Western Animation: Recess: School's Out

Recess: School's Out (or Recess: The Movie in certain countries) is a 2001 animated film of the popular Disney animated series Recess (released at the end of the fifth season), produced by DisneyToon Studios. It was the fourth movie based off a Disney television series to be released theatrically, the second (and most successful) movie based on a One Saturday Morning show, and the final One Saturday Morning based movie of the '90s lineup (Teacher's Pet would be the last movie from the block altogether, unless one show makes a revival of some sort). The movie began production in 1998 (during the show's second season, which pretty much explains how popular it was) and was finished in 2000.

It's the end of the school year, and T.J. is looking forward to having the time of his life with his friends all summer long...until he finds out each of them are going to different summer camps. Boredom and loneliness sets in for him until he notices something strange going on at the school. He makes his older sister, Becky, pick up the rest of the gang from their camps (unwillingly), so they can aid him in finding out what's going on, as his parents (or the police) won't believe him, and after getting Principal Prickly to see what was going on, he somehow was zapped inside the building. The gang don't believe him at first, and think he made the whole thing up for them to come back from camp, until they see a satellite come out of the school and shoot a laser into the sky. Two nights later, they plan a stakeout (with Randall snooping around and seeing what's up, and getting Miss Finster to try and stop them).

They find out that a former principal and his cronies are trying to work on a plan to end summer vacation for good, creating a permanent winter. After accidentally getting spotted (thanks to Mikey), the villains chase after the kids, including an army of ninjas. While the other five escape, T.J. is caught, and is put in the same room Prickly was captured in. Apparently, Prickly knows the former principal (Philliam Benedict), who has wanted to get rid of recess since the '60s. Will the gang thwart the plans to get rid of recess and summer vacation?

The movie did fairly well with critics (61% on Rotten Tomatoes, just enough to qualify as "Fresh"), and also was a solid performer at the box office, earning $36,706,141 domestically, and ended up with a total worldwide gross of $44,460,850 against a budget of only $10 million, and could be considered Disney's second biggest animated success for 2001 (With Monsters Inc in first), as their next animated film for the year wasn't as successful.

Followed by a sequel, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade in 2003.

Not to be confused with School's Out! The Musical.

Here is the character sheet.

Recess: School's Out provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: While almost every supporting student has a role in the film, whether they speak or not, Butch, Cornchip Girl and Menlo are surprisingly absent.
  • Accidental Truth: When impersonating Prickly on the PA system, T.J. claims Prickly has a saggy butt. We later learn from Prickly's doctor that that's actually true.
  • Adults Are Useless
    • Completely averted in this case.
    • Played straight with the police, at least until the end of the movie.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: This is how the main six got into the school for the stakeout.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Outside the US, Myra's cover of "Dancing in the Street" is replaced by a cover of the same song by Atomic Kitten.
  • And I'm the Former Princess of Morocco
  • Animation Bump: There's better animation in the movie than in the series, though it did have a much larger budget and didn't have the deadlines the show had.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: When Mikey tells Becky that she has to help the gang save T.J. because he's her little brother and he needs her, she promptly joins them.
    • And at the end when T.J. gives Becky back her journal that he'd been using as a blackmail tool.
  • Badass: This film shows that Miss Finster is an excellent hand-to-hand combat fighter, and Ms. Grotke is a martial arts expert.
  • Badass Adorable: The main six again, but now Turned Up to Eleven in their badassery.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Benedict.
  • Big "NO!": Done by Mikey when he finds out the villain's plan then again at the climax when the beam's about to be engaged right before Miss Finster bursts in
  • Big Whomping Heroes: The teachers.
  • Big Whomping Movie
  • Black Belt in Origami: T.J. yells this as he's being dragged away by mooks.
  • Bland-Name Product: Off to the left of one of the overhead shots of the school is a Raskin-Bobbins ice cream shop.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Benedict used to have blond hair in his youth. This may double as Evil Old Folks.
  • Brick Joke
    • In the ending, Prickly says that he hasn't forgotten about TJ's comment about his rear end, which was part of a prank TJ pulled at the start of the movie.
    • T.J.'s disbelief that Finster was a looker.
