Interview

Pendleton Ward

Pendleton Ward, cartoonist

The creator of Adventure Time says that games are best when they play with our expectations.

By Derrick Sanskrit • November 27, 2012

Pendleton Ward is the creator of the Emmy-nominated animated series and pop-culture phenomenon Adventure Time, along with the new original series Bravest Warriors on Frederator Studios’ YouTube channel. Both cartoons have already spun out popular comic books, and Adventure Time, which just entered its fifth season on Cartoon Network, is featured on lines of action figures, apparel, and school supplies. Pendleton spoke with The Gameological Society about his involvement in the recently-released Adventure Time game (Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!), his favorite games of the past and present, and the contact lenses of the future.

The Gameological Society: As a cartoonist, game design is not really your area of expertise. How involved are you in the game?

Pendleton Ward: I wrote half the script, with James Montagna. I talked with [the development studio, WayForward Technologies] in the beginning about what we could do, what everyone could do, and what I would like to see. They took my suggestions. I feel like that’s what I did with it. I’m so busy with the show. I wish I could have been at the studio all the time, every day.

Gameological: Even before this game was announced, you posted sketches on your Twitter account of what your dream Adventure Time video game might be. Did you approach the higher-ups, and say, “Hey! Here are ideas, let’s make a game,” or did they come to you and say, “We’re working on a game, and we want you involved!”?

That’s what’s interesting to me about games. Interactive storytelling.

Ward: I was just sitting back and daydreaming about what the game could be. I don’t think my ideas are in the game—my old suggestions. It was fun, that’s all those (sketches) were.

Gameological: From an animation standpoint, in the first trailer for the game, I recognized Paul Robertson’s animated sprite work. Do you recall when Robertson got involved? How familiar with his work were you before the game?

Ward: I knew of him, but I didn’t know everything about him. The game studio got Robertson really involved, and I got so happy. I’ve became a big fan just recently after I knew he was working on the game. After I heard he was on the Adventure Time game, I looked up everything about him, and now I’m a turbofan. That’s the coolest part of the game to me, that Paul Robertson did all these big sprites for it. They’re really awesome, and really cool. They make the game. In the game, there’s an ice bull in the Ice Kingdom, and you can see these entrails and stuff from like a dead body. That’s another one that Paul did that’s awesome. He just killed it with the guts spilling out. It looks like it was Alien.

Gameological: That sounds like something out of Robertson’s film Kings Of Power 4 Billion %. Aside from the game aesthetic, there are a lot of stylistic overlaps between Adventure Time and The Legend Of Zelda. I know that Shigeru Miyamoto once said that Zelda was based on his own experiences as a kid, where he’d wander through the woods, and make up adventures. Did Adventure Time come from a similar place for you?

Ward: It started as just a sketch in a sketch book. I was drawing the characters. It was just a doodle, a random doodle, and I plugged in my personality into them—my friends’ personalities—into the characters. It’s just everything I would want to see. I tried to make it what I would want to see if I was a kid watching cartoons. I don’t think it pulls from anything real. If it does, it’s a raw, emotional realness, not any actual adventures I’d been in on my real life. We try to treat it real, and have the characters feel real. Those are my favorite kinds of shows to watch.

Adventure Time

Gameological: Have you given much thought to the types of stories that games can tell in a different manner than animation?

Ward: I was playing the new Doom from like six years ago—I can’t remember which one it was. It was so terrifying, and I was playing at night with the lights off, headphones on, and the screen right in my face. I was moving through that world, and there weren’t any enemies attacking me; they were just messing with my head. I was moving through an area, and I’d see a silhouetted demon skitter across outside a window. That would freak me out! It was all sounds and effects like that. My hand was shaking so bad that I had to stop playing the game, because I couldn’t play anymore because my fingers were shaking so much. I couldn’t press the keys, I was barely able to press control-alt-delete and shut down my computer. It was like the worst nightmare of my entire life, and that was inspiring because that’s what games have over television. You’re pressing the “W” key, which moves you through the scary area, you kind of have to interact with it. That’s what it has over the television. Was that what we were talking about?

Gameological: Absolutely.

Ward: That’s what’s interesting to me about games. Interactive storytelling. I feel like it’s still relatively untapped. I think stories generally come second in game-making. It’s usually gameplay first, which is super-important, but I want to bulk up the story parts in the game, and see if I can reach the maximum potential in game-making and all that. It feels like a new frontier still.

Gameological: Recently, there was the Adventure Time Gamemaking Frenzy 48-hour game jam. You recorded a keynote for the jam and posted some of your scores in the games on Twitter. Was there anything in that group of games that particularly surprised you?

Ward: There were like 400, 500 submissions. I haven’t gone through them all. The first one on the page, I think, the first one had a really small Finn in like a top-down Zelda.

Gameological: Adventure Minute.

Ward: Yeah! That was amazing when I played that. Trying to get all the different bad dudes.

Gameological: I was genuinely impressed by a good handful of them.

Ward: They’re exceptional for the two day crunch. Oh, you know what I really liked? I liked the games that were made by Ice King. Did you see these? Virtual Princess Dating Sim. It’s made from the Ice King’s point of view, like the Ice King made it.

Gameological: Now that we’ve got our hands on the first official Adventure Time video game, are there talks about branching out? Like an Adventure Time board game, card game, or role-playing game?

