Created by
Voices of
ComposerDenis M. Hannigan
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes65 (127 segments), plus 4 movies (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Paul Germain
  • Joe Ansolabehere
Running time20 minutes
Production companies
DistributorBuena Vista Television
Original network
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseSeptember 13, 1997 (1997-09-13) –
November 5, 2001 (2001-11-05)

Recess is an American animated television series created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere (credited on marketing materials and late-series title cards as "Paul and Joe") and produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, with animation done by Grimsaem, Anivision, Plus One Animation, Sunwoo Animation, and Toon City. The series focuses on six elementary school students and their interaction with other classmates and teachers.[2] The title refers to the recess period during the daily schedule, in the North American tradition of educational schooling, when students are not in lessons and are outside in the schoolyard. During recess, the children form their own society, complete with government and a class structure, set against the backdrop of a regular school.[3]

Recess premiered on September 13, 1997, on ABC, as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning block (later known as ABC Kids). The series ended on November 5, 2001, with 65 half-hour episodes and six seasons in total. The success and lasting appeal of the series saw it being syndicated to numerous channels, including ABC's sister channels Toon Disney, which later became Disney XD, and Disney Channel.

In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures released a theatrical film based on the series, Recess: School's Out. It was followed by a direct-to-video second film entitled Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street that same year. In 2003, two more direct-to-video films were released: Recess: All Growed Down and Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. The characters also made an appearance in a 2006 episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series.


Recess portrays the lives of six fourth graders—cheeky and popular lovable rogue Theodore Jasper "T.J." Detweiler (Ross Malinger, Andrew Lawrence), jock Vince LaSalle (Rickey D'Shon Collins), tomboy Ashley Spinelli (Pamela Adlon), wise fool Mikey Blumberg (Jason Davis), nerdy child prodigy Gretchen Grundler (Ashley Johnson), and awkward new kid Gus Griswald (Courtland Mead)—as they go about their daily lives in a school environment at Third Street Elementary School located in Little Rock, Arkansas.[4][5] A major satirical point of the show is that the community of students at school is a microcosm of traditional human society complete with its own government, class system, and set of unwritten laws.[5] They are ruled by a monarch, a sixth grader named King Bob, who has various enforcers to make sure his decrees are carried out. The society has a long list of rigid values and social norms that imposes a high expectation of conformity upon all the students.

Recess is illustrated to be a symbol of liberty—a time when children can express themselves and develop meaningful relationships. Most episodes involve one or more of the main six characters seeking a rational balance between individuality and social order. They are often defending their freedom against perceived threats by adults and school administration or social norms.[5] The group's leader, T.J. Detweiler, tends to have the most complete vision of this struggle, though even he has times when he inadvertently leads the group too far toward an extreme of conformity or non-conformity, and needs to be drawn back to even ground by his friends.

This interpretation is confirmed by the Cold War motifs[citation needed] found throughout the show. For example, Miss Grotke's philosophical and activist attitudes (attributed to her belonging to the counterculture of the 1960s) is juxtaposed with the authoritarian and conservative views of her colleagues such as Miss Finster and Principal Prickly. The presence of government officials either confiscating objects for national security (Episode 37, "The Substitute") or removing persons for challenging authority (Episode 71, "The Spy Who Came in from the Playground"), serve as subtle reminders on the authority of the US government. Several references by the show's characters convey the fraught political realities of the Cold War period.[citation needed] In Episode 85, "Here Comes Mr. Perfect", Randall suggests blackmailing a student for being a supposed Communist, while in Episode 37, "The Substitute", Mr. E demands a student write an essay on why it's wrong to bully people, "unless it's in the geopolitical interests of the United States". Cold War themes are most seen in Episode 101, "The Secret Life of Grotke", where Miss Grotke is suspected by the Recess gang as an anti-American spy due to her mysterious after-school life, as well as Episode 118, "The Army Navy Game", where T.J. masquerades as a Soviet spy to bring Gus and Theresa's military fathers to reconcile.

