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Damon Lindelof's obsession with Peter the Panda leads to a "Lost" -inspired episode of "Phineas and Ferb"

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Damon Lindelof's obsession with Peter the Panda leads to a "Lost" -inspired episode of "Phineas and Ferb"

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Ten years ago this week, the world was first introduced to "Lost," that Emmy Award-winning series which Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof created for ABC that soon became an obsession with television viewers. Each week, million of people would first tune in to watch the continuing adventures of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and then spend the following day discussing what the hatch, the smoke monster and -- of course -- those polar bears might actually mean.

Mind you, Lindelof wasn't immune to becoming obsessed with a TV show. His wife Heidi & his son Van first introduced Damon to "Phineas and Ferb" back in 2010. And he's been hooked on this Disney Channel favorite ever since.

"One of the really wonderful things about 'Phineas and Ferb' is that you can enter the show at any point and understand what the plot of a particular episode is," Lindelof explained during a recent event at Disneytoon Studios. "But at the same time, I remember the first time that I watched a 'Phineas and Ferb' episode and then asked "What is up with that floating baby head? It shows up all the time.' "


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Don't get me wrong. You can watch 'Phineas and Ferb' episodes out of sequence and still have a great time. It's an extremely well-written, very entertaining & clever show," Damon continued. "But in my opinion, it's also  a serialized show. And the more you watch 'Phineas and Ferb,' the more you understand. It's the sort of show that rewards the people who are looking at details."

And one aspect of "Phineas and Ferb" that Lindelof really began to obsess about was a certain secret agent that Perry the Platypus worked with at OWCA (i.e., the Organization Without a Cool Acronym), one Peter the Panda.

"Van and I kept telling him 'You have to stop asking about the panda,' " Heidi laughed. 


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"But Peter the Panda -- like Agent P -- is one of those rare secret agents on 'Phineas and Ferb' who actually gets a name. And other characters on the show somehow understand Peter but he isn't even gesticulating. Then when there was this episode where he began throwing the chairs around, I sensed that there was great rage in this panda," Damon stated.

Now jump ahead a few years. Lindelof eventually reaches out to Dan Povenmire & Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, the creators of 'Phineas and Ferb," and lets them know how he likes this Disney Channel show. And because Dan & Swampy are big fans of "Lost," they and Damon get a little mutual-admiration-society thing going here.

"He actually came to Comic-Con with us two years ago and moderated the 'Phineas and Ferb' panel. We sort of kept it a secret because we felt that it would be a really fun surprise for our fans," Povenmire admitted.


(L to R) Phineas, Dan Povenmire, Damon Lindelof, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh and
Fern at Disneytoon Studios. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"That was the thing that kind of made some of our friends finally take serious what we've been doing here. They told me 'If Damon Lindelof likes your show, maybe I actually have to watch it now,' " Marsh laughed.

And somewhere along the way there, Dan & Swampy broached the idea of Damon possibly working with them on an episode of 'Phineas and Ferb.' And as you might expect, Lindelof immediately jumped at the chance.

"Working on this episode really took me back to one of the more exciting times in my career. You see, when you're the one who's running the show, you're always the one who gets pitched to. Whereas when you're working on someone else's show, it's up to you now to come up with ideas that please the boss," Damon enthused. "I had such an amazing time in the 'Phineas & Ferb' writers room. We just sort of kicked around some fun ideas and then I banged out an outline. I mean, I came up with a bunch of conceptual ideas for this episode. But all of the big laughs in the show were generated by Dan & Swampy and their team."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And given Lindelof's obsess with Peter the Panda and Povenmire & Marsh's love of all things "Lost," is it really such a surprise that the "Phineas and Ferb" episode that these three dreamed up -- "Lost in Danville" which debuts on Disney XD on Monday, September 29th at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT -- is an affectionate send-up of that ABC series.

So what can people expect when they tune in for this particular episode of "Phineas and Ferb" ? Dan cut right to the chase.

"We sort of assumed that there would be people who watched the episode specifically because of Damon. I feel like people would read about 'Lost in Danville,' be impressed and then say 'Okay. I'll watch this because I liked 'Lost,' " Povenmire said. "So keeping that in mind, we had this huge locked space capsule come crashing down in Phineas and Ferb's backyard which is sort of like the hatch in 'Lost.' And then there's this whole something-strange-is-going-to-happen-if-this-doesn't-continue aspect to the episode ..."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"The polar bear was totally you guys," Lindelof interrrupted. "And getting the idea of time travel in there was really important to me. Even though these guys managed to turn that into a great joke. I had suggested that we have this character who says that he's Phineas from the future. And we don't know if this character's telling the truth or not. And Dan & Swampy's team then suggested that this same character turn to Baljeet and  then say that he's now Baljeet from the future. And Baljeet then says 'So I'm not Indian in the future? Which is my favorite line out of this entire episode."

And then to make sure that this episode of "Phineas & Ferb" really was a "Lost" lovefest, Povenmire & Marsh -- with Lindelof's help -- recruited Terry O'Quinn (who played John Locke on this acclaimed ABC series) to come voice Professor Mystery, Peter the Panda's Seattle-based nemesis.


Terry O'Quinn as John Locke in ABC's "Lost." Copyright
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved

"And what was great about  Terry is that -- once we got him in the booth -- we realized how cool he thought it was to be there recording a voice for a cartoon character. Which is always fun, because sometimes you get people who come in and say 'What is this thing I'm doing?,' Swampy said. "But Terry was like 'This is so cool. Can I take a picture of you guys? Can we do a selfie?' He had an absolute blast working on the show. And from my end, what's great about working with someone who's genuinely excited to be doing your show is that they'll then agree to try weird stuff. They'll be willing to voice a weird character."

Whereas from Damon's point-of-view, the greatest aspect of being able to do "Lost in Danville" wasn't necessarily being able to add to "Phineas and Ferb" mythology by finally giving Peter the Panda a proper back story. But -- rather -- he just enjoyed being able to help create something that the whole Lindelof family could enjoy.

"I certainly have more street cred now -- having done this episode of 'Phineas & Ferb' --  with my son than I have having done the entire 121 episodes of 'Lost,' " Damon concluded. "I'm immensely grateful for having had the opportunity to do it. Because -- for a Dad to excite his son is -- there are few joys that are better than that."

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Friday, September 26, 2014

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