What is making Adventure Time popular viewing?

It’s not often that a children’s cartoon acquires such widespread fandom that even adults have to give in and see what all the oddness is about, but, Adventure Time has done ju

It’s not often that a children’s cartoon acquires such widespread fandom that even adults have to give in and see what all the oddness is about, but, Adventure Time has done just that. Stepping outside of its original demographic, Cartoon Network’s global-hit pulls an audience of 2-3 million viewers per week. Not bad for what began as a seven-minute short on Nickelodeon.

With playful magic, epic quests, righteous heroes and a surprisingly complex storyline, this cartoon is a sensory compendium wrapped in gloriously bright Technicolor. Or, to use the Adventure Time vernacular: it’s pretty math.

It’s pretty math

So, with the show’s avid fan base of kids, teens and adults, it seems obvious to ask—just why is the cartoon so popular?

One factor surely stems from the subtleness underlying the entire show, Pendleton Ward, the show’s creator, is delicately able to blend melancholic undertones alongside the obvious innocence of his cartoon. “Those are my favourite kind of emotions,” says Ward. “The ones that conflict with each other, and they feel weird inside of you.”

Sensitive conflicts such as this hit viewers all too well. The moment where you realise that you’re watching a madman trying to protect a little girl, as he’s losing himself, inducing his own lack of sanity as this is the only thing that can save them, then, to hear his fears of that day chimed through song, one which he sings with the girl who he no longer remembers. This is the point where it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a children’s cartoon.

Master of balance

It’s clear that Adventure Time isn’t afraid to tackle dramatic issues, and it’s this hauntingly addictive synergy that resonates with its cohort of fans. Pendleton remains a master of balance (with a masterful beard): for every tinge of dark storytelling there is an explosion of sugary silliness, as is the sensory sherbet of Adventure Time.

This is the other, more accessible part of adventure time: the wonders and enchantment of the Land of Ooo. Ooo is a place where jerky ogres and cosmic owls become part of the food chain, where a rainbow-coloured unicorn (a rainicorn) speaks Korean and where the algebraic bromance of a boy and his magic dog can be properly appreciated. It’s this unbridled playfulness which makes the show so attractive to youngsters and adults alike. Basically, this is the part that you expect from a cartoon. But, that being said, when this is mixed with fairytale and Pen’s creative vibrancy, it can still surprise you. In fact it often does.

Worlds most innovative

From shaky beginnings Adventure Time now holds a place as one of the world’s most innovative cartoons. A position which has produced enough fan art to fill the Bag of Holding and enough enthusiastic cosplayers to make White Bear headwear a common sight. Along with four Emmy nominations, 29 princesses and counting, a comic and a fan fiction inside the show itself, Adventure Time shows no signs of slowing down, or becoming any less barbarically awesome.

Even the conclusion of each episode holds an antagonising but playfully abrupt ending. This turning-off-the-lights closing to each show is synonymous with the cartoon, and its unique appeal. Even though these endings can feel infuriating, it’s what Pendleton does best, as cutting off an ending halfway is mischievous as well as… 

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