Ward: Yeah, I’d be down for a tabletop role-playing game. That’s all I can do for that one. Ask. Nicely. I’m sure something will happen if this game does well. And if not, we’ll just keep making game jams.

Gameological: They seem to turn out well. In the past year and a half of the show, BMO [the sentient video game console that lives with heroes Finn and Jake] has become more of a main player. How was that decision made to beef up the role?

When you’re pushing that “W” key and you have to move yourself through, it gets really intense. I like the potential in there.

Ward: After you do two seasons, like, what are you going to do? I look to The Simpsons a lot, because The Simpsons was awesome, to me, growing up. You’re just trying to expand a world, developing all the side characters. But more than that, it’s just that I love BMO. BMO’s my favorite character on the show. Niki Yang [the voice of BMO] does an awesome job. We went to school together. She’s cool. Everyone thinks BMO is so cute and super fun to write for, so those episodes are the ones where everyone wants to write them on the show, everyone tries to reserve the episodes with BMO.

Gameological: Are there any other Rainicorns?

Ward: Her parents, yeah. They’re in the crystal dimension. We had a whole episode in the first season where they were going to go there, but it got canned for one reason or another. You’ll see more, though. Talking about it now reminds me that we need to go back there.

Gameological: Have you played any games based on cartoons in the past? Like there’s been a ton of Simpsons games, a handful of Avatar: The Last Airbender games. Recently there was the Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion.

Ward: The Beavis And Butthead Sega Genesis game was my favorite game like that for a really long time.

Gameological: You’re not the first to tell me that.

Ward: Virtual Bart, that’s awesome. Probably the best Simpsons game. I’m trying to think of some other ones, I don’t know. Cool Spot? I don’t play a lot of licensed games. I played some old stuff, a game with The Noid.

Gameological: Domino’s had The Noid.

Ward: I had some game, like, the only colors they could use were pink and blue, and you were The Noid and you had to get to the top of the tower. I played that.

Adventure Time

Gameological: As you’re on the fifth season of the Adventure Time TV show now, lots of ideas have had to be cut and left on the floor. Were there any ideas that had to be cut in the show, but found their way into the game somehow?

Ward: No, it was all new ideas in the game. I don’t want to spoil anything. Nothing from the cutting-room floor. But we had to cut a high-five out of an episode one time where Finn and Jake gave each other a high five. I just had to get another second or two out of an episode to cut it down. That was a bummer, and then I tweeted about it, I think Jhonen Vasquez was like “Make that its own episode, then. Just them doing one big long high five.”

Gameological: “Five Short Grables.” I love that episode, especially because of Emo Phillips as the narrator. The thing that consistently amazes me about the show is the celebrity voices you get.

Ward: For me it’s the most fun part of having this show, getting to meet super funny people, people I admire. LeVar Burton came in recently to do a voice of a bubble. I freaked out because he was complimenting me, saying he liked the show. I’ve never done this before, but I started choking! I lost it and couldn’t recover. It was awesome! A lot of them come in and surprise us that they’re fans of the show. LeVar was talking about how he liked the show a lot, and how his daughter was cosplaying as one of the characters. I thought that was awesome. That was another thing making me freak out, that they like the show so much. A few of them are fans. You know, celebs.

Gameological: You didn’t do any music for the game, did you? I know you wrote the show’s theme song, and there’s tons and tons of great music by Rebecca Sugar.

Ward: I composed a short song for a secret screen. And I also did some animations for it.

Gameological: I read somewhere that you said if people buy enough copies of Mercenary Kings, there will be a Pendleton Ward in the game for you to rescue.

Ward: You can. I totally dropped a lot of money on that Kickstarter. You can rescue me somewhere in the game. That was one of the prizes in the Kickstarter. You can also play me as a character in the new Shadowrun Online, which I also did in the Kickstarter.

Adventure Time

Gameological: What games are you playing these days?

Ward: I’m playing Super Hexagon on the iPhone.

Gameological: That game is crazy hard! Everything by Terry Cavanagh is just crazy hard.

Ward: Yeah, it’s hard, but I’m so good at it. It’s all I’ve been playing right now. I’m at 121, so that’s where I’m at right now, on the base-level hexagon. I’m not playing it until my friends can beat me. Jesse Moynihan, one of the storyboard artists on the show, he showed me Super Hexagon. Now I just shove it in his face every time I beat his score—121 is pretty high up there, so I’m just waiting for someone to beat me. Someone who can feel the drive.

Gameological: I think it might be a good long while. You might be the king of the heap on that for a bit.

Ward: I don’t know. They’re encroaching upon my score. It’s pretty fun, man. It really puts me in a wild state where my heart’s flopping around when I get up past nine. I think it could hurt somebody. You keep going faster and faster. Other games I’m playing—did you ever play Enviro-Bear?

Gameological: I loved Enviro-Bear 2010. The first half hour you’re playing it, your brain hurts, because you’re trying to figure out the controls. You’re like, “I have to drive this way, then I have to grab the fish, and put the fish into my mouth, and then keep driving.”

Ward: It’s really well done. You should look up this game that’s a fighter on the iPhone: The Thousand Seasons Of Kyumori, Episode 1. It’s not the best game. It’s funny to play. The style is rad. It feels old-school.

Gameological: Between Super Hexagon and Doom, it sounds like you really enjoy getting your heart pumped, getting some adrenaline when you’re playing games.

