US animated tv series (2010-present). Cartoon Network. Created by Pendleton Ward. Executive producers: Pendleton Ward, Fred Seibert, Derek Drymon. Writers include, Rebecca Sugar (creator of Steven Universe), Adam Muto and Pendleton Ward. Directors include Nate Cash, Elizabeth Ito, Seo Kim, Larry Leichliter and Adam Muto. Voice cast includes John DiMaggio (Bender in Futurama), Tom Kenny, Olivia Olson, Jeremy Shada and Hynden Walch. 270 eleven-minute episodes to date, plus 10 shorts. Colour
Set about a thousand years after the Great Mushroom War (a nuclear Holocaust), which brought about the return of Magic, Adventure Time is centred around the characters Finn (Shada) and Jake (DiMaggio). Jake is a talking dog with Shapeshifter powers, the latter a result of his ancestry – he was born Athena-like from his father's head after a bite from an other-dimensional creature. Finn is his adopted brother and – such a rarity that it is frequently remarked upon – a human. The pair have surreal adventures in the Land of Ooo, often with their friends Princess Bubblegum (Walch), ruler of the Candy Kingdom, and Marcelene the Vampire Queen (Olson) – a thousand-year-old trickster, half human, half demon. Initially the main Villain is the Ice King (Kenny), a tragic figure; once his mental condition is understood by Finn and Jake he becomes less of an adversary. The main antagonist (though he appears infrequently) is the Lich, whose sober ambition is to destroy all life in the universe.
The show leans more towards fantasy than sf: though Princess Bubblegum is a Scientist with a dismissive attitude towards magic, she is made of bubblegum and created her kingdom and its inhabitants out of candy. Nevertheless Technology, old and new, is common throughout Ooo (including self-maintaining Machine infrastructure still going through the motions) and the stories feature many sf tropes: AI, Aliens, Cyborgs, inhabited planets, Mad Scientists, Parallel Worlds, orbiting Prison craft, Robots, Spaceships ... Even the Ice King's crown, which gives him his powers, has circuitry and contains Uploaded personalities. The "Islands" miniseries visits the self-imposed last redoubt (see Keep) of the human race and is largely sf, with people in pods linked to Virtual Realities and a Dystopia – with references to The Prisoner (1967-1968) – which includes people controlled by implants.
Adventure Time starts out as a series of amusing but juvenile adventures, though markedly weird and fond of sharp tangents and non-sequiturs; by the second series, however, a sombre tone begins to appear, with greater emotional punches as characters are developed; a philosophical edge also starts to show itself, but with no let-up on the surrealism. These themes deepen throughout the show's run. The focus on Finn and Jake also lessens, with only a token or no appearance in some episodes; though, as the series approaches its end (the ninth season will be its last), there has been a greater emphasis on Finn's back-story. [SP]