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Danny Phantom: Facts About The Underrated Nicktoon Gone Too Soon

When "Danny Phantom" premiered on Nickelodeon in 2004, it immediately gained a cult following, creating a buzz that never really went away. People loved following the adventures of half-ghost half-human Danny as he used his supernatural powers to save the day. And of course, who could forget his best friends Sam and Tucker? They were always there to help Danny, whether they were taking down ghosts, keeping his ghost powers hidden, or just getting through another day of high school.

"Danny Phantom" stood out from other cartoons thanks to its extraordinarily talented animation team. It was one of those rare shows that had meaningful moments as well as action-packed fights and hilarious jokes. Sadly, despite its popularity, the show only ran for three seasons before ending in 2007. Since then, fans have been keeping the show alive by rewatching their favorite episodes and trying to get Nickelodeon to bring it back. While we all wait for "Danny Phantom" to return, let's explore some fun facts about the show that even some of its biggest fans might not know.

Butch Hartman drew inspiration from comic books and cartoons

Butch Hartman was inspired by popular cartoons and comic books while coming up with the idea for "Danny Phantom." During a 2006 interview with Danny Phantom Online Forums, he said, "When I was a kid, I used to love the show 'Jonny Quest' ... I thought, 'Man, I need a name for a character that was at least as cool as Jonny Quest.'" He started brainstorming last names, considering words like "Lightning" or "Power" before deciding on "Phantom."

After figuring out the main character's name, he knew the show would have something to do with hunting down ghosts or monsters. He thought about having Danny and his friends use gadgets to catch ghosts and solve mysteries. He was going to call the show "Danny Phantom and the Specter Detectors," but that idea was too similar to "Scooby-Doo," so he scrapped it and gained inspiration from comic books to create a new idea.

Hartman said in a YouTube video, "I really wanted to make Danny Phantom kind of a comic book character because I love superheroes ... so I decided to give Danny ghost powers."

Besides having superpowers, many comic book characters also have secret identities — Danny was given one of these as well, and of course, he needed an iconic jumpsuit to go along with his superhero alter ego.

Comic books also influenced many aspects of the show beyond the initial concept. Still images were often used during battles which also featured visual sound effects (like "Wham!" or "Pow!"), and nearly every episode had a title card that hinted at what would happen later on, similar to the cover of a comic book.

Hartman came up with several possible designs for Danny

It took months before Hartman and his team created the design for Danny that we all know and love. Hartman originally drew Danny wearing various versions of a 1950s superhero inspired jumpsuit, which turned into the black jumpsuit with white boots and gloves. The logo wasn't added onto Danny's chest until the episode "Memory Blank" (Season 2, Episode 1).

Hartman always drew Danny with dark hair, but then one day, he finished coloring Danny's jumpsuit black and hadn't colored his hair yet. He thought the character looked cool with white hair, so he decided to have Danny's hair turn white when he goes ghost. After that, he drew Danny with several different hairstyles, including spiky hair and long hair in a ponytail, until he settled on Danny's signature style.

At one point, Hartman thought about giving Danny a white owl named Spooky, who would help him find ghosts. That didn't work out because the movie "Harry Potter" already had a white owl in it, so the network made him scrap the idea. He also considered giving Danny a ghost motorcycle that would be able to fly and go through walls, but then he realized that this would be unnecessary, since Danny could fly.

Hartman didn't come up with the final character designs all by himself, though — he had the help of the talented character designers Stephen Silver and Shannon Tyndall. They all came up with ideas, then Silver interpreted the final ideas into the current designs.

Sam was originally going to have psychic abilities

When Hartman and the others started brainstorming ideas for Sam's character, they originally considered giving her psychic abilities. Sam and Danny would've had a psychic link, allowing them to communicate telepathically. This would've changed the dynamic of the group and opened up some interesting storylines, but ultimately, they decided against it.

"We didn't want to give the characters 'too many' unique talents and abilities," Hartman said (via Danny Phantom Online Forums). "Danny had to be the special one in the show."

Instead of making Sam psychic, they gave her other qualities that made her stand out, like being fascinated by the supernatural and having a distinct goth style. Hartman explained that goths "don't take anything for face value," so she would "actually believe in these ghosts that Danny was fighting."

There are many moments throughout the show that hint at the psychic link Sam and Danny were going to have. For instance, sometimes they say or do the same thing in response to a situation. Casual viewers might assume that's because they've been friends for so long, but hardcore fans know the truth!

