Around the country, the school year is coming to an end and summer vacation is imminent, delighting countless bored schoolchildren. But for Phineas and Ferb, the long-running Disney animated series, summer (and possibly the entire show) is coming to an end, with super-sized episode “Last Day of Summer,” airing tomorrow night on Disney XD. And even if you’re not a diehard Phineas and Ferb fan, you’ll find yourself getting choked up at this sweet, sensitive, and very funny special episode.
“Last Day of Summer” has a familiar set-up: Candace (Ashley Tisdale) looks to bust her brother Phineas (Vincent Martella) and stepbrother Ferb Fletcher (Thomas Sangster), the pintsized geniuses who maximize every day of their summer vacation with crazy hijinks and technologically advanced shenanigans. Through a series of events, Candance winds up in the headquarters of evil mastermind Dr. Doofensmirtz (co-creator Dan Povenmire) and gains access to a do-over-inator, the latest Doofensmirtz invention that’s a kind of miniature time machine. With this new doohickey, Candace has an unlimited number of opportunities to narc out her brothers; even on the last day of summer she can’t resist the chance to catch them red-handed. (Meanwhile, Doofensmirtz uses the same machine to try and foil Perry’s attempts.) And, truth be told, the brothers have created a giant machine that is “everything” – harkening back to their very first rollercoaster and all that has followed, including some deliciously meta moments like a brief bit where the voice actors who portray the characters are seen on-screen.
Of course, as we all know, fooling around with the space-time continuum has consequences, and slowly as the episode chugs along, the side effects of Candace’s attempts start to reveal themselves: objects and animals keep getting sucked into a mysterious wormhole and after they disappear, they cease to exist on any timeline. Phineas and Ferb is a heady show that plays with big ideas and this episode is an undeniably fun take on the time travel/multiple dimension plot device that countless science fiction stories have hinged on (and yes, there’s a Christmas Carol reference).
But it’s in the final moments of the episode that really choked us up. This is when Phineas and Ferb’s very existence is threatened and with it all the memories and adventures that have accumulated over the years. That’s when the real meaning of summer vacation reveals itself and, like we said, even if you haven’t seen every episode of the series (all 137 of them), you’ll find yourself getting emotional. Because this is a universal episode that speaks directly to your inner child, when summer vacation seemed like an endless stretch of pure possibility, and all the feelings that greeted the end of that vacation. For extra heart-tugging emphasis, there’s even a brief montage and a really wonderful new song.
At the end of the screening we attended earlier this week, co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh were on hand to discuss the series. Povenmire said that the decision to end the series was made because they were afraid of the series going stale. “We wanted to end it before it started getting tired,” Povenmire said, while, time and time again, saying that they could come back and do more new episodes somewhere down the line. “Maybe we’ll come back,” Povenmire said. (Keep in mind there’s also an hour-long special centered around Perry’s all-animal spy organization, The O.W.C.A. Files, airing this fall.) At one point during the post-screening discussion, both Povenmire and Marsh were so overwhelmed with emotion that they started crying.
And it’s understandable as to why they would be so emotional; they have worked on this series for a long time. The creators repeatedly stated that they had worked on the series for more than a decade; it technically ran for four seasons on Disney Channel (and later Disney XD) from 2007 to 2015 and engaged in some beautifully bizarre tangents, like the Marvel and Star Wars crossover episodes, an episode conceived by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and, best of all, a zombie-themed episode featuring cameo appearances by genre kingpin George A. Romero and the cast of Shaun of the Dead. Phineas and Ferb was such a blast to watch because it could literally be and do anything; nothing was too outrageous. And what’s more – the show always had a sunny attitude, full of positivity and optimism that never feels forced or cloying.
Fans of the series shouldn’t be too sad, though. Not only has Disney already purchased the new series from Povenmire and Marsh, Mike Murphy’s Law, a similarly high concept animated series about a kid with extraordinarily bad luck. Povenmire said that the two shows are “completely different,” although they share the same fundamental idea of “meeting adversity with positivity.” So, yes, it sounds pretty adorable and should make fans of Phineas and Ferb very, very happy. What’s more – even though this summer is over doesn’t mean that there can’t be more summer vacations down the line. “Maybe we’ll come back,” Povenmire said. If his words didn’t express how much he was already missing these characters, the tears welling up in his eyes certainly did. It’s a sentiment that will be shared with countless fans when the final episode airs tomorrow night on Disney XD.