This trip was sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own.
Happy Monday! I hope that you have had a great weekend and you were able to go and see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! Read our Beauty and the Beast review here and you can also get a behind the scenes scoop from the interviews we shared with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Josh Gad, and Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. You can also download these free Beauty and the Beast activity sheets and the awesome Beauty and the Beast coloring pages for your kids or yourself 😉. While we were on this trip, we also got the opportunity to meet with ‘Milo Murphy’s Law’ creators and executive producers Dan Povenmire & Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. You probably recognize these names from “Phineas and Ferb,” “King of the Hill,” “The Simpsons,” and many other projects. We started off screening a new episode of Milo Murphy’s Law and then we sat down for a Q&A with these two guys.
Dan started by telling us “It is 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.”
Jeff: It is, though.
Dan: It’s nice. So, you work in TV, you work in sort of a vacuum, and you sort of send it out into the ether, and if you’re in features, you can go to an actual theater and hear people responding to it. And if you’re in a play or something like that, you get that instant gratification. We have to sort of look online to see what kids are saying about it in order to get a response back.
Jeff: The crew laughs. But we pay them. 😉
What is it like working with Weird Al Yankovic and how much influence does he have on Milo?
Jeff: Well, between the temper tantrums —
Dan: —He’s a horror to work with. No. He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy.
Jeff: Somebody said the weirdest thing about him is just how normal he is, so —
Dan: True. He’s super, super normal. He’s not as wacky as I think people expect him to be, except on stage, or, you know doing one of his videos. But he’s about the nicest guy that we know. 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. And 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 would always come off sort of Pollyanna and false. And we were just like, we just need 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. And he always sounds really positive. And we needed to find somebody who has that positivity naturally. Weird Al came in and did a voice on Gravity Falls. And 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, super positive guy. What does he sound like? 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 immediately worked.
Jeff: I was against it. We already auditioned literally hundreds of people. And I’m like “No.”
Dan: Yeah. You were —
Jeff: Just couldn’t take it. We wanted to hire the guy who was a friend of ours who works on another show.
Dan: But he runs another show.
Jeff: We were told he’s really busy. So when Dan said “we’re going to read one more person,” I’m “fine, whatever, I don’t care.” And then he sent me the audition and I got up in the morning, and it was on an e-mail. So 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.”
Dan: Yeah. So 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! And the funny thing is, during the course of Phineas we had — there were several songs from the first season that were sort of popular, and then we would write our own Weird Al version of that. That song, later, and just change the lyrics, and make it for that particular instance. And that was always fun. We always called it our Weird Al version. Well, now, for Milo, we wrote something like that for Phineas. So, I took the music from a song we wrote on Phineas, and just rewrote the lyrics, and made our own Weird Al version of a song from Phineas, for Milo, and actually got Weird Al to sing it. So, we wrote our own Weird Al version, and Weird Al is performing it how bizarre is that?! So that’s really fun.
Jeff: When you find somebody who really works, it lets you push the character a lot more than you normally would and that’s been really fun. I’d never worked with anybody that’s that prepared every day, for everything, and especially the music stuff. He literally —
Dan: Because he’s an actual musician. Sort of —
Jeff: So much better than we are.
Dan: You know. 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. And, so, 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 to –?” And we’re like, “I think it’s so cute that you think we know.”
Jeff: I tried to sound intelligent. “Just take the dot off. It’s fine.”
Dan: Yeah. I always say, “Well however we sang it in the demo.” That’s how it’s supposed to go. We don’t know what those little dots mean. So — but he’s very prepared —
Jeff: And the other fun thing about Al, of all of the really big names that we have had come in and do voices on this show, those people geek out more about Al than anyone I know. And really famous people. Had somebody look down and go, “Al is coming — can I stay?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course.”
Dan: Can I trouble you gentlemen for an introduction to Mister Yankovic?
Jeff: Can I take a selfie?
You look online to see feedback from fans after they watch the show. What is you’re looking for from them?
Dan: Well, a lot of times you’re looking to see what starts getting quoted. There’s 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.
Jeff: It’s nice to know that things that you wanted — were hoping that 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.
Dan: 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.” You know. I hadn’t thought of it that way at all, but it was like, that’s always fun, when you get a laugh for something that you’re like, “Oh, that’s a surprise. Yeah.” [LAUGHS]
Jeff: 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 like, 28. And 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.”
Dan: We get a lot of people that follow us on Twitter that say that now that’s what they want to do is animation. Always makes me feel great.
Speaking of kids, Jeff, have your grandkids inspired any episode?
Jeff: 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.
Do they recognize themselves in the character, or do you tell them?
Jeff: 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.
Dan: I have two girls, and one’s named Isabella, who I named Isabella in Phineas and Ferb after. And so 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 we so I made it look like your cousin.”*
Jeff: And I get things like I put my wife in a show, and she was mortified. Then — 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 — “Oh, okay, I’m sorry.”
Dan: No, what’s funny is the mom, Milo’s mom in this, 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 her family thinks that I obviously drew that to look like her, and it’s not. It’s a complete coincidence.
You guys voice Dakota and Cavendish. Was that planned initially?
Dan: Dakota and Cavendish — that whole concept of that came out of the writer’s room. That wasn’t part of our original concepts.