Augmented reality is cool. You could get contact lenses to turn buildings into dragons. Why don’t we do that?

Ward: I think that’s what I like when playing Doom. I hadn’t felt that kind of fear since I was really small. As an adult, it’s hard to have that feeling, like in a movie, going to a movie, you get all scared. When you’re pushing that “W” key and you have to move yourself through, it gets really intense. I like that, I like the potential in there. I think in the first F.E.A.R. game, they had an awesome—I was playing the demo. They’ve got a little girl. There’s one ladder in the demo, you look at it, and there’s nothing down there. When you turn and move down the ladder, the camera turns around, and you see a little girl in front of you. That scared the hell out of me, because there’s something about expectations in games, and turning around and going down ladders to see what’s out there. It plays off my expectations. That’s what I like the most.

Gameological: Which do you prefer, modern games, or the games of your youth?

Ward: All of the above. It’s all fun. It all has merit, old-school games and new games. For a while, I was first place in the world playing the Tron first-person shooter, when that came out a few years ago. [Laughs.] I think that’s because it was me and 12 other 14-year-old kids playing it. I like that the Tron first-person shooter is like being inside computers, like ReBoot, that cartoon.

Gameological: There have been a lot of advances in modern technology in games—we have touchscreens, and motion controls, and all this stuff. Is there anything you want in an Adventure Time or Bravest Warriors games that modern technology just doesn’t do yet?

Ward: Good question. Augmented reality is cool. I think the trick is getting it without all the heavy gear. Or any gear at all. You could get contact lenses to turn buildings into dragons. Why don’t we do that? There was a comic back in the day called The Good Guys that no one liked, but I liked it so much. It started as a contest, like a real-world contest for kids to submit their powers and their photograph. [The comic’s creators] picked one, and they would just draw them with whatever powers they wanted. It was really exciting to me when I was growing up. To be in a comic. I think they’re still doing this. Now that I have money from my TV show, I can pay people to put me in their video games.

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  • Drew Toal

    Is that a Pendleton coat?

    • Cloks

      Is he the fashion adviser at the society?

      • Drew Toal

        He prefers “Sartorial Overlord.”

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         For a brief moment, I thought he was another “barely disguised John Teti” character a la Pete Strackmeyer.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      He’s sporting an entire Pendleton Wardrobe.

    • stakkalee

      Plaid jacket with a paisley tie? Bold. And is that a tattersall pattern on the shirt?  The pen awkwardly sticking out of the pocket flap is the perfect finishing touch.

    • Burton Radons

      That coat is amazing. Look at that collar! But the crown touch is his totally rocking beard. I haven’t even read the article, I’m just in awe of how cool he looks.

  • Cloks

    This interview is totally math! If there’s one game that should come out of Adventure Time, it’s totally a table-top RPG because a lot of the episodes could already serve as rad modules for it.

    • ricin_beans

      I was hoping the new game was going to be an old school turn based JRPG a la the Penny Arcade games.  Maybe next time.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Or a first person dungeon crawler! 

        Actually, I think either of those might kinda suck the fun out of it. Mleh.

  • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

    OH MY GLOB!!

    THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER! I HAVEN’T READ IT YET BUT AHHHHHH YESSSSSSS! TWO OF MY FAVORITE THINGS OMG OMG!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBrimstone Christian Brimo

      three, if you count Paul Robertson

    • Effigy_Power

      I hear you. I’d easily trade my Lumpy Space Princess plush for a Pendleton Ward Action Figure with super-awesome approachability powers.
      Whattaguy.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Remember in Conan when the Mongol lord asks the titular barbarian what is best in life?  Were it me who answered and not a sociopathic codpiece repository I would simply say “Adventure Time.”

       Sure, I could expound further and say it’s because while I’m a late-comer to the series and still have only seen about a season and a half’s worth of episodes, I came across it accidentally and was surprised to realize I just met my best friend who knew me better than anyone.   Or how it somehow blends Thundarr the Barbarian, Jack Kirby comics, D&D, Ralph Bakshi, Edgar Rice Burroughs and a healthy dose of eighties toy-mandated cartoons -but makes it all so much greater than the sum of it’s parts.  An honest fulfillment of an idea and not a lazily stitched-together amalgam of nostalgic references.
       Or how the art direction is wonderful and ceaselessly inventive.
       Or how the simple enthusiasm and exploration is such a welcome antidote to shows that sag and turn grey under the weight of their own exposition and fussy canon.
       Or how it really is great for all ages.
       But I wouldn’t need to say any of that, because all of you who’ve seen it know exactly what I mean.
       So all I’d have to do is sit -stoic as a mountain while eating my gorgon kabab- and say, “Adventure Time.”    

