Adventure Time with Finn & Jake premiered on Cartoon Network on April 5, 2010. Adventure Time features unlikely heroes Finn and Jake, buddies who traverse the mystical Land of Ooo and encounter its colorful inhabitants. The cities and towns are filled with bizarre characters in need of unique assistance. Jake and Finn's adventures include saving Princess Bubblegum, defeating zombie candy, mocking the "oxy-moronic" Ice King or rocking out with undead music wiz Marceline the Vampire Queen.
Finn is the mighty hero. He's a twelve-year-old human boy and doesn't know why he's compelled to protect good from evil. It's just something he knows he must do. Finn was raised in the wild from infancy and knows nothing of his real parents. Perhaps someday he will learn more about his mysterious past.
Finn's best friend is Jake, the dog. Like a cool older sibling (Jake's 28 in dog years) Finn can always turn to him for advice about confusing stuff, like emotions and girls. Jake also has magical stretching powers!
Princess Bubblegum is continually involved in some area of geeky research, from rocket science to turtle farming. She may live in a castle in the Candy Kingdom but she loves math and science and is always providing Finn and Jake with interesting projects.
Marceline is a wild rocker gal who has lived for centuries and developed a total disregard for social conventions. While her mischievous prankster ways can get on Finn's nerves and be downright scary, he admires her fearlessness and confidence. Marceline has spent a few hundred years practicing horns and stringed instruments, so she and Finn sometimes rock out.
The 1,000-year-old Ice King is armed with a magical crown and a frozen heart. He is a threat to himself and anyone who crosses him. The Ice King wants desperately to successfully woo an unlucky Princess or Ice Lady. The Ice King is a frosty thorn in the side of the citizens of Ooo.
Pendleton Ward, storyboard artist for Cartoon Network's animated series The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, is the creator of Adventure Time with Finn & Jake. Based in Los Angeles, Ward created the pilot for the show with Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios. Ward graduated from the CalArts Character Animation Program.
Fred Seibert is president of Frederator Studios, founded in 1998 to produce original cartoon programming. In addition to Cartoon Network's Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, Seibert is currently executive producer of The Fairly OddParents, Fanboy & Chum Chum, Random! Cartoons and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!.
In 1992, prior to forming Frederator Studios, Seibert served as president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons where he produced nearly 50 shorts, some of which spun off now-legendary Cartoon Network series such as Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls and the studio's Oscar®-nominated Courage the Cowardly Dog. At the end of 2005, Frederator Studios launched Channel Frederator, the world's first cartoon podcast, now part of Next New Networks.
Adventure Time is very different from many cartoons on the air currently. Finn and Jake are never seen at home or in school. According to Fred Seibert, "When kids are playing they are not thinking of their parents, home, brothers and sisters. In every way, Finn and Jake are more a reflection of kids at play than how kids live."
In that same press interview, distributed in a press release, Seibert mentioned one of my favorite shows. He says, "That is one of the wonderful things about the show; it doesn’t pretend to be real. That was the great thing about Pee Wee's Playhouse; it existed in a world completely outside any reality a kid recognized. And what Pen has done with Adventure Time is create a unique world that no one could imagine, except a kid at play.
Have you noticed any sight gags that are running jokes in every episode? Just like signs in Springfield on The Simpsons, Pendelton Ward has painted in some of his own Easter eggs. "In every episode there's going to be this little waving snail, you can search for it in every episode. There are also secret codes and things written in the background."
When Adventure Time was first premiering, Finn's character was defined in press releases by his hat. To me, it has a Jughead appeal. However, Ward says, "Itss a funny bear hat. I draw those kinds of ears on my own personal little comics I make."
My Two Cents
Parents, beware. Do not let Adventure Time's early timeslot or Cartoon Network locale fool you into thinking it's on par with Johnny Test or Ben 10. Creator Pendelton Ward said in a press release, "The style of humor is probably what attracts different generations. Adventure Time is young at heart, it's silly in a way that kids can be and there's a level of over-the-head adult kind of humor." Adventure Time is preceded with a parental advisory message and is rated TV-PG. Don't get me wrong; it's trippy for 10 year-olds and up, but this is not for the early elementary school kids. Think blood, splatter and zombies. A later timeslot would have benefited the show and parents greatly.
Another reason Adventure Time doesn't appeal to me is that I love a good story, a well-prepared, meaningful story. But Adventure Time lacks a cohesive story. Perhaps this quote from Ward explains why, "I'm storyboarding an episode right now, and in it Finn and Jake can't go outside because there's a storm raining down knives and swords... I drew Finn running and he ran toward a window and hopped out. I'd forgotten about the knife storm so now I'm at this point where I have to put it back in. I'm writing in the dialogue, and Jake is saying 'Finn, what about the knife storm?' and then Finn is saying, 'Oh, I forgot,' because I forgot." Not much thought or planning there, no? But this lack of foresight may be why the show appeals to such a young crowd, a crowd too young to be watching.
Updated December 31, 2013: I have watched many more episodes of Adventure Time since I first wrote this review when the cartoon premiered. AT is more entertaining than I originally thought, even including some introspective episodes that explore themes like unrequited love, growing up and loyalty between friends. However, I still stick to the opinion that the writing is terribly lazy sometimes. I know that the popular trend, right now, is "randomness." Kids eat up anything that happens out of nowhere, whether it's in cartoons or video games. But I still think a writer should rise above "randomness" to produce a well-told story. Adventure Time has had several engrossing over-arching stories, but too many times the ending of multi-episode or stand-alone stories end in an impotent flop.