  • Body Double: Although not willingly done by Prickly: Shortly after Prickly was teleported inside the school and imprisoned by Benedict's goons, Prickly apparently left the school when TJ was trying to convince his friends that he was being genuinely honest about something up with the school (they found documents that they initially indicated that the staff were simply people restocking the supply room, to his friends anger), although after they witnessed the weather altering laser in action, they then assumed that Prickly was behind the whole thing. It wasn't until TJ did some more sleuthing the next morning where he stumbled upon Prickly's golf pants that the truth became even more insidious: The "Prickly" that they earlier witnessed was actually the ugly bald guy incognito, presumably to keep the other people in the dark about what's really going on at the school, and the real Prickly was being held hostage.
  • Bowdlerize: When the gang (sans T.J.) are going to camp, Captain Brad yells to Gus, "Get your fanny over here!". Because "fanny" has a completely different meaning in the U.K. than the USnote , the line was shortened to "Get over here!".
  • Buffy Speak: "Rope with pointy thing?"
  • Call Back:
    • First:
    Principal Prickly: Why do you do this to me, Detweiler? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    T.J.: On the contrary, sir, I have only the utmost respect for you.
    • Later:
    Benedict: Why do you do this to me, Pete? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    Principal Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I just think you're insane.
    • First:
    (when Vince is practicing pitching at baseball camp)
    Coach: Come on, Lasalle! Throw it, don't aim it!
    • Later:
    (when Benedict is activating the tractor beam, T.J. throws Vince a baseball)
    T.J.: Vince! Remember: aim it, don't throw it!
  • Censorship by Spelling: Used when T.J. is heartbroken after his friends leave for camp, and he's all alone, and then his sister comes downstairs.
    Becky: Bye, mom, bye dad, bye T.Jerk.
    T.J.'s mom: Now, Becky, I want you to be nice to your brother. He's feeling a little S-A-D right now.
    T.J.: I can spell, mom.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • Gretchen's voice-changing device first appears in "The Army Navy Game" and is later used twice in this film.
    • T.J. finds his confiscated baseball in Prickly's desk when he goes to search his office, then throws it to Vince during the climax so he can use it to destroy the tractor beam.
    • Also, T.J. instructs Vince to do the opposite of what the coach at baseball camp told him to do earlier.
    • The lunch ladies decide to leave a pot of corn chowder in the school over the summer, later found by T.J. and Principal Prickly.
  • Cold Blue Eyes: Benedict: a rather chilling scene of him back in the 60's has him wearing big turquoise Lennon Specs as he acts like the typical 'cool-cat' of that era. But after he reveals his plans to get rid of recess, he pulls them off to reveal his eyes, and the change in his overall demeanor is shocking.
  • Colon Cancer: On Walmart's website, the movie's listed as Recess: The Movie: School's Out.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Prickly is shown in his boxers after getting kidnapped. It was explained why his pants were missing, or at the very least it was implied: Benedict had his pants removed and placed in the dumpster (which T.J. found when sleuthing around the school the morning after his friends spied on them at night) as a means of humiliating him before tying him to a chair and then gagging him with tape.
  • Completely Different Title: In Germany, it's (translated), Big Recess: The Secret Mission.
    • French: Recess: Give Me a Break!
    • Polish: Recess: Goodbye School
    • Swedish: Recess: Mission to Save Summer Vacation
    • Finnish: Recess: Save the Summer Holiday.
    • Some other countries called it Recess: The Movie or stuck with the original title.
  • Complexity Addiction: The villain's plan is very complicated. His plan of making children in the U.S. smarter involves moving the Moon.
  • Conspicuous CG: The opening shot of the town and the school. The pasted-in kids' run cycles don't even match up with their speed!
  • Continuity Nod
    • Spinelli uses her "Madame Fist" line that she used in the pilot episode.
    • Gretchen's voice changing device is seen again after being introduced in "The Army-Navy Game".
  • Cover Version: Mikey does a cover of "Green Tamborine" during the credits. This is followed by a cover of "Dancing in the Street" by Myra.
  • Dance Party Ending: Subverted. The gang's musical performance of "Green Tamborine" happens at the beginning of the credits.
  • Darker and Edgier: Not as huge as other examples, but it's darker than the main series.
  • Demoted to Extra
    • Lawson only appears in a quick cameo, getting sprayed with silly string (another kid was testing it on him to make sure it worked) and giving a thumbs up when the kids are getting ready to save T.J., however, he's still listed in the credits, hinting that he was going to have a bigger role, but his scenes were cut from the final film.
