- “We have a thing called the window of opportunity. If we miss the window of opportunity, then the project fails. And if the project fails, I get very, very, angry!”
- ―Phillium Benedict, to his scientists
Dr. Phillium "Phil" Benedict is the main antagonist of the 2001 Disney animated film, Recess: School's Out. He is the founder and leader of the Anti-Recess Legion, who plans to eradicate summer vacation and create a permanent winter in a lunar perigee, in order to raise U.S. test scores, and to become President.
Described as a "rogue teacher" by Principal Prickly, Phillium Benedict can best be described as arrogant, pompous, greedy, delusional, evil, and completely insane with an insufferable ego. He despises kids having fun and wants to abolish recess. He claims that he wants to do this to raise children's test scores, but it's clear that he just cares more about regaining the broken reputation that he refuses to move on from. He is also extremely full of himself, something Prickly snarks to him about at one point. Benedict also has a tendency to sarcastically ask a rhetorical question regarding an unexpected event and after getting an answer angrily ordering them to deal with the event.
Benedict is also extremely argumentative, easily provoked, and abusive towards his minions. Whenever they bungle with his insane plan, he is quick to fly into a screaming rage.
In a way, Benedict is a manchild, with even his plan seemingly lifted from a bad guy's doomsday plot in a movie. It is possible Benedict may have ignored or skipped classes about Earth and agriculture, given his blindness to the damage-bringing permanent winter to the world would cause the environment; effectively dooming all life on Earth. Additionally not knowing how the moon affected the oceans; which could cause (un)natural disasters.
Though he does have small good side to himself and that was his love for Muriel Finster; even though she had aged considerably since the 1960s, Benedict still considered her beautiful.
In the Spring of 1968, Phillium Benedict was once named the youngest Principal of Third Street School and former best friend of Peter Prickly. Benedict also had a romantic relationship with Muriel Finster, and it's implied that he had enough good looks that he was also the heart-throb of several of the female teacher-trainees. Starting up to the time period of the first year, he also adhered to some of the more radical elements of the 1960s, such as expressing his belief to Prickly that the "young is in, and the old is out, way out".
While in his office, Benedict calls in Prickly, who proposed an idea of having classes outside on the playground: recess. Benedict liked the idea - however, he voiced that his first official act as principal he decided to just get rid of recess. This shocked Prickly, who told him that recess is like a major play-in and is the one place in a day where kids have their freedom. Benedict denied it, as he believed that freedom was only good for picking up women but told Pete that recess was not going to help further his career, and to do that the kids would have to remain inside where they belong so that test scores can go up, and that starting the next day he would get rid of recess once and for all. Predictably, this plan didn't seem to work well with anyone on campus (including Prickly and Finster) and all of the students felt miserable after Benedict put his no-recess policy into action as a result.
Afterward, Benedict was forced to deal with many of the students' angry parents laying down a protest against the school, demanding that recess should be reinstated. In spite of this protest, Benedict was unwilling to go back on his choice to give up his anti-recess policy since he was principal. This left Prickly no choice but to contact the superintendent, who assures to the parents and teachers that Benedict's anti-recess policy will never be carried out in the district, much to their joy. Benedict refused to back down and tried to protest to his superior, who subsequently relieved him of his duties and replace him as Principal of 3rd Street Elementary School, giving Prickly the position, to their shock. Benedict was upset and accused Pete of turning his back against him, and also of trying to steal his job, ignoring Pete's insistence that he never intended anything of the sort. Benedict broke off his friendship, then turned to his girlfriend Muriel, expecting her to leave with him, but she refused and called off their relationship in disgust since she could never be with a man who hates recess (and possibly with rude and obnoxious behavior towards Prickly). This rejection, along with his demotion, caused him to develop a grudge against Prickly even though he assured him it wasn't his fault. In his fury at the turn of events, Benedict accidentally fell off the school steps hard onto the pavement, which presumably resulted in his legs being damaged enough to require the use of a cane as he got older from his injury. Benedict refused help from Peter and Muriel before he angrily swore to get revenge on him.
During the next thirty years, Benedict quit teaching and went into politics, and very soon he was eventually appointed the U.S. Secretary of Education. Despite his success before two years prior to the film's events, Benedict still remembered Prickly humiliating him and losing his one true love in Finster. He also maintained his position and plan to carry out in his attempt for recess cancellation crusade on a nationwide scale, but was soon foiled and fired by the President, after he saw through the plans to implement it.