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      YES. I seriously don’t think it’s possible to rave about this show too much. It’s pretty much perfect. Are you watching them in order or what? I’ve been on since the beginning (ever since I saw that short on youtube) and it just keeps getting better and better and i love it more and more.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        What happened is this last spring, my wife and I were on vacation for the first time since our adorable little ball of obligation was born.  We were staying at a gorgeous hotel in the middle of downtown San Francisco, allowing us our first access to cable in years.
           Cartoon Network chose that weekend to run an Adventure Time marathon and I immediately fell in love.  I was aware of the show and the love it received, but had never payed much attention.
           I, and more surprisingly, my wife, actually chose to stay in bed for an extra hour or so to watch the show than go outside into the perfect weather to enjoy the amazing city.
           I pre-ordered season 1 as soon as I found out it was being released and have since torn through it.
           Now all I can do is wait for the other seasons to release and be patient.  I don’t know if any one show is worth a hundred dollar a month cable bill, but if one were, this might be it.
           Also, if you ever find yourself at the Palace Hotel, the lounge has a really amazing Maxfield Parrish mural above the bar.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBrimstone Christian Brimo

      I’ve got a friend who’s super-cynical, and hates everything.
      he loves Adventure Time.

      says it all

      • WL14

        I checked this thread out because I’ve been interested in Adventure Time… and was unprepared for the level of fandom encompassed in these comments. Apparently I need to bone up on my AT. I’ve seen it a few times just channel-surfing, and it’s one of the few shows that have made me stop and sit still for the full half hour. Basically AT and Workaholics FTW.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Well, AT episodes are only 11 minutes, so that might help too. The characters are extremely well done, and the mythology of the show is fantastic. It’s a really slow burn at the beginning, but they start dropping hints of whats to come. At first it was subtle and I’m not sure if the fans realized it would ever be more than just a sort of easter egg, but the writers pursued it and fleshed it out and made it pretty explicit. (I’m being vague because I don’t want to spoil anything.) 

          It’s a good show. Watch it.

    • Effigy_Power

      Someone I talk to online told me about how the Australian TV stations blinked out a song of a cartoon show. It was Finn’s “Key Song” in the Dungeon episode, particularly the line “Oh key, we’re meant to be, I want to have your baby”, which apparently is the axis of evil.
      I shrugged and then days later saw the Adventure Time intro for the first time.
      The moment I saw the Frank Frazetta-like pose at the end of the intro, I was lost.
      Now I can just about mouth the dialog in every episode. The only other show I can claim that about is Futurama, and that seems on the downslope, so AT came in just in time.
      What time?
      ADVENTURE TIME!

  • Alexander Peterhans

    It’s kind of surprising reading him talk about story getting 2nd place in games, and then find out he’s pretty much only playing games that pay very little or no attention to story.

    • http://profiles.google.com/cbombast Chad Bombast

      I feel like there are a lot of games that have great stories. Maybe he’s playing the wrong ones. If I only played Super Hexagon, I might lament the lack of story as well. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBrimstone Christian Brimo
    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I also just discovered that some people made a Card Wars game based off of that episode. They even have sweet graphics so you can print out your own set!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBrimstone Christian Brimo

    i went to a thing where Billy West and John Dimaggio talked and John said he just gets Jake’s lines without any context and it makes no sense

    • IntotheNightSky

      What?  You’re telling me things like a 5 second rock solo about having a big liver, without any context, don’t make sense?  I find that a bit hard to believe.

    • http://thewavefunctionjunction.blogspot.com/ trilobiter

       Honestly, I think it’s best that way.

    • ricin_beans

      Has Billy West ever been an AT?  If no, why not?

    • Effigy_Power

      “I’m on a boat with a couple of wackos. Shakin’ my hips, and dippin’ my fat toe… In the water! Dippin’ in the water! This party’s gettin’ hotter! It’s so hot… it’s stupid.

      “Makes perfect sense to me. :P

  • caspiancomic

    I hope you all wanted another comment that amounts to “Adventure Time is the greatest thing out of all the things,” because that’s all you’ll find here. I still have to watch season 4, though. They only just started airing episodes on TV up here, and the full seasons on DVD are coming out at a measly trickle, so I’ll have to torrent the fourth season now that it’s complete. Don’t worry though, I’m fully going to buy a ton of Adventure Time merch to offset the cost of my vicious piracy. Definitely gonna scoop this game, it looks mathematical.

    Anybody read the comics by Ryan North? Pretty righteous as well. And the spinoff series by Meredith Gran is really great as well.

    • http://thewavefunctionjunction.blogspot.com/ trilobiter

       Meredith Gran wrote something for Adventure Time?  I love this world.

      • caspiancomic

        Marceline and the Scream Queens, a Marceline and Peebles centric series. And apparently under my very nose they’ve gone and released another spinoff series starring Fionna and Cake.

    • Effigy_Power

      Cartoon Network has a shitty record with the expedience of their DVD releases, which is a great source of frustration for me, so I also torrented some of the later seasons.
      But then I bought Season 1, a LSP-plush, a Finn backpack and preordered the Episode guide… I feel pretty good about myself.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        They keep releasing DVD sets with just some random episodes thrown in! WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? GIVE ME THE REST OF THE SEASONS! And make it Blu Ray, while you’re at it. Although one of the random ass dvd sets comes with a finn hat. WHICH ONLY MAKES ME MORE ANGRY BECAUSE I  DON’T WANT RANDOM EPISODES BUT I DO WANT A FINN HAT.

        • double_hawk

           ….i almost bought that for the hat

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          Every episode to date is available in SD and HD on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. We all want fancy boxes on our shelves, but there’s no need just to have every episode is HD unbesmirched by station ident graphics and advertisements.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      It’s greater than all other things?  Even a thing of candy beans?

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    He looks like the kind of guy who would invent “Adventure Time.”

