Why a platypus?

Perry the platypus is a breakout star from the Disney Channel toon “Phineas and Ferb.” The brothers’ duck-billed, beaver-tailed, semi-aquatic pet is just plain funny-looking. He doesn’t speak, but he’s got a great trademark sound (kind of an aggravated purr) when he flaps his bill. Plus Perry packs the added punch of leading a secret life, even unbeknownst to the brothers, as an undercover agent (Agent P) who regularly saves the world from the evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

“Phineas” creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh say they chose a platypus as the brothers’ pet because of the animal’s natural comedic gifts. But they also were drawn to the fact that the animal presented them with a blank storyboard. There haven’t been any popular toon renditions of platypuses (at least in the U.S.), so Perry would not have to compete with preconceived notions that viewers might bring to a more conventional critter.

“We feel like we can own this animal,” says Marsh. “Few kids have a specific image in their mind of what a platypus is before seeing ‘Phineas and Ferb.’ ”

Marsh likened their opportunity with Perry to the same way that the character of Shrek now dominates the cultural consciousness when it comes to ogres.

And there was one other important consideration that sealed Perry’s fate as a platypus. It was something that Marsh kept in mind as a parent.

“We wanted to pick an animal that kids couldn’t go pick out at a pet store and beg for,” he says.

Disney toon a big draw