Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (born December 9, 1960) is an American television director, writer, producer, storyboard artist, and actor associated with several animated television series. Marsh was born in Santa Monica, California, where he grew up with a heavily blended family dynamic. Marsh has been and continues to be a driving force behind several animation projects, working for over six seasons on the animated television series The Simpsons. Marsh continued to work on other animated television series, including King of the Hill and Rocko's Modern Life, before moving to England in 1996.
While in England, Marsh worked on several animated programs, including Postman Pat and Bounty Hamster, and worked for BKN New Media Ltd. to produce several feature films. After six years living in England, Marsh was asked by his longtime partner Dan Povenmire to help produce Phineas and Ferb in 2007, a concept the two had while working together on Rocko's Modern Life. Marsh accepted and moved back to the United States; the series has since garnered Marsh two Emmy Awards nominations for songwriting. According to an original pitch extra of Phineas and Ferb, he prefers having "Swampy" in his name, because it made his name 15 letters long and longer than most other people's names.
Jeff "Swampy" Marsh was born on December 9, 1960, in Santa Monica, California. Marsh was raised in a large and complicated blended family, which included his stepfather Bill. Growing up, he never felt the dynamic was treated in the media coherently enough to make it seem "normal," which Marsh felt was unjustified since the majority of his friends were from either divorced or blended familial structures.
Marsh spent his summer vacations being active, going outside and digging trenches and tunnels, building tree houses, and constructing forts. He and his family were engrossed in several musical activities, with musical background dating back to Les Brown, Marsh's grandfather. His household was filled with several different musical instruments and over the years, Marsh learned to play the banjo, trombone, trumpet, and guitar. As Marsh recalls, he would "sing into fake microphones and create full rock bands with his friends and family."
In both high school and college, Marsh took architectural drawing courses and also took part in a few theater productions, which each helped him understand the view of a set builder.
As an adult, Marsh became a vice president of sales and marketing for a computer company. One day, he "freaked out" and decided to quit. A friend of his helped him put together a portfolio and go into the animation business. He eventually found himself working on the animated television series The Simpsons as a background layout artist in 1990. Marsh worked on the series for over six seasons and three episodes he helped produce won Emmy Awards. To help him with his animation efforts on the show, Marsh utilized several books about art, architecture design, and artistic rendering which he kept in his household library. His desk in the series' office placed him opposite of fellow layout artist Dan Povenmire; the two bonded over shared tastes in humor and music and quickly formed a friendship.
By 1993, Marsh was working as a writer and director on Nickelodeon's animated series Rocko's Modern Life-- the channel's first "in house" cartoon production-- for four seasons. He found himself working alongside Povenmire again, this time as a writing partner, a choice Marsh claimed was made by the crew in hopes of making Povenmire's neatness offset his own sloppy storyboarding. The pair developed a distinctive style, including in their stories characteristic musical numbers and chase scenes. Together they won an Environmental Achievement Award for a 1996 Rocko episode they had written.
In 1996, Povenmire and Marsh conceived the series Phineas and Ferb, based on their similar experiences of childhood summers spent outdoors. Povenmire went through several unsuccessful pitches to get the series picked up. In 1997, Marsh was hired as one of the first artists for the Fox Network animated series King of the Hill, serving as both a storyboard artist and designer.
Move to England:
After working on Rocko in 1996, Marsh moved to London, England, which he considered to be "absolutely fantastic." Marsh spent six years in the city, working on several animated television productions which included Postman Pat and Bounty Hamster, along with other projects produced by major companies BBC, ITV and Carlton TV. He also served as a large contributor and producer for several British feature films, working for the company BKN New Media Ltd.
Around 2005, Povenmire contacted Marsh, notifying him that a pitch for Phineas and Ferb had been somewhat successful and The Walt Disney Company had shown interest in producing the series but wanted to see an eleven-minute pilot. Marsh immediately accepted and began packing. He had already booked a vacation to Los Angeles, while Povenmire had plans to travel to France; while Povenmire set up a sidetrack to travel to England, Marsh flew down to Los Angeles for two days where he devised a plot outline for the episode "Rollercoaster." When Povenmire went to France, he drew the storyboards and plotted out how it would all come together, and then went to England where the pair touched up the dialogue and checked to make sure it came out how they had planned it.
Phineas and Ferb:
Marsh moved back to the United States where Disney accepted the pilot episode and ordered a full 26 episode season. The pair still needed to convince overseas Disney executives to pick up the series, so instead of a conventional script, they recorded the storyboards for "Rollercoaster." Povenmire then spent time dubbing over it with his voice for each character, along with sound effects and narration. When the recording was sent to the executives, they accepted and the series was officially green lit for the company's cable network Disney Channel. It officially began broadcast on February 1, 2008 and the cartoon name was called Phineas and Ferb.
Marsh and Povenmire wanted to incorporate into the show the kind of humor they had developed in their work on Rocko's Modern Life. They included action sequences and, with Disney's encouragement, featured musical numbers in every episode after "Flop Starz". Povenmire described the songs as his and Marsh's "jab at immortality", but the pair have earned two Emmy nominations for Phineas and Ferb songs to-date. A third Emmy nomination, for the episode "The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein" (2009), pitted the show against SpongeBob SquarePants, although neither nominee received the award due to an unspecific technicality.
The distinctive style of Tex Avery influenced the show's artistic look, which includes geometric shapes in both the characters and the background. The style was determined by Povenmire's first sketch of title character Phineas Flynn, who he doodled on the butcher paper covering the table during dinner with his family in a restaurant in South Pasadena, California; he was so taken with the sketch he tore it out, kept it, and used it as the prototype for Phineas and the stylistic blueprint for the whole show. Other than being an executive producer and co-founder, Marsh voices the character of Major Francis Monogram. Marsh based his performance of the character on broadcast journalist and anchorman Walter Cronkite.
After Phineas and Ferb concludes in the future, Marsh aspires to move back to England, where he has hopes of producing a new series.
Marsh currently lives in the city of Venice, California, where he frequently goes surfing. He has two children, who have borne him four grandchildren. His nickname, "Swampy," was given to him while living in England after attending college in reference to his last name, "marsh." He added the nickname as an intertitle in his credited and preferred name, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, as a means of making it longer than most other's names, at fifteen letters.