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    Has anyone  sussed out the differences between the 3DS and DS versions of the game? I haven’t found and detailed description, and can’t be sure if they’re essentially the same (with the 3DS having higher resolution and 3-D), or totally different. The game sounds pretty neat, but not having a 3DS, I’m a little curious about exactly how impoverished, if at all, the DS experience is.

    On a vaguely related note, I introduced my undergrad art ed & technology students to Hexagon last week (we’re starting the game-making unit, and I’ve been showing them a lot of examples of art games and such). I also demonstrated a Makey-Makey board to encourage them to try some unconventional physical control schemes in their projects…and, long story short, we built a kind of ghetto DDR pad out of tinfoil and cardboard and used it to play Hexagon.

    It was pretty fucking intense and exhausting, but gets your heart pumping EVEN MORE than vanilla keyboard Hexagon.

    • TaumpyTearrs

       That sounds like an awesome class.

    • double_hawk

       I think it was actually made for the DS and ported to the 3DS for people who had replaced their DS.  I don’t believe it actually has any 3D to it or enhanced graphics.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         But the 3DS plays DS games, anyway, right? So why would they do a port if it’s exactly the same? That’s what confuses me.

        • double_hawk

          Ah then I guess maybe just sharper resolution and maybe a little converted 3d?

      • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

        The 3DS version does have 3D, and it’s pretty nice at times. I’m sure they packed more pixels into the screen on the 3DS version because it feels nice at that resolution. I recently replayed some DS games on my 3DS so I’m pretty aware of the discrepancy between the two screen resolutions just now.

  • TaumpyTearrs

    You are one of my heroes Pendleton Ward! The existence of Adventure Time literally makes my life better. Things haven’t been so great for a while, but your show always delights and excites me. This is the first time I have ever wished I had a DS, because I have been wanting an Adventure Time games forever, and Paul Robertson rocks. I loved his work on the Scott Pilgrim game and I’m looking forward to Mercenary Kings. And I hadn’t heard about the Shadowrun Online game you kicked in for, but I LOVE Shadowrun so I’m amped.

    This is reposted from an old comment, but I think it is the best job I have done summing up my feelings about Adventure Time:

    Every aspect of Adventure Time feels so unique and interesting, yet it all derives
    from the same nerd-collective-unconcious that my brain is tapped into.
    It reminds me of childhood, but it never feels nostalgic or retro,
    instead it brings back the flexibility and fun (and sometimes the fear
    and frustration) of childhood thought while incorporating all the
    influences I have accrued since then. It tickles my itch for a deeper mythology and analysis, but never gets bogged down or limited by it. It can have truly touching or sad moments, but it is also full of joy and laughter. The art is beautiful and wonderfully weird and flexible, the characters are unique and fun. The voice work is delightful. The music and sound design are
    incredible, and when I rewatch episodes I’ll often turn it up and ignore
    the dialogue and just listen to how the music and sound effects
    interact with each other and enhance the visual and emotional aspects.

    Thanks again for creating something that I feel a true connection with. There are movies and shows I relate to or that speak to me, but Adventure Time feels like it springs directly from the recesses of my brain, with every thing and want. Its rare I feel so close to a show or movie, this and James Gunn’s film Super are the only things in the last few years I have felt this way about.

    • Effigy_Power

      -Applauds-

      As a long-standing roleplay geek who can’t have enough things with Bender’s voice and loves random magic powers, I can do nothing but applaud this emphatically.

  • Effigy_Power

    I know it’s a corny thing to say, but Adventure Time just oozes love for its characters, its stories, its crazy setting and even its villains. Nothing is taken overly serious and yet everything has merit.
    Fantasy is so very, very often too full of itself and insists upon its qualities, but Adventure Time (whether it is fantasy as such or not) simply exists and does just fine with that.

    Even characters like the Ice King, who appear evil and stupid at some point, have their moment of glory, emotionality and success and I think that’s a great message, intentional or not. Nobody in Adventure Time is invincible or flawless (even Billy), nobody is irredeemably evil and villainous (well, maybe the Lich, but he’s dead, so screw him).

    AT is full of characters that appear simple and straight forward and surprise with so many facets and sides to them, just the way I’d want people to think of those around them. Because in the real world, nobody is invincible or flawless (even Billy… Idol?), nobody is irredeemably evil and villainous (well, maybe that Glen Beck guy, but he’s on Fox, so screw him).

    AT is all about the love and every episode feels like it’s accompanied by a hug for those who watch and the characters within, and that’s a warm, cuddly quality that you can’t fake, all without being full of pathos.

    Thanks, Mr Ward. Well done.

    • Xyvir

      This^

      This is what makes many movies, books, and stories so great. They are narratives about /people/. Believable people who are not cardboard cut-outs, but are complex, muli-faceted, and surprising. It doesn’t matter that they live in a fantasy world and do impossible magicky things all the time, at their heart they still seem to act and think as people we can relate to. Either personally, or vicariously through the lives of others. 

