Recess (TV series)

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Disney's Recess logo.png
Series logo
GenreAnimated sitcom
Created byJoe Ansolabehere
Paul Germain
StarringRoss Malinger
(season 1)
Andrew Lawrence
(seasons 2–6)
Rickey D'Shon Collins
Ashley Johnson
Pamela Adlon
Jason Davis
Courtland Mead
April Winchell
Dabney Coleman
Allyce Beasley
Ryan O'Donohue
Lane Toran
Erik von Detten
Blake Ewing
Anndi McAfee
Composer(s)Denis M. Hannigan
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes127, plus 4 movies (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Paul Germain
Joe Ansolabehere
Running time10 minutes
Production company(s)Walt Disney Television Animation[1]
Paul & Joe Productions
(seasons 5–6)
Plus One Animation
Sunwoo Animation
Toon City
DistributorBuena Vista Television
Original networkABC (One Saturday Morning/ABC Kids)
UPN (Disney's One Too)
Toon Disney
Original releaseAugust 31, 1997 (1997-08-31) – November 5, 2001 (2001-11-05)[2]
External links
Official website

Recess is an American animated 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.

Recess premiered on ABC on August 31, 1997, as part of the One Saturday Morning block (later known as ABC Kids). Beginning on September 11, 1999, it also began airing on UPN as part of its block, Disney's One Too. 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: Taking the Fifth Grade and Recess: All Growed Down. 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, where students have set up 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.

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 characters[edit]

The main characters of the series. From left to right: Vince, Spinelli, Mikey, T.J., Gretchen, and Gus.
  • 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 cuss 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 students, 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). 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, 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", a clique of snobby popular 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. 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" Griswold (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). He is a talented dodgeball player nicknamed "El Diablo", but gave up the game after he made a little boy cry by hitting him in the face with a dodgeball. Even though he is a good dodgeball player, Vince, at one point, mentioned that Gus is the worst kicker in the school. Despite typically being a shy, meek boy, he has great leadership abilities when in the face of danger which are equal to T.J.'s. 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's 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.

Voice cast[edit]

Additional cast[edit]



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.[3] The series ended on November 5, 2001; reruns continued to air on UPN until 2003 and ABC until 2004.

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.[4] 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.

Toon Disney aired the show from September 3, 2003[5] to February 12, 2009. When Toon Disney was converted to Disney XD, the series was carried over and aired from April 14, 2009 to October 27, 2011.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
126August 31, 1997 (1997-08-31)January 17, 1998 (1998-01-17)ABC
225September 12, 1998 (1998-09-12)February 27, 1999 (1999-02-27)
316September 11, 1999 (1999-09-11)January 22, 2000 (2000-01-22)
446September 12, 1999 (1999-09-12)July 17, 2000 (2000-07-17)UPN
59September 9, 2000 (2000-09-09)January 6, 2001 (2001-01-06)ABC
65October 31, 2001 (2001-10-31)November 5, 2001 (2001-11-05)UPN
Films41February 16, 2001 (2001-02-16) (Theatrical release)N/A
3November 6, 2001 (2001-11-06)December 9, 2003 (2003-12-09)Direct-to-video
SpecialJanuary 16, 2006 (2006-01-16)Disney Channel
ABC Kids

Crossover with Lilo & Stitch[edit]

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 Out[edit]

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 Street[edit]

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 Down[edit]

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 Grade[edit]

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.

Home media[edit]

DVD title Season(s) Episode count Release date Episodes
School's Out N/A 1 August 7, 2001[6] Theatrical film ("Recess: School's Out")
Miracle on Third Street 1, 2 5 November 6, 2001[7] 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[8][9] 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"

Critical reception[edit]

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."[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (August 11, 1997). "Cable Chief Tries to Bring Cool Into Disney Children's TV". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  2. ^ "Search Results - Entertainment". Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (February 16, 2001). "As Seen on TV: Making the World Safe for Vacations". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Disney Channel September Info Now Up | Toonzone Forums". Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  5. ^ "Toon Disney - Schedule - This Week's Schedule". Toon Disney. Archived from the original on 2003-08-01. Retrieved 2003-08-01.
    "Toon Disney - Schedule - This Week's Schedule". Toon Disney. Archived from the original on 2003-12-06. Retrieved 2003-12-06.
  6. ^ "Recess - School's Out". 7 August 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via Amazon.
  7. ^ "Recess Christmas - Miracle on Third Street". 6 November 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via Amazon.
  8. ^ "Recess - All Growed Down". 9 December 2003. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via Amazon.
  9. ^ "Recess - Taking The Fifth Grade". 9 December 2003. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via Amazon.
  10. ^ Sepinwall, Alan; Seitz, Matt Zoller (6 September 2016). TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1455588190.
  11. ^ Alan Sepinwall; Matt Zoller Seitz (1 September 2016). "Why 'Deadwood' Is a Top-10 TV Show of All Time". The Ringer. PERFECT PRIVACY, LLC. Retrieved 2 September 2016.

External links[edit]