If you’ve been around my blog much you know that I very much like the show Adventure Time, and my wife ended up buying me the full collection last month for my birthday (woo-hoo, 45!). It’s an odd but endearing show that, in my mind, ushered in a new era for Cartoon Network when it originally ran, which wasn’t exactly a good thing despite being an incredible show. Spanning eleven years, some 22 discs and 3,268 minutes in total it was a surprise smash hit that was kind of difficult to understand at first, but not for the reasons you might think.
I first got hooked on the show when I found my kids watching it on CN back in the day. I just caught bits of it here and there and it was definitely weird, but as I started to learn a little more about the characters and the lore it sucked me in. Everyone familiar with the blog knows I am a sucker for lore, being that I have been working on an imaginary world of my own for decades, and AT delivers in spades.
I’m going to talk about what I like about the show as though you were never going to watch it and I will post spoilery type info between brackets like this  and in white text, so you have to highlight it to see it [Kind of like this. See! Spoilery!]
First a quick rundown of the important players:
Finn the Human
Finn is a 13 year old boy and the only human left after the calamity known as The Mushroom War. He has a pretty righteous heart for a thirteen year old and his only interest is in becoming a great hero like his idol, Billy.
- [Though he wears a white bear hat on his head Finn has extremely long blonde hair!]
- [Finn was found by Jake’s mom and dad in the forest when he was just a baby and is considered to be Jake’s brother.]
Jake the Dog
Jake is Finn’s brother and best friend. Though he is a dog he can stretch and change his shape, making himself bigger or smaller, stretching his arms and legs and can even turn into things like boats, cars and a ‘Jake suit’.
- [Jake’s stretch powers come from the fact that he was ‘born’ from a demon bite his dad received while hunting down said demon.]
The Ice King
A constant thorn in Finn and Jake’s side, the Ice King has a thing for kidnapping princesses, who he would like to make his wife. He lives in the ice mountains and is surrounded by a throng of penguins. As you may have guessed by his name, he can conjure up ice, snow and wind.
- [Ice King’s power comes from the crown he wears on his head.]
- [The crowns power also gives him ‘Wizard eyes’ that reveal the spirit world to him. A feature he doesn’t really care for.]
- [IK is a decent drummer and also studies ninjitsu!]
Princess Bubblegum, or PB for short, or Peebles, depending on who is talking, is princess of the Candy Kingdom. She’s an expert scientist who’s experiments don’t always end up like she hopes they will, but she did give the candy people that make up the Candy Kingdom life. Finn has a thing for her, but she’s 18 years old and views him as a kid, despite all he does for her and the Kingdom.
- [PB seems nice, but she has a really weird megalomaniacal side. She likes being in control and gets kind of angry when things don’t go her way.]
Marceline, the Vampire Queen
One thousand years old, Marceline is the daughter of the king of the Nightosphere. She’s kind of mean, but gets along with Finn and Jake after a while. She plays a red axe/bass guitar and sings a lot of songs. Being a vampire she can shape shift into several monster forms and CAN drink blood, but prefers to drink the color red from objects.
- [Marcy and Ice King have a special relationship that goes back 996 years.]
Of course there are TONS of other characters in the show like BMO the little sentient computer that lives with Finn and Jake in their treehouse, Lemongrab the rude and constantly screaming ruler of the Lemon Kingdom and PB’s first creation, Treetrunks the pie-baking mini elephant and the loveably annoying Lumpy Space Princess, one of many princesses that are always causing trouble or getting into trouble, but these five are probably the most often seen characters in any episode.
Why its a good show
Adventure Time was a unique show at the time of its creation because of its odd animation style, which was, and still is, kind of weird and childish, but fits the tone of the show. It also contains a lot of non-sequitur humor and general weirdness that, for the time, was kind of off putting and not like any other show out there. It lead to a kind of ‘random’ feel to it that made the show seem kind of fresh and funky.
The relationship between Finn and Jake is a mix of a boy and his dog and a boy and his best friend. They care about each other but there are still moments in episodes where they fight or do stupid things, in the end, though, “Homies help homies, always”. I also like Finn’s sense of justice and his mindset that sometimes bad guys just need a good beating. Despite this he’s not heartless and on more than one occasion he figures out that fighting might not be the best solution to the problem at hand. At the same time both he and Jake are like teenage knuckleheads and love things like fart jokes, card games, video games and being generally dumb. I know that feeling because I had a group of friends back in junior high and high school who I shared this same kind of relationship with, and its one of the reasons Final Fantasy XV was kind of endearing to me: It shows guys being guys.
