While recently in LA, I had the chance to join a fantastic group of bloogers at Walt Disney Studios to meet with show Creators and Executive Producers Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh of “Phineas and Ferb” fame to discuss their new Disney XD series “Milo Murphy’s Law”.
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will. That doesn’t bode well for 13-year-old Milo Murphy, a descendant of the man for whom the law was named, and who feels like he’s living it. Milo is always expecting the unexpected. He’s prepared for anything that comes his way, though, as he is armed with knowledge, a backpack full of supplies and a strong sense of optimism to help him get through any problem. Milo has best friends Melissa and Zack by his side to help think outside the box to overcome the obstacles that life puts in their way. Multiple Grammy winner “Weird Al” Yankovic provides the voice of Milo, in addition to performing the show’s theme song and other tunes featured on the animated series.
About Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh:
Dan Povenmire – Creator/Executive Producer and “Balthazar Cavendish.
Emmy Award-winning animation veteran Dan Povenmire is creator and executive producer of Disney XD’s animated comedy adventure series “Milo Murphy’s Law,” which follows the adventures of Milo, a boy who personifies Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Povenmire is best known for serving as creator and executive producer of Disney’s five-time Emmy Award-winning series “Phineas and Ferb,” for which he has earned eight Emmy nominations in four different categories ranging from songwriting to voice-over performance. In 2010, Povenmire won the coveted Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in Animation for the series.
With over 20 years of experience in directing, storyboarding and writing, Povenmire has worked on multiple critically acclaimed animated series such as “Family Guy,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Simpsons,” “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Hey Arnold!,” among others.
Jeff “SWAMPY” Marsh – Creator/Executive Producer and “Vinnie Dakota”.
Emmy Award-nominated television producer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh is creator and executive producer of Disney XD’s animated comedy adventure series “Milo Murphy’s Law,” which follows the adventures of Milo, a boy who personifies Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Marsh is best known for serving as co-creator and executive producer on Disney’s five-time Emmy Award-winning series “Phineas and Ferb.”
Over the past 20 years, Marsh has worked for many of the top names in animation, including Hanna Barbera and Klasky Csupo. He has also worked on the critically-acclaimed series “The Simpsons” for over six seasons, including three Emmy Award-winning episodes. Marsh served as writer and director on “Rocko’s Modern Life,” earning the show an Environmental Media Award, and he also worked as a storyboard artist and designer for the Emmy Award-winning series “King of the Hill.” Marsh moved to England for six years where he worked on various BBC Animated projects. Additionally, he spearheaded production of several feature films and series for the UK-based BKN New Media Ltd.
We enjoyed a private viewing of two Milo Murphy’s Law, and it turned out we were unknowingly joined by producers Dan, and Jeff as they watched quietly from the back row.
This is what Dan Povenmire had to say when the lights came back on.
Really fun to watch that with an audience. We forget sometimes, by the time we’re done with it, none of it’s funny to us anymore ’cause we’ve seen all of those jokes 30 or 40 times each so it’s always a matter of “Well, this made me laugh the first several times I heard it. I should probably leave it in,” because otherwise you end up changing things because you’ve heard them a lot. And it’s always nice when people laugh at the things you thought were funny originally.
Q: What is it like, working with Weird Al Yankovic, and how much influence does he have on Milo?
JM: Well, between the temper tantrums —
DP: He’s a horror to work with. No. He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy.
JM: Somebody said the weirdest thing about him is just how normal he is.
DP: True. He’s super normal. He’s not as wacky as I think people expect him to be, except on stage.
DP: Or doing one of his videos. But he’s about the nicest guy that we know.
DP: And that’s part of why we ended up with him, is we were looking for somebody to have this very positive voice without sounding put on.
We auditioned hundreds of people for Milo. And we auditioned kids. Seasoned voice actors. People whose work we love. But when they try to do that super-positivity thing, it’d always come off sort of Pollyanna and false. And we were just needed to find somebody who actually has that voice, ’cause the character is sort of modeled after a friend of ours who just sounds that way when he talks. He just always sounds really positive.
