This hurts to say, but Adventure Time is almost over. It has entered its final season and the ongoing narrative the show has weaved for 8 years is ending. It’s been one hell of a ride. Adventure Time is, well, timeless. It can be watched, re-watched, and it will likely be enjoyed by children and adults for generations to come. The show exhibited and innovated the cartoon medium in so many ways, and paved the way for a flood of fantastic cartoons in the 2010’s.
When the initial announcement hit that cancellation was imminent, I was actually happy. I thought, “Adventure Time would not become Spongebob, as it chose to actually wrap up its storyline.” Cartoon Network let the show that revived their popularity and positive image within the cartoon community finish. This was one of the many great things Adventure Time exhibited that was so different from other cartoons. Adventure Time’s life-spanning narrative was finally finishing.
But rather than be gloomy, I want to reflect on why this stupid show about a boy and his dog voiced by Wakka from Final Fantasy means so much to me. I want to think on the relatable characters and messages that were so important in helping me through my formative years.
The Personal Sob Story
If you want me to get into the aspects that made Adventure Time so unique and what led to its popularity, I recommend you skip this section. I will just be discussing my personal experience with Adventure Time and the positivity it has brought into my life.
Adventure Time released while I was still in my formative years. I was in this odd, bridging age where I was stopping watching cartoons and moving onto anime and other shows. Little did I know, 2006-2009 was going to be arguably the worst time for cartoons, so me finishing up Elementary was plagued with really lackluster entertainment. This time had shows that were littered with scat jokes, immature humour, obnoxiously loud laughter, and many repellents for anybody over the age of five. Filling my dumb child mind with entertainment was rough.
So I fell out of cartoons for a while and occupied myself with other forms of media. Anime, video games, novels, but, never cartoons. I grew into adolescence never feeling the urge to watch anything from YTV or Cartoon Network. I just kind of stopped watching TV as a whole.
Now let’s flash forward to 2012. I’m trudging through high school, not really caring or contemplating anything. I was just doing what I needed to get by. Sporadically, I discovered My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and that there is apparently a massive following for it that consists of mostly grown men. Perplexed, I did a little more research into the show and why people care about it so much. This “research” (watching the first season) made me reflect on what was actually a fairly solid TV show. A few days later, the Big Brother of Google caught wind of this 15-year-old boy watching a little girl’s cartoon and thought two things:
1.) This guy is weird.
2.) He would love Adventure Time.
So this video appeared in my recommendations. And many thoughts began to rush through my head. I thought “what is this show?” “Is that a dog?” “Why does it sound like Bender?” Naturally, I had to find out, so I went to the first episode of Adventure Time Season 1, entitled “Slumber Party Panic” and was…interested. It was confusing and non-sensical…but it was enrapturing. A Princess who’s hair is made of Bubblegum inventS a serum that turns dead candy into undead candy, and the only way to beat them is to cover the non-zombie candies’ eyes with blindfolds as they beat the undead candy like pinatas? I was confused, but I was totally into it at the same time! It was so unapologetic with its oddness, that it became charming. Nothing made sense, but it somehow felt like the insanity was understandable in an established world. It was controlled chaos, if that makes any sense.
If you want a fun activity, describe the plot of any Season 1 and 2 Adventure Time episodes literally. Just try to include as many details as you can. The absolute absurdities that will come out of your mouth will astound you.
So naturally I watch the second episode to try to find some answers to what happened in the first episode, and I find nothing. The kingdom altering events were completely forgotten. The zombie invasion was never brought up, and the two titular main characters, Finn and Jake, just went on another adventure. But I wanted to follow these two characters on their adventures. I kept watching more and more, until I realized, I finished the whole first season in a single day. I couldn’t even begin to process everything that I witnessed, nor could I even really rationalize it to myself. I kept telling myself “It’s a fantasy world, it is all fictional.”
I eventually learned to stop giving into rationality and let myself be carried by these two likeable characters and the creative and beautiful environments they visit. Every episode was different, and more importantly, every episode made me smile. Every episode entertained me genuinely. It had incredible passion, and it didn’t seem vapid whatsoever.
The show put my troubled adolescent mind at ease, and let me know there was a large community who enjoyed exactly the same content that I did! I eventually became enraptured in the fandom, and I grew to partake in a lot of community activities. It seemed that everybody was friendly about Adventure Time. This was likely due to its lack of polarizing topics, instead opting to focus on humour and relatable drama.
Adventure Time also got me back into cartoons. I had no idea there was a boom occurring in terms of great animated entertainment. Adventure Time initiated the storm of fantastic shows like Regular Show, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, We Bear Bears and so much more. Heck, pretty much any new show that comes out seems to have the tagline of “made by this ex-Adventure Time employee”.