The show's introductory music, art design and style often evoked the feel of prison escape movies such as The Great Escape, and the playground hierarchy and school administration were often depicted in ways that paid homage to common themes in such films. Additionally, many episodes parody classic films such as Cool Hand Luke, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Cast and characters

Main characters

The main characters of the series. From left to right: Vince, "Spinelli", Mikey, T.J., Gretchen, and Gus.
The main characters of the series. From left to right: Vince, "Spinelli", Mikey, T.J., Gretchen, and Gus.

Minor characters


Recess first aired on ABC on August 31, 1997, as a "sneak preview", after which it transitioned to ABC's Disney's One Saturday Morning programming block, premiering on September 13, 1997. The series' success spawned three direct-to-video titles Recess Trilogy: Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street in 2001, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade and Recess: All Growed Down in 2003; and one theatrical film, Recess: School's Out, which was released on February 16, 2001.[6] The series ended on November 5, 2001; reruns continued to air on UPN until 2003 and ABC until 2004.

Disney Channel added Recess to their lineup on September 3, 2003. Fillmore!, The Legend of Tarzan, and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command were all pre-empted in favor of a 90-minute showing of the series.[7] It temporarily ceased airing on September 2, 2005, but resumed on August 26, 2008 replacing The Buzz on Maggie, and continued until June 30, 2010.

Toon Disney aired the show from September 3, 2003[8] to February 12, 2009. When Toon Disney was converted to Disney XD, the series was carried over and aired from April 14, 2009 to October 27, 2011. The show is also available as part of Disney+.


Main article: List of Recess episodes

SeasonSegmentsEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
12613September 13, 1997 (1997-09-13)January 17, 1998 (1998-01-17)ABC
22513September 12, 1998 (1998-09-12)February 27, 1999 (1999-02-27)
3168September 11, 1999 (1999-09-11)January 22, 2000 (2000-01-22)
44623September 12, 1999 (1999-09-12)July 17, 2000 (2000-07-17)UPN
595September 9, 2000 (2000-09-09)January 6, 2001 (2001-01-06)ABC
653October 31, 2001 (2001-10-31)November 5, 2001 (2001-11-05)UPN
FilmsN/A41February 16, 2001 (2001-02-16)Theatrical release
N/A3November 6, 2001 (2001-11-06)December 9, 2003 (2003-12-09)Direct-to-video
SpecialJanuary 16, 2006 (2006-01-16)Disney Channel
ABC Kids

Crossover with Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch: The Series featured an episode titled "Lax" that featured the cast of Recess, when T.J. and the gang go on a school vacation to Hawaii. Notably, Recess was the only series that crossed over with Lilo & Stitch: The Series that was not a Disney Channel Original Series, and whose production had already ended before Lilo & Stitch: The Series first aired.

Disaster strikes when Dr. Hämsterviel and his henchman, Gantu, try to use an escaped alien experiment to make everyone relaxed while he takes over the world. Luckily, Gretchen saves the day, since she believes work is relaxing.


Recess: School's Out

Main article: Recess: School's Out

Recess: School's Out is an animated film directed by Chuck Sheetz and is based on the television series where the characters must intercept a gang of anti-recess terrorists plotting to bring about a new ice age to eliminate the institution of summer vacation. The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and was released theatrically nationwide on February 16, 2001.

Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street

Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street is a second direct-to-video animated film released by Walt Disney Pictures and Paul & Joe Productions, produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, Plus One Animation (Korea) Co., Ltd. and Grimsaem Animation, Korea Co., Ltd., released to VHS on November 6, 2001. The film is a direct-to-video compilation of four unrelated episodes: "Principal for a Day", "The Great Can Drive", "Weekend at Muriel’s", and the series' Christmas special "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", told as flashbacks by the school faculty members while stuck in a snowstorm. The video includes the voice talents of Dick Clark, Robert Goulet and James Earl Jones as well as many of the series regulars.[9]

Recess: All Growed Down

Recess: All Growed Down is a Disney direct-to-video animated film released on December 9, 2003. After being kidnapped by kindergarteners, the main characters recall stories about how they used to get along with each other. It is a compilation of the episodes "The Legend of Big Kid", "Wild Child", and "The Kindergarten Derby", plus a new story showing the main characters as kindergarteners.

Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade

Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade (also known as Recess: Taking the 5th Grade) is a 59-minute Disney direct-to-video animated film released on December 9, 2003. It is a compilation of "No More School", "Grade Five Club", and "A Recess Halloween", three new stories that involve the main characters in fifth grade.

Home media


Title Episode count Release date Episodes include
Region 1 Season Ep# Title
School's Out 1 August 7, 2001[10] N/A M1 School's Out
Miracle on Third Street 5 November 6, 2001[11] DTV M2 Miracle on Third Street
1 22 "The Great Can Drive"
2 44 "Weekend At Muriel's"
47 "Yes Mikey, Santa Does Shave"
50 "Principal For a Day"
All Growed Down 8 December 9, 2003[12][13] DTV M3 All Growed Down
"Chief Mikey"
1 16 "The Legend of Big Kid"
2 35 "The Challenge"
36 "Wild Child"
43 "The Story of Whomps"
3 52 "One Stayed Clean"
56 "Kindergarten Derby"
Taking the Fifth Grade 6 DTV M4 Taking The Fifth Grade
"No More School"
"Grade Five Club"
"A Recess Halloween"
1 1 "The Break In"
2 "The New Kid"


Every episode of Recess is available on Disney+ in several countries, including the US and UK, along with most of the direct-to-video films.[14]

Critical reception

Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz wrote favorably about Recess in their 2016 book TV (The Book), stating that the series is "Easily one of the smartest, most prankishly playful adult cartoons ever passed off as children's entertainment.... Recess is a highly ritualized bit of entertainment that strikes the same notes over and over again, but always in infinite variation and with a surprising eye for psychological grace notes, especially when characters you thought of as brusque and one-dimensional reveal their fears and dreams to one another."[15][16] The female wrestler KC Spinelli takes her ring name from the character Spinelli from Recess.[17]


  1. ^ Animation outsourced to Grimsaem, Plus One Animation, Sunwoo Animation and Toon City.


  1. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (August 11, 1997). "Cable Chief Tries to Bring Cool Into Disney Children's TV". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  2. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 268–270. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  3. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 494–495. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  4. ^ Recess- My Fair Gretchen
  5. ^ a b c Perlmutter, David (2014). America Toons In: A History of Television Animation. McFarland. pp. 278–279. ISBN 9781476614885.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (February 16, 2001). "As Seen on TV: Making the World Safe for Vacations". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  7. ^ "Disney Channel September Info Now Up | Toonzone Forums". Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  8. ^ "Toon Disney - Schedule - This Week's Schedule". Toon Disney. Archived from the original on August 1, 2003. Retrieved August 1, 2003.
    "Toon Disney - Schedule - This Week's Schedule". Toon Disney. Archived from the original on December 6, 2003. Retrieved December 6, 2003.
  9. ^ King, Susan (November 22, 2001). "Apes, Sleuths and Tonto Too". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  10. ^ "Recess - School's Out". August 7, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2017 – via Amazon.
  11. ^ "Recess Christmas - Miracle on Third Street". November 6, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2017 – via Amazon.
  12. ^ "Recess - All Growed Down". December 9, 2003. Retrieved April 1, 2017 – via Amazon.
  13. ^ "Recess - Taking The Fifth Grade". December 9, 2003. Retrieved April 1, 2017 – via Amazon.
  14. ^ "Disney+: The 10 Best Animated Shows To Binge Right Now". Screen Rant. January 20, 2021. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  15. ^ Sepinwall, Alan; Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 6, 2016). TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1455588190.
  16. ^ Alan Sepinwall; Matt Zoller Seitz (September 1, 2016). "Why 'Deadwood' Is a Top-10 TV Show of All Time". The Ringer. PERFECT PRIVACY, LLC. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  17. ^ Ned Bekavac (October 20, 2016). "Guelph grappler lovin' the ring life". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved July 1, 2021.