Weird Al came in and did a voice on Gravity Falls. Alex, who runs Gravity Falls, posted it, and I was like — oh. Weird Al. I’ve met him. I’ve seen him interviewed. He’s this super positive guy. I had to look up an interview with him to remind myself what his voice sounded like. And we had him come in, and it just immediately worked.
JM: I’m literally sitting there in bed with my wife, and I play Weird Al’s voice. She goes, “Who’s that? ” I went, “It’s Weird Al. It’s really good.”
DP: Yeah. It was a great find, and working with him is great. The fact that we get to write songs and have Weird Al sing them, it just makes my high school self just, Weeee! Plus, because he’s an actual musician.
We don’t read and write music. We can play, and sing into a microphone, and then somebody else, writes out the score and stuff like that, from that. He’ll come in for a song and he’ll go, “Yeah, on bar 12 here, you’ve got a dotted quarter note. But in the demo that you guys sang, it’s a dotted half note” or something. “Which one do you want?” And we’re like, “I think it’s so cute that you think we know.”
Q: You’ve once mentioned that you looked online to read feedback. What do you want your fans to get from watching this?
DP: A lot of times you’re looking to see what starts getting quoted, you know. There is always the Monday morning gag. That’s what we’re always looking for. The Monday morning gag. The gag that kids will come to school and talk about.
JM: It’s nice to know that things that you were hoping would connect, do connect, and also I think I look for it to find the surprising things I didn’t expect. And that’s kind of the joy. You think, oh, there’s this whole other thing that happened that I really didn’t anticipate.
DP: You guys laughed at something that we weren’t expecting you to laugh at, and I can’t remember what it was, but I was like, “Oh, I guess that is funny.”
JM: The other thing I’m always looking for is the people out there who were me. That if I had had somebody much earlier on in my life say “you should do that,” then maybe I would have found this gig a lot earlier. I didn’t get into animation until I was 28. I like finding those kids that are out there, looking for somebody to say, “You know, hey, this doodling and storytelling you do? Or singing funny songs? There is a place for you out there that do that.”
DP: We get a lot of people that follow us on Twitter that say they now want to do animation. Always makes me feel great.
Q: Speaking of kids, Jeff, have your grand-kids inspired any episode?
JM: They show up as little characters in there, too. Yeah, every time you’re with ’em, you know, there’s fun little behaviors and things you don’t think about until you see, you know, your grandkids, people that young, doing stuff that you think it’s funny. So yeah.
Q: Do they recognize themselves in the character, or do you tell them?
JM: Oh, I tell them. You have to tell them. Otherwise, it happens and they didn’t know, and then they’re really angry at you.
DP: I have two girls, and one’s named Isabella, who I named Isabella in Phineas and Ferb after. When I was drawing out these characters, I put a “Melissa” in there, and I had it on my desk, and I went to sleep, and my oldest daughter, Isabella, had woken up before me and she left a Post-It on that said, “Daddy, this is not fair. You can’t put Melissa into this show and not have an Isabella.” And I had to call her. And say, “You realize that there’s a big hit show with a character that’s named after you?” Yes. But Isabella doesn’t look like me. And that looks like Melissa. And I go, “Oh, I can’t win. I cannot win.” It’s like, “Well, because you weren’t quite born yet. We knew we were having an Isabella, and so I just made it look like your cousin.”
JM: I get things, like I put my wife in a show, and she was mortified. What I thought was weird was she said, “I can’t believe you did that to a character designer. Made them design the boss’s wife. That was really mean of you.” And I didn’t think of that “Oh, okay, I’m sorry.”
DP: What’s funny is the mom, Milo’s mom , looks very much like my wife. But when I drew it, it didn’t. And then she cut her hair to that haircut. And now everybody thinks that I obviously drew that to look like her, and it was a complete coincidence.
Q: The Doctor Zone references were fun. Do you have any plans to do any other pop culture full-on hommages?
