On Oct. 2, Dan Povenmire, co-creator of “Phineas and Ferb,” visited Miami University as part of the lecture series. Before Povenmire gave his lecture, The Miami Student got to sit down with him to ask about his technology, songwriting and the new seasons of “Phineas and Ferb.”
Questions and answers have been edited for concision and clarity.
Why does Povenmire engage so much with TikTok?
Povenmire immediately reacted by saying, “I do TikTok mostly just because I'm addicted to it.”
Aside from the joke, Povenmire credits the “immediacy” of TikTok as his largest reason for being fascinated with the app. He enjoys the way he can make small videos or work on projects that might take him all day to be posted.
He also uses TikTok to connect with his fans. More than 6 million people follow him on the app, and he sometimes collaborates with them through the app.
“Creating something, a piece of entertainment together, bonds you in a way that's sort of like family,” Povenmire said. “When I meet people that I've done that with, we just immediately hug each other in this really warm way, and we've never been in the same room with each other, but we feel like we've done this thing together.”
Povenmire calls TikTok a form of “democratized entertainment” that breaks the barriers gatekeeping people from doing what they love. He said he knows many people who do it as their job now.
Why is Povenmire reviving ‘Phineas and Ferb?’
This year, Disney announced new seasons of “Phineas and Ferb” were in the works, with Povenmire returning as showrunner to the revival.
Always quick witted, Povenmire said he was doing the revival “because they’re paying me money.”
Really, Povenmire’s reason for coming back was much more heartfelt. Other factors prevented him from continuing the show when it originally ended, but he was happy to come back.
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“I always missed them,” Povenmire said. “We stopped doing it because we were tired but also because the studio was starting to go soft on new pickups.”
Povenmire said he often heard “Phineas and Ferb” was one of the top shows on Disney+ each week. People told him the show was even drawing new users to Disney+.
While working on his follow-up show, “Milo Murphy’s Law,” Povenmire and his co-creator Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, brought the “Phineas and Ferb” characters into the show. The floodgates of nostalgia opened for the duo.
“Bringing them back was like, ‘Oh, they’re so much fun to write for,’” Povenmire said. “We really like that show and then we did the movie for Disney+ in 2020, and it just felt like getting the band back together.”
Will the ‘Phineas and Ferb’ revival feel updated to cultural changes?
Povenmire described “Phineas and Ferb” as a show that tried to avoid having characters using technology as much as possible at a time where computers and other devices were becoming more popular.
However, a lot has changed since the first “Phineas and Ferb” episode in 2007. Povenmire said some aspects will be updated.
“We’ve given Candace a real cell phone,” Povenmire said, “but we just completely ignore the fact that there’s a camera on her cell phone.”
Some episodes also might tackle certain cultural topics, but only when necessary.
“We’re probably going to hit some social media stuff and things like that,” Povenmire said. “We're sort of like, as far as how technology is developed, if it helps us tell a story, we'll use it. If it doesn't, we'll ignore that it exists because they're sort of in their own time zone anyway.”
What inspires the music for ‘Phineas and Ferb?’
The songs from “Phineas and Ferb” were an important part of the show. Povenmire has said the songs have also been one of the most fun things to write with the revival.
Povenmire wasn’t always so interested in music.
“I was a couple years out of college when Nine Inch Nails hit and somebody played it for me, and I remember saying, ‘But that’s just noise,’ because he was using all this cool industrial noise like sewing machines and stuff as rhythm tracks … I heard myself say that, and I went, ‘Oh my god, I sound so old. I have to listen to this now and figure out what’s cool about it,” Povenmire said.
After that, Povenmire said he would spend every Tuesday just looking through the new releases of songs on iTunes, and that’s how he developed his love for music.
During the interview, Povenmire also discussed Bowling for Soup, the band that plays the “Phineas and Ferb” theme song and hinted that fans going to the band’s performance at the Las Vegas When We Were Young festival would get to see a special surprise appearance from the voice of a certain animated evil scientist.
What does Povenmire think about his legacy?
Povenmire’s resume is quite prolific.
“I worked on ‘The Simpsons’ when everybody was talking about ‘The Simpsons’ everywhere I went. ‘Ninja Turtles’ when that was happening and ‘Spongebob’ when that was happening and ‘Family Guy’ when that was happening,” Povenmire said. “I’ve worked on a lot of things that have become big hits. It’s really cool to have that happen with something that I created, though.”
Before his TikTok success hit, Povenmire said, “I was only famous if I told people what I did.” Now, people know him by his voice and even his face with his social media success.
Povenmire also said the event where he was most recognized was a Harry Styles concert, which he attributes to Styles’ fandom’s demographic overlapping heavily with TikTok’s, particularly with age.
What does Povenmire think about AI?
AI has been a point of concern within the entertainment industry, with the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild citing concerns with the technology as reasons for striking. When asked about what he thinks of AI, Povenmire made himself clear.
“You shouldn’t be stealing art, even as subtly as AI steals art, you shouldn’t be making money from that,” Povenmire said.
Povenmire has seen plenty of AI videos where his character Dr. Doofenshmirtz will sing a cover of a song. While he finds those interesting, he doesn’t like when AI is used in place of human art, particularly for making money.
“I don’t mind people doing their profile picture or something like that because they’re not going to hire some professional artists. That’s not taking money away from someone,” Povenmire said. “But to use that in a professional way, I think it doesn’t even border on plagiarism. I think that’s just plagiarism.”
What questions did fans have?
At the end of the lecture, fans had the opportunity to ask their own questions to Povenmire. Many took the opportunity to try to get answers to some of the greatest mysteries of “Phineas and Ferb.”
In the show’s first movie “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension,” Doofenshmirtz says at one point, “If I had a nickel for every time I was doomed by a puppet, I'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice.” The scene has become a meme online.
One fan asked Povenmire what happened the first time Doofenshmirtz was doomed by a puppet.
“We haven’t written that story. We’re keeping that under our hats, but maybe we’ll tell that story at some point,” Povenmire said.
Another fan’s question prompted Povenmire to confirm “Doofenshmirtz is not Phineas’s dad,” which has become a fan theory online due to the similarity between the characters’ head shapes. He also confirmed that the show’s theme song says, “There’s 104 days of summer vacation,” because a writer had gotten it confused with the number of days in summer.
Povenmire also shared his favorite song from the show (“Maybe ‘Summer Belongs to You’”) and his favorite -inator (“The chicken-replace-inator, because it replaces whatever you shoot with a chicken. But it’s not just any chicken, it’s the nearest chicken”).