    • Miss Grotke only appears at the beginning of the first half of the film, and doesn't return until the battle towards the end. She also only has seven lines in the entire movie (two of them being screaming). Justified as the movie does take place during summer vacation (and unlike the other two main teachers, she has no ties to the Big Bad, obviously because she's younger than the two and wouldn't have appeared in the flashback scene anyway), and her scenes during the battle were pretty memorable.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The kids' performance of "Green Tambourine" during the credits.
  • The Dragon: Ugly Bald Guy.
  • Enemy Mine: The Ashleys were implied to have undergone this with Vince during the times that he has to skip out of camp with his friends to investigate Third Street's activities with his friends at night, as they were seen choosing the color of "Vince's" cap (actually a mannequin dummy head).
    • Also, the unified front between the children and the teachers against Benedict's forces.
  • Even Evil Has Standards
    • In the opening, when a military base holding the moon-moving technology is being raided, Dr. Benedict asks if the personnel were killed by the stun rays. His lackey says no, and he responds that he doesn't like violence. Justified, as he was a school principal at one time.
    • Also, when Benedict and Fenwick end up arrested in the ending of the movie, Fenwick tries to talk his way out of arrest by pinning the blame on his boss and tries to claim that he was following orders. Randall's, who was nearby when witnessing it, only reaction to it was saying "Jeez, what a squealer!" out of disgust, implying that he felt that Fenwick's ratting out Benedict, his boss, to save his skin was low even for an informant like himself.
  • Evil Former Friend: Benedict to Prickly.
  • Expose the Villain, Get His Job: When Prickly told the Superintendent about Benedict's ban on Recess when he was principal, the superintendent fired Benedict and gave the job to Prickly.
  • Eye Cam: When Mikey is waking up in T.J.'s backyard after fainting
  • Fan Disservice: When the teachers come in for the climax battle, Miss Finster is wearing a lime green spandex suit with visible camel toe. Uh...
  • Fast-Roping: Used by the teachers during the climax.
  • Flyaway Shot: Used at the end of the movie, and an inversion plays at the beginning of the movie.
  • Genre-Busting: Comedy/drama/satire/sci-fi/action/prison escape/coming of age
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Prickly is mentioned but never seen.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid / Misfit Mobilization Moment: After TJ's been captured, the rest of the gang return to camp, and rally the rest of the Third Street student body to fight back.
  • Graduate from the Story: Subverted, as the kids all leave the fourth grade in this movie, they still attend the same school in Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, not to mention they're back in fourth grade for season six, though this is only because the series was Un-Cancelled.
  • Groin Attack: Spinelli does this to the bald guy, though instead of kicking him, she headbutts him in the groin. Also notable for the only time a groin attack is used in the Recess franchise.
  • Hippie Teacher: Apparently, all the teachers were this during the '60s.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Randall comments that one of Dr. Benedict's goons is a squealer as he tries to weasel his way out of being arrested.
  • I'm Going for a Closer Look
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Young Voices, the choral program that Mikey attends over the summer, is a "training program", not a "camp".
    T.J.: Are all of you guys going to camp?!
    Mikey: Not me.
    T.J.: Thank goodness...
    Mikey: The Young Voices Training Program doesn't like the word "camp"!
    • Gretchen helpfully clarifies that she and her friends are officially "pre-young adults", not "kids".
    Vince: Sorry, man, but we've gotta think about our futures. We can't spend all summer just fooling around like kids!
    T.J.: But we are kids!
    Gretchen: Actually, as of the completion of fourth grade, we are technically considered pre-young adults.
    Gus: And next year, we won't even be pre!
  • Ironic Echo
    • The villain berates Prickly with the same words he says to T.J. at the beginning.
    • Of course, Prickly's answer is ten times more hilarious.
    T.J.: (to Prickly) I don't hate you, sir. In fact I hold a lot of respect for you.
    Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I JUST THINK YOU'RE INSANE!
  • Irony: Slightly meta. At the end of the movie, T.J. gives back Becky's diary, and tells Spinelli that he was lying about the extra copies he was going to post on the internet. The movie's official site had an entire section which showed her diary entries (Unfortunatly, since 2007, the site is gone and the link to the website redirects to Walt Disney Home Entertainment's page for the DVD).