      I feel like I can relate Finn and Jake and the friendship they have. It is pure, innocent, and longstanding. I love to see that type of bro-dynamic, as it makes me think of the many close friends I share all my adventures with, scary or euphoric, real or imagined.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    It’s safe to say everybody here is jealous of Derrick and we all wish we could hang out with P. Ward for an afternoon.  I’d talk to him about the F.E.A.R. demo we both played, and our appreciation for paisley ties and he’d row me across the lake and sing me songs… (sigh)

  • stakkalee

    So I’ll be the obligatory “What’s so great about Adventure Time?” guy.  I’ll confess, I’ve tried the show twice but just couldn’t get into it.  It’s strange, because the show seems like it should be right up my alley, but for some reason it never clicked with me.  I couldn’t tell you which episodes I tried to watch, so it’s possible I simply caught the show on a bad day.

    Normally I love well-done children’s cartoons – Disney’s Recess was an excellent, fun cartoon, as was Fillmore!, and I positively adored Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends.  I think it might be that each of those shows, for all their mad-cap hilarity and agressive whimsy, are grounded in a mundane aspect of “real life” that I didn’t find in AT (not saying it’s not there, just that I didn’t see it when I watched.)  Recess and Fillmore! both revolve around a children’s version of grown-up society, where individuals struggle to find their own identity in a society that encourages conformity, and the main relationship in Foster’s, between Mac and his imaginary friend Bloo, included an element of resignation; Bloo wasn’t always the nicest or most thoughtful of friends,  but Mac loved him and tolerated him anyway, and their relationship seemed to transcend friendship into true family because of it.

    Maybe I’ll try the show again – I’ll add it to my Netflix queue and give it one more look.  So I’m asking the Society, which 3 episodes are the best, most awesomest episodes of Adventure Time ever?  Which ones does everybody love?  Which ones would make you question my humanity if I expressed genuine antipathy towards them?

    • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

      Recess and Fillmore! were pretty much the last legs of proper network Saturday Morning Cartoons, along with Spectacular Spider-Man (showrun by Greg Weisman of Disney’s Gargoyles fame. First season’s on Netflix, look it up).

      Cable has started to pick up that ball. I really enjoyed Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block earlier this year with Green Lantern by Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series) and Young Justice by Greg Weisman (see above), both of which focused just as much on the emotions of the characters working together as on the superheroics, but that’s on hiatus right now. Disney XD has also stepped up their game. Phineas & Ferb is consistently fun and witty, Gravity Falls is a charming sendup of Twin Peaks for kids (plus an episode with art by Paul Robertson, as discussed even further above), and Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja is really fun so far (animated by the same team that does Metalocalypse, character designs by Jhonen Vasquez of Invader Zim and Johnny The Homicidal Maniac fame).

      If I had to pick three episodes of Adventure Time to get people into it, I’d say What Is Life?, where Finn builds a Never-Ending Pie-Throwing Robot who gains sentience and proceeds to have an existential crisis, What Was Missing, where Finn, Jake, Marceline, and Bubblegum need to sing a song in order to unlock a magic door and things get very emotional, and Thank You, a mostly dialogue-free episode in which a snow gollum takes it upon himself to return a lost Fire Wolf Pup to his family in the Fire Kingdom, even though he knows the journey will cause him to melt.

      • stakkalee

        I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying the new CGI Green Lantern series, and once Young Justice found it’s feet (and a more consistent broadcast schedule) I’ve been enjoying the hell out of that, too, but then I’m a huge comic book nerd so what do you expect.  Although surprisingly I never watched Spectacular Spider-Man, so I’ll be rectifying that shortly.  I hadn’t even heard of Randy Cunningham but the Jhonen Vasquez involvement is probably enough to get me to check it out once it’s available through streaming (no Disney XD channel, lamentably.)  Something about the Phineas & Ferb animation style just rubs me the wrong way, and Gravity Falls just struck me as a little too childish for my tastes when I caught it in passing, but that again may just be timing.

        Thanks for the episode recommendations – I’ll give them a try sometime this week.

        • double_hawk

           FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TRY GRAVITY FALLS AGAIN!

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         I had forgotten about that Golem episode, but it was really sweet and unusual – do the protagonists even ever show up in it?

        Adventure Time is like “Matt Brinkman for kids,” in a lot of respects, which probably explains a lot of the appeal and why it fits so well in the current art/pop culture zeitgeist.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          Yeah, they’re sort of in the background then it cuts to them. Ice King is in a big immobile ice suit and they’re just punching it or whatever.

          “You know… I think we could all learn something from those sandwiches.”

        • http://twitter.com/madeagoestodrew Drew Stone

          That has my favorite Ice King line: “If you were me you’d do the things that I do.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      I enjoy Adventure Time but I haven’t really been following it, and I can understand why people aren’t fans.

      If you like Recess, then you’ll love Hey Arnold!, which is also on Netflix. It’s by the same people (they’re referred to as “Paul and Joe”), created at the same time, one for Disney, and one for Nick.

      I think that Nick’s set of CGI cartoons honestly some of the best cartoons on TV right now. Penguins of Madagascar is severely underrated, made by the same people who did Kim Possible. It even won an Emmy this year, beating out Simpsons and Futurama.

      Kung Fu Panda had an awkward start, but their second season is going strong. They toned down Po’s man-childness quite a bit and the fight sequences are surprisingly impressive for television-level CGI. The hour-long “Enter the Dragon” saga impressed the hell out of me; the last 25 minutes or so have no jokes or silly gags – it’s just this very dark, tense climax that builds wonderfully.

      TMNT is silly but fun, and I think that they’re doing a decent job of putting a lot of ideas down for some future developments into next season. Anything involving April is dead-weight, just as I thought it would be.

