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‘Phineas and Ferb’ Creators Go for More Realistic Animation Style in Disney XD’s ‘Milo Murphy’s Law’

Variety logo Variety 7/14/2017 Marj Galas
© Provided by Variety

Most people crumble when their world starts to shatter, but not Milo Murphy.  For him, every obstacle is something to embrace.

Disney XD channel’s animated series “Milo Murphy’s Law” follows the misadventures of the impossibly optimistic teenage title character, voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic. The character is a direct descendant of Edward A. Murphy Jr., the namesake of Murphy’s law, which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Created by animators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, the show has been renewed for a second season. A stand-alone episode called “Missing Milo” will premiere July 22 on Disney XD.

Povenmire and Marsh originally connected on “The Simpsons,” where they realized their styles were complementary. They ultimately developed their own show: four-time Emmy-winning animated series “Phineas and Ferb,” which aired on the Disney Channel from 2007 to 2015.

As the two collaborated on “Ferb,” a friend suggested the concept of a perpetually upbeat character as a supporting player. Taken with the image, they thought that person would work better as a lead and started hashing out ideas. Within an hour, the concept for “Milo Murphy’s Law” was born.

“He’s put in a position of what can go wrong will go wrong,” says Povenmire. Adds Marsh, “It opens up endless storylines involving worst-case scenarios.”

The duo chose a naturalistic style for the animation that highlights realism. While “Phineas and Ferb” was built largely on geometric shapes that conveyed a feeling of familiarity to the viewer, “Milo Murphy’s Law” provides a sense of urgency to each catastrophic mishap.

“Grounding his world in reality makes the problems feel bigger,” says Marsh.

For the new series, Povenmire and Marsh picked a color palette that veers from animation’s frequently used bright, gumball colors, and instead leans on earthy, autumnal hues.

Once the series was greenlit, the duo sought out their “Phineas and Ferb” creative team to build the animation, but discovered that many members had moved on to other series. Still, enough crew members returned to reestablish the team’s old artistic shorthand.

At the channel’s Disney headquarters, the show’s art department creates the storyboards, 3D modeling and character renders in programs such as Maya, then ships the package overseas, where the final animation is completed.

Povenmire and Marsh scored a coup when they got Yankovic to voice and sing the title character. He wasn’t initially on their radar, but they signed him after auditioning a slew of actors who couldn’t authentically nail the positive tone without sounding snarky.

Yankovic not only was enthusiastic about the role, performing Milo’s voice in an upper register, but loved the show’s musical exploration, the creators say. As they did on “Phineas and Ferb,” they write songs exploring musical styles that match Milo’s adventures.

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