“Adventure Time” Created by Pendleton Ward; Directed by Larry Leichliter; Starring Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, HyndenWalch, Niki Yang, Tomm Kenny, Olivia Olson, Dee Bradley Baker, Pendleton Ward, Polly Lou Livingston, Jessica DiCicco, and Maria Bamford; Originally aired January 11, 2007; Run time 11 minutes.
I remember “Adventure Time” emerging from the ether some time in 2010 and not really getting it. Suddenly stores were filled with merchandise and I was hearing whispered conversations from a distance about this new cartoon. Even with my obvious love of cartoons I remember thinking that it was a “kid’s” show and that I wouldn’t like it. I had previously tried out “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack” and just couldn’t mesh with the show’s sense of humor. I thought I was getting old (I probably am) and in a stereotypical way just couldn’t understand what these bizarre youths were up to these days, so I avoided “Adventure Time.”
One day my roommate forced me to sit down and watch an episode and by the time the episode was over something magical happened, no, not really. By the end of the episode I was almost convinced that my previous assumptions had been correct, I shrugged off my friend but she didn’t relent. I watched a few more episodes and by the time I was toward the end of the third or fourth episode something in my brain clicked. I was able to shift my way of thinking and understand, somewhat nebulously, what the show was. The problem at the root of my dislike of the show wasn’t anything to do with the show, it was what I was expecting of the show. My expectations, based on the kind of programming I grew up with and was used to, weren’t allowing me to open up to something like “Adventure Time.”
After I recalibrated I was in.
Since then I’ve been a pretty ardent fan and proselytizer of the “Adventure Time.” I like it quite a lot. Though it may be important to know this mental shift still doesn’t allow me to understand or enjoy “Flapjack.” Perhaps the wheel of time has rolled too far for me to dial back that much.
“Adventure Time” began originally as a pilot for Nickelodeon but the network (some might say foolishly) passed on doing a series. Once the rights expired Frederator Studios took the idea to a number of other networks and Cartoon Network agreed to do a series of creator Pendleton Ward could prove that the pilot could be expanded to support a series.
Ward was successful and he assembled a team of mostly previously unknown creatives along with a handful of Cartoon Network alumni to bring the land of Ooo to life. The series follows the adventures of Finn the human boy and his best pal Jake, a dog with the magical power to alter his size and shape at will.
Each episode centers on the adventures Finn and Jake have, along with other central characters Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen, in the various lands in the world of Ooo. According to the creator, Ooo is Earth a thousand years into the future after a global nuclear holocaust referred to by the characters as The Great Mushroom War. The post-apocalyptic nature of the series is only eluded to subtly with a mushroom cloud in the opening sequence and partially buried cars in some backgrounds. In fact the idea for the origin was only cemented after the show was in production when an episode featured an iceberg with frozen modern day business men inside necessitating that modern day Earth be in Ooo’s past.
The resultant destruction of the nuclear war reset to Earth to an earlier mode allowing magic to settle back onto the planet. The fate of humans in the land of Ooo is uncertain. While Finn isn’t the only human depicted in the series they are incredibly rare. The implication is that humanity was mostly wiped out in the Mushroom War, a majority of the humans seen are either holdovers from the past like the frozen businessmen or were previously human but have now become wizards, vampires, mutants, or other types of creatures.
The series also had an impact on the industry. Because Ward pulled so many unknowns onto his team, and the subsequent rousing success of the series, opportunities for indie creators to get into the business were suddenly available. In fact, a previous bot here on Big Shiny Robot, Derek Hunter, left the quaint confines of Utah and moved to Hollywood to join the staff of "Adventure Time" as a background artist. You can see some of his work here.
In an article on Slate, “Adventure Time” is credited with creating an animation gold rush to Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon as independent artists were being snatched up from the internet to helm new projects.
Despite some early hang-ups, “Adventure Time” eventually found its niche and has cemented itself as a part of popular culture not likely to go away any time soon, Finn and Jake even had a balloon in this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So far 214 episodes have been produced. The show is currently in its seventh season and has been renewed for an eighth. Additionally, in February of this year it was announced that a feature length movie was being produced under Frederator Fims and Warner Animation Group, as of yet there is no release date for the film.