Crossover! Does any word fill the common viewer with as much excitement and anticipation? Perhaps spinoff… maybe. Crossovers are fun and mostly extend to hypotheticals like Wolverine vs. Terminator? or Boba Fett vs. Alien? or Gypsy Danger vs. Giant Balrog? or Batman vs. Anyone? Most realized crossovers are for TV and occur when a studio or network realizes they own two popular things. The results range from infuriating, like the upcoming Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, to wonderful, like the 1995 Simpsons/Critic crossover, to kind of weird, like every Nickelodeon crossover. Mostly, crossovers are ill advised. Well, it looks like Disney finally realized that they own some valuable properties.
Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel (2013)
The Plot: It begins like any other of the 104 days of summer vacation; Perry the Platypus destroys one of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s crazy inators and it fires off wildly, bouncing off of one of Phineas and Ferb’s contraptions, and Candace fails to bust her brothers, carefully looping together the three separate plotlines that occur in every episode of this wonderful TV show. This time, however, Dr. Doof’s inator is a power-draininator, and it happens to strike Marvel superheroes Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Spider-Man, draining them of their powers. The heroes track the source of the attack to the Tristate Area, and enlist the aid of Phineas, Ferb, Candace, and their friends Isabella, Baljeet, and Buford. Meanwhile, the supervillains team up with Dr. Doofenshmirtz to finish off the heroes once and for all, and Perry the Platypus has to try to help while not revealing his secret identity to his owners.
Now, if Phineas and Ferb means nothing to you and you’ve never watched any of it and you were totally lost in that plot synopsis, then you may wish to stop reading at the end of this paragraph. Having said that, please do read the rest of this paragraph, as I plan to use it for… actually, that purpose is going to become incredibly evident. Phineas and Ferb is a cartoon TV show for children, which airs on the Disney channel, so why should you be interested? Every episode, as I’ve previously referenced, features three interconnecting plotlines. The first follows stepbrothers/best friends Phineas and Ferb as, usually with the help of their friends, they do something incredible, like maybe building a rocket or fighting a mummy, or climbing up the Eiffel tower, discovering something that doesn’t exist, or giving a monkey a shower. In the second plotline, their older sister Candace desperately tries to expose her brothers’ antics to their parents. In the third, their unassuming pet platypus Perry lives a double life as a secret agent battling the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who is my spirit animal. In every episode, the three plotlines interconnect. Phineas and Ferb is, by all accounts, an amazing show. It’s aimed at kids, but the writing is so top-notch and inventive that it can be easily enjoyed by people of all ages. The silliness is balanced with messages about creativity and decency, finding the interplay between invention and character. Check it out.
All right! Now that I’ve written over five hundred words without actually reviewing anything, let’s get down to business. So, I’ve established two things: first, that crossovers are usually stupid, and second, that Phineas and Ferb is a fantastic program. Obviously, this whole Marvel crossover thing was not originally part of the agenda of show runners Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. More likely, some Disney executive told them, because their show is the most popular one Disney has, and The Avengers was the third highest grossing film of all time, that they had to make a crossover episode. Lesser writers would have thrown together some weak plot like the one I described in the second paragraph, and then execute it blandly just to get it over with. These guys took that plot, however, and imbued it with all the charm and wit and perfect dialogue of a typical episode. The important thing is that despite how big a deal this episode should be, the writers treat it, tonally, like any other episode, except it’s double-length. Phineas and Ferb fans will love the humor and inside jokes.
The character interactions are great. Candace has a huge crush on Thor and even wrote fan fiction,
Dr. Doofenshmirtz realizes that people might actually find him more intimidating if he has some real villains to back him up, and enjoys an evil-doing montage,
Even Major Monogram gets to have a humorous interplay with Nick Fury.
Also, this happens and it’s the best thing ever:
Marvel fans will not be disappointed, though. It’s a Phineas and Ferb special, and so the focus is on them, but of course they don’t shortchange the superheroes. Each character is written with the same quality and demeanor expected of them. Spider-Man cannot go sixty seconds without cracking a dry pun; Tony Stark is Tony Snark, but he’s not a jerk like he is in the movies; Thor is basically just perfect, actually; Hulk smash. Plus there are a lot of inside jokes.
The team dynamic is strong, and the heroes are actually more heroic than we often see them. First, they lose their powers. Then, due to a hilarious miscommunication, they get their powers switched. Despite the fact that none of them are capable of fighting properly, they go and face the villains anyway, because that’s what heroism is all about. See? They’re teaching kids positive lessons. It’s one thing to face pure evil when you’re impervious, super strong, and can fly, and another when you can’t do/be those things. Interestingly, the message of the episode is basically that super heroes are all well and good for entertainment, but real heroes don’t have powers and fight the good fight anyway… like Batman. They also manage some surprisingly poignant commentary on the ever-controversial role of women in comic books through the characters of Isabella and Candace and the level of contribution they are allowed to make while the boys whack stuff. This was just one of the many things that I wasn’t expecting them to do, which they executed with excellence.
Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel premiered last week, but it was so popular that Disney is running it again tonight. If you have a TV that receives the Disney channel, do yourself a favor and check out this show tonight. Do yourself a second favor and mute the TV during the commercials, because ads for other Disney shows are just the worst.