Alleged Pitch Bible For Disney’s ‘Recess’ Reboot Reveals Proposed Series Would Focus On Girlboss Daughter Of Spinelli And Vince, Have Gus Come Out As Transgender

T.J. (Andrew Lawrence) is unhappy to learn that his summer vacation plans have been interrupted in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney

An alleged pitch bible for a potential reboot of Disney’s Recess has leaked online – and unfortunately, the proposal is filled to the brim with the most played out, identity politics-focused story tropes one can possibly imagine.

Spinelli (Pamela Adlon) attempts to raise the gang's spirits in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
Spinelli (Pamela Adlon) attempts to raise the gang’s spirits in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

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Created by Rugrats and Lloyd in Space writers Joe Ansolabehere and Paul Germain, the original Recess followed the adventures of six elementary school friends – the fast-talking TJ Detweiler, sports aficionado Vince LaSalle, super nerd Gretch Grundler, tomboy Ashley Spineli, awkward new kid Gus Griswald, and the large and loveable Mikey Blumberg – as they navigate the social ins-and-outs of their school’s playground and their eccentric classmates.

A part of Disney’s animated roster from 1997 to 2003, Recess ran for a total of 65 episodes, one theatrical film, three direct-to-video adventures, and a cameo crossover appearance in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, before the bell finally rang and its colorful cast were recalled back to the classroom.

However, per the aforementioned leaked pitch bible, it seems another round of Recess may possibly be in the works.

The gang enjoy their summer vacation in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
The gang enjoy their summer vacation in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

Dated June 3rd, 2022 and penned by Ansolabehere and Germain themselves, the bible details the creators’ plans for Recess: Next Bell, a potential follow-up series created specifically for “a contemporary audience”.

“[The original show] was about sticking together no matter what, fighting the man,finding a rational balance between conformity and individuality, and getting through tough times with….A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS!” said the showrunners. “And we know these time-tested themes are just as relevant in 2023. In today’s world of Global Warming, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, and LGBT+ rights, modern kids are craving heroes who look like them, have the same issues, and are willing to take action. They need, and want, role models who stand up for their friends, figure out what’s right and wrong, and defend the little guy–getting into ‘good trouble,’ in the words of John Lewis – to make the world a better place.”

T.J. (Andrew Lawrence) is stunned by the sudden dematerialization of Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman) in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
T.J. (Andrew Lawrence) is stunned by the sudden dematerialization of Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman) in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

According to the pitch bible, rather than focusing on the original gang, Recess: Next Bell would instead follow a new generation of kids as they explored the same playground TJ and crew did in their youth.

To this end, the series’ principal cast would be:

RUBY – THE FEARLESS LEADER: “The daughter of Spinelli and Vince from the old Recess gang, Ruby is a super confident, bi-racial kid. As leader of the new Recess gang, Ruby gets her strength and toughness from her mom, and her sense of style and cool from her dad. Like Princess Leia, or Tatum O’Neill in Bad News Bears, Ruby may look cute but she’s tough as nails, with tons of energy and chutzpah, always willing to take on “The Man.” When she wants something, she goes for it – consequences be damned. Upbeat and self-assured, Ruby is straight-talking, fearless, and super loyal. She’s always there for her pals and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”

(And yes, as original series fans may have realized from that description, Next Bell would have seen TJ and Spinelli’s broken up in the name of ‘subverted expectations’ – but more on that later.)

MONTIJO – THE CLASS CLOWN: A funny, boy’s boy, Latino Kid – the Sundance to Ruby’s Butch, the Grace to her Will. A smooth talker and practical joker, Montijo is always looking for the sideways solution to a tricky problem, which makes him the perfect balance to Ruby’s direct action. Ruby and Montijo have been best friends since kindergarten. From the moment their teacher put them down for a nap – and they both snuck off to the toy box – each recognized a kindred spirit. Both hungered for fun and adventure, both hated being controlled, and both LOVED their freedom (in Ruby’s case it’s an obsession, with Montijo it’s a preference.)

