Just a quick note to say THANKS to two groundbreaking shows. Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas & Ferb. I say this for a very simple reason: They were trail-blazers. They paved the way for other shows. Let me explain.
As someone who has pitched numerous TV show ideas, I invariably run into blank stares with some of my concepts. Why? Cuz the execs can’t see beyond their own viewing experience. If they’ve seen RAIDERS, then I can pitch something with adventurers, treasures, and howling natives. But if I tried to pitch something oddball, something they haven’t seen – it’s much harder. Let’s go back many years to the pre-Spongebob days. Now imagine trying to pitch that show: “There are these underwater creatures, see? A sponge, a starfish, a crab, a squid. But they’re human, like us – with clothes and houses.” “Um…ok. So this Spongebob character lives where?” “In a pineapple.” “Why???” “Cuz it’s funny.” “Hmm… give me a sample story.” “All right. Spongebob asks his pet snail Gary if he wants to go to the beach today, and Gary says MEOW.” “The snail meows?” “Yeah! Y’know, it’s a pet.” “Doesn’t make sense. So they’re going to climb out of the ocean and sit on a dry beach.” “No, the beach is underwater.” “What?!” “Lemme finish. So they pitch a tent and build a fire.” “A fire? Underwater?!” “Yeah.” “Get out of my office!”
Yeah, it’s a wacky idea. But somebody believed in it. And audiences eventually loved it. They “got” it. Spongebob became the hit of Nickelodeon. And soon every studio in town wanted a “Spongebob” show, too.
Let’s look at Phineas & Ferb.
- On a daily basis, P&F create gigantic hi-tech projects requiring years of research and unlimited financial resources – something two school boys would never have.
- Nobody (especially the neighbors) ever question the gigantic projects that are erected in the backyard. And if someone DOES question them (“Aren’t you a little young to be playing with an electron accelerator?”), Phineas gets off with a simple, “Why, yes – yes I am.”
- Phineas has a triangular head, Ferb’s is rectangular, and Candace is a piano hammer.
- Perry the Platypus is house pet (zoning?)…. and a secret agent (who has every spy device from lasers to mini-copters hidden somewhere on his naked body).
- Ferb has a little handheld box that unfolds into a portable laboratory, complete with working bunsen burners and glassware.
- Big musical numbers (a difficult animation thingie).
Try pitching that!!! It isn’t that exaggerated gizmos and wild plots are alien to the cartoon business – it’s the fact that these two boys are totally unsupervised (something that Broadcast Standards and Practices taught us to avoid) and that they can create huge, amazing, planet-changing inventions without money, physics degrees, or nay-sayers. That last one is the clincher. An exec would ask, “Where do they get the money for all this? And how do kids know how to invent this stuff? And doesn’t the populace noitce and complain? ” And the response would be. “I dunno. But it’s funny, isn’t it?”
Again – a wacky idea. But somebody believe in it. And audiences eventually loved it. They “got” it. Phineas & Feb became the hit of the Disney Channel. And soon every studio in town wanted a “Phineas & Ferb” show, too.
Trail-blazers. The guys who forge a new path so that others may follow. (And these aren’t the only two shows that have done that.) Thank you all. You just made my show pitches easier. “It’s like Phineas and Ferb.” “LOVE IT!”
Am I grateful? “Why, yes – yes I am.”