Move over SpongeBob, here comes Phineas and Ferb

The marketing muscle behind the most famous mouse in the world is gearing up to put the squeeze on SpongeBob. That's right, it's goodbye Bikini Bottom, helloPhineas and Ferb, a couple of charming, clever and most importantly, funny, cartoon dudes who battle boredom in elaborate backyard adventures that have kids, teens and college students tuning in to watch.

In fact, Nielsen ratings show Disney's pointy-headed darlings beat out Bikini Bottom's best to become the number-one television animated series among kids ages 6 to 11 in 2009.

Dawn Chmielsewski of reported that as a result of the show's success, Disney has plans to "rev up the franchise machine," roll out character-themed merchandise and go Hollywood.

By mid-July, Phineas- and Ferb-branded product lines featuring everything from boxer shorts to skateboards will begin to appear in greater number on shelves in Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kohl's and JC Penney; costumed characters will mingle with fans at Disneyland, and a Disney Channel movie, Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension,will premiere next summer. The duo will also debut their own branded macaroni and cheese in 2011.

"I do believe that within the next 18 months, this will be one of the biggest properties that we've ever had," Gary Marsh, president of Disney Channel Entertainment, told Chmielsewski. That's big with a capital "B," as in billions. Take that, Mr. Krabs.

Flesh and blood celebrities are lending their cool factor and getting into the geek chic act with "voice" appearances by Ben Stiller, Tina Fey, Clay Aiken and Chaka Khan. Should SpongeBob be shaking in his bulbous, black boots?

Tara Schlosser, spokeswoman for Target, told WalletPop that the fate of the Sponge is up to shoppers. "Replenishment is based on sell-through," said Schlosser. Ultimately, we will vote with our pocketbooks, in a sort of real-life retail Survivor.

As for the new kids on the licensing block, Schlosser said Phineas and Ferb is, "a good fit for Target" and reported that the retailer currently stocks action figures, stickers, hats and t-shirts bearing the funny faces of the unassuming heroes.

"The Phineas and Ferb merchandise is cute, fun, and captures the quirkiness of the show that kids love," said Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer of Toys for Kmart in an interview with WalletPop, "We are sure it will be a hit. Besides, who can resist a secret agent Platypus?" Indeed.

But don't count SpongeBob out just yet. "Our customers still love SpongeBob, and we will still carry toys and other merchandise in store and online," said Fitzgerald.

It remains to be seen who will get the last laugh. Stay tuned.

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