Jeff: Our writers, mocking us.
Dan: I think the writers were like, “We need somebody to cut away to,” because they were used to doing Phineas and Ferb, and then cutting away to Perry and Doofenshmirtz. And they pitched this idea of these time travelers, and then the whole like, what they do and everything came out of that meeting. But when I drew it, I sort of was drawing it with the thought of me being that guy, and you being Cavendish. That’s just been a fun thing to do. And we get to be in the record room together, which we never did. He was Monogram, and I was Doofenshmirtz, and there were only like, three episodes where they even had a conversation because they were usually separated by distance.
Jeff: Now we just put two mics in the room. And we can just sit and play around and play around and ad lib, and it’s a lot of fun.
How important is it for you to create a show the whole family can watch together?
Dan: 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 are cable stations that are just the Food Station, the Food Network, and Home and Garden Television, and —
Jeff: There’s a whole Bass Fishing Network.
Dan: 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 many shows with the whole family to do. So, when we hear that, to us, it just warms our heart, that we’re bringing back family viewing to the family —
Jeff: 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 we were talking. And he did that “what do you do” and I said, “Well, I do cartoons for Disney.” Oh, what show? I said, “Well, I used to do a show called Phineas and Ferb.” And this 18-year-old went “Oh 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.
Dan: Part of it was just that we made the show to make each other laugh and to make the writers laugh. And we all have immature enough senses of humor that we also laugh at the stuff that the kids would laugh at, but we also, laugh at the jokes that the kids won’t get. And we always feel like, “Well, let’s just put everything that we think is funny in. And just make sure that there’s enough stuff in for the kids if they don’t get a reference or something like that.” Our only rule is, if the adult in the room laughs, and the kid asks what they’re laughing about, that conversation can’t be an uncomfortable conversation.
Jeff: We’d rather have the conversation be because we did a joke about existentialist philosophy.
Dan: But, sometimes, the adults will have to look it up, you know what I’m mean.
You said this concept came to because you always run into bad luck?
Dan: No. People have asked me a couple times how did you deal with all of the adversity that happened to you in your career, for instance, and I always look back on that, I always scratch my head and think, did I have adversity? And I look back, and there’s a lot of things that went wrong throughout that, and I think Swampy and I are both very positive in our outlook of life. So when things go wrong, we just go around it. And people often think that you’re going down this path, and if you turn this way it’s success, and this way is failure. And that’s not at all what it is. It’s failure, failure, failure, failure, success, you know. You just have to keep going down whatever path you’re on, and if there’s failure here, you turn that way. If there’s failure here, you know you turn that way, and you just keep going. And I think that’s part of what we were trying to do with Milo is that, things are going to go wrong for everybody, if there’s anything that we want the kids to know from this, it’s that if things go wrong in your life, don’t let it ruin your day, much less your life. You know. Find the positive spin on it.
Jeff: My little brother and I have always grown up with people saying, “I can’t believe you guys turned out the way you did.” My mom is now living in Montana with husband number seven, so there was some chaos growing up. But we always thought, well, you know, it’s your choice, what you do with that. Either it buries you, or it makes you an interesting person, with a lot of experience that no one else had. And I always thought, you know, when we started creating Milo, I always thought that was the coolest thing about a character like that, is that whatever life’s throwing at you, you go, “Well. I’m going to know how to deal with that. It’s going to make me a little tougher. A little stronger. A little more interesting. A little more fun.” Whatever it is, that’s a great thing to know, because life’s going to throw stuff at everybody. And you have to figure out it’s what you do with it.
Dan: Nobody really leads a charmed life. They just exist within the life that they have in a positive way.
What advice would you have for young kids who are into drawing and doodling?
Jeff: Throw away their erasers.
Jeff: 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 everybody, your job is to get them out as quickly as possible, and you only do that by doing more drawings.” Filling pages with — y’know, when I started in animation, because I didn’t get trained in this. I think it was David Silverman —
Dan: Which is still a very obvious fact, if you look at —
Jeff: — Silverman was kind of one of the first guys who kind of helped teach me, and he for a while said, “You should just draw with a Sharpie. It’ll keep you from 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.
Jeff: And my mom still has stuff that I drew, you know. More drawings, no erasing.
This was a really fun interview and I enjoyed learning more about Dan and Jeff and “Milo Murphy’s Law”. It is a great show that you can watch with your kids (and you will actually enjoy!). Catch it on Monday’s on DisneyXD. This is a great show that really does teach kids how to handle adversity and to look for the positive in things that can go wrong in life. To be prepared and have no regrets. This is a show that I watch with my kids because it has clean humor and great messages.
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.
Born in Santa Monica, California, he currently lives in Venice, where he loves to surf. He is an active volunteer for A Walk On Water, an organization that provides surf therapy for families with special needs children. Marsh has two children and four grandchildren.
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.
Povenmire was born in California and raised in Mobile, Alabama. He studied cinema at USC and is married with two children.
Here are a couple of clips you can watch:
Disney XD’s “Milo Murphy’s Law” – Danica McKellar Clip
Disney XD’s “Milo Murphy’s Law” Adventure Montage
MILO MURPHY’S LAW (Mondays on Disney XD)