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Adventure Time

Entry updated 15 April 2024. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2007; 2010-2018; 2020-2021). 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. 283 eleven-minute episodes, plus the 2007 pilot, ten shorts and four 45-minute specials. 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 Marceline 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, and the focus on Finn and Jake lessens, with only a token or no appearance in some episodes; whilst the relationship between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline (see Gay and Lesbian SF) becomes a central emotional arc. The series ended with the excellent episode "Come Along With Me", which succeeds in bringing together many disparate plot lines, taking the original show to an affecting and satisfactory conclusion. Adventure Time is one of Television's finest genre shows, whose influence on animation and Comics has been significant; people who worked on the series include Natasha Allegri, Ian Jones-Quartey, Patrick McHale, Luke Pearson, Julia Potts and Rebecca Sugar – creators of Bee and Puppycat, OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, Over the Garden Wall, Hilda, Summer Camp Island and Steven Universe respectively.

In 2019, it was announced the show would be returning with four 45-minute specials, called Adventure Time: Distant Lands. The first three, all excellent, were broadcast in 2020: the sf tale "BMO", the Bubblegum/Marceline-centric "Obsidian" and the Eschatological "Together Again", where Finn and Jake are dead. The latter episode was originally intended as the last, but production difficulties meant the broadcast order of the planned third and fourth was swapped: the weaker (but still good) "Wizard City" being shown last. In 2023 a new series was released: Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake (2023), starring the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake who had first appeared in the third season. [SP]

see also: Bravest Warriors.


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