Cartoon Review – “Adventure Time with Finn and Jake”

If you haven’t heard of “Adventure Time” by now, then I’m surprised to see you even reading this. “Adventure Time” started out as a surreal short cartoon made for a program called “Random Cartoons!,” a collaboration between Frederator Studios and Nickelodeon. Created by CalArts graduate Pendelton Ward, the original cartoon was a huge hit, garnering over 2 million views online when it was first posted in 2006. It was unlike anything out there, with its surreal yet laid-back humor and simple artwork. With all this popularity behind the original short, Nickelodeon deemed it fit to make it a series: but due to creative differences, Cartoon Network eventually was the channel to turn this quirky ‘toon into a full-length show.

Starting in December 2009, the network began advertising the series: the closer it got to April, the more they hit the viewers with promos and sneak peeks at the upcoming show. The series was hyped by Cartoon Network to be their newest hit, and by the internet to be the next “Spongebob Squarepants” in terms of popularity. But does “Adventure Time with Finn and Jake” live up to the high expectations that were set?

Come on, grab your friends! We'll go to very distant lands...

Creator(s): Pendelton Ward

Running Time: 2×11 minutes

Network: Cartoon Network

Production House(s): Cartoon Network Studios and Frederator Studios

Premiered: April 5th, 2010

“Adventure Time with Finn and Jake” takes place in the mystical Land of Ooo: where some areas are made purely of fire and others places stuck in perpetual winter. Ooo is a vast land where you can find anyone and anything imaginable.  Anthropomorphic nuts? Check. Portals to different dimensions? Check. Sexy vampire ladies? Double check. With wide grass plains, deep forests, and tall mountains, the Land of Ooo seems custom-made for a budding adventurer. With so many places to go in their world, Finn and Jake always have a place to explore or just have some good old fun.

On that note, Finn and Jake are the epitome of best buddies. In other cartoons, best friends have a tendency to constantly fight to the point that the viewer can doubt that the two really are friends. There is no such issue here: Finn and Jake’s relationship really shines through and mirrors a real friendship: often joking with each other, hanging out and having fun, and always being there for the other. If you boil the duo down to their cores, then you’ll find that they are basically two halves of a whole: Finn is the adventure-seeking energetic one, while Jake is more go-with-the-flow and lazy. It’s slightly yin and yang, and it works since Jake is often the more rational one and less likely to panic. Jake can serve as moral guide to Finn, while Finn is able to make Jake more outgoing.

Let's survey the situation...

The animation is top-notch: traditional animation done with a 30s-40s rubberhose feel to it. The characters have stretchy, wiggly limbs that have no real joints: an art style that can be hard to animate. Pen Ward’s cartooning style is simple, and is more something you’d find in a person’s sketchbook rather than on television. There are only general guidelines to follow when drawing these characters. Beyond those, you can draw them any way you want, and if you look closely, each artist’s style comes through via the way they draw the limbs and such. And in contrast to the faux-naïf art style are incredibly detailed backgrounds, filled with various colors and textures. It works effectively, and you can really believe that the human and dog actually reside in this world.

The writing for the series is done by the storyboard artists themselves, working from a plot outline and fitting in their own jokes while punching up others. Something that must be remembered is that this is an animated series that prides itself on surreal humor. If something doesn’t make sense to the viewer, it really does due to how their world functions. But someone who wasn’t aware of this program’s nature could come in completely and utterly confused, coming away with the idea that the show is nothing but stupid. For example, in the episode Slumber Party Panic when Finn breaks a promise he made to a friend, time freezes and two gumball machine giants come and threaten to kill him if he can’t solve the equation 2+2. It’s strange, but it makes sense if you understand the show and pay attention to background elements. That said, the writing is great if you’re into surrealism: many of the jokes hit their mark, and if one doesn’t, then expect another joke to come up and redeem it. Nothing seems forced: its the people behind the show simply bouncing gags off each other, not straining to figure out a funny line Jake could say or an expression Princess Bubblegum could make.

Check it out, I downloaded a little dance.

In the end, does “Adventure Time with Finn and Jake” live up to the hype? Yeah, in my opinion it does. But whether it becomes Cartoon Network’s Spongebob depends on how much of the original fans stick around, and if it can gain an even larger following from a group that sees what the show is going for…and likes it.


Posted on April 6, 2010, in Animation Reviews, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. DeanBurrito25

    Well put review, Racattack!
    I agree that most of the humor is based off of the show’s surrealism, which is why some people don’t get the jokes. Oh well…

    The premiere met my expectations, and I hope the show has a very successful run. Who knows? Maybe it will be a smash hit..

  2. i love this show, and it keeps getting better and more in depth if you really watch all of the episodes.

  3. This show lives up to its hype. Their recent episode “nightosphere” was definitely one of the best episodes ive ever seen in a cartoon. Besides that i love how they really incorporate good music in the show, which improves its quality, something other shows lack.

  4. Amazing show; if it’s on im definitely watching it. Sucks that they only show it on Monday nights@8

  5. I completely LOVE this show. I can’t put in to words how rad this is.

  6. I’m curious as to what ages the cartoon is meant for and even how old the commenters are here. I’m in my early 30s and I LOVE this show. My husband and I sat through the whole marathon. I’m hooked. Jake is voiced by Futurama’s John DiMaggio (Bender), so it brings a real subversive quality to the show.

