Emmy-Nominated Dan Povenmire And Jeff Marsh On “Milo Murphy’s Law”
By: Marjorie Galas
Most people crumble when their world starts to shatter, but not Milo Murphy. Every obstacle is an adventure for this youngster. The latest addition to the Disney XD universe, “Milo Murphy’s Law”, an animated series that follows the misadventures of the impossibly positive teen, sprung from the minds of Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh.
Povenmire and Marsh connected as animators on “The Simpsons”, and, recognizing their styles complimented each other, ultimately developed their own project: the four-time Emmy winning animated series “Phineas and Ferb,” which aired from 2007-2015 and spawned several specials. Doodling during a break in the award-winning show’s schedule, Povenmire reflected upon an old grade school friend. He shared his concept with Marsh, thinking a perpetually upbeat character would make a great supporting player. Marsh was immediately taken by the image and suggested such a character would be a perfect lead. The duo hashed out ideas, and within an hour the concept for “Milo Murphy’s Law” was born.
“He’s put in a position of ‘what can go wrong will go wrong,’” said Povenmire. Added March, “It opens up endless storylines involving worst case scenarios.”
To ground the fantastical events that erupt in each episode, Povenmire and Marsh chose a naturalistic style for the animation that highlights atmospheric realism. While “Phineas and Ferb” was built largely on geometric shapes that infused a feeling of familiarity to the viewer, “Milo Murphy’s Law” deviation from a cartoonish atmosphere provides a sense of urgency to each catastrophic mishap.
“Grounding his world in reality makes the problems feel bigger,” said Marsh. Added Povenmire, “When the world feels real, if an anvil falls in it, it’s really going to hurt.”
Povenmire and Marsh also modified the color palette, veering from animation’s frequently used bright, “gum ball” colors and opted for earthy, autumnal hues. While they sought out their “Phineas and Ferb” creative team to build the animation once the series was greenlit, many members had moved on to other series. Still, there were enough returning crew members to retain an artistic shorthand. The Milo art department creates the storyboards, 3D modeling and character renders in programs such as Maya and defines the palette at their Disney headquarters, then ships the package overseas where the final animation is completed.
Obtaining Weird Al to voice and sing the title character wasn’t initially in their radar. They’d auditioned a slew of actors for the role but Povenmire and Marsh couldn’t find anyone who could authentically nail the positive tone without sounding snarky. Povenmire recalled meeting Weird Al and realized he had the vibe they were looking for. Al was not only enthusiastic to take on the role, performing Milo’s voice in an upper register, but loved the musical exploration Povenmire and Marsh brought to the show. As with “Phineas and Ferb”, the creative duo write songs exploring diverse musical styles that fit with Milo’s adventures.
“We write what fits the scene. We just did a number using big horn sounds, similar to the 1940s,” said Povenmire.
A special one-hour episode of “Milo Murphy’s Law” premieres Saturday, July 22 (7:00 a.m., ET/PT) on Disney XD.
In the special one-hour episode “Missing Milo,” when Cavendish and Dakota stop Milo from destroying a pistachio plant, they change the future. Pistachio plants become sentient and take over the planet, so Cavendish, Dakota and Milo must race through time to save the future. Guest starring is Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”) as King Pistachion and reprising his role is Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) as Dr. Zone.