The students and staff of the Third Street School watch on as Dr. Benedict (James Woods) attempts to activate his laser in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
The students and staff of the Third Street School watch on as Dr. Benedict (James Woods) attempts to activate his laser in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

PARNELLI – THE DAREDEVIL: A fearless dude with a dream of jumping Third Street School with a rocket powered bike and a plywood ramp – all for the adulation of his YouTube fans – Parnelli is the embodiment of American can-do spirit. With his blissful, open smile, and his easy-going, slow-talking drawl, Parnelli seems like a daredevil Matthew McConaughey type who nothing fazes, even though he usually has a limb or two in a cast from one of his crazy stunts. Fearing neither pain nor death, Parnelli is the guy the gang always turns to when they need someone to smash through a brick wall.

SIMONE – THE MASTER OF DISGUISE: 3rd Street School’s Drama Queen – always making big over-the-top emotional proclamations – is also their Queen of Drama – a kid who is seriously into theater. A Chinese-American girl who was adopted by a couple of Jewish Broadway fans, Simone has been into acting and costumes since she was a toddler. As a result, she’s also become an expert in stage make-up and disguises – a skill which comes in handy when the gang need to sneak past Principal Weems.

EVERETT – THE BRAINS: A quiet African-American kid who dresses for utility, and seems to know a little about everything when it comes to science, engineering, and gadgetry, Everett is great at designing high tech tools to help execute Ruby’s plans. Although he’s the quietest member of the gang, dresses a bit oddly, and doesn’t smile much (since he’s on the Autistic spectrum), Ruby and the gang know that he’s an essential member of the team. Usually listening quietly as they debate a problem, Everett will often chime in with the perfect solution to every problem – right when things seem at their direst.

Vince (Rickey D'Shon Collins) looks to Spinelli (Pamela Adlon) for reassurance in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
Vince (Rickey D’Shon Collins) looks to Spinelli (Pamela Adlon) for reassurance in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

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However, though the series would focus primarily on this new group of friends, Ansolabehere and Germain teased that “as the series progresses we will slowly reveal what happened to the original characters, surprising our old fans, and subverting their expectations, as we reveal who our old gang have grown up to be.”

Unfortunately, per subsequently provided profiles of their older selves, it seems that the years would have been less than kind to roughly half of the original gang’s members, including:

T.J. Fans of the original show may be surprised to learn that our righteous leader TJ – who was an idealistic rebel when he was 9 – has turned into a disillusioned, selfish adult, who only cares about money and self-gratification. But TJ’s journey mirrors many of our adult fans’ real lives and experiences, and TJ will regain his idealism over the course of the series.

MIKEY – Poetic, plus-sized Mikey became the big celebrity of the gang (although surprisingly, it takes the others a long time to track him down.) After high school, Mikey pursued his musical career, attending Juilliard, where he was discovered by a famous soprano, who introduced him to the Met. By the time he was 25, Mikey had become a world-renowned baritone, and blew the world away when he sang at the Taj Mahal with the Three Tenors on an album called ‘3 Plus 1.’ While in India though, Mikey found a deeper calling – his inner spirituality. He dropped out of the celebrity rat-race, joined an ashram, and became a highly respected guru named ‘Yogi Mike.’ After that, Mikey fell off the radar. Even TMZ-Classical Edition couldn’t find him. Sadly, when the guys finally do track down their old friend, they discover that Mikey caught a mysterious illness a couple of years back, and died amidst his adoring followers. But among Mikey’s possessions, the gang are surprised to find a box with their names on it. Inside is a book of Mikey’s sayings – apparently, Mikey always knew his friends would get back together and come searching for him. Later, whenever they need inspiration, the gang will find it in his surprisingly visionary book.

GUS – Small but brave, Gus Griswold’s life journey is the most surprising of all – although it didn’t start out that way. After college, Gus followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the army, and quickly moved up the ranks, promoted for his brains, loyalty, and courage. By the time Gus was 25, he had become the youngest Lieutenant Colonel in the modern army. But he knew something wasn’t right, that he wasn’t being true to his inner self. So Gus made a change. A big change. A change that blew the lid off the military. After transitioning, the person once known as Gus had become her true self: Lieutenant-Colonel Nikki Griswold. At first there was a movement to drum Nikki out of the army, but when Time and Newsweek both put her on their covers, Lieutenant Colonel Nikki Griswold became the face of the new army. But the challenges weren’t over yet. First Nikki had to face her own truth, then the army had to come around, but now Nikki has to face her family and friends – and that might prove to be the biggest battle this soldier has yet to fight.