      The most IMPRESSIVE show, IMO, is Robot and Monster. I had no expectations for this one. It seemed like an excuse to make some kind of online-avatar-creator (“Design your OWN robot or monster!”) But the show is goddamn clever, funny, and surprisingly well-thought out. It also has the best secondary characters on animated TV right now.

    • caspiancomic

       Get out.

      Naw, I’m yankin’ yah. I’ve seen a few people express ambivalence or even dislike for Adventure Time when the topic comes up on various sites, but usually it’s by pointlessly contrarian internet cool guys who roll their eyes at anything widely beloved. (Which, be advised, I’m not accusing you of being)

      While we’re on the topic of dyed in the wool Saturday Morning Cartoons (deserving of capitalized letters), I’ve always felt that The Weekenders was better than Recess, but the latter had its moments for sure. And Fillmore! was solid gold, I wish my friends were more into that show. A lot of these shows desperately need DVD releases. I would really quickly snatch up boxsets of The Weekenders, Fillmore!, and Pepper Ann. I’d name some more I’d happily buy, but I’m tired of opening and closing italics.

      As for three episodes of Adventure Time that I think best represent the series, I’d go with The Enchiridion!, a knock-down drag-out original flavour adventure story, It Came From The Nightosphere, a perfect mix of action and sentiment that focuses on Marceline (AKA best character in the show)(also the episode features one of the series’ best songs, and in this series that’s saying something), and Memory of a Memory, for being a trippy psychological adventure, a glimpse into the show’s purposefully obfuscated history, a backstory-unpacking for my favourite character, and for featuring without a doubt the show’s single best piece of music.

      • PaganPoet

        Heya buddy, this is completely off topic, but thanks to the holiday last week and the lack of a “What are you playing this weekend?” thread, we missed our Persona 3: FES update! I don’t want you beating the game without current thoughts and feelings being relayed to me!!

        • caspiancomic

           At the risk of derailing the thread, a quickie update: it’s the first week of January, and the “E” of the “W” (WINK WINK) is marked neatly on my calendar for January 31st. I’m actually kind of nervous- I’ve faced overwhelming, apocalyptic challenges in videogames countless times in the past, but the way this scenario has been presented (and the way the game explicitly forced me to choose it, twice, after giving me a week to really think about it and the implications of the decision), makes me think this is going to be a super big deal. It’s being handled really well, dramatically speaking. I’m really digging the New Year’s tunes, too. Right now I’m mostly slaughtering my way to the top of Tartarus- I’m somewhere around the 230th floor. Also, I railed the chick from the Velvet Room.

        • Jackbert322

          Heyy friend, you weren’t talking to me. But I finished. Sunday morning. And can’t talk about it because of Caspian. Caspian, you better finish by Friday! I mean, you have to. So, impressions will form in my head for now, but I can safely say that it is the best PSP game I have ever played. Also, Saturday night I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I can safely say is the best PS3 game I have ever played. Flippin’ AWESOME weekend!!!

        • PaganPoet

          @Jackbert322:disqus Well, I was awaiting your input as well! Quite dramatic stuff, eh? You thinking about a replay as the female protagonist? It’s funny, I already have the FES version of the game, but I still kind of want to buy P3P so I can play as the female.

          @caspiancomic:disqus Woo-hoo! You’re in the home stretch here. By the way since you’ve passed this plot-point in the game, I don’t feel bad about linking you to this hilarious youtube video:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WPEiOhlftA

          BTW, to the both of you, play Persona 4 any which way you can, because it’s even better than P3 if you can believe it. Hopefully they will release it on PSN once they’ve made a bit of money of P4 Golden. ALTERNATIVELY, you can also watch the full Persona 4 anime on hulu plus…it’s quite good!

        • Jackbert322

          It was…dramatic. Tune in to What Are You Playing This Weekend? to learn more! (Unless Capian doesn’t finish.)

          I did immediately start a New Game+ to replay as a dude and max all the ladies, but got bored pretty fast because I didn’t want to talk to Kenji again. I saved the file though, so I’ll start a New Game+ as a female at some point.

          THAT VIDEO WAS HYSTERICAL!

          And yeah, I’d like to get Persona 4 Golden at some point. I’m thinking my Vita strategy is see what goes on in 2013 (will there be good games for the Vita? will there be a PS4?) but if it hopefully starts to take off, I’d like to get one in 2013 and Persona 4 Golden will be the first game I get.

        • PaganPoet

          @Jackbert322:disqus My favorite part of that video is about 0:55 to 1:17. I LOVE that Mitsuru casually throws in “Ice break” in her rambling. Since you played the PSP version, you probably never experienced it, but in the original and FES versions of the game, you can only control the protagonist in battle, your party members are controlled by AI.

          GENERALLY the AI is pretty smart about following whichever tactic setting you put it on, but sometimes it makes frustrating desicions, e.g. Mitsuru casting “Ice Break” on the enemy when someone else in the party is dangerously low on health.

        • caspiancomic

          Hahaha, oh God it’s true, Mitsuru’s AI is shamefully awful. STOP CASTING MARIN KARIN, IT WILL NEVER HIT.

          Alright, I’ll put my head down, neglect my homework, social life, and health, and really dedicate myself to the task of finishing the game this week.