Vlad Plasmius was initially going to be a vampire

Vlad Plasmius, also known as Vlad Masters, was one of Danny's strongest enemies. He grew into a memorable character on the show, even though his original design didn't end up fitting in with Nickelodeon's brand.

During an interview with Danny Phantom Online Forums in 2006, Hartman said, "Vlad was originally going to be a vampire — Plasmius is based on plasma, which is another name for blood — but that kind of character borders on occultic and I — and Nickelodeon — refuse to have anything in my shows regarding that kind of overtly occultic stuff."

We have to admit, it would've been surprising to tune into Nickelodeon to watch a family-friendly cartoon only to see a vampire sucking someone's blood. As fun as it could have been, it's likely that it would have scared children or upset their parents, and it's easy to see why Nickelodeon didn't want to take the risk.

They decided to change Vlad to a half-ghost half-human, although he retained many vampire-inspired traits. While in his human form, he comes off as intelligent, charming, and filthy rich, which is common for vampire characters. His ghost form was even more similar to a vampire, with a red cloak, fangs, and pointy hairstyle resembling popular depictions of Dracula.

The ghosts are interdimensional beings

Ghosts are often depicted as the incorporeal remnants of people who have passed away, so it'd be easy to assume it was the same way in "Danny Phantom," but that's not the case.

Hartman explained, "In 'Danny Phantom,' our ghosts are not the disembodied spirits of dead people. Oh no no. They're monsters/creatures from a mysterious dimension. Although we never say that out loud, that's the slant we take . . . We just call them ghosts because it's easier." (via Danny Phantom Online Forums)

There's a reason Hartman and his team did this rather than going with the traditional narrative. Even though the show was about ghosts, they didn't want it to be too dark and go into depth about heavy topics like death and the afterlife. That wasn't easy, since ghosts are so closely associated with death, so Hartman said they "really had to walk a fine line" while making it.

Since the ghosts in the show are interdimensional beings, it makes sense that the Ghost Zone is an alternate dimension rather than the afterlife. Spirits don't go to the Ghost Zone as the result of death — Ghosts lived there and visited the human realm through natural or man-made portals. This was probably for the best, otherwise Danny could've gotten into some really strange situations, like running into his ancestors or prominent historical figures.

The first version of the theme song wasn't a rap

The "Danny Phantom" theme song is one of those songs that's recognizable from the very first notes. It's such a well-known part of the show that it might be surprising to learn that it wasn't originally going to be a rap song.

How did the current theme song come to be? It all started when Hartman heard Queen's song "The Invisible Man." He said, "I listened to the song over and over, just really digging on the bassline. And the more I listened, the more I thought, 'Man, I'd love to use this song as a theme song for a show someday.'" (via Danny Phantom Online Forums)

About a year and a half later, he started making "Danny Phantom" and needed a theme song. He wrote some lyrics, gave them to music composer Guy Moon, showed him "The Invisible Man," and asked him to create a catchy new song with a similar bassline.

Moon came up with the original theme song and it was storyboarded, but never completely animated. Hartman wanted it to sound more upbeat so it would encapsulate the mood and tone of the show more accurately. That's when they decided to turn the song into a rap.

However, there were still other changes that needed to be made since the original lyrics didn't fully explain Danny's backstory or powers.

"This one was a lot more vague about who Danny was and didn't really explain his origin," Hartman said. "I thought it was awesome, but the network wanted me to explain Danny's origin in the title, so I had to go and rewrite. And that's how we ended up with the current theme."

It was far from your average Nickelodeon cartoon

"Danny Phantom" was different from other Nickelodeon cartoons in so many ways. The episodes were 22 minutes long, contrasted with the more common shows that featured two 11-minute stories. It also didn't rely on over-the-top, absurd humor as much as other popular Nicktoons at the time. "Danny Phantom" centered around teenagers instead of kids, so the storylines could include more complicated topics like dating, the awkwardness of being a teenager, and trying to find your place in the world.

Most cartoons at the time weren't serialized, so the episodes could be watched in any order without impacting the story. "Danny Phantom" experimented with arcs that extended from one episode to the next. For instance, Danny's sister Jazz finds out about his ghost powers in "My Brother's Keeper" (Season 1, Episode 9), then helps him fight ghosts in subsequent episodes. This may have paved the way for other serialized cartoons like "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

On top of all that, the show was darker than most of the other Nicktoons, both in tone and appearance. Many scenes took place at night, looking dark and moody rather than bright and colorful. Since the show was about ghosts, it was also practically impossible to avoid touching on the concept of death.

