Nerd Rant

Adventure Time Deserves Better Than This

The beloved cartoon is making a comeback, but there’s a catch.

Adventure Time BMO
Cartoon Network Studios

Fourteen years ago, the world first met Finn the human and Jake the magic, stretchy dog when Adventure Time debuted on Cartoon Network with a 10-minute story in which zombified candy creatures threaten to upend a royal slumber party. (This was the first of two episodes that premiered that day. The second is titled “Trouble in Lumpy Space,” firmly establishing both the show’s sci-fi leanings and its irreverent tone from day one.)

While there was never any doubt that Adventure Time was a show for kids, there was an undercurrent of creativity and humor that made the show popular with adults — or at least stoned college students — from the very beginning. Over the years, the series evolved and expanded to tell complex and emotional stories, culminating in an epic finale that aired in 2018, only to be followed by two excellent spinoffs that pushed the show’s mature themes even further. In other words, Adventure Time grew up with its audience. It never pandered and it never pulled punches.

Now, Adventure Time is back, but perhaps not in the way fans were hoping.

Fionna and Cake felt like the beginning of a bold new era for Adventure Time. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up being the apex instead.

Cartoon Network Studios

Variety reported on June 12 that the series is returning with plans for two new spinoff shows and a movie. First, the good part: The movie is being helmed by three Adventure Time veterans in series co-creator Patrick McHale, Rebecca Sugar (who went on to make Steven Universe), and Adam Muto (the most-recent Adventure Time showrunner and the mind behind the excellent spinoff series Fionna and Cake). Original series creator Pendleton Ward is notably absent from the announcement.

We know nothing else about the movie, but with this team assembled, it seems impossible it won’t be great. However, we’re a little less confident about these other planned spinoffs.

Variety reveals that alongside the movie, we’re getting two new shows aimed squarely at children. Adventure Time: Side Quests is a kids’ show focused on younger versions of Finn and Jake. Side Quests has the support of Nate Cash, an artist who worked on Adventure Time for years (his credits also include Over the Garden Wall and Spongebob Squarepants). Meanwhile, Adventure Time: Heyo BMO is a “preschool series” focused on the anthropomorphic gaming console. Adam Muto is attached to this one, as is Ashlyn Anstee, who worked as a storyboard on the 202 spinoff Adventure Time: Distant Lands.

Heyo BMO is an Adventure Time spinoff aimed at preschoolers.

Cartoon Network Studios

While it’s too soon to anything definitive about these shows, this feels like a step in the wrong direction for Adventure Time. If last year’s Fionna and Cake with its moving, multiversal story proved anything, it’s that this franchise still has plenty of room to grow. More lore to reveal. And more character to develop. Rebooting it into a show for four-year-olds likely means abandoning all that emotional complexity in favor of brighter colors and simpler stories.

Again, it’s too soon to be sure, and there’s still the Adventure Time movie, which is sure to appease longtime fans. But this announcement has me worried that the future of the franchise will look less like Fionna and Cake and more like Cocomelon. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

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