Right back when Disney first snapped up Marvel there were concerns about Donald Duck buying out Stark Enterprises or turning the Baxter Building into his new moneybank. Fans were right to worry, as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Spider-Man are making their first Disney crossover for a special episode cult kid-spy show Phineas And Ferb: Mission Marvel.
SciFiNow spoke exclusively to Phineas And Ferb creator Jeff ‘Swampy’ marsh to find out why you shouldn’t be afraid, and why Mission Marvel owes more to the 60s Spider-Man cartoon than it does Steamboat Willie…
How did the Marvel crossover come about?
After the two companies came together we started nudging our executives – we’re all Marvel fans, most of us grew up drawing and reading Marvel comics, so it was a pretty natural step to take for us, it was just a matter of getting everyone else on board.
Did you have to deal with a lot of brand managers telling you Iron Man is left handed?
Well, there was a lot more executives in the room, that’s for sure. [laughs] But they knew we wanted to get this right, that was very important to us, so they gave us a lot of extra time, a lot of extra resources, and what we mostly got instead of people policing it was people coming in and being experts for us and help us solve problems. There was a whole legal maze we had to go through about what characters you can use and all of that, and then there’s just the whole technical side of which characters exist with other characters and how their powers work – we had a couple of really great experts that Marvel sent over to make sure we really got it right.
Plus, we had a few guys on our crew who I think knew almost as much as they did. We just wanted to make sure we got it right, that the humour came from the right place, that we respected the characters and weren’t doing anything to mock them, and make sure we were laughing with them for all the right reasons, and they helped us out quite a lot.
It turned out much better I think than anybody expected.
Were there any Marvel characters you were particularly excited to be using?
I’m an Iron Man from way, way back. One I didn’t get to use was Silver Surfer, he’s a little obscure but he’s one of my personal favourites – I still have a bunch of old Silver Surfer comics. As far as writing for them, Iron Man was the one that was my favourite growing up, so that was pretty cool.
Did you think there’s a possibility of more crossovers like this and the Star Wars one?
I have to say the success of this one… it turned out so well, and everyone was so pleased with it, I think we’ve got everybody on board with doing more of them. We’ll see where it goes, we’re open to doing more of them, and I’m pretty sure that now that they’ve seen the finished product there’ll be a will for us to do more of them. We’ll see how it goes, keep your fingers crossed!
Are there lots of little Easter eggs in Mission Marvel that comic fans will pick up on?
Oh absolutely! These are the people that’re working on our show, there’s tons of stuff thrown in, little wierdnesses and there’s stuff for guys that are just fans of the movie. There’s stuff for everybody, the more you know about that universe and the bigger a fan you are of all these characters and the comic-books and the old stuff, the more things you’ll find. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens on twitter after it comes out because most of those people will pick out that stuff – and most of our crew that put it in there will feel very justified! [laughs]
Was it difficult getting the design and tone right, or was part of the fun the fact that the Marvel characters don’t fit in?
A little bit of both, really. A lot of the fun is from seeing stuff that’s clearly from the Marvel universe, right down to the highlights and shadows on the characters and the props – it’s very much like they have come from a different world. It was also a matter of getting the characters right just because of the weird proportion of the people in our show – it took a long time to get those proportions just right so it still looked like the Marvel characters, but didn’t look really weird standing next to Phineas and Ferb.
Like I said, tons of the guys that are on our show are fans and comic-book artists in their own right so they were happy to work on it until we got it right. They got to draw Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk, and all the evil villains all day until everybody was happy. It was a labour of love.
Did you return to any classic comics or animated series for influence?
We pulled a bunch of references for everybody to watch, especially when we started honing the characters down we started seeking out different elements from either the movies or some of the animated series that we really wanted the dialogue and everything to feel like. I think a lot of us still remember the old Spider-Man TV series – we’re a bunch of older guys – and that sticks in our heads as what Spider-Man was for us – there was a lot of debate about that. Then we had to blend that with where those characters are now in the Marvel cartoons – so we went to a bunch of the cartoons they’re making now to find out where they were at with all those characters, and got to some place where everybody was happy.
DC seem better at keeping the adult fans happy with their animated series – that’s not denigrate Earth’s Mightiest Heroes which had a huge fan following – but do you think there’s something Marvel can take away from Phineas And Ferb in terms of satisfying a following across all age groups?
The thing I think about the Marvel characters that always appealed to me, and when I talked to people about Marvel, is they always seemed to be the most dimensional characters. They had the most psychology behind them, to me they were the most interesting personalities – they were the most flawed, and I think that opens you up to being more appealing across the board. I think it certainly gives you more opportunity for humour that hits with more different groups. When you start looking at these characters as humans, they’re just people who have special powers as opposed to super-beings in all ways. The DC world for me always felt like all of the characters were a little too perfect, and I think those imperfections, those flaws and those quirks make them more appealing to everybody potentially. I’m hoping even the Marvel cartoons we’re making now, I’m hoping some of the stuff we’re doing with Phineas And Ferb will have some influence on the type of humour and the things they do with the characters, free them up a bit to explore others and different sides of them.
What would be your fantasy crossover for Phineas And Ferb?
Monty Python would be a big appeal! I’m also a huge James Bond fan, so we play around with that world a lot – so it would be really cool to do something official.
Phineas And Ferb: Mission Marvel will air 16 August 2013 on the Disney Channel in the US and 25 August 2013 on Disney XD.