For Montvale Boy, It Was All Worth the Tux

By SACHI FUJIMORI

He rented a tuxedo, and his wife bought a $400 gown for the occasion.

Zac Moncrief, a 1989 graduate of Pascack Hills High School, and his wife, Charlene, scored an invite to the Emmy Awards after earning a nomination for directing an episode of "Phineas and Ferb," a new Disney series. The show was nominated in the new "Outstanding Special Class Short-format Animated Programs" category.

"It means a lot to me, especially to get such acknowledgment for a show coming out of the gate," he said.

He's not actually attending the Primetime Emmy Awards, which are tonight at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The Emmy ceremony for creative arts categories, such as outstanding children's animation, sound mixing and hairstyling, was held at the theater last Saturday.

Moncrief's 11-minute episode was "The Monster of Phineas-N- Ferbenstein."

"I think from an artistic standpoint, they [the judges] looked at our show and saw how we pushed it further as a period piece and with the color palettes," said Moncrief, who oversaw the eight-month process of creating the episode -- from its writing and design to the final additions of color.

At the Nokia Theater last Saturday, Moncrief and his wife sat through the four-hour ceremony excitedly waiting for the category to be announced ("SpongeBob SquarePants" was the other nominee).

But the ceremony came to an end with no mention of either nominee.

"We were kind of in a shock," Moncrief said.

When Moncrief arrived at the Emmy Ball afterward, he made a beeline to the SpongeBob team to see what they knew. Turns out, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which puts on the awards, wasn't going to present the award to either nominee. But the nominees weren't notified beforehand.

Not that Moncrief is disappointed. "My Dad was 10 times more excited than me," he said. "I hope to have an Emmy on my mantel, at some point."

The nomination is Moncrief's first in 15 years of animation.

Moncrief grew up in Montvale and always loved to draw cartoons. He'd constantly sketch on napkins, notebooks or any blank margin. "I liked to draw funny pictures and make people laugh," he said.

While he was waiting to get his moped license at the Division of Motor Vehicles, his sketching on the form drew the eye of a man who told him about the California Institute of the Arts, a Disney- funded school that trains animators.

Moncrief went off to CalArts in Los Angeles and broke into the industry quickly. His first major gig was as assistant animator on the film "Cats Don't Dance." He went on to create CD-ROMs and commercials, and work for such Nickelodeon shows as "The Fairly Odd Parents" and "Dora the Explorer." He directed two seasons of the Fox series "Family Guy," then was recruited to join the start-up Disney show "Phineas and Ferb."

Debuting in 2007, the series features two stepbrothers who are always up to hijinks. Their sidekick is a pet platypus, Perry, who leads a double life as a secret agent. Always trying to foil their outlandish schemes is a tattletale sister, Candace (voiced by Ashley Tisdale). The show, targeted for kids 6 to 14, combines slapstick humor with witty, Simpsons-style cultural references.

Airing at 8 p.m. Monday on the Disney XD channel is a special two- part time-travel episode, "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo." Jennifer Stone ("The Wizards of Waverly Place") Moises Arias ("Hannah Montana") and Jennifer Grey ("Dirty Dancing") are guest stars. In this episode, the brothers travel into the future to find a tool to build a roller coaster but run into their sister, who is bent on busting them.

"It's really fun," said Moncrief, who is working on a Christmas episode, which he expects to go down in history as a cartoon classic.

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E-mail: fujimori@northjersey.com

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