I really enjoyed doing the review last week of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated so I have decided that I will continue doing my Saturday Morning Reviews here on Toonopolis, The Blog.
This week, I am going to address another Cartoon Network show: Adventure Time. I’ll try to follow a little of the model from the first review I did last week.
Okay, the general premise of the show is pretty simple. Finn is a human kid in the Land of Oo, which is basically a tricked out bizarre Candyland. Jake is a magical dog. They chill in a treehouse and seek out adventure, random battles, and crazy fun. The show is rife with role-playing/adventure parodies and general silliness.
As I have done before, I want to analyze the cast first. There is a great mix of young, new talent and some industry mainstays. Finn is actually played by an appropriately aged kid, 14-year-old Jeremy Shada, who nails the unabashed whimsy of the character well. Some may recognize Hynden Walch (Princess Bubblegum) from her Teen Titans role as Starfire. The show also pulls in some big-time heavy hitters in the voice acting business.
John DiMaggio (best known as Bender from Futurama but present in a lot of works in the last 15 years) plays Jake the Dog and Tom Kenny (who plays a little character known as SpongeBob Squarepants) voices the incomparable Ice King. The cast works very well together and is very good at what they do. The creators also have tapped into some great guest spots from time to time (Mark Hamil, George Takei, Ron Perlman, and more).
I have to say that when Cartoon Network was first advertising this show, I had very low expectations. The animation reminded me of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, which was a really awful show in my opinion, but I was happy to find out that the humor and story-telling style was different. Pendleton Ward (who also has a hilarious voice acting role as the Lumpy Space Princess) worked on Flapjack before creating Adventure Time, so the similarity in art styles makes sense.
As a fan of parody work (*achem* considering Toonopolis: Gemini is heavy on parody), I have learned to really enjoy this show. It is quite clear that the creator and writers are big gaming geeks themselves, with numerous Dungeons & Dragons references as well as countless RPG/adventure spoofs. Finn is wonderful as a genre-savvy adventurer who is extremely self-aware of his surroundings in this fantastical world.
There are no overarching storylines of the show to analyze. Much like many Western cartoons, the show is a series of one-offs without much continuity from one episode to the next. There are some fun continuing gags: the interactions with the rock-star vampire queen Marceline (who just gains nourishment from the color red and not drinking blood), Jake’s relationship with Lady Rainicorn (a rainbow/unicorn that only speaks Japanese), and the constant thwarting of the Ice King’s attempts at kidnapping/wooing princesses from various realms.
Overall, the show is very clever for what it is: a direct parody and mockery of adventure tropes and role-playing clichés. The humor is extremely funny when it works but, much like any show relying simply on parody and comedy, it can fall really flat when it misses. There are some episodes that just don’t resonate as all that humorous, but they are few and far between. My overall rating for Adventure Time would be 4/5 giant cartoon mallets. As much as I enjoy the cartoon, I can’t give perfect scores to a show that has some severe misses from time to time.