Recess (TV series)
Recess is an American animated television series created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere (credited as "Paul and Joe") and produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, with animation done by Grimsaem, Plus One Animation, Sunwoo Animation, and Toon City. The series focuses on six elementary school students and their interaction with other classmates and teachers. The title refers to the recess period during the daily schedule, in the North American tradition of educational schooling, when students are not in lessons and are outside in the schoolyard. During recess, the children form their own society, complete with government and a class structure, set against the backdrop of a regular school.
|Created by||Joe Ansolabehere|
|Voices of||Ross Malinger|
Rickey D'Shon Collins
Erik von Detten
|Composer(s)||Denis M. Hannigan|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||127, plus 4 movies (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Paul Germain|
|Running time||10 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Walt Disney Television Animation|
Paul & Joe Productions
Plus One Animation
|Distributor||Disney-ABC Domestic Television|
|Original network||ABC (One Saturday Morning/ABC Kids)|
UPN (Disney's One Too)
|Original release||August 31, 1997 –|
November 5, 2001
Recess premiered on August 31, 1997 on ABC, as part of the One Saturday Morning block (later known as ABC Kids). The series ended on November 5, 2001, with 127 episodes and six seasons in total. The success and lasting appeal of the series saw it being syndicated to numerous channels, including ABC's sister channels Toon Disney, which later became Disney XD, and Disney Channel.
In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures released a theatrical film based on the series, Recess: School's Out. It was followed by a direct-to-video second film entitled Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street that same year. In 2003, two more direct-to-video films were released: Recess: All Growed Down and Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. The characters also made an appearance in a 2006 episode of Disney's Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
Recess portrays the lives of six fourth graders—popular and confident Theodore Jasper "T.J." Detweiler (Ross Malinger, Andrew Lawrence), athletic Vince LaSalle (Rickey D'Shon Collins), tough girl Ashley Spinelli (Pamela Segall Adlon), gentle giant Mikey Blumberg (Jason Davis), genius Gretchen Grundler (Ashley Johnson), and shy new kid Gus Griswald (Courtland Mead)—as they go about their daily lives in a highly clichéd school environment at Third Street Elementary School. A major satirical point of the show is that the community of students at school is a microcosm of traditional human society complete with its own government, class system, and set of unwritten laws. They are ruled by a monarch, a sixth grader named King Bob, who has various enforcers to make sure his decrees are carried out. The society has a long list of rigid values and social norms that imposes a high expectation of conformity upon all the students.
Recess is illustrated to be a symbol of freedom—a time when children can express themselves and develop meaningful relationships. Most episodes involve one or more of the main six characters seeking a rational balance between individuality and social order. They are often defending their freedom against perceived threats by adults and school administration or social norms. The group's leader, T.J. Detweiler, tends to have the most complete vision of this struggle, though even he has times when he inadvertently leads the group too far toward an extreme of conformity or non-conformity, and needs to be drawn back to even ground by his loyal friends.
This interpretation is confirmed by the Cold War motifs found throughout the show. For example, Miss Grotke’s eccentric and activist attitudes (attributed to her belonging to the counterculture of the 1960s), is juxtaposed with the strict and conservative attitudes of her colleagues such as Miss Finster and Principal Prickly. The presence of government officials either confiscating objects for national security (Episode 37, "The Substitute") or removing persons for thwarting authority (Episode 71, "The Spy Who Came in from the Playground"), serve as subtle reminders on the authority of the US government. Several references by the show's characters convey the fraught political realities of the Cold War period. In Episode 85, “Here Comes Mr. Perfect,” Randall suggests blackmailing a student for being a supposed Communist, while in Episode 37, “The Substitute,” Mr. E demands a student write an essay on why it’s wrong to bully people, "unless it’s in the geopolitical interests of the United States.” Cold War themes are most seen in Episode 101, “The Secret Life of Grotke,” where Miss Grotke is suspected by the Recess gang as an anti-American spy due to her mysterious after-school life, as well as Episode 118, "The Army Navy Game," where T.J. masquerades as a Soviet spy to bring Gus and Theresa's military fathers to reconcile.
