DVD REVIEW: ADVENTURE TIME, SEASONS 1 AND 2
With the voices of: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Pendleton Ward, Tom Kenny, Dee Bradley Baker, Maria Bamford, Olivia Olson
Adventure Time is one of those properties that taps right into what its audience is looking for at just the right time. Though there is undoubtedly an adult crossover – and certainly a college student following – Adventure Time nails what I would surmise is its target: children and adolescents.
At first glance, Adventure Time looks like doodles that kids scrawl in the margins of their notebook paper. To leave it at that does a tremendous disservice to the talented work behind the show, however. If you listen to the commentaries (and season two has one for every episode), it becomes apparent that these are artists capable of the simple and the complex, and that they are expanding upon the concept of the show’s creator, Pendleton Ward. Every writer, or at least the ones on the commentaries is a storyboard artist as well. Their work is subject to lots of changes. The show moves at a rapid pace with storylines twisting like freeways at rush hour. None of this is by accident or haphazard, even though the series seems like the kind of make believe that you hear when two or more kids are mixing up their action figures and making up wild adventures in their living room rugs.
For the uninitiated, Finn is an adolescent who fashions himself a warrior hero and often finds himself doing just that, but not usually the way he intends to. His best friend is Jake, a magical stretchy dog with the earthy savvy that comes with the voice of John DiMaggio. The stories are largely fantasies, but they weave in quite a bit of relationship issues, especially between sexes and fantasy species. Other stories are more sitcom-like, in which what we know about the characters drives the plot and the twists.
Even though Adventure Time is the product of today’s voice of kid’s TV, the fascination with monsters and witches always attracts kids, from Universal horror movies in the ’50s to The Munsters, Dark Shadows and The Addams Family in the ’60s, all the way up to the previously-reviewed Beetlejuice. Each covers similar ground but are rooted in different times with different sensibilities.
Its mad stream of consciousness storytelling should delight fans of The Goon Show and Monty Python; the show is a satire of sorts but is mostly free of pop culture references and will likely be cherished by today’s kids when they grow up – then they’ll have to explain it to their kids just as we do with our favorites (“I tell you, this was a really popular thing when I was your age!” “Oh, really, Daddy?”)
Yet despite its “wee-wee” humor and imitation curse words, there is a mad morality to many of the stories; some are downright warmhearted. Say what you will about Adventure Time, but its characters have more depth than many found in prime time (also now a haven for wee-wee).
The first season DVD set contains a few behind the scenes segments and commentaries on select episodes emphasizing Ward and several voice cast members. These commentaries are done in a studio and while they have a party atmosphere, they are more conventional than those in the season two DVD.
Season two has a feature in which Ward and eight members of his staff watch something on an office monitor that we do not see and they react to it, sometimes in disgust, embarrassment, knowing nods, laughter, etc. The way they were able to add a commentary to every episode was to bring Ward and some of his team into his bedroom where they watched a literal marathon. Ward strums and hums to fill in the gaps. But what emerges is a lot of insight into their creative process, how they are diverse even though the show has a singular vision and trivia bits about where character names came from and like that.
But of all the commentaries, you can’t forget hearing the unmistakable voice of George Takei (who voices Riccardio). After watching the Riccardio the Heart Guy episode, he says, “This is for kids?”
ADVENTURE TIME EPISODE GUIDE – SEASON 1
Guest Voices include: Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, George Takei, Erik Estrada, Michael Dorn, Lou Ferrigno, Clancy Brown
April 5, 2010
Slumber Party Panic
Finn makes a royal promise to Princess Bubblegum not to tell the Candy People about zombie-baked goods on the rampage and faces consequences when he tells Jake.
Trouble in Lumpy Space
After accidentally biting Jake, Lumpy Space Princess takes Finn and Jake to Lumpy Space, where she has a huge fight with her parents and has to borrow a car from her friend Melissa.
April 12, 2010
Prisoners of Love
Jake and Finn rescue a collection of Princesses that Ice King holds as potential wives (Ice King muses “Why don’t people like me?”). This episode sold the series, even though there was an earlier pilot that is not included on this set. Listen for when Tom Kenny does a Spongebob-like giggle in this episode.
Gentle, guileless Tree Trunks the elephant joins the heroes on a quest for the Crystal Gem Apple.
April 19, 2010
Finn and Jake battle old-lady threatening gnomes and other illusions to test their heroism on their way to find a legendary book.
Finn’s electronic singing attracts a cute little jiggling creature, but when they take him home and feed him, things get explosive. This is actually a warmhearted episode, and not in an ironic or sarcastic way. Note the character development and depth in what some might see as merely a raucous, loony series.