  7. This is what cartoons should be – irreverent, surreal, silly humor, crazy characters, and strange places.

    I like to escape reality for a few minutes sometimes. Adventure Time does the trick!

  8. Fantastic, well-written review! I’m 18 and I absolutely LOVE adventure time. I’ve seen every episode. My favorite part of the show is something I’m not sure a ton of people get – the philosophy references. The show has directly mentioned epictetus’ “enchiridion,” and the episode Susan Strong was way too similar to Plato’s allegory of the cave to be a coincidence. “The Real You” also addresses a major philosophical concept.

    post-apocalyptic surreal landscape, righteous characters, philosophy references and poop jokes. i love it.

  9. Not since Spongebob have I seen a show so beautiful, funny and outright weird (hits the spot!). Truth be told, I think it’s better than SBSP due to the fact that this show is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I love that Finn and Jake have one of the most genuine friendships ever put on screen. It’s endearing and happy and without that cliche’d pretext of constant bickering. Every so often they’ll tell each other how much they love each other out of nowhere…it’s so random and so sweet. The show’s dark undertone is perfect for the older crowd (I’m 28 🙂 and with its flawed, lovable characters (I’m lumping looking at you, LSP), I look forward to seeing something totally random and undeniably hilarious. PS: please put more fart jokes. I almost spewed Coke out my nose when Jake’s fart ruined their cover.

  10. What is surrealism. I, kind of guiltily, watch this show more out of boredom than entertainment. However, if there’s something deeper or more high – brow about this show that I’m not getting then someone please tell me so I can get the jokes on this show. Because otherwise, to me, it seems fairly stupid. Fortunately I read the review of this person first so now I’m wondering what surrealism is and what it has to do with this show. If anyone would wish to tell me then that would be much appreciated. Thanks.

  11. I looked some stuff up on Surrealism but it didn’t really help me out in getting the show that much. May need help getting some of the references of the show. Thanks.

    • Man, can’t believe this post is still getting so many views. That said, there isn’t much to understand about Adventure Time. Yes, it has the whole post-Apocalyptic backstory, and a handful of episodes involving the relationships between the characters (One of my favorites so far involves a vampire character singing about her strained relationship with her father). But overall? The show is just harmless, colourful, straightforward fun. There is usually no deeper level to the jokes. It’s just a weird show.

      So, yeah, it can be kinda stupid. But I’m not going to yell at you for not enjoying the show. Only a crazy person would force their ideas and opinions on others. To each their own.

  12. i like the show my dog is named jack and i wish the show was on more often

  13. adventure-seeker

    I like Adventure Time and I deem your review of this favorite show of mine fair enough.

    Adventure Time is like the first non-Japanese cartoon (anime) show that I really really like ( one really is not enough to describe how much I like this show, really ) But I do agree that this show is lacking some solid plots…

    The first episode I saw was the episode where Finn went to some kind of a frog wizard to gain some free magic powers, and since then I’ve been a fan and decided to download the entire season ( yes I did, and it took like FOREVER )

    It surprised me when I watch the 1st episode “Slumber Party Panic” that there was absolutely no character introduction at all and you kinda have to figure out what is this show all about by yourself.

    I enjoyed the humor in this show, the simple nonsense way how this show plays and the artwork which is simple with block colors yet easy to understand. The characters are lovable too. My favorites are Marceline and Finn.

    This show is indeed illogical and has a very surreal feelings in it. You can’t watch or like this show if your brain is too analogical, you just need to enjoy it without any kind of thinking. That’s just how this show works and that’s one of the good point of this show I think.

    Honestly, I think this show can be much more popular if they put a more solid plot and goal in the whole storyline…

  14. I, actually, first began watching this show when my 3 & 5 year old watched it one evening – needless to say it’s quickly become one of my favorites, and I’ve made a point of seeing every episode made. The post-apocalyptic setting and (best way to describe it) surreal plot and episodic storylines make the show attractive and temp the viewer with achieving a fuller understanding of (how ridiculous) a cartoon. The obvious dichotomy of the primary characters as either stereotypic good or evil and the underlying gray area portrayals of their inner cognitions make the characters very believable, even when presented in an unbelievable reality. Finn is the prototypical hero, presented flaws and all for the viewer to see; while Jake truly complements him as a sidekick and complimentary force. Even the Ice King, with his tragic story enlightened through the Christmas episode, represents this subtle concept that we all may appear one way on the surface, but are carved much deeper in our inner recesses. The shiow demonstrates a truly representative understanding of what it is to be human, with histories and perceptive influences that other remain unaware of, even in a world populated by nonhumans.

  15. does anyone agree with me that this show is good enough to make it on comedy central or adult swim (preferably comedy central). i love the show because finn is just like a kid and he is nothing more than just a kid. and thats why people love this show because everyone can relate to it very heavily. finn has no family(blood), he’s seen many many many of his friends nearly die, been told that his best friend jake will die one day for sure(and that he wouldnt be around to find out), he’s searching for someone to love but so far he hasnt found anyone yet, he has no one and one day he might just lose everything. finn is not a perfect hero that always wins in the end, he is just a boy. thats why we like finn and thats what makes him a hero, not to mention he doesnt keep his nose out of peoples business because he wont stand to see other people go through what he has gone through.

  16. Is this appropriate for a 5 and 9 year old?

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