Animation multi-hyphenate, voice actor and Tik Tok star Dan Povenmire has a brand new show: Hamster & Gretel. Let’s find out more about his creative journey over the years.
Does the name Dan Povenmire ring any bells? If not, you’re almost certainly familiar with his work. Alongside longtime collaborator Jeff ‘Swampy’ Marsh, Povenmire is a co-creator of the smash hit cartoon Phineas and Ferb. He also voices the show’s inept villain, Dr Heinz Doofenshmirtz.
Povenmire’s most recent series is Hamster & Gretel airing on Disney Channel. His own daughter, Melissa (Meli) Povenmire voices Gretel. Meanwhile, additional cast members include Michael Cimino, Beck Bennett, Joey King, Matt Jones and Carolina Ravassa.
Meet Dan Povenmire
While Phineas and Ferb is undeniably Povenmire’s most successful project to date, he has a much larger body of work. This spans both before and after he ever dreamed up Phineas and Ferb’s unbelievable adventures.
Phineas and Ferb starred an eclectic voice cast from all walks of life. This included Vincent Martella (Everybody Hates Chris) as Phineas, Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) as Candace, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually) as Ferb and Alyson Stoner (Cheaper By The Dozen) as Isabella. Caroline Rhea and Richard O’Brien voiced the parents, Linda and Lawrence.
To understand the journey, we first need to know about the man. A quick Google search tells you Povenmire was born in San Diego (but raised in Mobile, Alabama) and is 58 years of age, as of writing. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Making An Impact
A 2008 article reveals that Povenmire was an artistic prodigy from an early age. After starting drawing at 2 years old, he was selling his work in art shows by the age of 10. Despite such clear talent, animation was not always on Povenmire’s horizon.
Some of Povenmire’s other projects include Family Guy, The Simpsons, Hey Arnold and Rocko’s Modern Life. He also worked on Spongebob Squarepants. Before any of that, he pursued a career as a live-action filmmaker, writing the script for Psycho Cop 2. He almost directed that movie, turning the opportunity down to continue working as an animator on The Simpsons.
There’s no question that Povenmire’s produced impactful shows. For example, Phineas and Ferb ran for almost 10 years on the Disney Channel. In addition to surface-level plot points such as productivity or inventions, the show also showcased deeper themes. These include living within a blended family (the real-life experience of co-creator Swampy) or having meaningful sibling/friendship bonds.
Povenmire’s work has also made an impact on a much more personal level.
In a 2017 discussion for the Television Academy, Povenmire shared the story of his 11th-grade teacher, Mr Mitchell. A “tall man with a perpetually stern expression”, Mr Mitchell encouraged Povenmire’s aspirations to enter the entertainment industry. More specifically, he defended his student from snickering classmates during a discussion.
As Povenmire mentioned earlier in the discussion, a career in the arts was rare in the deep South. Mr Mitchell was the first adult, other than Povenmire’s parents, to show faith that he could make a living doing something creative.
Years later, after joining The Simpsons, Povenmire decided to reach out to Mr Mitchell. Povenmire wanted to express his gratitude towards his former teacher, for showing an interest in his ambitions and how instrumental that moment had been.
After calling Mr Mitchell, Povenmire spoke to his wife, who explained Mitchell was in the hospital for back problems. Instead, Povenmire wrote a letter that Mr Mitchell’s wife promised to pass on to him.
Several months later, Povenmire gets a phone call from Mr Mitchell on his home number. Mr Mitchell explained that he had not been in the hospital for back problems. In fact, he had a nervous breakdown following a bout of depression, stemming from the feeling that his teaching never reached any student in a meaningful way.
Having been hospitalised, Mr Mitchell’s wife delivered Povenmire’s letter, expressing how much Mr Mitchell’s encouragement had meant to him.
According to Mr Mitchell on the phone call, the letter “saved his life” and got him back to teaching.
Unsurprisingly for an animator, all of Povenmire’s work starts with the drawings. He famously sketched Phineas while at a restaurant, years before the show was eventually produced. More recently, Povenmire conceived his title character ‘Hamster’, a supehero hamster, from Hamster & Gretel from his daughters’ pets.
“It just came from my subconscious somewhere. I liked it and I set it aside and took a picture of it. I brought it home, and then I pitched a bunch of ideas for a show for it to my daughter when I was tucking her in one night. I was able to come up with a whole bunch of ideas for it right away.”Dan Povenmire, Variety (2022)
A college dropout, Povenmire attended USC for two years; 1985-1987. His comic strip Life is a Fish dominated The Daily Trojan, bringing in $14000 per year from campus merchandise sales.
As with any Hollywood professional, success doesn’t happen overnight. Of course, it took Povenmire and Swampy Marsh over a decade to finally sell Phineas and Ferb. By then, both men had built up strong reputations in the animation industry across a plethora of projects. Coincidentally, Adam Bonnett (a Disney Executive) was a Family Guy fan and this made him receptive to hearing Povenmire’s pitch for Phineas and Ferb.
Hamster & Gretel
Unlike Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law, Swampy Marsh did not create Hamster & Gretel. Many of the plot elements in Hamster & Gretel relate to Povenmire’s real life. There’s the obvious of his daughter voicing the lead role, of course, but also several other instances.
Furthermore, Povenmire discusses these references on Joanna Hausmann’s Hyphenated Podcast. For those unaware, Hausmann is the story editor and Head Writer for Hamster & Gretel. She came on board to provide a more authentic Venezuelan voice to the writing, which is a hint as to what’s coming.
These personal details in Hamster & Gretel include:
- Unlike The Flynn-Fletcher and Murphy clans, Hamster & Gretel is much closer to Povenmire’s own family. As mentioned, the blended family concept on Phineas came from Marsh’s upbringing.
- Povenmire’s wife, Clarissa is Venezuelan and “Carolina” (Gretel’s mother) is modelled on her. In the show itself, the Grant-Gomez family are American-Venezuelan.
- The father, “Dave” resembles Povenmire himself.
Hamster & Gretel premiered its first episode on August 12, with episodes airing weekly from August 13 onwards.
In addition to the aforementioned actors, the recurring cast includes Alyson Stoner, Priah Ferguson (Stranger Things), YouTuber Liza Koshy, Phil LaMarr (Futurama, among many other series) as well as Dan Povenmire himself.