The stories GREATLY vary in tone and subject matter, with many of the episodes just being silly stuff following Finn and Jake around on wacky adventures like dungeon crawls or trying to help a mountain stop crying because it can’t stand to watch the inhabitants of the tough guy village below continue roughhousing. On occasion, though, there are some very poignant and thoughtful episodes that really make you think and others that show some very deep and excellent world and lore building. There’s also the occasional themed episode like the one where BMO the computer is involved in a black and white noir style mystery about Finn’s missing sock.
Though the animation is kind of wonky there are episodes where guest animators have come in and done their own take on the show with things like 3d CGI or more stylized artwork. Overall I love the look of the show which, most of the time, is colored with a bright palette, even in darker locations, but changes drastically in certain storylines.
The show does show some pretty odd things, sometimes bordering on the grotesque. I think it feels kind of like the older animation of the early 20’s, where apparently animators didn’t give a rats butt about what kids watched and drew things that looked like they had taken opium and a bottle of booze just before sitting down to start work. I remember my sister not letting her boys watch the show when they were younger because she thought it was too grotesque, but for guys, we don’t care about that stuff. In fact, we relish it. It certainly gives the show a unique character and I almost guarantee that, at some point in the show, younger kids will likely get scared, but its all in good fun.
There’s also an unusually large amount of original music in the show, some of which I have showcased on my blog before. Yeah, most of it is kind of goofy, nonsensical stuff, but some of it is pretty deep and interesting. Finn swallowed a tiny computer at some point and he can kind of auto-tune his voice when he wants. Jake plays a viola, Ice King and Death play drums, Marceline plays bass and even Bubblegum gets in on the action with some synthesizer provided by BMO. There’s a couple of songs in the show that are kind of emotional for me and I don’t even know why. Maybe it reminds me of when my kids were younger, watching the show, and life was quite different. Maybe it just makes me think about change, life and death. Its really weird, but enjoyable.
Why its a GREAT show!
So this part is going to have some spoiler type stuff in it which some people may not want to read. If you don’t care or if you want some info that may make you think otherwise about this program then keep on reading.
Also, below this section is the section on things I think are wrong with the show, which will also contain some spoilers.
One of the things that make this show an absolute joy to watch is the lore and worldbuilding put into it. I doubt the shows creator, Pendleton Ward, made all this stuff up before the show aired, and he and the writers likely just added things as the show moved along, but AT has some of my most favorite lore in any TV show I have ever seen.
The truth is that the world of Ooo is likely planet Earth after the fallout of some kind of nuclear doomsday event. The ‘Mushroom’ of the Mushroom war is shown to be the mushroom cloud of a nuclear blast, and the people and monsters we see throughout the show appear to be genetic mutations directly created from the fallout of the bomb. Plenty of other situations and objects in the show directly link earth’s history to the history of Ooo and it adds a unique take on the world after fallout.
The show is also amazingly deep, emotionally speaking, and tugs on the heart strings in an odd way. For example: Marceline and the Ice King have known each other for almost one-thousand years. In flashback episodes its shown that the Ice King was an professor of archaeology name Simon Petrikov. Before the Mushroom War he lived with his girlfriend, Betty, whom he referred to as his princess. Being a collector of antiquities he purchased an old crown from a dock worker in Scandinavia only to find out that when he placed it on his head it gave him the power to control ice, but was slowly driving him mad. Betty leaves him before the Mushroom War happens over something he does while wearing the crown that he cannot remember doing. At some point after the Mushroom War he finds a young Marceline, four years old and alone in a post apocalyptic world filled with mutants. In an effort to protect her, despite knowing he shouldn’t, he dons the cursed crown many times over to keep her safe. Finally, Simon is no more, his mind corrupted by the magick of the crown, and he lives on only as the Ice King. Its a touching a sad story, made all the more interesting by the fact that Marceline still knows Ice King as Simon, and loves him for it. In a world where pretty much everyone hates him, she alone has true care and love for him as a old and cherished friend.
