Annecy 2024: Disney TV Animation Celebrates 40 Years with Look Ahead at “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Phineas and Ferb” Revivals, New “Prep & Landing” Special, and Season 3 of “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder”

Kicking off a panel called “40 Years of Disney Television Animation: Past, Present and Future” at Annecy Festival, Disney Television Animation’s Executive Vice President, Meredith Roberts, made several big announcements. Among them was a brand-new Prep & Landing special from the original writers/directors, Steview Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, who also helmed Monsters At Work; Season 5 of Big City Greens from Chris and Shane Houghton; and a new series of shorts from the world of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. After a fun sizzle reel highlighting four decades of Disney Television Animation fun, it was time for the panelists to answer questions and reveal some first-look surprises.

(Disney)

(Disney)

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse executive producer Robert Laduca was the lone panelist whose time at Disney Television Animation goes back to the entirety’s formation when then-CEO Michael Eisner shared his idea for a television division that would produce animated content for kids. At the meeting, he just so happened to be holding a bag of his kids’ favorite candy – Gummy Bears. Adventures of the Gummi Bears premiered in 1985 and ran for six seasons, with Rob saying that he felt they had enough ideas to last an additional six seasons had it been allowed to go that long.

While Rob never had a chance to revisit Gummi Glen, he is returning to the Clubhouse in the upcoming reboot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He recalled the anxiety of translating Mickey Mouse and his colorful world into the CG space and the need to retain Mickey’s static ears to avoid him looking too much like his theme park persona. And, as one of Disney Junior’s first computer-animated preschool series when it premiered in 2006, the limitations of the medium. Individual blades of grass, leaves on trees, feathers, all of that would’ve been too time-consuming and costly to render, so the art department had to make everything stylized. Annecy Festival attendees were the first to see the reboot’s opening credits (up to the point where Mickey enters the Clubhouse) in a side-by-side comparison with the original intro, which shows just how far CG animation on TV has come in twenty years.

Phineas and Ferb co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh opened up about their new 40-episode order, sharing that they consider this to be the original show’s fifth season. After 222 episodes, 5 hour-long specials, and 2 feature films, Dan and Swampy were worried they’d have a hard time coming up with fresh ideas for the new season, but less than a week into the writer’s room (which consists of returning writers and fresh young talent), all concerns dissipated. Dan believes 7 of the new episodes are destined to become favorites for the show’s most diehard fans.

With a goal to make Season 5 of Phineas and Ferb feel as much like the first four seasons as possible, Dan and Swampy revealed one major change they had to make… It’s a new summer! Set one year after the previous iteration of the show, Season 5 will kick off with a splashy musical number about the start of a new summer season. Attendees got to hear the new song, set to animatics of the sequence. A picture-in-picture video showed choreography by TikTok duo Phineas and Ferb, whom Dan met through becoming a TikTok star in his own right with over 7 million followers.

The Proud Family plays a special role in Disney Television Animation’s history as its first series to center around a Black family. Series creator Bruce Smith and fellow executive producer Ralph Farquhar continue to push boundaries through The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which returns for Season 3 on Disney+. While Penny Proud’s world has been widened at home, this season, they wanted her to see and do even more. It was fitting that the Annecy audience was the first to learn that the two-part season premiere finds Penny on vacation in Paris with her parents and best friend, Dijonay Jones. When Oscar and Trudy are abducted by a secret agent, Penny and Dijonay find themselves in the midst of a Mission: Impossible-style rescue effort. Ralph also accidentally let it slip that Mariah Carey will be a guest star in Season 3, reprising a role she was born to play from the original series – herself.

Fresh off the success of Season 2 of Monsters at Work, supervising director Stevie Wermers-Skelton and executive producer Kevin Deters were thrilled to finally be able to talk about their return to Santa’s Village with Prep & Landing: The Snowball Protocol. Having created the first two TV specials and shorts during their time at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Stevie and Kevin had a lot of ideas for additional stories starring Lanny, Wayne, and Magee. Unfortunately, Walt Disney Animation Studios seemed to have closed the book on the characters. But now that Stevie and Kevin are at Disney Television Animation, they were able to dust off some of their “tinsel” ideas.

Fresh off the announcement, Stevie and Kevin could share only a storyboard panel from the new special's introduction. Familiar imagery, like a closeup of the Gingerbread Man (GBM) device, was paired with a new gadget: An angel tree topper whose horn to hark doubles as a fire extinguisher, used to put out the flames of a burning snowman. Stevie and Kevin also confirmed that Dave Foley, Derek Richardson, and Sarah Chalke will reprise their roles as Lanny, Wayne, and Magee.

The landscape of TV is changing, whether it's live-action or animated, but Meredith Roberts gave a positive outlook on what fans can expect from Disney Television Animation’s future. While no specifics were given, she explained that the rise of streaming has led to more co-viewing between kids and parents. As a result, the division is boldly entering new territory, with projects in development in genres that Disney Television Animation has yet to explore. She also hinted that future strategies will try to meet kids where they’re consuming content, which includes gaming and web-based content. Things have certainly come a long way since Adventures of the Gummi Bears, but with new content from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Prep & Landing, Phineas and Ferb, and The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, it’s an exciting time to be a Disney Television Animation fan.

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).