So Adventure Time got me back into cartoons and fandom, and it helped me to become more engaged with the media I consume. It was already off to a great start.
Actually Rated E for Everyone
The tagline, “E for Everyone”, doesn’t really mean that. It means the entertainment is kid friendly and kid oriented. Well, Adventure Time is one of those oddities that appeals to every possible demographic. It doesn’t matter the religion, culture, age, race, or whatever. The show is so creative it establishes its own fantasy world with its own drama, meaning polarizing topics are rarely the focus. Adventure Time’s conflicts are often Person vs. Person, or Person vs. Self. If it has drama, it is relatable drama about identity, feeling ostracized, or feeling inadequate. These are all emotions that everybody feels, and they are hidden under a superficial layer of a children’s cartoon.
I’ve often heard people say Adventure Time is very nostalgic and has many throwbacks to the 90s style of animation. I personally do not see it, and I feel that Adventure Time is 100% original. Adventure Time does not pander to specific audiences, it doesn’t (and thank God for this) use terrible internet memes to mask the lack of humour. It has actual timeless jokes that stem from character interactions. It doesn’t rely on references to make people go “XD”.
Adventure Time is also a surprisingly subtle show. For such a ridiculous premiere episode, there are actually a lot of quiet moments of reflection and contemplation later on. Characters wonder if they did the right thing, and decisions have actual ramifications later on in the series. Actions that begin as loud and non-sensical actually matter in the overall timeline.
The main character, Finn, actually ages and grows as a person. The people around him become smarter and there is actual character development! The characters don’t remain stock characters with a single trait.
An obvious example of the show’s great characterization, and the moment where the show stopped being mostly a comedy, is the episode I Remember You.
Everybody who has seen this show knows about this episode and what it is about, but I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say it takes one of the comic relief characters and turns them into the most intriguing individual in the show. It’s only 11 minutes, but it says so much.
Adventure Time is also a show that ages with its audience. As Finn gets older, the issues he deals with compliment his age. Finn’s struggles in the first two seasons are with his sense of morality and always trying to help and be altruistic. It is a child’s version of heroism and fits a character who is 12-13 years old.
However, once season 3 rolls around, the external conflicts escalate, while the internal one’s mature. Finn searches for identity, dabbles in romance, and struggles to find his place in the world of Ooo. Finn’s title is “Finn the Human” for a reason: he’s the only human in Ooo. He cannot find anybody to romantically relate to, and when he does, it is a girl made of fire that ultimately fails because…well…she’s made of fire and will kill him if they get close.
But it isn’t just Finn who is a great character. The minor characters also get a lot of love and attention. Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, Jake, Ice King, Peppermint Butler, and so much more are either really well-developed, or endearing. I appreciate that Adventure Time doesn’t waste your time when it deals with its character progression. There are no repeats of conflict, and it feels that the people within the show are actual people, despite almost none of them being human.
Adventure Time takes place in the world of Ooo, and it is one of the most creative and vast settings I have seen. Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, cites Dungeons and Dragons as a great inspiration for a lot of Finn and Jake’s journies, and it shows. D&D is a game that encourages creative and reactive storytelling, which are the exact words I would use to describe Adventure Time’s ongoing narrative.
Ooo is a world with no limitations. It has kingdoms made of candy, different dimensions full of spectres, caverns full of deadly traps, forests full of wooden witches, and so much more. Adventure Time is not constrained by setting itself in the real-world, or by containing its characters to specific locations. Finn and Jake are constantly discovering new places and new characters. The land of Ooo is not bound by any limitations, and it lets ideas and creativity flourish.
The creativity and vivid colours likely contributed to Adventure Time’s success. Kids were treated to an onslaught of pretty colours, while an older audience was presented with well-thought out environments that were wildly unpredictable.
What were they on when they made this show?
Both a negative and a positive to Adventure Time is its complete unpredictability. This is negative because sometimes it takes too long for plotlines to continue, or an entire story can be retconned. However, I lean more towards a positive interpretation, as it makes every episode unique and memorable. Any episode can be seen at any time, and people will be taken on a unique and entertaining journey.
Each episode is only 11 minutes, and that forces the creators to cram as much as they can. Because of this, there is no time wasted progressing the narrative. Every episode is paced well, and the viewer is never given a moment of boredom.
So, Adventure Time is going away. It’s sad, but it’s necessary. Seeing it go on its own terms is better than seeing it whittle away. I’m sad to see these fantastic characters go, but I am content in knowing that their storylines will conclude. I know Adventure Time will always be there, and it was there to comfort me when I was younger.
Goodbye Adventure Time, we will all miss you.