Infused with a refreshing sense of wit and irreverence, “Phineas and Ferb” is that rare modern animated series for kids that even adults without a frontal lobotomy can sit through. The title stepbrothers engage in spectacular adventures in their quest to get the most out of their 104-day summer vacation, thwarting an older sister’s attempts to fink on them every step of the way. Throw in a pet platypus that doubles as a secret agent and clever original songs, and the series has the makings of another “Kim Possible.”
Co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh have “The Simpsons” on their resumes, and they exhibit an ability to tap into children’s fertile brains in a shrewd manner, spiced by enough pop-culture references (“Fantastic Voyage,” anyone?) to broaden the show’s appeal beyond just tots. Yet while the mini-episodes (two per half-hour) indulge in wild flights of fancy, there are actually stories here, unlike the addled antics that have come to characterize so much TV animation (the increasingly stoned Adult Swim comes to mind).
The premiere, for example, works in an “American Idol” spoof, as Phineas (voiced by Vincent Martella) and Ferb (Thomas Sangster) decide to become one-hit wonders, recording a popular song and then quitting the biz all before lunch. Meanwhile, their dormant platypus Perry waits until everyone is otherwise occupied to leap into secret-agent mode, fending off world-domination schemes by the fiendish Dr. Doofenshmirtz (Povenmire).
The musical numbers — including a title theme by Bowling for Soup — span a wide variety of genres and almost give the show a latter-day “Scooby-Doo” quality, albeit with a sly, self-knowing air considerably more sophisticated than the simple animation and character design would suggest.
Disney will run the show nightly through February as a promotional sendoff (dubbed — ouch — “Ferb-ruary”) before it settles in as a weekly program.
Creating old-fashioned animation that can straddle the worlds of children, teens and adults is no small feat, and in “Phineas and Ferb,” Disney has managed to pull it off, giving its viewers what could be a surprisingly cool, cool summer.