In a recent article for Indiewire, Eric Kohn wrote a very well-made and thorough piece on the upcoming end of Adventure Time, a CartoonNetwork show created by Pendleton Ward that revolutionized contemporary cartoons.
I’m sad to see it go, but Eric’s article reminded me of everything the show has done.
Now, I haven’t seen every episode of Adventure Time. But it’s still made an impact.
The very first time I heard about it at all, I was in a theater. I think I was going to see How To Train Your Dragon, back in 2010. My sister and I were in a not yet dark theater, watching pre-show trailers for early viewers, and a mom with a little boy, maybe five years old, came in and sat down front. I remember a commercial for CartoonNetwork coming on and the little boy started hopping up and down in his seat, and pointing at the screen, beaming and saying “Adventure Time!” I thought he was excited for the screening. I didn’t know until a week later Adventure Time was the name of the show we were seeing a commercial for. It was such genuine joy.
Not too long after, I was in a play, strangely enough it was the very serious The Glass Menagerie, and the guy who played by brother, Tom, was a big fan of Adventure Time. When we parted ways after the show, he got me a scarf from a show I liked, and I got him Finn’s hat from Adventure Time, completely unknowing what the other was planning to do. The show gave us a goodbye present.
Later, only a few years ago, I cospalyed Princess Bubblegum and my sister did Marceline at a con, and I had little kids really excited to see us and wanting to take pictures, and it was such a wonderful experience to get to ping-pong some of the joy created by a show like Adventure Time. Again and again that’s what I’ve seen, the show making people happy.
Cartoons were sort of in a dark place around 2010, but the insane success of Adventure Time opened the door for new and more varied content. It started a creative boom. People moved away from what they thought was just “safe,” and started to experiment. It’s thanks to the success of Adventure Time that we got Regular Show later that same year, with its original, college-life quirky commedy feel,
that Disney took a new chance with dark fantasy-light family-off the walls mystery Gravity Falls in 2012,
or Steven Universe got its premiere in 2013.
Adventure Time told stories in a new way. It had a lot of complex issues going on, and deep life commentary, but through the lense of a light-hearted fantasy world that just sort of flowed to its own beat.
But through that world, it told all sorts of complex stories, including a spot on male entitlement, where a character kidnaps and tries to force one of the main women to marry him, and when she beats him up, and he falls back on a “I just did it because I like you” kind of response, it cuts him less than no slack.
I’m glad Adventure Time will be with us until 2018, and when it finally goes, I hope it receives the send-off worth of a show that changed things as much as it has.