“Adventure Time” was the hit that nobody saw coming, and its end is in sight. How did it manage to last this long?

Adventure Time” has a long way to go, but in many ways, it already ended. In early February 2017, just a few months after Cartoon Network notified the team behind its most surprising breakout hit that the show was canceled, the cast finished their last round of voice work. The final episodes were written, and the saga of Finn and Jake in the magical, post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo came to a close as the cast and crew scattered to new projects. The fruits of their labor will gradually unfurl on Cartoon Network until 2018 — although the timing remains uncertain. Fans must wait for the slow march to the finale, but the creative team is moving on.

“It was bittersweet,” said head writer Kent Osborne, recalling the last day of recording. “A lot of shows don’t last this long, but this felt different because it was just so popular.”

“Adventure Time” was a trailblazer that nobody saw coming. Not its reclusive creator, Pendleton Ward, who left his top job on the show two years ago, and certainly not Cartoon Network, which never knew quite how to handle its success. “It was a creative and unique show,” said one former Cartoon Network staffer. “It was a risk. People at the network were scratching their heads.”

Yet from its early days, “Adventure Time” not only enthralled younger viewers but managed to win over countless older ones initially skeptical to its appeal. Since Ward first launched the saga as a surreal short film in 2008, its episodes have oscillated between the deep, existential yearnings of diverse characters waking up to the world and sophomoric gags, sometimes within the span of a few minutes.

Not since “The Simpsons” has a major network supported such a peculiar combination and gotten away with it for so long. However, according to multiple sources who worked on the show over the years, Cartoon Network never knew quite how to handle the way “Adventure Time” took off.

Adventure Time Was a Gradual Burn

“It was a gradual burn and grew into a realization that this was indeed a massive epic that could be made into a pop culture powerhouse,” the former staffer added. “It never really fit into a category, so Cartoon Network didn’t really have a model in which to manage its ever-growing popularity.” And arcane corporate rules prohibited the company from shifting it into the more sophisticated arena of its Adult Swim programming.

Even as the ancillary potential of the show grew, with toys and costumes, comic books and video games, it expanded beyond the narrow parameters of the Cartoon Network viewership. “Cartoon Network aims for kids ages two to 14,” said veteran animation producer Fred Seibert, whose Channel Frederator picked up Ward’s original short and has remained involved in the series over the course of its seven season run. “The fact that ‘Adventure Time’ has a significantly larger audience for that, a more expansive one, is great gravy…but they can’t benefit from it directly.”

Cartoon Network Has Yet to Announce a Timeline

Now, with the show finished, Cartoon Network has yet to announce a timeline for the rest of the show aside from plans to air episodes through early 2018. In the meantime, a new season has started in fine form. “Islands,” an eight-episode arc that the network released as a “mini-series” on DVD and iTunes last month, marks some of the most exciting storytelling attempted by the show in years. Viewed in one sitting, it amounts to a feature-length journey, in which Finn and Jake join forces with the monosyllabic underground dweller Susan on a revelatory journey to find Finn’s mother — not to mention all the other humans mysteriously absent from the Land of Ooo, where Finn spends most of his time with various fantastical creatures.

Over the course of “Islands,” the group careens across the ocean in an Odyssey-like trip, face down with a moody sea monster and eventually find themselves in an isolated land. At last they come across the last human civilization, and it’s not a pretty sight: They’re trapped in an idyllic virtual reality that keeps them safely removed from the dangerous world around them, at the behest of a kindly doctor who may or may not be Finn’s missing mom. The explanation for her disappearance also invokes the backstory of Finn’s deadbeat dad, and it brings the story a degree of emotional closure that will astonish anyone whose main relationship to the show is Jake singing the “Bacon Pancakes” song. The final shot, in which the boy who has slowly become a man rides off into the sunset, plays like a series finale — and as far as Finn’s arc goes, it may be just that.

When the writers found out that Cartoon Network had canceled “Adventure Time” last fall, they rejiggled the eight-part installment, pushing it to a later date so they had more time to think it through. “As we got farther along, and Finn got older, it felt inevitable that he would be thinking about the question of his origin and pursue answers if he had the chance,” showrunner Adam Muto said via email. “There are some loose threads that definitely need to be resolved before the show ends. For a long time, Finn’s origin story didn’t seem like one of those threads.”

Then the show took off. “The more seasons we got, the more glaring that mystery became,” Muto explained. “So I’m glad we were able to tell this story though I don’t think it’s the end of Finn’s story. In a way, it sort of frees him to have a completely unexpected ending. He’s not a chosen one with a grand destiny or the last anything. He’s the son of a doctor and a con man trying to figure stuff out in a colorful magical land.”

 

Original Article Source: Why Adventure Time is Ending and Cartoon Network Didn’t Get It

Finn and Princess Bubblegum

What? … bleach, lighter fluid, ammonia, gasoline.