Recess: School's Out

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Recess: School's Out
Recess Schools Out film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chuck Sheetz
Produced by
Screenplay by Jonathan Greenberg
Story by
  • Paul Germain
  • Joe Ansolabehere
  • Jonathan Greenberg
Based on Recess
by Paul Germain
Joe Ansolabehere
Music by Denis M. Hannigan
Edited by Tony Mizgalski
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • February 16, 2001 (2001-02-16) (United States)
Running time
83 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million[2]
Box office $44.5 million[2]

Recess: School's Out is a 2001 American animated comedy film based on the Disney television series Recess.[3] It was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Television Animation and Walt Disney Television Animation Digital Production with animation done by Sunwoo Animation and Sunwoo Digital International. The film was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, and released theatrically in the United States on February 16, 2001. The film also serves as the show's season five finale.


The movie begins with a prologue set in a U.S Army base somewhere in the Nevada Desert. An unknown group breaks into the facility, knocking out the guards and absconding with a top-secret project. The unseen leader of the group instructs his men to move the equipment to "where it all began": Third Street Elementary School.

After pulling off one last big prank at Third Street Elementary School, which involves stealing the ice cream that Miss Finster had been hoarding and distributing it to the kids, T.J. Detweiler and his friends are excited about being done with the rest of the school year and starting summer vacation, but T.J. is unhappy, because his friends are all at summer camps in order to prepare for their future careers. T.J. quickly becomes bored doing things alone and reluctantly agrees to hang out with Randall, the school snitch after his mom sets up a play date for him. Later on his way to Randall's, T.J. suspects that there's something going on inside the school after seeing a green light pour from the cafeteria and getting chased off by a guard. He sneaks around and sees a tractor beam levitating a safe. Panicking, he tries to tell his parents and the police, but no one believes him. When he gets Principal Peter Prickly to come to see what's going on, he is dematerialized. Out of options, T.J. uses his sister Becky's diary to blackmail her into driving to all the camps to pick his friends up.

T.J. and his friends steal a box of documents, but when they find it filled with boring information, they accuse him of inventing a plot to drag them out of summer camp. However, their accusations are undercut by a tractor beam appearing and firing off from the school's roof, and agree to help T.J investigate at night. The next day, T.J. finds Pricky's golf pants in a dumpster with a note requesting help in a pocket, so T.J. and his friends infiltrate the school that night to find Prickly. They witness the adults in the auditorium firing the tractor beam at the moon but are caught spying and flee. T.J. is captured and put in a storage room where Prickly is tied up. The leader of the adult, Dr. Phillium Benedict comes in to talk to them, revealing himself to be an old friend of Prickly's from their early teaching years.

After Benedict leaves, Prickly tells the story of how, back in the spring of 1968, Benedict became principal of Third Street School and moved to abolish recess in order to improve test grades. The plan didn't go over well, as it was met with angry teachers and parents protesting to reinstate recess, which Benedict refused to do. Prickly went to the superintendent as a means of recourse. While the superintendent assured the parents that the plan Benedict made would never be carried out, Benedict still refused to back down. The superintendent then demoted Benedict and promoted Prickly to principal. Benedict accused Prickly of stealing his job, which, along with his anti-recess views, caused his then-girlfriend, Muriel P. Finster to break up with him. Infuriated, Benedict ended his friendship with Prickly, quit teaching, and swore revenge on his now-former friend. Later, Prickly says, Benedict entered politics and went on to become Secretary of Education, until he was fired by the president for trying to abolish recess again, only this time nationwide.

T.J. and Prickly escape and enter Prickly's office where T.J. uses his confiscated walkie-talkie in Prickly's drawer to tells his friends about Benedict's plans to destroy summer vacation. T.J.'s friends go through the box of documents again. Spinelli finds a date book that mentions lunar perigee, and Gretchen deduces that Benedict is trying to move the moon's orbit via tractor beam when it is closest to the Earth. By drastically altering the moon's orbit, Benedict, having cornered T.J. and Prickly, reveals to them that he can create a permanent ice age so kids will spend their summers studying inside instead of playing.

T.J.'s friends get his sister, Becky, to drive to the camps again, where they pick up all the children. Gus draws up the plans to attack the school while T.J. and Prickly escape the cage that Benedict has imprisoned them in. Gus' plan works, and most of Benedict's mercenary guards and ninjas are incapacitated. All the kids pour into the auditorium. Another set of guards protects Benedict as he prepares to pull the lever. However, Muriel P. Finster arrives, and after rejecting Benedict again, she brings the teachers and staff in to help and a fight breaks out. Prickly punches Benedict, but as Benedict slumps, he triggers the beam and Prickly cannot reverse it. T.J. tosses his baseball to Vince, whose accurate pitch destroys the beam's core, foiling Benedict's plans for good. The police then arrest Benedict, Fenwick, and their cronies for theft of government property, conspiracy, breaking and entering, and attempted terrorism.

In the aftermath, T.J., the other kids, and the teachers and staff are commemorated as heroes and T.J. makes amends with Becky by returning her diary. T.J.'s friends decide to spend the rest of the summer with him, stating that they still have plenty of time to prepare for their futures, but only a little time left to just be kids. Before they head to the pond, T.J. thanks Prickly in person for protecting him from Benedict during their imprisonment, and for helping him and his friends to stop him. Prickly states that he should be the one doing the thanking, as T.J.'s act of dragging Prickly into the whole ordeal reminded him of his true motivation to pursue teaching: to help kids. They gratefully acknowledge each other in mutual respect by using their respective nicknames. As T.J. heads to the pond with his friends, Prickly calls out at him that when September comes, T.J. will be under Prickly's discipline again, but T.J. replies that September is a long way off. The film ends with T.J. and his friends racing to the pond, with Prickly looking on, donning his old peace sign necklace from his first days of teaching in the 1960's, and smiling.



Recess: School's Out (Original Movie Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released January 13, 2001
Genre Soundtrack
Label Walt Disney
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars
  1. "Dancing in the Street" – Martha and the Vandellas - 2:38
  2. "Born to Be Wild" – Steppenwolf - 3:27
  3. "One" – Three Dog Night - 3:01
  4. "Incense and Peppermints" – Strawberry Alarm Clock - 2:46
  5. "Wipe Out" – The Surfaris - 2:37
  6. "Nobody But Me" – The Human Beinz - 2:14
  7. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" – The 5th Dimension - 2:29
  8. "Green Tambourine" – The Lemon Pipers - 2:36
  9. "Recess Suite" – Denis M. Hannigan - 5:07
  10. "Dancing in the Street" – Myra - 3:57

Note: "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix was also used in the film, though it is not included on the soundtrack.


On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has an approval rating of 61% based on 69 reviews, with an average rating is 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though basically a TV cartoon stretched out to movie-length, Recess has enough successful jokes and smart writing to make it a worthwhile view."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.

Box office[edit]

The film earned $36.7 million in North America and another $7.8 million from other countries. The worldwide gross was $44.5 million, against a $23 million budget.[2]

Home media[edit]

Recess: School's Out, was released on VHS and DVD on August 7, 2001.[4]


  1. ^ "Recess: School's Out". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Recess School's Out (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-01-26. 
  3. ^ "Scale Down the Bad Guy in Kids' Animated Films". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  4. ^ a b "Recess: School's Out (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  5. ^ "Recess: School's Out reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 26, 2018. 

External links[edit]