Summer Camp Island, Cartoon Network’s new series about a weird and wonderful magical sleepaway camp, is about overcoming homesickness, embracing new experiences, and the importance of friendship, as creator Julia Pott explained to Inverse. And while summer flings are a big part of the stereotypical camp experience, the most important relationship in Summer Camp Island isn’t romantic.
The pilot episode of Summer Camp Island, which you can watch in full on YouTube, ends with the revelation that Oscar the elephant has a huge, unrequited crush on his best friend and fellow camper, Hedgehog. However, that longing is not present in the final version of the show, which will air its first season over the weekend.
“We didn’t want Oscar’s driving force to be ‘Oh I’m in love with Hedgehog, so I’ll do these things for her because I’m in love with her and I want her to be in love with me too.’” Pott explains. “We wanted it to be ‘Oh, I love you unconditionally and it’s not romantic.’ It’s this boy-girl friendship that’s solely based on mutual respect and deep, deep friendship love and it will never be anything other than that.”
“I have a friend like that,” Pott says. “I know whatever I do, he’ll always be there and it’s never been romantic. I wanted to see that reflected in a television show.”
She’s right. “Will they or won’t they” plots are one of TV’s most enduring traditions — there’s Sam and Diane, Rachel and Ross, Mulder and Scully, Jim and Pam, Ted and Robin, Fry and Leela, Finn and Bubblegum and many, many more. Especially when longrunning shows near their finales, it’s common to see people “end up together.” From a viewer’s perspective, it makes a certain amount of sense. Romance is fun, and it’s exciting to be a fan cheering on a dramatic relationship.
“It always seeps in,” Pott says, noting the trope’s persistence. “‘Oh surprise! There is a crush!’ and they get together. You can see it online ‘when are they going to get together?’ and you’re like ‘never, NEVER!’”
“I know we did it in the pilot, but it’s not canon anymore,” Pott added.
Pott hints that Oscar and Hedgehog may have crushes and romance with people at camp, just not with each other. That’s great, because as fun as romance is, if almost every single boy-girl friendship on TV is viewed through a romantic lens, it cheapens the friendship. Being friends with the opposite sex is important, otherwise you’ll turn into Vice President Mike Pence, who infamously won’t have dinner alone with women who aren’t his wife.
Platonic friendships are, by their very nature, less sexy than romantic relationships, but they’re just as important.
“You don’t want it to be so the friendship has to resolve with these friends getting together, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything,” Pott says. “It means something in spite of that, and it’s richer for that.”
Summer Camp Island’s entire 20-episode first season will air on a loop for 48 hours starting on Saturday, July 7 at 6 a.m. Eastern on Cartoon Network and Boomerang.