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?
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.
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.
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.