Eventually from failing in his latest attempt to get rid of recess and being dismissed from his previous job, Benedict had founded the Anti-Recess Legion and amassed an army composed of men dressed like Secret Service Agents, ninjas, scientists and technicians, including two lackies, his second-in-command named Professor Fenwick and his chief of security and lieutenant named Kojak, and was bent on plans to eliminating Summer Vacation, the biggest recess of them all, for good. This group became notorious enough that they had news reports being given about them and their activities by the time the 1998 school year ended.
Role in the film
After stealing a Tractor Beam from a U.S. Military Base, Benedict and his henchmen take over 3rd Street School and use it as their base of operations, since it is closed for the summer, and also since it was the last place on Earth that the authorities would look for the stolen equipment. He also rigs the lock of the school to shock and transport anyone carrying the keys into the school in case someone (i.e., Principal Prickly) did actually attempt to investigate and orders Kojak to pose as Prickly just to ensure no one got suspicious after the real Prickly was taken hostage. He also has the scientists conduct frequent tests at the school involving miniature tractor beams in the Cafeteria, one of which T.J. accidentally witnesses while fuming about how his summer was going (since all of his friends were at the separate summer camps and in fact the only kid still present in the neighborhood that he could hang out with was the infamous school snitch Randall Weems). He also had the Auditorium altered to be the main control room for the tractor beam. After Prickly ends up captured when he reluctantly tries to investigate the school at T.J.'s request, Dr. Benedict then has him bounded, gagged, pulverized, and also had his golf pants removed and disposed of, presumably as revenge for Prickly's role in getting him fired.
Benedict later claims Prickly's office as his main office, which is fitting due to being a former principal at the school as he points out to Fenwick after he asks him about it. As the plan progresses, Benedict eventually proceeds to viciously rant and insult his science staff for the then-current setbacks to his plan, even refusing their request to relocate to another location (since his grudge against Prickly and Third Street School is so powerful), before ultimately ordering the second test upon being told it is ready. Unfortunately for him, the second test fails, barely moving the moon a few feet before the laser is forced to shut down unexpectedly due to the tractor beam still having bugs in the system, causing him to eventually have the first head scientist, Dr. Rosenthal detained in fury, making it clear that Benedict didn't care what Rosenthal had told him before about potential problems and promotes Rosenthal's assistant into that position. Shortly afterwards, T.J. and his gang end up being forced to expose themselves (Mikey had an unexpected and uncontrollable urge to belch, as well as the vents giving way to his weight). Benedict then angrily orders his henchmen to seize them. Though the gang manages to escape, T.J. is captured and imprisoned, along with Prickly, in the storage room. There, Benedict introduces himself and explains to both Prickly and T.J. that he is running a "night school", but they aren't convinced, with T.J., in particular, demanding to know why the "night school" has a laser dish in the auditorium. Eventually, he learns that T.J. and Prickly had managed to sneak into his office and found a walkie talkie, the latter had confiscated from the former the prior school year, although not before T.J. alerts his friends that Benedict's plan is to get rid of Summer Vacation after stumbling on a mural in the principal's office (presumably painted by Benedict himself and/or his men) depicting the end of Summer Vacation.
Benedict, in a rather ironic echo of what Prickly told T.J. during the last day of school, asks him if he was causing trouble due to hating him, though Prickly made it clear that, while he doesn't hate Benedict, he does view his plan as completely insane, prompting Benedict to rant at him about him earlier ruining his life before insisting he will be proven right. He then explains how he plans to accomplish his goal: on Lunar Perigee (the time when the Moon's closest to the Earth on orbit), he will fire the tractor beam at the Moon to alter its orbit with the intention of causing the entire Earth to freeze over into an ice age and eliminate Summer, thus eliminating Summer Vacation. T.J., disgusted with what Benedict was planning, tells him he won't get away with it. However, Benedict is confident that he can't be stopped even if anyone else knew about his plan then proceeds to have both T.J. and Prickly locked up in a cage to prevent them from interfering. They soon manage to escape since Prickly swiped Benedict's keys while he wasn't looking and he and T.J. start their mission to stop Benedict and save Summer Vacation.
