Comfort Cartoons: Quirky and smart ‘Phineas and Ferb’

For my last “Comfort Cartoons” column, I want to celebrate the upcoming summer season with my favorite animated show. “Phineas and Ferb” (2007–15) was a seminal show throughout my childhood, a program I could consistently rely on for escapism and quirky humor. Most episodes follow stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher — who use their summer vacation to build insane inventions and go on amazing adventures — and their pet platypus, Perry, who’s a secret agent. It’s a pretty genius premise that sets up “Phineas and Ferb” for consistently interesting plots and great characters.

Considering that this is probably my most re-watched show ever, I figured I should trace my history with it. I want to write a sort of love letter to “Phineas and Ferb,” which grew as a franchise into movies, spin-offs, musical specials and various themed and holiday episodes. I remember watching “Rollercoaster” when it first aired as a preview in 2007, and being immediately excited by the animation, voice acting and Phineas and Ferb’s dynamic with their older sister, Candace Flynn. The whole “busting” trope Candace trying to get the family’s mother, Linda Flynn, to see the city-wide rollercoaster the boys had built — was hilarious.

I watched the series for years after that, tuning in for the “Summer Belongs to You!” (2010) special (featuring singer Chaka Khan!) and the “Phineas and Ferb: The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension” (2011). The latter had an electric guitar giveaway in which I was especially invested. No, I didn’t win. Yes, I’m still upset about it.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint my love for “Phineas and Ferb,” no matter how many times I re-watch it. It might be the music — most episodes feature some absolute bangers, like “Busted,” “Disco Miniature Golfing Queen,” “E.V.I.L. B.O.Y.S.,” “Ready for the Bettys,” “Truck Drivin’ Girl” and “Ain’t Got Rhythm.” It might be how amazing the plots were: portals to Mars and trips across space, nerd conventions, Greek chariot races, Sherlock Holmes investigations, “Wizard of Oz” dreams, time travel and a self-aware escape tower. It might be the puns and the jokes, which always felt so intelligent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost written a paper about all the show’s references to economic theories and the bourgeoisie.

But I guess the common trend in all of that is how I found comfort and relatability in the show. I would consider myself a quirky kid (as pretentious as that sounds). I had a strange sense of humor that came from being the youngest in a big family and often had to find ways to keep myself entertained. “Phineas and Ferb” was my best friend during those years, a show that made me feel less alone. Now, with every re-watch, I’m reminded of just how lucky I was to grow up with the triangle-shaped kid and his quiet British brother.

As I finish “Comfort Cartoons,” I want to acknowledge the shows I didn’t get to write about. Honorable mentions include “Kim Possible” (2002–07), “American Dragon: Jake Long” (2005–07), “The Proud Family” (2001–05), “Codename: Kids Next Door” (2002–08), “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” (2001–07) and “Ben 10” (2005–08).


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