      • Jackbert322

        Poet, yeah, I notice that and laughed. I didn’t figure out how to direct party members for a while, and I remember Mitsuru doing a lot of Marin Karin and Akihiko doing a lot of Sonic Punch.

        Caspian, thank you, that is exactly what you should do.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I’ve only seen a few episodes, and it didn’t really grab me enough to make me hunt down more, but I could recognize the obvious charm and understand why people like it so much. I can imagine if I were in high school now, it would probably fill the place in my heart that Invader Zim or Dexter’s Lab did in the 90s (likewise, I imagine My Little Pony would engage me in the way Powerpuff Girls did when I was a teenager). I wouldn’t hyperbolically say it’s the best cartoon ever, but I can see how it’s more inventive and clever than most kids’ entertainment, which typically tends toward the pandering or obnoxious.

      • Jackbert322

        Invader Zim is from the 90s? My little brother and I watched the whole series two years ago and loved it, but I assumed it was early 2000s. That’s pretty weird that we watched the same show at around the same age in completely different decades. Man, I need a good new Netflix show. Recently, I’ve been wanting to go back to Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights, and now I can add Invader Zim to that queue.

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          Zim premiered in 2001. I distinctly remember breaking up with a girlfriend because she was upset when I rushed home to watch the third episode.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I think it debuted in 2000 or 2001, during my senior year in high school. I lump it in with the late 90s Cartoon Network stuff, because I was watching all that at the same time, and because cultural decades are more fuzzily defined than numerical ones (for example, Josh Glenn’s taxonomy of generations distinguishes between numerical and cultural decades. The “80s” were 1980-1989, but “the Eighties” were 1984-1993. I would suggest that Zim falls into the “Nineties” alongside Powerpuff Girls, etc. but obviously that’s not a super-strong argument).

        • Jackbert322

          GASP Girard was wrong about something?! Well, my faith is shaken. Time to stock up for the apocalypse, cause that’s coming for sure now. Girard, you sly dog, that was your plan all along wasn’t it? Damn you.

          Anyway, uh, yeah, Invader Zim was cool. I never saw it during its run, but it’s on instant streaming. Y’all actually split because of it though? Wow.

        • Jackbert322

          Well, Girard posted while I was typing and Disqus won’t let me edit on mobile. (This is secretly a plan to rocket up and take the #5 most commented spot.)

          Zim was on Nick, right? That “cultural decades” thing is way cool. I’m a child of the “00s” (did we decide what to call that yet? Aughties?) so I can’t really say anything about it, but I can definitely tell there was a pretty big shift from about maybe 1997 to 2002 in American culture, and Zim seems more towards the former side. But I have no idea; I don’t remember the PS2 launch or Freaks and Geeks being on, and the earliest hit songs I remember are “In da Club” and “American Idiot”. *breathes sigh of relief for having old friends*

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          For comparisons sake, keep in mind that Invader Zim premiered back-to-back with The Fairly OddParents. Zim absolutely did not mesh with what Nick was doing at the time. Also that Nickelodeon had the pilot for Adventure Time and turned it down. Repeatedly. Fred Siebert actually tore up a multi-million dollar contract with Nickelodeon in order to pitch it to Cartoon Network. Nobody’s happier than he is that the gamble paid off.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Have you read much of Vasquez’s work?  Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was great fun when I first read it as a callow youth, but it ages not so great.  In no small part due to the derivative culture it inspired.
           Squee! holds up quite well, however.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          The Squee! book also has the advantage of having all the crazy ”Meanwhile…” strips from the JTHM single issues. I have the JTHM collection which doesn’t have them, and I never bought the Squee book because I had all the individual issues.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I’ll say this about Adventure Time. After falling in love with the Pilot that was posted on YouTube long before its Cartoon Network debut, I was hugely disappointed with its first couple of televised episodes.

      After seeing AT get a lot of love over at the AV Club, I decided to try again. After watching a season and a half, I can say that the first three or four episodes are by far the worst of the series, and moreover, it takes a few episodes to get acclimated to the show’s rhythms. It gets much, much better than the first few episodes, so if you stopped watching because the initial episodes put you off, I’d advise you to give it another whirl.

  • http://twitter.com/roundthewheel RTW

    Adventure Time’s great, no doubt, but the moment I really geeked out in this article was when I read the words “WayForward Technologies”. Those guys can do practically no wrong. Between the original Shantae, the sequel Risky’s Revenge (and a third one’s on the way!), Contra 4, Double Dragon Neon, and other titles I’m sure I’m forgetting, they’re on a nearly unmatched hot streak. Hearing that WayForward made this game ensures that it will get my money at some point.

    Pendleton Ward reminds me of the preacher at a church my wife and I don’t attend anymore in that it seems they both feel emotions more acutely than the average person. With both guys you could tell that it really infused their work with a sense of purpose that lifted above the standard fare. It is a rare ability, and one that always inspires me. It’s too bad the preacher turned out to be an astoundingly shitty person outside the church or we might still be going there.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Pendleton Ward liked Tron 2.0, one of the most unique, underrated first-person shooters of all time? He earns 10000 cool points.

    Someone really needs to be put Tron 2.0 on digital distribution services. I lost my old copy of it years ago, and I don’t feel like paying $30 to order another copy off of Amazon.

    • Effigy_Power

      I just bought it as a cheap present for my bro-in-law at a local bargain store for $5.