April 26, 2010
Ricardio the Heart Guy
Guest voice George Takei plays a heart guy who becomes a rival for Princess Bubblegum’s attention through his charm and intelligence.
Finn and Jake hire the Business Dudes to work for them. They become complacent and the Dudes become a problem.
May 3, 2010
My Two Favorite People
Jake wants to spend time with both Finn and Lady Rainicorn. He uses a universal translator, which allows Finn to understand her and it works so well that Jake becomes jealous.
Memories of Boom Boom Mountain
We find out who brought up the waifish Finn after he admits that he once pooped on a leaf.
May 10, 2010
Finn and Jake get offered free magical powers from a mysterious guy, but discover that nothing is really free.
May 17, 2010
This episode introduces Marceline, a kind of cool but kind of scary vampire who likes to play mind games on Finn. She kicks Finn and Jake out of their house and they have to search for a new place to live.
May 24, 2010
City of Thieves
Finn tries to reform an entire city and recover a stolen basket from the king of thieves while Jake struggles to resist the urge to steal.
June 7, 2010
The Witch’s Garden
Finn helps Jake find a mud puddle in order to get his powers back after a vengeful witch takes them (because he stole her donut).
June 14, 2010
What Is Life?
Finn creates NEPTR, the Never Ending Pie Throwing Robot, who is as much a conscience for his mischievous ways as he is a servile subordinate.
June 21, 2010
Ocean of Fear
This inspiring fable finds Finn, who is terrified of the ocean, facing his fears to help another.
June 28, 2010
When Wedding Bells Thaw
The Ice King makes Finn and Jake throw him a “Manlorette” party for his impending wedding; otherwise he will go back to his horrible ways, which seems likely anyway.
July 12, 2010
Finn goes down a hole to the dungeon of the Crystal Eye without Jake to join him to help.
July 19, 2010
Finn accidentally causes PB to turn green, bald and ugly (Don’t you believe it — being bald rocks, kids!), but she blames someone else and Finn is afraid to tell her the truth.
July 26, 2010
One of my favorite characters, the singing lunatic Magic Man, carelessly imposes “Monkey’s Paw”-like magic on whomever he sees. His main object in life is to be a jerk. None of this is like real life, of course.
August 9, 2010
Finn and Jake successfully reform Donny, but must make him go back to his obnoxious ways in order to restore the proper order of things.
August 23, 2010
Like Belle did for her father in “Beauty and the Beast,” Finn agrees to take the place of another as the Henchman of Marceline, who likes to play head games with him.
September 6, 2010
Rainy Day Daydream
Finn claims to have no use for making believe, which is odd since unbelievable things are always happening to him and his friends (though maybe that explains it right there).
September 13, 2010
What Have You Done?
Bubblegum orders the duo to capture Ice King, who is imprisoned and hurt — but she doesn’t seem to be forthcoming with the reason.
September 20, 2010
After meeting Billy, his action hero idol (voice of Lou Ferrigno), Finn decides to turn to nonviolent methods for saving the day.
September 27, 2010
The Soft People mistake Jake for the Gut Grinder, a gold-stealing monster. This brings on stress, causing at least one of the Soft People to go wee-wee.
ADVENTURE TIME EPISODE GUIDE – SEASON 2
Guest Voices include: Martin Olson, Jeff Bennett, Paul Reubens, Stephen Root, Miguel Ferrer, Andy Samberg, Ron Perlman
Season 2, Episode 1 (Series Episode 27)
October 11, 2010
Loyalty to the King
The Ice King becomes The Nice King when shaving off his beard makes him unrecognizable to the Ooo citizens.
Season 2, Episode 2 (Series Episode 28)
October 18, 2010
Blood Under the Skin
Finn gets a splinter on his finger and has to accomplish tasks to get magic armor to make him indestructible.
Season 2, Episode 3 (Series Episode 29)
October 25, 2010
It Came from the Nightosphere
Marceline and her dad have issues, like so many kids and parents, except she’s a vampire and he’s a lord of evil. The commentary tells you where he got his name, Huntson Aberdeer. Includes the song, “Daddy, Why Did You Eat My Fries?” Listen for Martin Olson’s Merv Griffin-ish pronunciation of “the land of Oooooo.”
Season 2, Episode 4 (Series Episode 30)
November 1, 2010
Again, considering what bizarre things happen to Finn and Jake, it’s ironic that they are too creeped out by a strange horse and cannot sleep.