Meanwhile, T.J.'s friends gather up all of the students from the various camps with the help of T.J's sister Becky, to help rescue T.J. and Prickly and reclaim the school. Evidently under the pressure of time as well as the kids' resistance, Benedict also slowly loses his cool and starts barking orders at his remaining henchmen to make the necessary preparations, including getting a backup generator after Gretchen sabotages the fuse box, even after Prickly and the student resistance manage to enter the auditorium to stop him, Benedict confidently has more guards arrive. He then explains to the congregated student body that his main motivation for his plans is because the top three highest countries in the world with test scores - Canada, Iceland, and Norway - all had cold climate, which meant they couldn't play ball, so the only other method in his mind was for the students to stay inside and study (and also implied that he may potentially be elected President of the United States and be hailed as a hero should he succeed) so that they don't have Summer Vacation (which, in truth, they most certainly do). However, T.J. counters this by stating that the kids would just adapt lots of their fun on a cold climate, such as playing kickball in the snow or camping in igloos. Despite this, Benedict still plans on eliminating Summer Vacation once and for all, much to everyone's horror. However, before he can fully activate the tractor beam, Finster arrives to the rescue, much to both Prickly and the students' delight. Seeing Muriel again, Benedict is amazed by her continued beauty and begs her to come back to him, but she ignores his flattery by insulting and calling him a "two-bit recess hating pretty boy" as she said that she would rather eat playground dirt than joining him. Angry at Muriel's rejection, Benedict claims that it can be arranged. Finster promises that she’ll take him down before that would happen, as he laughs at the notion. Muriel soon reveals her reinforcements composed of the school's teachers and faculty to help stop him and his men for good after Benedict sarcastically asks what army she possesses to even take him down. Because of this and at the end of his wits, Benedict furiously orders his men out to attack them.
As the moon is about to enter Lunar Perigee, in a last-minute attempt, Benedict pushes aside his head scientist away and attempts to personally fire up the tractor beam, only to be stopped by Prickly. Benedict then holds out and threatens to shock him to sleep with a taser as he moves the lever but is foiled as he was quickly stalled by Prickly, who furiously sucker-punches him in the face after tricking Benedict into believing that he had a spot on his necktie when he looks at his tie. Despite this, Benedict still manages to activate the tractor beam after slumping from Prickly's punch, and he is unable to reverse the process due to the lever being jammed in place. Recovering, Benedict gloats about on his imminent success. Fortunately, T.J. throws his lucky baseball to Vince and has him aim it at the reactor core, destroying the tractor beam and the machine, much to Benedict's distraught. Gazing at what's left of the destroyed machine, Benedict yells out in agony over the failure of his plans. The students, teachers and staff all cheer in victory for defeating Benedict and saving Summer Vacation.
With his plans exposed and foiled, Benedict and his cohorts ended up being arrested by the authorities (who were presumably given proof of things and called in by the students and teachers) and sent to prison for their crimes. As Benedict is being escorted to the police car, he furiously tries to protest that he was a former Secretary of Education, only for the arresting policeman to calmly silence him by sarcastically responding that he was also the "former Princess of Morocco."
It is implied that Benedict and his men would be given a lengthy lifetime sentence in prison for their crimes while the Third Street Elementary students and teachers are commemorated and declared as heroes by the news media and public for saving Summer Vacation.
- The cane Benedict carried was similar to the one Goofy's toy factory boss had in An Extremely Goofy Movie.
- Burt Reynolds was originally considered for the role but was later dropped out of the film during production.
- Despite his intelligence and former reputation as an educator, Benedict is very deluded and has a lack of common sense, as he doesn't realize that his plan to bring in permanent winter will only endanger billions of lives as opposed to raising test scores and kids would be granted school breaks either way. Even when T.J. angrily pointed out the flaws of the plot before the final fight, Benedict didn't care and instead continued with his plot, saying that he still could try. His lack of common sense and self delusion was also showcased when Prickly got the position of Principal of 3rd Street School, where he insisted on believing that Prickly ratted him out specifically to take over the position of principal, despite his surprised reaction when he got the job, making it very clear that he had not planned to become principal at all, let alone take it over from Benedict.
- Benedict's plan to remove recess was tested by the government in the episode "Recess is Cancelled". However, as the kids had no way to alleviate their stress, their scores went down. This proves that Benedict's idea was very wrong.
- He would have used his position as Secretary of Education to humiliate Prickly, but he did not, due to wanting to make a bigger statement to the world for his desire to destroy recess and raise test scores.
- Elements of his character, including his leading an evil group as well as the first half of the film obscuring his appearance (either only showing his feet or otherwise framing him in shadow) and his being merciless to minions regarding failure, resembled that of the James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
- Benedict seems to hate violence, as his henchmen never use machine guns, or any firearms for that matter, as such weapons could kill anyone who stands in their way, and would only go so far as to use tasers. This is evident, as his lieutenant Kojak used a taser to knock personnel unconscious when entering the military base that formerly housed the tractor beam, and Benedict was willing to use a taser on Prickly in the climax. It is likely that Benedict did not want to set a bad example for children to follow if he used violence to enact his plans.
- Dr. Benedict could be considered a dark parallel to both Principal Prickly and Miss Finster, symbolizing what they might become if they hadn’t learned to appreciate recess and children.