    • Another meta example. Disney was expecting Atlantis: The Lost Empire to be their bigger two-dimensional animated hit for 2001, with Recess: School's Out as a smaller project. Recess: School's Out ended up as the more successful film. To add to that, the Finnish VHS and DVD copy of Atlantis included the Recess premiere episodes, "The Break In" and "The New Kid" as bonus features.
    • One more meta example- the movie takes place at the start of summer vacation. The video and DVD was released in August, which is towards the end of summer vacation
  • It's Personal: T.J.'s motivation after finding out that Benedict is trying to get rid of recess.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Miss Finster back in the '60s... except for the fact that she has the same voice as she does in the present. However, April Winchell was probably going to use her normal voice for that scene, but she was already using it for T.J.'s mom.
  • Just Following Orders: Fenwick attempts to use this excuse when he is being arrested alongside Benedict. The police don't buy it.
  • Large Ham: James Woods as Phillium Benedict. Seems like his over the top performance as Hades wasn't enough for him.
  • Last Name Basis: TJ with Principal Prickly, as per usual. Which makes it all the more heartwarming when they call each other "Teej" and "Pete" in the final scene.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The novilization came out a few weeks before the movie, causing a lot of details to be spoiled in the book.
  • Logo Joke: In the beginning, the Walt Disney Pictures logo at the time plays as normal...after the flash of light goes by, the main six are standing on each side of the castle, playing the rest of the theme for the logo on their kazoos.
  • Lost In Transmission: After TJ escaped from his makeshift cell with Prickly and into Benedict's office (formerly Prickly's office), TJ manages to report that he located Prickly and that he discovered Benedict's plan from a mural, which was to get rid of Summer Vacation. TJ then tries to supply his friends with a plan... but was unable to even start talking because at that moment, the ugly bald guy grabbed the walkie talkie, and likewise caused the communication to go dead.
  • Mistaken For Spy: In part of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to TJ, Principal Prickly scolds him for convincing the FBI that Prickly was a Chinese agent, which got him arrested.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: The 1968 flashback
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Phillium Benedict.
  • The Movie
  • The '90s: The movie was released in 2001, though the film takes place in the summer of 1998.
  • Ninja: Part of Benedict's task force, for some unfathomable reason. When some of them chase the group at one point, Ms. Finster witnesses this and assumes the school is now a secret jujitsu base.
    Gus: Ninjas! Why did they have to be ninjas?!
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Phillium Benedict was most likely named for former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never actually learn what Benedict's "Detention" punishment really is. We just know that it's bad enough to make a grown man break down begging for mercy. Brrrr...
  • Oh Crap!: Gus's C.O. at military camp's reaction when he realizes shortly after mocking Gus for becoming the military leader of the Third Street Resistance that Gus was actually being very serious about his being the military leader.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The bald guy isn't given a name in the movie. He's credited as "Bald Guy". Finster does briefly refer to him as "Kojak", however.
  • Pan Up to the Sky Ending: Using a clear blue sky.
  • Parental Bonus: The movie's built on this trope. It's whomping Recess, so of course this trope's going to be heavily involved.
  • Pet the Dog: Miss Finster with Miss Grotke at the end of the movie, after discovering that she's a martial arts expert. The sweet part kicks in when you remember that in previous seasons, Miss Finster didn't like her very much.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: After T.J. and the rest of the gang hatch a plot to rally the rest of the kids to stop the Big Bad, everyone in the gang except T.J. (who helped bring them all together, anyway) gets a chance to show off things related to their strengths or camp. Gretchen uses what she learned at space camp to figure out that the laser beam is actually a tractor beam, Gus unites the school in a military style, as a commander, to take down Benedict and his goons, Mikey uses his singing voice to trap some of the mooks into a pit, Spinelli uses her flying press from wrestling camp to attack some more henchmen, and Vince uses his sports skills to throw a baseball into the tractor beam's electron pulse generator (the power core), destroying it and foiling Dr. Benedict's plans.
  • Police Are Useless: Parodied. T.J. tells the police what's going on. They don't believe him. The other five tell the police what's going on. They don't believe them. Miss Finster and Randall tell them what's going on. They don't believe them. By the end of the movie though, they find out eventually and arrest the villains. But don't believe or care if Benedict is a senator.
  • Rearrange the Song: After the prologue, the main theme plays... beefed up and more awesome.
