It’s kinda difficult for me to not go completely overboard when talking about Adventure Time. Being creatively involved with a couple of people who were working on the show, I fell in love with Adventure Time even before it aired, and back in 2011, I wrote a piece for Splice Today on why Adventure Time is the ultimate cartoon. I only peed myself a little bit when Fred Seibert, the producer of the show and the head of the amazing Frederator Studios, found my post and thanked me for being so totally rad and a champion of awesome.
Yeah, that’s all for me. No big deal, except that it is a big deal in nerd currency. Nerd currency, for the record, isn’t just mint-in-package action figures. It’s also elaborate stories about girls who noticed us once and other such artifacts which prove that we’re a vital part of the human race, in whatever remote context that might be.
Since I initially wrote about Adventure Time‘s limitless, physics-less reality, a lot has changed. The original id-driven fantasy that acted as the foundation for the show still remains, but the show has developed a loose system of rules in its recent seasons which serve to bind its ever-expanding structure. Fortunately, those rules are awesome, and they create a level of interest and investment that the original, wild, creative abandon wouldn’t be able to sustain indefinitely. We now know some important things about the world of the cartoon:
- It takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth
- The Ice King used to be a really awesome guy, and it’s not his fault that he’s crazy
- There’s a system of deities, and they seem to dig Finn and Jake
- There’s an ultimate evil, and a few penultimate evils
With this structure in place, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Where did the Ice King’s crown come from? Where did Finn, one of only a few living humans, come from? How did Marceline become a vampire? Adventure Time now manages to maintain this kind of continuity without losing any of the awesome energy that birthed the show. It’s still really interested in exploring good stories and dropping these continuity breadcrumbs at its convenience.
If there’s an overarching metaphor for how the show maintains as much as it changes, it’s this: Jake and Lady Rainicorn have babies. It’s a process that is mentioned in a few unrelated episodes, but never fixated on. Lady Rainicorn tells Jake that she’s pregnant (at the very final moment of an episode), she’s then visibly pregnant for a few episodes, and later on, she gives birth – and then, her kids age so fast that they don’t cause any significant change in the show’s structure. Jake doesn’t need to be a stay-at-home dad, even though he explores it for one episode, eventually understanding that his magical rainicorn babies don’t really need his help after all. In this way, Adventure Time is getting older. Its main star, voice actor Jeremy Shada, doesn’t have a little kid’s voice anymore, and maturing the show along with the main character and its voice actor is a sage and unprecedented move. (Choosing an actual kid to play an animated kid, instead of using an older female actress, is also relatively unheard of. It’s all about the puberty.)
So, Adventure Time : Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray capture the show’s early years, each disc containing 26 episodes (running at around 12 minutes each). Each one is a little masterpiece of creativity and energy, from the eerie, fully-painted title cards to the soundtrack that creeps along in the background, a kind of omniscient narrator, unintrusively explaining the tone of each scene and character before any action even occurs. I firmly believe that if there’s a cartoon to represent what cartoons are all about, Adventure Time is it, without exception.
These collections include awesome packaging, true to the artistic ideals of the show, peeling away the layers of the show’s main hero and antagonist until there’s only skeletons (or icy brains) left.
The discs include a ton of excellent bonus features which are not present on the DVD collections. These include episode commentaries by the main voice actors and Penn Ward (the show’s creator, and voice of a few secondary characters), a satirical behind-the-scenes film, a satirical behind-the-behind-the-scenes meta-film, a very interesting documentary about the creation of the show’s music, and cast interviews. There’s a certain magic to the show that just exists, and seeing the awesome dorks who put the show together is both a little damaging to this veil of magic as well as a little hopeful. If these guys look like me, that means that I might be able to make something this awesome someday. It’s simplistic reasoning, but I’ll take whatever hope I can get.
It’s not easy to condense so much vital energy into something so deceptively simple, but this cartoon is the documentation of that. Finn the Human might have a face like an emoticon, but watching the show for just a few minutes reveals a hilariously wide range of emotion, animation, and personality that explode from such a simple, ostensibly lazy, face design. It’s not lazy. It’s just full of possibility.
Cartoons exist to give life to the impossible, without taking anything too seriously, and to provide a voice to discuss thing which we might be afraid to address too seriously, or concepts which we need to translate into a more universal language : thoughts about dying, thoughts about aging and loneliness, thoughts about morality and love. Without giving too much away, or totally bumming you out, this has you covered.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.