A Christmas special is one of those time honoured television traditions. A special episode in which we see the characters engage in festive cheer. But admitedly, these all tend to run the same set of cliches. So what happens when the talents behind Disney’s popular Phineas and Ferb make one?
As the title implies, Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation occurs during the Christmas following the main series “endless summer”. Whilst the season may have changed, the boy’s goal hasn’t, as they continue to seize the day. Their latest project is to turn the entire city into a massive ‘Thank You’ card for Santa Claus. Meanwhile, Perry attempts to defeat Doofenshmirtz’s latest invention: the Naughtianator, capable of putting the entire city on Santa’s Naughty list. The two plot threads collide when the Evil™ invention is activated, although revealing much more would wreck the surprises and humour.
Part of the fun with this episode is that despite being a special it’s firmly rooted in the show’s established continuity. It’ll certainly work for first-time viewers, but there are a lot of references to past episodes, some major and some minor. Easily the most major is the ongoing Candace and Jeremy romance subplot, involving Candace’s attempts to discover what he wants for Christmas. As usual, said subplot flirts between poking fun at the teenage mindset and developing some sincerely sweet moments of first love.
Aside from referencing its own continuity, the special also takes a few well-intentioned shots at other Christmas regulars such as Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Overall though, the special retains the series trademark optimism, and any real sour eggnog is left for Doofenshmirtz (though admitedly, not in the way you might expect for the self-declared evil scientist). Some might find it a bit twee, both Phineas and Ferb draw from the emotions we all had in our earliest days that anything was possible if we tried hard enough. Whilst both characters go through a brief down period, overall they’re appealingly as optimistic as ever. It may not make them the most rounded characters ever, but in this world of war and recession it’s important that some shows just want to put out quality, heartwarming comedy to make you laugh and smile. After all, aren’t joy and togetherness the key themes of Christmas?
Of course, it wouldn’t be Phineas and Ferb without a song in the mix, and the special offers several right from the start. Things are kicked off with a festive variation of Bowling For Soup’s “Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day” theme tune, which manages to be familiar yet surprising. The rest of the songs are all either sung by the cast or as background music for montage scenes. They’re all nicely composed, but as usual it’s the Doofenshmirtz number, “I Really Don’t Hate Christmas” (an amusing piece about possibly the only thing Dr D doesn’t dislike) which stands out.
Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation is a fun outing. Disney are often criticised for the disposable way they treat their television properties, so it’s great to see this show receiving so much love and attention as it more than deserves it. Povenmire, Marsh and company certainly won’t be on the Naughty List this year.