the franchise received proper blessings they sent it to the Lucas’ camp prior to airing. Word came back the master himself enjoyed their work. With a “Star Wars” love letter now sealed and sent to fans, Povenmire and Marsh are looking toward their next special edition.
“We have a list – ‘Star Trek’, ‘Terminator’, Indiana Jones’. Of course we hope to move on to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’,” said Marsh.
Added Povenmire, “Seriously, this was one of the best opportunities we ever got. In the middle of the mix, I realized, ‘How cool is this? We’re mixing ‘Star Wars’!”
“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” will premiere on Disney XD Monday, August 4th at 7:30pm. The episode is also available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video Store, Microsoft Xbox and Google Play.