The show's introductory music, art design and style often evoked the feel of prison escape movies such as The Great Escape, and the playground hierarchy and school administration were often depicted in ways that paid homage to common themes in such films. Additionally, many episodes parody classic films such as Cool Hand Luke, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Cast and charactersEdit
- Theodore Jasper "T.J." Detweiler (voiced by Ross Malinger in season 1; Andrew Lawrence in seasons 2–6): T.J. is the main protagonist of the series. He is the ringleader of his five best friends, and usually spends time planning pranks against the teachers. He is rarely seen without his red baseball hat, which he always wears backwards. His catchphrase is "Whomps", which he uses as a child-friendly substitute swear word for something unpleasant as well as "Tender" whenever something good happens. T.J. has excellent leadership skills, confidence with public speaking, and ability to talk his way out of any situation, as shown in "Good Ol' T.J.". Despite his precarious acts, T.J. is a hero, as he is concerned about the well-being of his fellow classmates, and often rallies them and convinces them to work together to stand up for their rights. His only sibling is an older sister (around 17 or 18) named Becky, who was seen in Recess: School's Out and Recess: Taking on the Fifth Grade (voiced by Melissa Joan Hart and later Tara Strong). T.J. is German American.
- Vincent Pierre "Vince" LaSalle (voiced by Rickey D'Shon Collins): Vince is the most physically fit student at Third Street School. Along with his superior athletic ability comes a bit of an ego, but in the end he always knows to make the best choice to help others. His athletic/competitive skills are far superior, so much so that he seems to excel at most, if not all, challenges, such as cooking, golf, and even made-up playground games. He has a rivalry with Erwin Lawson, a fifth grade jock bully. He has an older brother named Chad who he thinks is the coolest boy he knows, even if his peers see him as a geek. His catchphrase is "Whompinbobyulah!" to exclaim surprise. Respected and brave, he is T.J.'s right-hand man. He is African American.
- Ashley Funicello Spinelli (voiced by Pamela Adlon): Spinelli, usually going simply by her last name, is a wrestling fan and is the tomboy of the group. Although short in stature for her age, Spinelli maintains a tough-guy image, is powerful and often tries to use violence to solve her problems. During the gang's misadventures, Spinelli is the one who gets reluctant kids to talk, usually by threatening or intimidating them during interrogation. With her reputation, a lot of Spinelli's problems happen when she is shown to have a weakness, as she prefers to be unflappable and strong-willed. While she doesn't dislike her first name since she was named after her great aunt, the first woman to win the Iditarod Sled Race, she kept it hidden because she doesn't want to be associated with "The Ashleys", the school's clique of snobby girls. She has a talent for art, though she claims she "only does it to blow off steam". Her fiery and fearless personality has gotten on the good side of Miss Finster multiple times as well as her bad side. Spinelli is Italian American.
- Gretchen Priscilla Grundler (voiced by Ashley Johnson): Gretchen is an academically gifted and an extremely intelligent student. A child prodigy, she has shown the ability for academic feats that other students in her grade find difficult. She is still a young kid at heart and her imagination sometimes gets the best of her, as she is quite naive despite her high IQ. She is assisted by an interactive, calculator-sized, hand-held machine called a Galileo (voiced by Eric Idle), which she is very protective of. Though her friends don't share her passion for science, Gretchen considers the gang much more important than finding intellectual colleagues. She also has a unique talent with yo-yo's. Gretchen is Irish American.
- Michael "Mikey" Blumberg (voiced by Jason Davis; singing voiced by Robert Goulet): Mikey is an overweight, kind-hearted, and philosophical 10-year old. He is good at playing goalie in soccer due to his towering height and body power. He writes poetry, performs ballet, and believes in notions of peace that are often dismissed by the others. Though Mikey is known for being a "sweet-souled giant", he is also a incredibly talented singer, possessing a baritone opera voice that stands in stark contrast to his normal speaking voice. He is German American.
