‘Kim Possible’ at 20: How It Kickstarted a New Animation Age

Over the years, the Disney Channel has launched a number of original series and films. One of those inaugural series, Kim Possible, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In the years since its debut, Kim Possible inspired Disney to create multiple animated series. Also, like many other cartoons, it made the jump from the episodic cartoon to TV movie. It sparked a trend of female-led action cartoons and is still a beloved series to this day. Even the genesis of the series, while relatively simple, was unorthodox.

Creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle had worked on multiple series for Disney, including the Toy Story spinoff Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and were looking to create an original series. Coincidentally, the Disney Channel was looking to develop a new animated series. While riding in an elevator, McCorkle turned to Schooley and said: “Kim Possible. She can do anything.” Schooley’s response: “Ron Stoppable, he can’t.” From that simple exchange, the series was born: teenager Kim Possible (Christy Carson Romano) and her best friend Ron Stoppable (Will Friedle), along with Ron’s pet naked mole rat Rufus (Nancy Cartwright) juggled schoolwork with protecting the world from super villains, including the mad scientist Dr. Drakken (John DiMaggio).


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One of Kim Possible‘s biggest features was its voice cast; it boasted several Disney Channel veterans, including Raven-Symoné as Kim’s friend Monique and High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale as the shape-shifting villainess Camille Leon. Romano was also a Disney Channel vet, as she was best known for her role in Even Stevens. Veteran actors would show up for guest or recurring roles, including Adam West as a Batman-styled vigilante called the Fearless Ferret and Ricardo Montalban as billionaire-turned-villain Senor Senor Senor. Even a veteran from Schooley and McCorkle’s previous work was on the series: Nicole Sullivan, who voiced Mira Nova on Buzz Lightyear, wound up filling the role of Drakken’s right-hand woman Shego.

Kim Possible also served as a twist on the usual action-adventure cartoons. In other cartoons, the male protagonist is the main character while the female character is either a damsel-in-distress or just along for the ride; here the roles are reversed as Kim does most of the world-saving while Ron acts as the comic relief. This also extends to the villains, particularly Drakken and Shego. Though he’s a self-proclaimed “criminal mastermind”, most of Drakken’s schemes usually end in failure. Shego, on the other hand, is the more skilled and pragmatic of the pair despite being the sidekick – and also never misses a chance to ridicule Drakkon.

The show also wasn’t afraid to dip its toes in multiple genres during its run. There were science fiction elements (particularly in stories involving Drakkon), fantasy elements (Ron went to a boarding school for ninjas in one episode, and both he and his recurring arch-nemesis Monkey Fist (Tom Kane) drew upon “mystical monkey power”), and even spy elements (Kim often pulled off stunts that rivaled any seen in a Mission: Impossible or James Bond movie, and Senor Senor Senor was a sendup of Bond villains like Dr. No.) Even the superhero genre was the subject of a few episodes, including one where Ron became the new Fearless Ferret in an obvious homage to Friedle’s time on Batman Beyond. Schooley and McCorkle would even continue to bring superhero stories to Disney, as they were the co-writers for 2005’s Sky High and helped develop Big Hero 6: The Series.

But what Kim Possible is best known for is having a heroine that dealt with everyday problems as well as apocalyptic ones. In addition to protecting the world from evil, Kim had to go to high school and captain the cheerleading squad – and episodes focused on how her double life could be a strain. A perfect example is the episode “Tick, Tick, Tick”: when Kim is late to class after a mission, her teacher Mr. Barkin (Patrick Warburton) gives her detention. Kim objects, saying that she’s a cheerleader and cheerleaders don’t get detention. This comes back to bite her when during a battle with Drakkon and Shego, a miniature explosive attaches itself to her face — and her salvation lies in the hands of her classmates in detention, as well as Ron.

Kim Possible was also at the forefront of a wave of female-led action cartoons. In its wake came The Life and Times of Juniper Lee on Cartoon Network, My Life as a Teenage Robot on Nickelodeon, and W.I.T.C.H., all of which featured a female protagonist who, you guessed it, had to balance her schoolwork with heroics. And even though Kim Possible wasn’t the first animated Disney Channel original — that honor goes to The Proud Family — its success opened the doors for animated series including American Dragon Jake Long, Gravity Falls, and The Owl House.

The biggest milestone that Kim Possible achieved was escaping cancellation due to fan support. Like most of Disney Channel’s original series, it was expected to go into production for three seasons and a total of 65 episodes. However, fans started up online petitions and e-mail to campaign for more episodes. That push, compared with the success of the feature-length film Kim Possible Movie: So The Drama, led the Disney Channel to greenlight the fourth season. While campaigns to renew canceled television series are commonplace (Star Trek: The Original Series remains the prime example), Kim Possible is one of the first times it’s happened for an animated series.

Though the animated series came to a close in 2007, Kim Possible fans had a chance to revisit their favorite teenage hero when the Disney Channel launched a live-action adapation in 2019. Schooley and McCorkle served as executive producers on the series, and also contributed to its screenplay; ironically the two had penned a live-action adaptation of Kim Possible in between the show’s first two seasons, but it fell through, and they ended up working on Sky High. The wait seems to be worth it as Sadie Sink and Sean Giambrone effortlessly slip into the roles of Kim and Ron, and veterans from the animated series make cameos — including Patton Oswalt reprising his role as Professor Dementor as well as Romano showing up. With the entirety of Kim Possible available to stream on Disney+, fans will no doubt be rewatching the series this year and remembering why it’s still a classic 20 years after its debut.

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