Each episode took about nine months to make

Although each episode lasted for less than half an hour, they took a surprisingly long time to make. A lot of effort went into the storylines and animation, featuring an attention to detail that paid off, since the show still has a cult following to this day.

Steve Marmel, writer and producer for the first two seasons of the show, explained the process of creating an episode from the germ of an idea all the way through to the final product during an interview with the Danny Phantom Picture Archive in 2004.

"Well, the whole process is about nine months. We start with an idea, and then ... kick that around in a meeting. That idea's turned into a premise, then an outline, then a script. Then there's all the art stuff . . . Bob Boyle, the art director and other producer on the show, the board artists, character designers, timers, directors, clean-up artists and more... and Butch, of course... all do what they do to tighten up the cartoon."

Hartman claims it was cancelled so the network could focus on new shows

"Danny Phantom" was a popular show, so why would Nickelodeon cancel it? Some rumors say that the show cost too much to make, and since it was exceeding the budget, Nickelodeon pulled the plug. Other rumors say that the ratings weren't as high as some of their other shows, so they cancelled it as a result.

Hartman has claimed "Danny Phantom" ended for a very different reason. He said that the network loved the show, but the new president of Nickelodeon cancelled it to keep things fresh. "Danny Phantom" had been approved by the former president, and the new one didn't want to be blamed if it started failing.

Although "Danny Phantom" had some adoring fans and was gaining popularity, it wasn't a massive overnight success like "The Fairly OddParents." It was still growing its fan base and gearing up to sell toys and other merchandise, but the network decided to cancel the show instead of seeing where things would go.

Fans have been trying to revive the show for years

Saying that fans were disappointed about the show's cancellation would be a huge understatement. As soon as they heard the news of its cancellation, they started trying to bring the show back.

Hartman claimed on his YouTube channel that he received 20,000 emails from people who wanted it to continue. A group of fans in New York City even gathered in front of Nickelodeon studios, picket signs in hand, hoping to bring their favorite ghost boy back.

After all that, Nickelodeon still wasn't convinced to keep making "Danny Phantom" — but fans didn't give up. Several years after the final episode aired, fans started the Go Ghost Again Movement in hopes of reviving the show. This included starting a petition on Change.org that has since gotten over 18,000 signatures. The movement gained enough traction for the hashtag #GoGhostAgain to start trending on Twitter in 2021.

In one YouTube video, he appeared to endorse the idea of a reboot, saying, "I think that they [Nickelodeon] really should give it another chance ... I'd be totally on board to do something if they wanted to, but we'll have to wait and see."

As of 2022, the network still hasn't brought the show back, but it's a good sign that Hartman wants it to return. Nickelodeon has created reboots of older shows before, so Danny and his friends continuing their ghost hunting adventures isn't completely out of the question.

Hartman has drawn the characters 10 years older

In the spirit of keeping "Danny Phantom" alive, Hartman has drawn how he thinks the characters would look 10 years later. He's also thought about how the story would progress, saying, "10 years down the road, Danny has become a worldwide celebrity, worldwide international brand ghost fighter, and with that fame brings a lot of danger," so Danny and his ghost fighting team have "really amped up their technology."

Danny would be way more muscular than he was as a teen, wearing a suit with advanced technology. Instead of using the clunky Fenton Thermos to capture ghosts, that same technology would be incorporated into one of his gloves, allowing him to catch them much more efficiently. He'd then be able to get power from the ghosts and use it to power his suit.

As for Danny's best friends, Sam and Tucker, they would be helping Danny fight ghosts full-time. Sam would have several different ghost-fighting weapons at her disposal and possibly some armor as well. Tucker would have a flying drone and high-tech goggles that could target enemies.

Jack Fenton would be a cyborg, Maddie Fenton would have a big ghost-fighting bat, and Jazz would make sure everyone's gadgets kept running smoothly.

The characters are returning in the graphic novel Danny Phantom: A Glitch In Time

Even though the show won't be returning any time soon, Danny hasn't completely ghosted us. He'll continue fighting spirits in the graphic novel Danny Phantom: A Glitch In Time, set for release on July 18, 2023.

The story picks up right where the show left off. Danny, Sam, and Tucker notice some strange time glitches, which are quickly explained when Vlad shows up and tells them that Dark Danny has escaped from the Fenton Thermos. Danny and his friends have to team up with Vlad and travel through time and space to protect humanity from Dark Danny.

The show never got around to continuing Dark Danny's storyline after he appeared in the TV movie "The Ultimate Enemy," so it's great that comic artist and illustrator Gabriela Epstein decided to take on this project. We can't wait to see what's in store for Danny and his friends!