Monday, June 17, 2013

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Danny Phantom

The first Nicktoon that came out in 2004 was Butch Hartman's 2nd cartoon. With the huge popularity of The Fairly Oddparents, Butch Hartman was working on a new cartoon series for Nickelodeon. The one that was approved by Nickelodeon was none other than Danny Phantom which debuted on April 3, 2004.

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The show was about a 14-year-old named Danny Fenton who lives in a small town named Amity Park living his everyday life with his family and friends. His parents Jack and Maddie Fenton are ghost hunters dedicated to finding and capturing ghosts that are haunting their town. Danny is very supportive of his parents' occupations while his older sister Jasmine or Jazz as she's called in the show is very embarrassed about it. One day while Jack and Maddie were making a ghost portal to connect between the human world and the Ghost Zone, where ghosts reside, it didn't work and they quit trying to make it work. Danny went inside the portal to experiment on it and the machine fused him with ghost powers. With that, Danny became half human and half ghost with numerous abilities like walking through walls, disappearing, flying, and sensing ghosts with a strange ice breath. As time went on, Danny developed his powers over time with the help of his best friends Tucker Foley and Sam Mason and together, they fight numerous ghosts to save their town. The way they were able to catch ghosts were Danny's parents gadgets and inventions such as the ghost net, the ghost ship, and the most common gadget, the Fenton thermos, that sucks the ghosts in it and Danny would later transfer it into the ghost portal to lock them in the Ghost Zone.

"It was in this phase that I came up with the whole look of Danny's costume - black jump suit, white boots and gloves - and the "white hair" look. The first time I mentioned the idea of the show to the Nick execs turned out to be one of those classic Hollywood moments. It's now October, 2001, and I had been asked to dinner by two of the top execs at Nickelodeon, Albie Hecht and Kevin Kay. Great guys. These were the guys - at that time - that made all the huge decisions for Nickelodeon. Well, Fairly Oddparents had really been doing great on the air - praise the Lord - and they were taking me out to not only treat me to a nice meal, but to tell me they were picking up 20 more half hours of Fairly Oddparents! Wow! That made for a very exciting dinner, let me tell you. I don't even think I ate anything after that! To top it off they said, "Hey, got any other ideas?" Whoa. This was a big moment. I had Danny Phantom in my head, but I wasn't really prepared to talk about it and I had no idea they were gonna ask me this. What do I do?? Well, I did the obvious - I held my breath and dove in. So, with really nothing more than the cool name I'd thought up, and a few drawings (which I didn't even have with me, I had to describe them!) plus a few other character ideas - best friends, parents, etc. I told them about the show in about 30 seconds. 

There was a pause and then Albie - the big boss - said, "Can you have the pilot episode done by March?" That was it. It was sold just like that in a restaurant in October, 2001. I was floored. Then they asked me, "So…got anything else?" Whoa. This was getting even cooler! I actually DID have something else. I had been toying with the idea of taking the character of Crash Nebula from the Fairly Oddparents and giving him his own show. I originally wanted him to be the macho, adult character we see him as in Fairly Oddparents, but I wanted him to drive an outer space school bus. He was going to be the best, bravest space school bus driver ever and drive alien kids to and from the Space Academy. So I told them, "Yeah, I have this other idea called 'Crash Nebula"…etc." And they bought that, too. Wow. More FOP episodes to do, and two pilots sold in one night. Pretty neat. And it was all based on the fact that Fairly Oddparents was doing so well. They knew they could trust me and my awesome crew to deliver more quality product to them. The moral, kids? ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!!

 So…that's the first part. Danny was sold as a pilot and I had to make it into a show now. Which meant hiring a whole new crew of people to work on it. Remember, FOP was going strong at this time and I couldn't really pull too many people off of that to work on this. But a lot of key people from FOP really stepped up and helped. Bob Boyle with the brilliant color styling and art direction and Steve Marmel in the writing.  Work proceeded for a few months until January 2002 when Margie Cohn - another Nick exec - and Kevin Kay - met with me and told me that Nickelodeon didn't just want a Danny Phantom pilot…they wanted six half hours of Danny Phantom. Holy Mackerel! This was huge news! Now we were officially making a series! This means we had to stop everything and regroup. We were making Danny into a series now and we really had to be aware of the progression of the characters and the expansion of Danny's world. So work commenced on building the Danny Phantom universe: Amity Park. Fenton Works. His friends, his family, what specific powers he had, etc. (Keep in mind, we were still making Fairly Oddparents at the same time!) Everyone involved was awesome. We brought on character designers Shannon Tindell and Steve Silver. They pretty much came up with all the main character designers except for Danny. That was mostly me, then Steven Silver jumped in and we finalized it together.  Then Shannon left and character designer Ben Balestreri was brought in. He really helped move things along, too. Everyone else involved worked really hard to make sure that - even though we were making two series' at once - both series got a 100% commitment from everyone", replied Butch Hartman in a 2006 interview with Zcat6 from the Danny Phantom Online Forums. 

Similar to My Life as a Teenage Robot, Danny Phantom was a series that had good character development and awesome villains. Danny started off as a goofy kid having problems controlling his ghost powers. In the end of the show, he becomes more heroic. The villains were sinister and evil like the main antagonist Vlad Plasmius, the ghost bounty hunter Skulker, the Dementor-like ghost Penelope Spectra who sucks the sadness out of people to stay young, the secret agents The Men in White who seek to capture Danny Phantom, and many more. There were also goofy villains such as The Lunch Lady Ghost and The Box Ghost. There was a nice variety of villains in the show. Similar to The Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom was a show that you can watch and not worry about getting into the series. However, it's sort of a necessity to understand the characters and scenarios if you really want to enjoy it more.

The show lasted for 3 seasons until it was cancelled on August 24, 2007. Originally Butch was going to continue the series with another season to answer the questions that fans wanted to know about, but when Nickelodeon pulled the plug on the series, fans made petitions and fan forums to try to get the show back. Hartman had claimed that there wouldn't be any more episodes, but he was able to release an episode named Phantom Planet which concluded the series with Danny saving the world from asteroids crashing into the earth, his hero identity being revealed to everyone at Amity Park, and concluding it with Danny and Sam dating. It's one of the most satisfying endings in Nickelodeon history.

Overall, out of all the Nicktoons that Butch Hartman created, this is my favorite and it's one of the best Nicktoons of the 2000's. Not that The Fairly Oddparents is bad, I love The Fairly Oddparents. However I love the action and characters a bit more in Danny Phantom. It was like the Ghostbusters of the 2000's. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend that you check it out.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


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