- Gustav Patton "Gus" Griswald (voiced by Courtland Mead): Gus is a new student in Third Street Elementary. He was absent in the first episode but was introduced in the following episode as "The New Kid". Gus is usually oblivious to the rules of the playground and its traditions. Gus comes from a military family, and therefore had to move around frequently (he has attended 12 schools in six years before he began attending Third Street). Although he is a shy, meek boy, he has great leadership abilities when in the face of danger which are equal to T.J.'s. He is exceptionally skilled in dodgeball, once feared at another school as “El Diablo”, however when he made a boy cry, he stopped playing it in shame. He is Polish American.
- Muriel P. Finster (voiced by April Winchell): Miss Finster is an elderly assistant teacher who monitors the students during lunch, recess, and in the halls. She is an assertive authoritarian feared by the students, and seeks to keep them in line and maintain order, with her teacher's pet Randall Weems reporting to her on any wrongdoing. She was a Navy commodore in the 1950s, frequently reminiscing her time in Guam, and has worked at Third Street since the 1960s. Though she is often at loggerheads with the students, Finster has been shown to genuinely care about their safety. In a few of the series' episodes and in the film Recess: School's Out, she is revealed as having been attractive and popular when she was young but eventually became a strict and grouchy figure as she grew older. She becomes the gang's fifth grade teacher in Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. In the movie "Recess: All Growed Down" it is revealed that she was the gang's kindergarten teacher and she was pleasant but became hot-tempered and intimidating after seeing her kindergarten students all messy and having fun during recess.
- Principal Peter Prickly (voiced by Dabney Coleman): Principal Prickly is the principal of Third Street School. A former student at the school, he became a teacher out of a desire to help children and has been principal of Third Street since 1968. He is frequently angered by the children's antics, and ultimately seeks to become principal of a middle school. He has a strong rivalry with his older brother Paul, who is also a school principal. While frequently portrayed as a heartless authority figure, Prickly has been shown to have a more friendly, laid-back personality and ultimately tries to protect the student's welfare. He is also a secret fan of Senor Fusion, a comic book hero.
- Randall Weems (voiced by Ryan O'Donohue) is a fourth grade student at Third Street. He is well known as the playground snitch, informing Ms. Finster of any playground misbehavior. He is disliked on the playground as a result but will ally with his classmates if the situation calls for it.
- Miss Grotke (voiced by Allyce Beasley) is the 4th grade teacher of the main cast. She is known for her mild manner, yet eccentric personality, basically being that of a hippie, including her vocabulary. She is well loved by her students, especially for her tendency to stick up for their rights and encourages them to express themselves. Her dialogue establishes her as an advocate for the environment and race/gender rights. She also moonlights as a magician.
- Erwin Lawson (voiced by Erik von Detten) is a fifth grader. He is primarily a bully to the younger students and serves as a rival to Vince and T.J. at various sports and games. He is portrayed as unintelligent.
- King Bob (voiced by Toran Caudell) is a sixth grader and the “King of the Playground”. He enforces the unwritten rules of the playground established by other previous playground kings and acts as the primary authority of playground disputes. He was previously a reknowed playground prankster, holding the title of “Prankster Prince” before becoming King. He has bequeathed the title to T.J.
- The Ashleys, a group of four girls (Ashley Armbruster, Boulet, Quinlan, and Tomassian) who usually go by Ashley A, B, Q, and T respectively. The girls, while usually acting like the stereotypical popular girl cliche, often put down others either verbally or through a variety of underhanded schemes, resulting in them being seldomly popular with anybody. They have a mutual despisement with Spinelli, due mainly to her first name being Ashley and her outright refusal to join their group as well as her frequent hostility towards them. Their catchphrase is saying "ooh, scandalous!" in unison. They each have a little brother named Tyler, which are collectively known as "The Tylers".
Recess first premiered on ABC on August 31, 1997, as a "sneak preview", and later transitioned to ABC's Disney's One Saturday Morning programming block on September 13, 1997. The series' success spawned three direct-to-video titles Recess Trilogy: Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street in 2001, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade and Recess: All Growed Down in 2003; and one theatrical film, Recess: School's Out, which was released on February 16, 2001. The series ended on November 5, 2001; reruns continued to air on UPN until 2003 and ABC until 2005.
