Recess (TV series)

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Recess poster toon.jpg
The main characters of the series. From left to right: Vince, Spinelli, Mikey, TJ, Gretchen, and Gus.
Genre Comedy-drama
Created by Joe Ansolabehere
Paul Germain
Starring Ross 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 origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 127, plus 4 movies (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Paul Germain
Joe Ansolabehere
Running time 10 minutes
Production company(s) Walt Disney Television Animation[1]
Paul & Joe Productions (seasons 5–6)
Plus One Animation
Sunwoo Animation
Toon City
Distributor Buena Vista Television
Original network ABC (One Saturday Morning)
UPN (Disney's One Too)
Toon Disney
Original release August 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.

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 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 15, 2001, with 127 episodes and six seasons in total. The success and lasting appeal of the series saw it being syndicated to numerous channels, notably Toon Disney, Disney Channel, and Disney XD.


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 Good Will Hunting, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Few Good Men.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • 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 for something unpleasant as well as "Tender" whenever something positive happens. T.J. has good leadership skills, a talent for public speaking, and another one for charming his way out of any situation, as shown in "Good Ol' T.J.". Despite his troublemaking acts, T.J. is a good person at heart, 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 includes 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).
  • Ashley Funicello Spinelli (voiced by Pamela Adlon): Spinelli going simply by her last name Spinelli, is a wrestling fan and is the tomboy of the group. Although small for her age, Spinelli maintains a tough-guy image, is strong and often tries to use violence to solve her problems. During the gang's endeavors, Spinelli is the one who gets reluctant kids to talk, usually by threatening or intimidating them. With her reputation, a lot of Spinelli's problems happen when she is shown to have a weakness, as she prefers to be feared and respected. 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 aggressive and tough personality has gotten on the good side of Miss Finster multiple times.
  • Vincent Pierre "Vince" LaSalle (voiced by Rickey D'Shon Collins): Vince is the most athletic student at Third Street School. Along with his superior athletic ability comes a bit of an ego, but in the end he always knows his friends are the most important. 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 grader. 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. Popular and proud, he is T. J.'s right-hand man in nearly everything.
  • Gretchen Priscilla Grundler (voiced by Ashley Johnson): Gretchen is an academically talented and extremely intelligent student. She is usually known as the "Smart Girl" on the playground. A child prodigy, she has shown the ability for academic feats that other students in her grade find complicated. She is still a kid at heart and her imagination sometimes gets the better of her, as she is rather naive despite her IQ. She is assisted by an interactive, calculator-sized, hand-held machine called a Galileo (voiced by Eric Idle), which she loves very much. Though her friends don't share her scientific curiosity, Gretchen considers the gang much more important than finding intellectual colleagues. She also has a unique talent with yo-yo's.
  • Michael "Mikey" Blumberg (voiced by Jason Davis; singing voiced by Robert Goulet): Mikey is an overweight, mild-mannered, and philosophical 10-year old. He is good at playing goalie in soccer due to his height and weight. 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", there have been times where Mikey is revealed to have a dark side (particularly apparent when others take advantage of him or do not take him seriously). Mikey is also a precociously talented singer, possessing a baritone opera voice that stands in stark contrast to his normal voice.
  • 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 naive 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 an ace 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, unpopular boy, he has great leadership abilities when they are drawn out of him which are equal to T.J.'s in such instances.
  • 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 a strict disciplinarian 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 referencing her time in Guam, and has worked at Third Street since the 1960s. Though she often butts heads with the students, Finster has been shown to genuinely care about their well-being. In a few of the series' episodes and in the film Recess: School's Out, she is revealed as having been attractive and well-liked when she was young but eventually became a homely and authoritative 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 nice but became mean and nasty 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 exasperated 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 cold authority figure, Prickly has been shown to have a more lenient, easygoing side and ultimately tries to act in the students' best interests.

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 ABC and UPN until September 2, 2003.

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.


Season Episodes Originally aired Network
First aired Last aired
1 26 August 31, 1997 (1997-08-31) January 17, 1998 (1998-01-17) ABC
2 25 September 12, 1998 (1998-09-12) February 27, 1999 (1999-02-27)
3 16 September 11, 1999 (1999-09-11) January 22, 2000 (2000-01-22)
4 46 September 12, 1999 (1999-09-12) July 17, 2000 (2000-07-17) UPN
5 9 September 9, 2000 (2000-09-09) January 6, 2001 (2001-01-06) ABC
6 5 October 31, 2001 (2001-10-31) November 5, 2001 (2001-11-05) UPN

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: Taking the Fifth Grade[edit]

Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade is a Disney direct-to-video animated film released on December 9, 2003.

DVD releases[edit]

Recess: School's Out[edit]

(Released August 7, 2001)[6]

It is an animated film based on the television series. This film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and released to movie theatres in 2001.

Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street[edit]

(Released November 6, 2001)[7]

It is a Disney direct-to-video animated film. It compiles four unrelated episodes, including the program's Christmas special "Yes Mikey, Santa Does Shave."

  • Episodes
    • "Principal For a Day"
    • "The Great Can Drive"
    • "Weekend At Muriel's"
    • "Yes Mikey, Santa Does Shave"

Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade[edit]

(Released December 9, 2003)[8]

It is a Disney direct-to-video animated film. In compiles three unrelated episodes, including the program's Halloween special "A Recess Halloween".

  • Episodes
    • "No More School"
    • "Grade Five Club"
    • "A Recess Halloween"

Recess: All Growed Down[edit]

(Released December 9, 2003)[9]

It is a Disney direct-to-video animated film. It compiles four unrelated episodes.

  • Episodes
    • The Legend of Big Kid
    • Wild Child
    • Kindergarten Derby
    • All Growed Down (un-aired episode)
  • Bonus DVD Episodes titled as "Fans' 3 Favorite Episodes"
    • The Challenge
    • The Story of Whomps
    • One Stayed Clean

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 - Taking The Fifth Grade". 9 December 2003. Retrieved 1 April 2017 – via Amazon. 
  9. ^ "Recess - All Growed Down". 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]