DP: That — we’ve been busy with Doctor Zone, ’cause that comes back into play. But what this series has that Phineas never had is, the guys who are protecting the pistachios, that becomes a bigger story by midway through the season. It starts to become a big arc that actually goes through the whole season and culminates in a big season finale with a big climax to that story. And we’d never really done that in Phineas, where we kept a story going through
Luckily, because it takes so long to do animation, sometimes we’ll be in episode 16 and we’ll go, “Oh. We’re doing this here. Be cool if we planted something earlier. What episode has not shipped overseas yet, or what episode can we put a line in that’ll tease that, and makes us a lot smarter than we actually are?” Oh, they were planning that way back then? Well, yes, and no.
JM: We try to do things that make us look smarter than we are, often.
Q: How important is it for you to create a show the whole family can watch together?
Dp: That’s the best thing that we hear, ’cause when we started Phineas it was right at the time where TV watching had gotten so segmented. There’s cable stations that are just, there’s the Food Station, the Food Network, and Home and Garden Television, and — and. Yeah, there really is, and what the research was showing was that every age group in the house had its own TV. So, family viewing as we remembered it, from when we were kids, had sort of disappeared. When we were kids, it was the whole family on the couch watching TV. It was everybody watching one show, and you had to pick something that everybody liked, and since that was no longer the norm, people weren’t doing as much shows with the whole family. So, when we hear that, to us, it just warms our heart, that oh, we’re bringing back family viewing to the family.
JM: I was recently on a ski lift with this 18 year old kid, and I was making jokes about my 15 year old son. That I was up here with a bunch of 15 year olds and blah blah blah and we were talking. And he did that “what do you do” and I said, “Well, I do cartoons for Disney.” Oh, what show? Said, “Well, I used to do a show called Phineas and Ferb.” And this 18 year old went “Oh my God, dude, God, I gotta take a selfie with you.” I’d forgotten that now these kids that grew up on our show are 18, 19, 20, they’re in college. And they have this language with their families, they have shared jokes, because the show talked to everybody in the house. And I think that’s awesome. I had a guy when I was talking at a college, asked if I would call his dad and tell his dad to send him more money. As Monogram. I did it as Monogram, because — they shared that whole thing, and I did it. “I’m here with your son, and he’s doing very well in school, but he could probably use a few more bucks,” and I got a nice e-mail from him later, saying, “He sent more money. Thank you.” And it was just — all of a sudden there is that shared humor, those shared jokes, those shared lines, that those families will have forever. And sometimes, it’s just singing the songs together.
Q: What advice would you have for young kids who are into drawing and doodling and those kind of things?
JM: Throw away their erasers.
JM: The whole thing that I always see people doing, or kids, that are drawing, or trying to create perfect drawings or beautiful drawings, and somebody much wiser than me once said, “I think there’s 10,000 bad drawings, and your job is to get them out as quickly as possible, and you only do that by doing more drawings.” When I started in animation, because I didn’t get trained in this. I think it was David Silverman’s advice was kind of one of the first guys who helped teach me, and for a while said, “You should just draw with a Sharpie. It’ll keep you fiddling with stuff and fussing with stuff, it forces you just to make bold shapes.” And for a year, I didn’t draw with anything other than a Sharpie when I was drawing my own stuff, and it had a huge, positive impact. You can’t erase it. You can’t fiddle it. And I started filling books with drawings.
My thoughts on Milo Murphy’s Law:
Having a daughter about to turn eighteen, I am one of those parents that Jeff Marsh spoke of in our interview. I spent a lot of time laughing with Phineas and Ferb over the years. Our daughter was, and still is a big fan of the show, it’s humor, and style of animation. Being an artist, she prefers animation over a live-action program any day. I love that about her. Being the mother of two amazing daughters and now two granddaughters, there is always a high probability of things going wrong, and they usually do. Which brings us to Milo. Milo Murphy’s Law – the show is really good. I found it totally likable, relate-able and entertaining for the whole family. There are not many new series that appeal to such a wide range of viewers. Most of all, I really enjoy Milo’s sense of positivity . It’s such a good lesson to keep a positive out-look when life get’s hard, something most people (myself included) struggle with. I definitely see myself watching more episodes with our girls at home.
You can watch Milo Murphy’s Law anywhere that you watch Disney XD!
FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to LA press events for Milo Murphy’s Law. I was not asked or influenced to write a positive blog post. All opinions shared are always honest and my own. This post contains no affiliate links.