Recess is a 1997 animated comedy created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere and produced by Walt Disney Television Animation. It aired on Disney's One Saturday Morning block from 1997 to 2001, with reruns lasting on the network until 2004.
The series focuses on six elementary school students and their interactions with other students and teachers. One of the many features of the show is how the children form their own society, complete with government and class structure, set against a backdrop of a regular school, giving the show a unique feel.
The show portrays the life of six elementary school students: popular and confident T.J. Detweiler, athletic Vince LaSalle, tough girl Ashley Spinelli, gentle giant Mikey Blumberg, smart Gretchen Grundler, and a shy new kid Gus Griswald. The students of Third Street School set up a microcosm of traditional human society complete with its own government, class system, and a set of unwritten laws. They are ruled by a monarch, who has various enforcers to make sure his decrees are carried out. The little society has a long list of rigid values and social that impose a high expectation of conformity among the students.
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 or social norms. The gang'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 nonconformity.
The show began production in early 1996 after Disney bought ABC and the creators had left Nickelodeon. A pilot of the series was created in 1996, which got the show greenlit. The pilot became the first episode of the series, albeit with different character designs. The pilot was never released to the general public, but clips of it were shown on the 1997 VHS of 101 Dalmatians, as well as certain station IDs for One Saturday Morning depending on the ABC station.
A preview of the series aired on August 31st, 1997, on ABC in prime-time. It was set to premiere on September 6th, 1997, but was delayed due to ABC airing Princess Diana's funeral. The show premiered on September 13th, 1997, as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning, along with Doug (which originally ran on Nickelodeon) and Pepper Ann.
On September 11th, 1998, a sneak peek of the season 2 episode, "The Hypnotist", was shown as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning on TGIF, which aired in primetime on ABC (This did not air in every ABC market).
The show was originally going to end with five seasons, with the film being the finale. However, due to the good performance of the film, the show was renewed for one more season. The sixth season marked the show's first Halloween special (the second would be in Taking the Fifth Grade), focus on minor characters in the show, and the disappearance of popular characters such as Butch and Miss Grotke after the season premiere. The season was the shortest of the show, with only five episodes. The last episode aired on November 5th, 2001, with 65 episodes (128 episodes when stories A and B are broken up).
In 2003, Walt Disney Home Entertainment released two direct-to-video movies based on the series: Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade and Recess: All Growed Down. The first is considered the true series finale, while the second is a prequel to the series. In 2006, The Recess Gang guest starred in an episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series, "Lax". This has been the final project for the series to date.
When Recess quickly became popular on Disney's One Saturday Morning, new episodes premiered at 9:00 AM with a repeat of an older episode at 9:30 AM, starting in around Fall of 1998. It was the only show on the block to be shown twice a day (with the exception of 101 Dalmatians: The Series in Fall 1998 and House of Mouse in Spring 2001).
Recess reran on ABC from September 2002 to August 2004 when ABC Kids (the block that took over One Saturday Morning after it ended in 2002) converted into an all-Disney Channel lineup. It was reran on Disney Channel from September 3rd, 2003 to September 2nd, 2005 and was reran again from August 26th, 2008 to June 30th, 2010. It was also reran on Toon Disney from September 3th, 2003 to its last day of the channel, and Disney XD from April 14th, 2009 to early 2010, and briefly returned to the channel in October 2011, but was removed along with Stitch! after four airings. In October 2019, Disney announced that Recess (among many other shows) will be available on Disney+ in the United States upon its November launch. It is unknown when Disney will rerun the series again. There are no plans for the series to be released on DVD season sets, though individual episodes are available on the direct-to-DVD and video releases (with more episodes on the DVDs). Recess is also still shown in certain countries on their Disney markets, such as Sky Movies Disney in the United Kingdom, and Family (while not being owned by Disney, it still airs many Disney programs) in Canada. In Germany, the complete series is available on iTunes.
Recess also reran on Spacetoon and MBC3, which was dubbed in Arabic.
While the second season of the show was airing in 1998, the creators began to develop a feature film based on the series. It was finished in February 2000 during the show's fourth season. At the end of the fifth season, Recess: School's Out was released by Walt Disney Pictures on February 16th, 2001, and was a success with both critics and box office. The success of the film (and the series itself) led to three direct-to-video films: Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, and Recess: All Growed Down.
During its air time, Recess was one of the most popular shows on Disney's One Saturday Morning, being popular with children, teenagers, and adults. It was the only show from One Saturday Morning to air for the entirety of the block's run on the air, with Doug removed in 2000 and Pepper Ann in early 2002, as well as the only show on the block to go into the first two years of ABC Kids. Recess was also the most popular, and longest-running show on the block.
While the show did not have as many tie-in products as Disney's Doug, which ran in the same block, the show did get a fair amount of merchandise, ranging to stuffed dolls of the main six characters (and various other characters outside the US), various tie-in books, DVDs, and Happy Meal toys of the show were released at McDonald's on Christmas 1998.
References to other Disney media
- The gang frequently refer to T.J. as "Teej", similar to how Max refers to P.J. as "Peej" in Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie.
- During T.J.'s nightmare about the never-ending rain causing a flood in "Rainy Days", Pluto (from Mickey Mouse) makes a cameo appearance.
- In "One Stayed Clean", Gretchen's outfit for her school picture is similar to one of the most famous outfits worn by Minnie Mouse: a large pink hair bow and a light blue dress with a pink sash.
- In "Bachelor Gus", Owl from the Winnie the Pooh media makes a cameo appearance when Gus is all alone in the playground at night.
- In "Kurst the Not So Bad", Mikey and Kurst are shown eating from the same spaghetti strand similar to the famous Bella Notte scene in Lady and the Tramp.
- In "Big Brother Chad", Vince's transformation during the full moon is similar to Max's transformation from A Goofy Movie.
- Paul and Joe originally wanted this to be a show about life of the late '80s and '90s, but the idea was changed with a twist of topics, including politics, economics, authorities, stereotypes, and social class problems.
- At once, Paul Germain revealed that Disney Channel wanted to produce more episodes of the show. The ratings were, however, not a good fit for audiences for reruns, and the idea was scrapped afterwards. This was also the result of the removal of the program on television.
Characters: T.J. Detweiler | Vince LaSalle | Ashley Spinelli | Mikey Blumberg | Gretchen Grundler | Gus Griswald | Captain Bradley | Cornchip Girl | The Diggers | Hustler Kid | Erwin Lawson | Miss Grotke | Muriel Finster | Becky Detweiler | Dr. Phillium Benedict | Menlo | Brock | Peter Prickly | Bald Guy | Butch | Ashley Armbruster | Ashley Boulet | Ashley Quinlan | Ashley Tomassian | Fenwick | Brandon the Singer | Gelman | King Bob | Chucko | Jocko | Randall Weems | King Freddy II | Chewy | Spencer | Swinger Girl | Upside-Down Girl | Gordy | Hector | Miss Lemon | Lunchlady Irma | Tubby | Jordan & Jerome | Flo Spinelli | Bob Spinelli | Guru Kid