It was a sad day for cartoon fans everywhere when the creators of ‘Adventure Time’ announced that the show would be coming to an end after its 9th series. Yet, rather than dwelling on the end, many have taken this opportunity to reflect on the show’s significance and likely lasting impact on children’s programming.
This multi-Emmy award winning cartoon follows the adventures of adoptive brothers Finn and Jake (an elastic, talking dog), as they battle to protect the various inhabitants of the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo. Whilst its synopsis may sound ridiculous, there are several reasons this cartoon is important…
Firstly, the show garners an audience of children, teenagers and adults alike, and is proof of the belief at Generation Media Group that youth is a mind-set we can carry at any age. Its audience is drawn to the show’s surrealism and humour, but also its unexpected maturity. Whilst many of the citizens of Ooo are made of candy, no narrative theme is ever sugar coated. The show is unblinkingly honest in its representations of life and coming-of-age in a hostile world. Its creators are not afraid to blend horror and comedy, nor to tell stories that can be as upsetting or disturbing as they are uplifting. Unlike most cartoons, Adventure Time refuses to ignore life’s more unsavoury aspects, teaching children (and adults) that there is value in both the good and bad moments of life.
Even more impressive, is that they have created a show that respects the ability of children to deal with complex ideas, providing a level of wisdom and insight seldom seen in children’s programming. There are philosophical and existential musings, even references to cultural movements like the Hippie and Beat Generation – in one episode (S6, ep13) the wizards of Ooo go on a magic bus trip of self-discovery in order to create an original spell, a subtle nod to Ken Kesey’s infamous mind-expanding bus trip of the 1960’s. Furthermore, the show frequently portrays issues such as relationships, gender, inequality and death with maturity and honesty. And yet the show is equally light-hearted, juvenile and crude, something the writers have managed to balance to a brilliant effect.
All things considered, it is therefore unsurprising that many view Adventure Time as an animated masterpiece. Its success has already contributed to a changing cartoon landscape; Cartoon Network have introduced several progressive, similarly surreal, original cartoons over the last 5 or so years (such as ‘Regular Show’ and ‘Uncle Grandpa’), and just recently Nickelodeon released their new show ‘The Loud House’ which features an openly gay married couple in it. So much so, that Cartoon Network’s Executive Vice President Rob Sorcher was moved to say in an acceptance speech for the Peabody Award that the show had “changed the potential of kids’ television”.
So as we slowly say goodbye to Adventure Time, we can be quietly confident that future children’s programming will continue to be just as bold, imaginative, and honest.