Dr. Phillium "Phil" Benedict is the main antagonist in the 2001 Disney animated film, Recess: School's Out. He is the founder and leader of the Anti-Recess Legion who planned to eradicate Summer Vacation and create Permanent Winter in a lunar perigee, in order to raise U.S. Test Scores.
In the Summer of 1968, Phillium Benedict was once named the youngest Principal of Third Street Elementary and former best friend of Principal Prickly. Benedict also had a romantic relationship with Muriel Finster, and its implied that he had enough good looks that he was also the heart-throb of several of the female teacher-trainees. Owing to the time period, 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, Prickly 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 kids would have to remain inside where they belong so test scores can go up, and that starting the next day he would get rid of recess once and for all.
When he cancelled recess, Benedict was forced to deal with protests from the students' angry parents but he was unwilling to go back on his choice since he was principal. The Superintendent who was contacted by Prickly, with the intention of just trying to stop Benedict, put an end to his goal. Benedict tried to protest to his superior who subsequently demoted him of his duties and promoted his position as Principal of 3rd Street Elementary School to Pete, much to their shock. Benedict was upset and accused Pete of trying to steal his job, ignoring Pete's insistence that he unintentionally did no such thing. Benedict turned to his girlfriend Muriel and wanted her to leave with him, but she refused and called off their relationship in disgust since she could never be with a man who doesn't love recess. This rejection along with his demotion caused him to develop a grudge against Prickly even though he assured him it wasn't his fault. During his fury at the turn of events, he 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. He refused help from Pete and Muriel before he swore to get even with Pete.
Afterwards, Benedict quit teaching and went into politics, and very soon he became Secretary of Education. Despite his success, he still remembered Pete humiliating him and losing his one true love in Muriel. He also maintained his plan to carry out his recess cancellation crusade nationwide, but was fired by the President.
Eventually, Benedict had amassed an army of Men dressed like Secret Service Agents, Ninjas, Scientists & Technicians as well as two lackies Professor Fenwick and Kojak, and was bent on eliminating Summer Vacation 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 took over 3rd Street School and used it as their home base, since it was closed for the summer, and since it was the last place on Earth authorities would look. He also rigged 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 had Kojak to pose as Prickly just to ensure no one got suspicious. He also had the scientists conduct frequent tests at the school involving miniature tractor beams in the Cafeteria, one of which TJ accidentally witnessed while fuming about how his summer was going. He also had the Auditorium altered to be the main control room for the tractor beam. Dr. Benedict, after Prickly ended up captured when the latter reluctantly tried to investigate the school at T.J.'s request, then had 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 claimed Prickly's office as his main office, which was fitting due to being a former principal at the school as he pointed out to Fenwick after he asked. As the plan progressed, Benedict eventually proceeded 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 (he implies that a large part of the reason why he was unwilling to relocate was because he was obsessed with making sure it occurred at Third Street School due to him being fired there and it being the start of his Anti-Recess crusade due to his screaming that "it started at Third Street, it is going to end at Third Street."), before ultimately ordering the second test upon being told it was ready. Unfortunately for him, the second test failed, barely moving the moon a few feet before the laser was forced to shut down due to the tractor beam still having bugs in the system, causing him to have the first head scientist, Dr. Rosenthal detained in fury, making clear that Benedict didn't care what he had told him before about potential problems, and promoted his assistant into the position. Shortly afterwards, T.J. and his gang ended up being forced to expose themselves due to Mikey having an unexpected and uncontrollable urge to belch, as well as the vents giving way to their weight. Though the gang manage to escape, T.J. was captured and imprisoned along with Prickly in the stock room. There, Benedict introduced himself and explained to both Prickly and T.J. that he was running a "night school", but they weren't convinced, with T.J. in particular demanding to know why the "night school" had a laser dish in the auditorium. Eventually, he learned 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. alerted his friends that Benedict's plan was 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.
The next day, Benedict summoned Prickly and T.J. into his office, where he explained how he planned 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, told him he wouldn't get away with it. He, however, confident that he couldn't be stopped even if anyone else knew about his plan, then proceeded 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. begin their mission to stop Benedict and save Summer Vacation.
Meanwhile, T.J.'s friends gathered up all of the students to help rescue TJ and Prickly and reclaim the school. Evidently under pressure of time as well as the resistance's actions, he also slowly lost his cool and started barking orders at his remaining henchmen to make the necessary preparations, including getting a back up generator after Gretchen sabotaged the fuse box, although after Prickly and the student resistance managed to enter the auditorium to stop him, Benedict confidently had the guards arrive. He then explained to the congregated student body that his main motivation for this was 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. countered this by stating that the kids would just adapt their fun on a cold climate, such as playing kickball in the snow or camping in igloos. Despite this, Benedict still planned to eliminate summer vacation once and for all, much to everyone's horror. However, before he could fully activate the tractor beam, Finster had arrived alongside all the teachers and staff to stop Benedict. Seeing Muriel again, Benedict was amazed by her beauty and begged her to come back to him but she ignored his flattery by calling him a "two-bit recess hating pretty boy" as she referred of eating playground dirt than joining him. Angry at her rejection, Benedict claims that it can be arranged. However, Finster promised that she’ll take him down. Because of this, Benedict orders his forces attack and the battle was on.
As the moon was about to enter Lunar Perigee, in a last-minute attempt, Benedict pushed aside his head scientist and attempted to personally fire up the tractor beam, only to be stopped by Prickly. Benedict then threatened him with a taser as he moved the lever but was quickly stalled by Prickly, who furiously sucker-punched him in the face after making him believe that he had a spot on his tie. Despite this, Benedict still managed to activate the tractor beam after slumped by Prickly's punch, and Prickly was unable to reverse the process due to the lever jamming in place. Benedict gloats about his victory. Fortunately, T.J. threw his lucky baseball to Vince and had him throw it at the reactor core, destroying the tractor beam and the machine, much to Benedict's distraught. Gazing of what's left of the destroyed machine, Benedict yelled out in agony over the failure of his plans, and both the students and teachers cheered for their victory of saving summer vacation.
With his plans foiled, Benedict and his men ended up being arrested by the authorities (who were presumably given proof of things) and sent to prison for their crimes; Benedict furiously tried to protest that he was a former Secretary of Education, only for the arresting policeman to sarcastically respond that he was also the "former Princess of Morocco."
- 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 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 Prickly's 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 one episode. However, as the kids had no way to alleviate their stress, their scores went down. This proves that Benedict's idea was very wrong.
- It is unknown why he didn't use his Secretary of Education to fire Prickly and humiliate him that way.
- 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.