Gus (Courtland Mead) prepares to lead the playground into battle in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
Gus (Courtland Mead) prepares to lead the playground into battle in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

Meanwhile, the crew’s other, more diverse members would have ended up finding profound success throughout their lives:

SPINELLI – Known as the tough and rebellious kid, Spinelli also had a talent for drawing. Which is why, after graduating high school, she got a scholarship to an art institute. But art school wasn’t a good fit. Spinelli chaffed at less talented teachers telling her what to do, and cringed at the self-promotional art gallery scene. She did, however, meet a bunch of cool lesbians who were forming a neo-punk band called NGRI GRLZ. So Spinelli quit art school and became Ngri Grlz’ lead singer, which is how she found herself on stage at Coachella one night, screaming her lungs out to a giant crowd of sweaty youth. It was there she noticed TJ in the audience, smiling proudly up at her. TJ was on his journey of self discovery, and the two of them hung out on tour for a couple weeks, until TJ got too serious. Because she was on her own journey of self-discovery, Spinelli wasn’t into guys at that point. She tried to let TJ down easy, but he didn’t take it well, riding off in anger on his Harley. But their reunion rekindled something in Spinelli: the desire to fight the good fight, to make the world a better place. Spinelli dropped out of the band and applied to the police academy. While there, Spinelli ran into Vince, just back from playing pro basketball in Italy. Vince wondered if maybe Spinelli was selling herself short, and she wondered if maybe he was right. Even before finishing at the academy, Spinelli applied to law school…and got in! It was while she was in law school that she and Vince really fell in love. They got pregnant. Got married. And got Ruby – the love of their lives. Now Spinelli has an even more important reason to fight to make the world a better place – a reason that wakes up every morning and wants her breakfast.

VINCE – The most charming and athletic of the group, Vince was also one of the smartest – the only person in class who got better grades was Gretchen. Still, sports remained Vince’s first love, so when his college team won their division with Vince as lead scorer, he was sure he’d get picked for the pros. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t tall enough for the NBA, so Vince went to Italy to play there for a few seasons. Playing pro ball in Italy was fun, but ultimately Vince realized it wasn’t fulfilling. So he came home and got a job coaching local teams around town. And that’s when he ran into Spinelli, who was playing a bit of basketball herself on the police academy team. As they slowly fell in love, Vince and Spinelli began to effect changes in each other. Vince helped Spinelli calm and focus herself, and gave her the confidence to find something she never thought she had in her: a passion for the law. At the same time, Spinelli convinced Vince to marry his charm, intelligence and love of sports, to become a TV sportscaster. But the biggest role Vince was to play with Spinelli was to be a parent. Getting married and starting a family has been the joy of Vince’s life, and he and his daughter Ruby have a great father-daughter relationship. In fact, it’s his daughter Ruby who first proposes the idea that Vince should aim for something even bigger: to run for mayor! (But that’s a story for another time.)

GRETCHEN – Everyone knew that brilliant-but-clumsy Gretchen Grundler would grow up to be some sort of super genius scientist, but no one guessed she’d become a gorgeous, statuesque, super-model of a super genius scientist. (Well, no one but Spinelli that is…but we’ll get to their story later.) When he tracks Gretchen down in her secret lab outside of Livermore, TJ’s eyes almost fall out of his head (think Jessica Chastain in The Martian.) “TJ!” she smiles, stepping forward to greet him, then trips over her feet, knocking over a row of test tubes. (She’s still as clumsy as ever.) It turns out Gretchen’s had a very successful career, first topping her class at Stanford, then working on the Mars probe for NASA, redesigning the ISS, and finally heading development for an Elon Musk-type character, with whom she had a big falling out when she invented a car that runs on something even better than electricity: dirt! But when it comes to saving 3rd Street School, the dirt power can wait.

The Recess gang watches a fireworks display alongside Lilo (Daveigh Chase) in Lilo & Stitch: The Series Season 2 Episode 19 "Lax" (2003), Disney
The Recess gang watches a fireworks display alongside Lilo (Daveigh Chase) in Lilo & Stitch: The Series Season 2 Episode 19 “Lax” (2003), Disney

In regards to the series’ overall plot, Recess: Next Bell would have taken an “Episode A-Story/Serialized B-Story” approach to its narrative, with its ‘A’ plots dealing with “newer” issues facing school-aged children and its ‘B’ plot centering on the old gang’s attempt to stop their former school from being torn down.

