Why Pendleton Ward Is Probably Insane: a note about Adventure Time.


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I love animation. I’m a big fan of The Clone Wars animated series, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Transformers in all its guises. I think The Last Airbender is the best animated series of the last decade and Pixar should just take all my money now, because everything they touch is pure, unadulterated joy. Except Cars. Cars was shit. They really dropped the ball on that one but the last fifteen minutes of Toy Story 3 alone made up for that entire train wreck of a film. I even prefer stop-motion to CGI. While I really enjoyed the recent The Thing prequel, the modern visual effect were not a patch on the originals, which hold up really well after like twenty years.

So, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake had been on my radar for a while, but I’d just never gotten around to watching it. Until this weekend. Spoilers for the first episode, and a few random moments later on will follow.

The friends' signature fist bump

Oh.

My.

Lord.

When I pulled up a chair and sat down to watch the first episode of season one over breakfast, I figured it’d be a typical, if not somewhat dual-layered childrens animated series. Instead, I was given fifteen solid minutes of mind-exploding, twisted and downright surreal storytelling, with cherry, LSD fueled visuals and some of the most macabre content I’ve ever seen in a show aimed at the TV-PG crowd.

The first episode, entitled Slumber Party Panic drops the viewer directly into the midst of an occult alchemy session with Jake The Human and Princess Bubblegum, who are apparently the only human residents of an otherwise food-product inhabited planet. While trying to create a ‘decorpsinator serum’, Princess Bubblegum unwillingly creates a potion, which brings the citizen of candy land not back to life, but back from the dead.

That’s right. Zombie. Candy. People.

The zombie candy people

These undead critters, which range from lollypops to candy hearts to a small, talking elephant and a truly frightening piñata, begin to attack the candy kingdom, hungering for the sweet, sweet sugar of it’s residents. And it just get’s weirder from there.

This thing lives in my nightmares

In order to keep the candy citizens from discovering the zombie infestation, Princess Bubblegum announces a slumber party at the castle and Finn must keep the citizens busy, because of course when candy people get scared they explode. Because of course they do. Why wouldn’t they? It makes perfect sense, what’s wrong with you?

Finn resorts to party games at the fictitious slumber party while Jake The Dog, Finn’s” best friend, tries desperately to figure out the truth. After a game of “truth or dare in which a cupcake man strips down to his cake filling, a very brief game of “dodge sock” and a distracting game of “seven minutes in heaven” between Jake the Dog and Lady Rainicorn (don’t ask), the zombies arrive.

So we then move to the inevitable rave scene – the music used to hide the zombie sounds outside – and Finn’s ideas devolve into more and more idiotic, yet blindly accepted games which culminate with an undead-destroying game of ‘hit the piñatas’ where the candy people are blindfolded an swing wooden sticks at the monsters, smash them to bits and then, naturally, eat their insides.

Yup. By the nine-minute-mark, this nightmarish tween trip has referenced the undead, getting to third base in a closet, math jokes and cannibalism.

Then a promise gets broken, the world freezes and Finn must answer math questions to save his life from the Gumball Guardians. After that it’s a simple matter of finishing the decorpsinator serum and brining all the dead candy people back to life. Then one tries to chew on Finn because “flesh is delicious” and the episode concludes with an awkward, non-sequitur fart joke.

"I can't help it, flesh is delicious" - actual quote

If most of what I just wrote seems bizarre, don’t worry; it’s not just you. If you found the description lacking in segues and downright mental in its treatment of narrative, please understand that it wasn’t me. That’s just how the episode is. Suddenly there is dance music. Suddenly there are Gumball Guardians. Suddenly there are fart jokes. None of these things happen with any foreshadowing or causal links whatsoever.

I hit pause at the end of the fifteen minute mini-episode and just sat there for a good minute, wondering if somebody had spiked my tea, or if I’d suffered a mental breakdown sometime earlier that morning.

In all honesty though; it works. I don’t know how this series was ever pitched as being something for kids. Maybe I’m just underestimating the children of today but I think most of the humour would go far over their heads and the stuff they would find funny, they wouldn’t find funny for the reasons it’s actually funny.

Episode Three… or five, I guess since each episode is split into two mini-eps, starts with the mass murder of old ladies at the hands of three deranged fairies. A previous episode contained a gargantuan wall of flesh, which two characters tried to kill while another placed decorative stickers on it’s squishy, pink surface. Then later they were wearing makeup. Earlier, one of the villains has a series of princesses tied up in his rape-dungeon (they don’t really call it that, I’m paraphrasing) where he forces the Wildberry Princess to play a keyboard under penalty of death.

It puts the lotion in the basket...

Pendleton Ward, the creator of the series, has said that he was influenced by The Simpsons, My Neighbour Totoro and David Freaking Lynch. Which really, says more about this series than I ever could. Which is good because I don’t really know what to say about Adventure Time other than I really enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure that makes me some sort of psychopath but I’m okay with that.

I’m watching another episode while I write this, and Finn is singing a weird, autotune-the-news style song because he apparently swallowed a computer somewhere off screen. I don’t know. Just run with it.

Gah!

If you like modern animated series and you like weird shit, check Adventure Time out. It’s basically Ren and Stimpy meets Twin Peaks and in the spirit of the show I rate it Nine and Four Thirds out of Purple.

You can harass the author of this post via twitter: @carichanley

All images copyright the creepy, disturbed mind of Pendleton Ward and also Cartoon Network.