  • "The Reason You Whomp" Speech: Unsurprisingly, it happens in a dramatic moment between T.J. and Principal Prickly. Very surprisingly, T.J. is the recipient of it. When T.J. and Prickly are both imprisoned by Benedict, T.J. angrily accuses Prickly and every other adult of being just like Benedict, not caring about saving summer vacation. Prickly retorts with a long speech about how T.J. has unfairly cast him as a villain with no conscience, and that he always forgets that every adult he knows was a kid at some point in their lives and understands what it's like to be one.
  • The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: This was meant to be the finale to the series. And then it was Un-Cancelled.
  • Sad Times Montage: Used with T.J. after his friends leave for camp, with "One" by Three Dog Night playing.
  • Sensual Spandex: And it HAD to be worn by Miss Finster.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • In the 1968 flashback, Miss Finster appears to be in her early 20s. But in "Weekend at Muriel's", she appears to be in her early 20s in a picture from 1952. Does that mean she's younger than she looks? (Or even older than she looked?)
    • At the beginning, King Bob crowns the next king of the playground, King Freddie II (who at the time of the movie, was in fifth grade), due to Bob graduating. But in season two, Freddie was shown in the sixth grade with King Bob. (Though when the second season was still being worked on, there weren't any plans for a movie until the season premiered when it got green lit.)
  • Series Fauxnale: This was going to be the end of the series. However due to the well performance of the movie, it was renewed for one more season. Sadly, there wasn't much to the season, as after about four episodes, it hit the notorious sixty five episode limit Disney has.
  • Shout-Out
    • "Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone!"
    • This movie's pretty much just one big shout out to The Sixties.
    • Also, Ms. Finster referred to the Bald henchman as "Kojak", referring to the bald police detective of the same name.
    • The scene in when T.J. and Prickly are captured, and Prickly's talk about summer vacation to T.J. reminds an awful lot of Toy Story.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Even after 30 years, Benedict still carries a torch for Miss Finster, not even caring how much she changed with age. Also, one of the reasons why he holds such a grudge agains Prickly is because he revealing his recess ban back in the '60, destroyed his relationship with Muriel, the only woman he ever loved.
  • Smoldering Shoes: Prickly's.
  • The Song Remains the Same: All of the insert songs in the movie are intact in the foreign dubs.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: While all the main kids have large roles in this movie, T.J. gets the most time to shine, leaving some fans to think that the film should've been called The T.J. Detweiler Movie.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Randall, obviously. However, there is also Fenwick, who in the end becomes a Betrayer Barry in the hopes that he'd be acquitted if he pins all the blame on his boss while insisting that he was only following orders, while also offering evidence for the state trial. Ironically, Randall ends up being disgusted by this.
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: Mikey shouts at the villain to stop during the final showdown. He asks if Mikey really thought he would stop if somebody just asked after he went through so much to get there. Mikey asks if he said please would he stop.
  • Thermometer Gag
  • Title Drop: The movie's working title was Summer Vacation: The Ultimate Recess, which is what T.J. quotes in the beginning. However, the trope was then averted when the title was changed.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Actually averted in this case, which is rare for a movie based off a TV show. However, this is played straight in a few foreign countries, where it's called Recess: The Movie.
  • Took a Level in Badass Adorable: The main kids, as mentioned before.
    • Gus gets a special mention here, as he's the one who staged out the plan to rescue T.J. for the other kids to follow.
    • T.J. as well, as he's the member of the main six that gets the most focus in the movie.
  • Villain Has a Point: Benedict wants to get rid of summer vacation: Boo! He wants to get rid of summer vacation by moving the moon and disrupting the Earth's weather patterns: Boo! He wants to do it because he's angry at how American kids are falling behind their international peers in academic tests: B— Wait, that... is actually a legitimate concern.
  • Water Guns and Balloons: During the final battle, not to mention silly string is involved as well.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Prickley and Benedict went to high school together and were even a part of the school board. However, after Benedict decided to remove recess altogether and after Prickley replaced him as principal, their friendship ended. Their past relationship explains why they call each other "Phil" and "Pete".
  • You and What Army?
  • You Have Failed Me: Rosenthal gets dragged away to "Detention" kicking and screaming when he screws up Benedict's tractor beam one too many times.
  • You're Insane!:
    Benedict: Why do you do these things to me, Pete? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I just think you're insane!