“These ‘A’ Stories will wrap up at the end of every episode, as they did in the original series,” explained Ansolabehere and Germain. “For example, one story we want to tell is about how Ruby finds herself getting a crush…on a girl! So she talks to her mom about it, and Spinelli reveals that she’s been in love with women herself. So we find out that Spinelli is bi, and we learn that same-sex attraction is perfectly natural.”

Offering up another example of a potential story, the showrunners added, “In another story, the gang realize that Gigabyte (who’s in a wheelchair) has never been to the top of Old Rusty, and they think it’s no fair. So they challenge the authorities, stage a protest; and, when none of that works, get the whole playground involved to build a giant ramp to the top – Parnelli’s the ramp expert, Everett engineers it. When they finally reveal it to Gigabyte she’s so touched she almost cries…but then reveals that she’s come up with her own way to get up there – a rocket pack on her wheelchair which flies her to the top!”

Vince (Rickey D'Shon Collins) refuses to be intimidated by Experiment-285 in Lilo & Stitch: The Series Season 2 Episode 19 "Lax" (2003), Disney
Vince (Rickey D’Shon Collins) refuses to be intimidated by Experiment-285 in Lilo & Stitch: The Series Season 2 Episode 19 “Lax” (2003), Disney

Continuing, the pair further detailed, “At the same time, there will be an ongoing serialized ‘B’ Story that will advance the overall arc of the series.”

“TJ, Vince and Spinelli will find the rest of the old gang, and working with the new kids, will fight to stop Principal Weems from destroying 3rd Street School,” they wrote. “At the beginning of the season Spinelli, Vince, and TJ fight “the man” through official channels, using the school board, the mayor, etc – but Randall is too sneaky for them. At times, they want to give up, but Ruby and the new gang never let their parents off the hook – just because they’re adults now doesn’t mean they can forget their idealistic roots. By the end of the first season, TJ and the old gang will defeat Randall, and get him removed as principal. But this presents a new problem: with Randall gone, who will now run Third Street school? Reluctantly, TJ and the gang realize it’s up to them. Now they must become ‘the man.'”

Randall (Ryan O'Donohue) reaches out to Ms. Finster (April Winchell) with some new information in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
Randall (Ryan O’Donohue) reaches out to Ms. Finster (April Winchell) with some new information in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

Notably, Ansolabehere and Germain also provided a brief synopsis of the series’ proposed pilot episode:

“It’s 2023. Third Street School is still there, although there have been a few changes – but it’s grungy as ever. We meet Ruby and the new gang, and when Principal Weems confiscates a kids’ toy, they vow to get it back. But while sneaking into Weems’ office, the gang discover he’s in cahoots with a corporation that builds prisons, scheming to turn 3rd Street school into a privatized “Learn-itentiary!”

In order to stop Weems’ plan, the kids seek out the legendary TJ Detweiler for help… only to find out that TJ’s become a lazy, rich drop out. TJ doesn’t believe the gang’s story, and refuses to get involved, so the kids come up with an elaborate scheme to get TJ back to the school. There, our hero is shocked to see his old nemesis Randall is the principal. He starts to suspect maybe Ruby and the gang are onto something.

To prove they’re right, the kids sneak TJ into Weems’ office, where TJ is horrified to discover proof of the evil principal’s intentions. Managing to escape just moments before being discovered, TJ and the gang high-tail it to Ruby’s backyard. Although he now understands what’s at stake, TJ remains convinced there’s nothing he can do – after all, he’s not the wily kid he used to be. Besides, back then he had his gang to help – and he has no idea where those guys are now. Just then Ruby’s mom and dad come outside, “Ruby, what’s going on out here?” TJ gasps. “SPINELLI? VINCE?” They’re TJ’s old best friends, now grown up. When a confused Spinelli demands an explanation, our kid hero smiles and says: “Mom, Dad, you’re not going to believe it… but we’re gonna get your old gang back together…”

The gang watches on as a giant laser emerges from the roof of their school in Recess: School's Out (2000), Disney
The gang watches on as a giant laser emerges from the roof of their school in Recess: School’s Out (2000), Disney

As of writing, it is unclear just as to the current production status – whether it’s still being pitched, has been green-lit, or was outright rejected by the rare Disney executive with common sense – of Recess: Next Bell.

Additionally, neither Disney, Germain, or Ansolabehere have offered public comment on the pitch bible’s leaking.

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