My wife recently asked me what my top five favorite television shows were. I ran through the carousel of T.V. that stuck around in my life, ones that I quote too often, or that altered my perspective. I kept trying to gravitate towards live action shows but every time the carousel spun I saw more animated shows than I did real ones. I realized two of my top three favorite shows were cartoons and the reason I hadn’t immediately accepted this was due to the feelings of guilt for liking 'kids’ shows.
Enter Adventure Time, one of the many programs that I blasted through this past year. The feelings of guilt associated with watching this show only come from the fact that you’ll find it under the children’s programs section. That, and the look of destroyed interest on the face of the person of whom I’m trying to describe this show to when they hear it’s a cartoon. I prefer animated shows to live-action. This isn’t to say all animation and cartoons are gold and superior to live-action, just like live-action shows there is a range of quality. But what I am trying to confer is that animation deserves a seat at the table and I’m raising the banner for Adventure Time.
Powered by the beautiful imagination of Pendleton Ward, who has also lent his perfect hands in service of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Over the Garden Wall, and Steven Universe, Ward did what few have ever done and created a unique fantasy epic that is not bound by Tolkien. The next time you’re at a bookstore look around the fantasy section and you’ll notice a theme, knights, wizards, dragons, and magic. Although Tolkien didn’t invent all of these concepts many fantasy books use his version of these concepts. Not to say Ward completely escapes this genre but he does accomplish the task of altering the fantasy genre away from “Middle-earth” and into something novel.
Ward takes us to the world of “Ooo,” an apocalyptic hell-scape that you’ll actually want to visit. Although the series takes place in the future it feels as if the earth has stopped and nature caught up. A weird, perverse nature polluted by the past sins of humans. The cast is simple, Jake the dog and Finn the human, best friends who love adventures and silliness. They meet a catalogue of wonderful characters along the way but the show is centered around their friendship and how that friendship adapts to changes that life inevitably brings. Characters must grow for a show to succeed, staleness begets boring. Adventure Time grows with the characters and leads the viewer to a wholesome, meaningful ending, which is easy to miss out on in a world of cancellations and copy pasted seasons to keep a show running.
One of the greatest treasures of the show is the music. It’s simple, sometimes very simple, much of the lyrics are just characters singing what they are doing and yet it feels like magnitudes more. Singing about making bacon pancakes, or how your dad stole your french fries might sound like nothing but the wholesomeness lightens the heart in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Just ask Jay-Z. Even the intro is hard to skip and you won’t want to as it changes with the show and is full of fun secrets!
There are Easter eggs of famous voices scattered throughout the ten seasons. It’s a joy to find a musician or actor you love and hear them randomly appear in the form of a vampire/demon prince or a princess of the hunt. Just listen to the angelic stylings of the great character the Earl of Lemongrab voiced by Justin Roland, you’ll hear the foundation for the titan characters Rick and Morty from...Rick and Morty, which would follow several years later. The show is carried by the wonderful voice talents of Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Tom Kenny, and Olivia Olson, who help you fall in love with these characters one short episode at a time.
I see more and more animation appearing in the streaming world. It’s truly a great thing. Cartoons let us delve directly and more personally into someone’s imagination, it helps us see what they see. Adventure Time is a dynamic story full of memorable characters, brilliant references, and pushes the fantasy genre to new beautiful heights. So, Come on grab your friends, we’ll go to very distant lands...it’s Adventure Time!