Season 2, Episode 5 (Series Episode 31)
November 8, 2010
Ailing Jake wants Finn to tell him a real-life story, so the young warrior ventures out into the country, annoying people and messing with their lives.
Season 2, Episode 6 (Series Episode 32)
November 15, 2010
Snorlock the slimy slug destroys the house until Finn and Jake help him find romance (“Lady time!”), but he can’t talk to females without something going wrong.
Season 2, Episode 7 (Series Episode 33)
November 22, 2010
The Grand Master of the Gnomes kidnaps Jake to use his energy to power a machine to flip over the world.
Season 2, Episode 8 (Series Episode 34)
November 29, 2010
Crystals Have Power
Jake vows to be soft and not hurt anyone but is tempted when Finn is facing crystallization. I was particularly interested to see how this was resolved because of what its message is about appropriate use of force vs. mind power.
Season 2, Episode 9 (Series Episode 35)
January 3, 2011
Jake fools Lady Rainicorn’s parents into thinking he’s a Rainicorn, too; the parents want to eat Finn, as they think humans are mighty tasty.
Season 2, Episode 10 (Series Episode 36)
January 10, 2011
To Cut a Woman’s Hair
Wanting lovely hair, the Tree Witch threatens our heroes unless she get a lock from a princess. (No kids, you don’t die from being—it’s looks hot and feels cool)!
Season 2, Episode 11 (Series Episode 37)
January 17, 2011
The Chamber of Frozen Blades
Finn and Jake are told that Ice King is going to kidnap a princess. While waiting for him in his cave, they discover Ninja equipment and become Ninjas to save the day.
Season 2, Episode 12 (Series Episode 38)
January 24, 2011
The Other Tarts
Honestly, I have been to bakeries where it seems just as life threatening to get some delicious pastries. This is like real life. Is it ageist for PB to emphasize that the previous tart-toter “has become mad…AND old”?
Season 2, Episode 13 (Series Episode 39)
January 31, 2011
To get to the ice cream marathon, the guys plant beans to get rid of two evil beans, one of which is filled with baby pigs dressed in silly costumes and the other filled with magic wands.
Season 2, Episode 14 (Series Episode 40)
February 7, 2011
The Silent King
It’s not easy being king, as Finn learns; he and Jake struggle to save the Goblin kingdom.
Season 2, Episode 15 (Series Episode 41)
February 14, 2011
The Real You
Princess Bubblegum asks Finn to speak at her barbecue. We just read an Archie comic where Veronica has this problem, but of course she didn’t go to a college of worms to learn how and she didn’t get magic glasses.
Season 2, Episode 16 (Series Episode 42)
February 21, 2011
Guardians of Sunshine
BMO does a “Tron” for the duo and they go inside a video game
Season 2, Episode 17 (Series Episode 43)
February 28, 2011
Death in Bloom
Peppermint Butler helps the duo through a portal to the Underworld so they can bring back Bubblegums’ dead plant.
Season 2, Episode 18 (Series Episode 44)
March 7, 2011
Finn finds a human female and he and Jake rescue her people from darkness, only to become concerned when they try to eat the candy people.
Season 2, Episode 19 (Series Episode 45)
March 14, 2011
Jake takes Finn on a train ride for his birthday, when the two encounter a murder mystery that Finn’s aching to solve in a grand manner.
Season 2, Episode 20 (Series Episode 46)
March 28, 2011
Go With Me
Finn wants to take Bubblegum to a movie night for couples, so he asks his friends for advice.
Season 2, Episode 21 (Series Episode 47)
April 4, 2011
Belly of the Beast
The two friends cannot seem to convince a party-crazed group of bears that they’re inside a stomach and risk digestion.
Season 2, Episode 22 (Series Episode 48)
April 11, 2011
Jake literally tries to stretch himself to his limits.
Season 2, Episode 23 (Series Episode 49)
April 18, 2011
To avoid violating the warning code on their videos, Jake, Finn and their friends make their own movie. I have not checked, but I can guess that more than a few kids have done Adventure Time videos on You Tube, right?
Season 2, Episode 26 (Series Episode 52)
May 2, 2011
Marceline changes Finn and Jake into vampires, but it’s more of a playful prank to delight her old underworld gang.
Season 2, Episode 24 (Series Episode 50)
May 9, 2011
The truly horrible Lich is released from his tree prison and wreaks havoc.
Season 2, Episode 25 (Series Episode 51)
May 9, 2011
PB, under Dr. Donut’s care, is saved from her injuries but has been changed.