“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.