There’s also a plot in the story involving an evil being known as The Lich, who was once subdued by the hero, Billy. In a bizarre story he wishes for all life in existence to be destroyed and is successful, but a counter wish by Finn creates an odd alternate timeline in which Finn has a robotic arm, Jake is a regular dog, Simon stopped the Mushroom Wars with his ice power and Marceline is a fat, old, thousand year old woman. Though the Lich makes only brief appearances in the show he is one of the more frightening characters I have experienced in ANY show, and he has something to do with the War itself.
We learn that the War also caused the creation of some kind of sentient pink goo that covered much of the land and dubbed Candy Element, which in turn became Princess Bubblegum, who in turn used science to create the candy people of the Candy Kingdom. The world of Ooo actually consists of four elements, Fire, Ice, Candy and Slime, and each one has an elemental representative on the planet.
The lore behind the show has gotten very deep and I’ve started reading into the Adventure Time Encyclopedia I purchased some time last year or so to get an idea of exactly how deep it is. As someone who has been into sci-fi and fantasy for decades I am personally very impressed with how much detail and backstory has been put into the characters, locations and objects in the show, and the addition of these things has made it one of my most favorite shows ever.
Where things went wrong
No show is perfect, though as far as the show direction and creativity goes I would say this is NEAR perfect. Unfortunately, however, the success of AT set off a chain of events that are being felt even unto this day.
- Indoctrination of Kids: Though I have yet to watch it I have been told that during the last episode of the show Marceline confesses her love for Bubblegum Princess, who reciprocates. Though there is evidence in at least one episode that Marceline has feelings for PB, from what I can remember this is the first show with a last play ‘gotcha’ gay moment which would become a thing in later Cartoon Network shows like The Legend of Korra. It also appears to me to be the stepping stone toward CN and other cartoon producers really amping up the pushing of the gay agenda onto young kids, where now we are at the point that shows like She-Ra and others are being praised for their “gay and transgender representation”, while being sold as shows not really for kids on channels totally meant to be watch by kids. To me this inclusion ruins AT because someone felt the need to throw real world politics into an otherwise great show, and really that’s all this was. There was no reason to include it other than to say someone did, and the fact that it was generally glossed over during the entire run of the show means it was just a mean joke, much like the one in Legend of Korra. It was only done to cement the show as having a unique “A-ha” moment to remember it by, instead of letting it be remembered for the unique show it already was.
- AT also ushered in the current wave of garbage animation sweeping over Cartoon Network. Whereas the wonky and somewhat unprofessional look of AT’s animation fit the wonky feel of the show its success seems to have prompted a ton of shows with similarly crudely drawn animation styles, with each repetition getting worse and worse. Many of the newer shows have instantly recognizable, cookie-cutter designs to their characters. Uncle Grandpa, Craig of the Creek, Apple and Onion: All poorly drawn with cookie cutter design. I don’t care for them.
- AT also saw the rise of the “OMG SO RANDOM” angle in subsequent shows. The show Uncle Grandpa was almost entirely non-sequitur comedy with others like The Amazing World of Gumball following suit, though Gumball is actually pretty good, but it stands out in the crowd. CN even killed a few of their good shows and brought them back as random, non-sequitur humor shows much to the chagrin of old fans. The original Teen Titans show was a well made dramatic cartoon focusing on Robin of Batman and Robin fame, along with his crime fighting team of aliens and robots. It was cancelled and rebooted as Teen Titans Go!, a funny show, yes, and one that I enjoy, but many fans were turned off by the new, crude art style and the non-sequitur potty humor the reboot was inundated with.
Overall I think AT is one of the better cartoons to come out in the past twenty years. Its weird premise, expansive lore, unique characters, music and all-over-the-place tone sets it apart as a great show, but honestly its going to annoy some people. The jokes are sometimes crude. Its sometimes very loud, especially when someone like Lemongrab is on screen, who’s entire thing is screeching in one of the most mind-numbing, teeth-grating sounds you have ever heard. Its weird and random and most older people will have no clue what they are watching or why. Underneath this, though, is a deep and engaging story that needs to be pieced together from fragments throughout the series, and that, to me, makes the story very unique.
You can buy the series a season at a time or in the big collection like I have. I like this collection because it comes in a big book case with interesting things written inside along with artwork and a center pop-up of Ooo.
If you feel like wasting a little time during the continued lockdown watching a weird and fantastical show, give it a look.
Also Jake is voided by John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender from Futurama!!!