Disney Channel added Recess to their lineup on September 3, 2003. Fillmore!, The Legend of Tarzan, and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command were all pre-empted in favor of a 90-minute showing of the series. It temporarily ceased airing on September 2, 2005, but resumed on August 26, 2008 replacing The Buzz on Maggie, and continued until June 30, 2010.
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||26||August 31, 1997||January 17, 1998||ABC|
|2||25||September 12, 1998||February 27, 1999|
|3||16||September 11, 1999||January 22, 2000|
|4||46||September 12, 1999||July 17, 2000||UPN|
|5||9||September 9, 2000||January 6, 2001||ABC|
|6||5||October 31, 2001||November 5, 2001||UPN|
|Films||4||1||February 16, 2001(Theatrical release)||N/A|
|3||November 6, 2001||December 9, 2003||Direct-to-video|
|Special||January 16, 2006||Disney Channel|
Crossover with Lilo & StitchEdit
Lilo & Stitch: The Series featured an episode titled "Lax" that featured the cast of Recess, when T.J. and the gang go on a school vacation to Hawaii. Notably, Recess was the only series that crossed over with Lilo & Stitch: The Series that was not a Disney Channel Original Series, and whose production had already ended before Lilo & Stitch: The Series first aired.
Disaster strikes when Dr. Hämsterviel and his henchman, Gantu, try to use an escaped alien experiment to make everyone relaxed while he takes over the world. Luckily, Gretchen saves the day, since she believes work is relaxing.
Recess: School's OutEdit
Recess: School's Out is an animated film directed by Chuck Sheetz and is based on the television series where the characters must intercept a gang of anti-recess terrorists plotting to bring about a new ice age to eliminate the institution of recess. The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and was released theatrically nationwide on February 16, 2001.
Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third StreetEdit
Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street is a second direct-to-video animated film released by Walt Disney Pictures and Paul & Joe Productions, produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, Plus One Animation (Korea) Co., Ltd. and Grimsaem Animation, Korea Co., Ltd., released to VHS on November 6, 2001. It is a direct-to-video compilation of four unrelated episodes: "Principal for a Day", "The Great Can Drive", "Weekend at Muriel’s", and the series' Christmas special "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", told as flashbacks by the school faculty members while stuck in a snowstorm.
Recess: All Growed DownEdit
Recess: All Growed Down is a Disney direct-to-video animated film released on December 9, 2003. It is a compilation of the episodes "The Legend of Big Kid", "Wild Child", and "The Kindergarten Derby", where the gang tell the kindergarteners stories of how they used to get along with each other after getting captured by them.
Recess: Taking the Fifth GradeEdit
Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade is a Disney direct-to-video animated film released on December 9, 2003. It tells of three separate stories ("No More School", "Grade Five Club", and "A Recess Halloween") the gang experiences as they enter fifth grade.
|DVD title||Season(s)||Episode count||Release date||Episodes|
|School's Out||N/A||1||August 7, 2001||Theatrical film ("Recess: School's Out")|
|Miracle on Third Street||1, 2||5||November 6, 2001||Movie ("Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street"), 22 ("The Great Can Drive"), 44 ("Weekend At Muriel's"), 47 ("Yes Mikey, Santa Does Shave") and 50 ("Principal For a Day")|
|All Growed Down||1–3||7||December 9, 2003||Movie ("Recess: All Growed Down"), 16 ("The Legend of Big Kid"), 35 ("The Challenge"), 36 ("Wild Child"), 43 ("The Story of Whomps"), 52 ("One Stayed Clean") and 56 ("Kindergarten Derby")|
|Taking the Fifth Grade||N/A||3||"No More School", "Grade Five Club" and "A Recess Halloween"|
TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz wrote favorably about Recess in their 2016 book TV (The Book), stating that the series is "Easily one of the smartest, most prankishly playful adult cartoons ever passed off as children's entertainment.... Recess is a highly ritualized bit of entertainment that strikes the same notes over and over again, but always in infinite variation and with a surprising eye for psychological grace notes, especially when characters you thought of as brusque and one-dimensional reveal their fears and dreams to one another."
Many episodes of Recess are available on the DisneyLife service in the UK, along with the direct-to-video films.
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