***This text initially appeared within the August ’22 situation of Animation Journal (No. 322)***
By no means underestimate the inventive powers of a doodling animation genius! Take, for instance, the case of Dan Povenmire, who was placing the ending touches on Phineas and Ferb The Film: Candace Towards the Universe again in 2020. That’s when he discovered himself doodling a hamster superhero character. “I spotted that I had completed lots of these doodles on the three X 5 playing cards we placed on the board within the writers’ room,” recollects the creator of the five-time Emmy-winning present Phineas and Ferb. “One night time, as I used to be tucking my daughter in her mattress, I confirmed her the image and I informed her the story of a super-hamster, and we each couldn’t cease laughing!”
Minimize to some months later, when Povenmire pitched the concept to the event workforce at Disney Channel — and wouldn’t you understand, he bought the greenlight for his new present, Hamster & Gretel. The charming music-filled collection, which premieres this month on the cable outlet, facilities on a brother and sister named Kevin and Gretel who’re about to achieve tremendous powers from area aliens, however issues don’t go as deliberate: It’s Gretel and her pet hamster who get the magical skills. The gifted voice solid contains Povenmire’s personal daughter Meli as Gretel, Michael Cimino as Kevin and Beck Bennett as Hamster.
Povenmire, who’s finest identified for co-creating Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Legislation with Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, has labored on a variety of animated exhibits together with The Simpsons, Household Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and Hey Arnold! He says the brand new toon is totally different from his earlier work as a result of it’s loosely based mostly on his circle of relatives life.
“My spouse is from Venezuela and I’ve these two blond and red-haired Latin daughters,” he explains. “So the mother and pop on the present appear to be me and my spouse. The center of the present can also be concerning the relationship between a brother and a sister, which has similarities to the one I had with my youngest sister. We had 10 years between us, and there was no competitors. I might be the cool older brother who had pillow fights along with her.”
The 2D-animated Hamster & Gretel, which is produced by Disney Tv Animation, with the assistance of Snipple Animation (Manila, The Philippines) and Synergy Animation (Shanghai, China), options a lot of humorous songs and has the identical visible fashion as a few of Povenmire’s earlier hits. “The characters and the colour scheme are totally different, but it surely feels prefer it’s a part of the identical household as my different exhibits,” he notes. “I’ve a signature fashion — and who is aware of, perhaps we will do a crossover episode with Phineas and Ferb someday!”
He does level out that you could be discover extra of the traditional Disney fashion in Gretel’s design. “You may see it in her eyes, which accentuates her cuteness. It’s a part of the explanation all of us preferred my daughter’s Meli’s voice for the character. She appears like somewhat lady, however she has this toughness about her, too. She initially did the temp voice for the pilot, however after we tried to discover a well-known actress for the half, we couldn’t discover anybody that was as humorous as her. She is aware of my humorousness and at all times nailed the reads. She turned the voice of Gretel and he or she loves it!”
For the reason that present was created and produced through the pandemic, Povenmire stated he has merely communicated with everybody by way of Zoom over the previous couple of years, however he’s trying ahead to going again to in-person collaborations. “We have now someplace about 60 to 70 individuals on employees, and so they all seem in containers on the Zoom display screen,” he notes. “If you’re within the studio, you get to know everybody, however we solely see one another at conferences now. We’re going to have a giant lunch quickly and I’m trying ahead to assembly all of the artists in particular person.”
In line with Povenmire, whereas the present has a writers’ room, it is also versatile sufficient to include storyboard concepts. “It’s type of a hybrid,” he notes. “After I was rather a lot youthful, doing a storyboard-driven present was lots of enjoyable. You’d get a bunch of individuals within the room and generally, the story would simply go off on a tangent. Then, we needed to write it to ensure the story would match, and we needed to lose lots of the funniest gags. Then, we needed to punch it up, and somebody had to attract all of it, so there was lots of triage. After we did the Phineas and Ferb motion pictures, we used a script first and had a narrative that labored, however we have been welcome so as to add to it. It wasn’t set in stone. The film felt identical to one of many episodes. The humor was there and the story remained strong. So, I feel what works is giving individuals the liberty to elaborate and add to the script after it’s completed.”
The present creator says he misses working together with his previous Phineas and Ferb animation associate Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. “Swampy has his personal studio in Venice, and we discuss on a regular basis,” he notes. “He’s engaged on one other present for Disney — [we] couldn’t get him to drive over the hill to Disney for an additional present! However we discuss on a regular basis, and he’s doing a voice for our present! I miss seeing him day-after-day. I do produce other collaborators that I write and work with so I really feel like this new present has the identical type of collaborative humor.”
When requested concerning the unpredictable nature of the animation enterprise, Povenmire says that the toon growth has been unimaginable and the most important he’s witnessed since he began out within the enterprise. “Netflix canceled a number of of their exhibits final month, however meaning we’ve extra of a expertise pool to employees our exhibits,” he notes. “It took longer for us to employees as a result of everyone seems to be engaged on one thing proper now. There’s lots of great things popping out regularly. I don’t have the time to look at all the nice exhibits I wish to watch! Possibly someday I’ll retire and be capable of make amends for all the nice animated exhibits my associates are engaged on!”
He additionally factors out that it has by no means been a extra egalitarian time for individuals to place their content material out into the world. “If you wish to make cartoons or any type of leisure, you are able to do it and discover an viewers. You don’t want to attend for a studio to rent you want I needed to once I was getting into the sphere. Now you possibly can put your materials on TikTok and YouTube, or have your portfolio on social media. For those who do good work, you’ll get some eyeballs on it, and in case you’re not, you could find out what you’re doing fallacious, and preserve at it, till you get higher.”
For now, Povenmire is comfortable that audiences get to find his new present and memorable characters this summer season. “I’m happy with the truth that Hamster & Gretel has lots of coronary heart,” he says. “Similar to Phineas and Ferb, it’s a really humorous present and it has lots of songs. We have now the identical type of humor, however I wasn’t anticipating how moved I might be by lots of the fabric, and the interactions between the characters. It’s a superhero comedy, so it additionally has lots of motion, however then, you’ve gotten this candy core that’s about household relationships. I feel It’s maybe the very best factor I’ve completed.”
Hamster & Gretel premieres on Disney Channel on Friday, August 12.