Adventure Time – mathematical – how it became a cartoon craze

Posted on 18 February 2014
By Ashleigh Panther
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Adventure Time has become a firm favourite on Cartoon Network and since it’s first airing, it has attracted a diverse audience, from as young as five, all the way up to fans in their 20s and 30s.

In fact, at comic conventions, you are just as likely to see a Finn walking around as you might see a Star Wars character or Pokemon.

Although to children it is just a whimsical cartoon about a boy and his magical dog helping their friends out in the colourful land of Ooh, but to it’s older watchers, it’s much more than that.

Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward says: ‘It’s Candyland on the surface and dark underneath’.

He says he finds it impossible to write for a particular age, especially for kids and finds he just writes what makes him and his team laugh and it somehow works. Adventure Time reels in 3.3 million viewers a week.

If you were to ask a child why they like Adventure Time, you would probably get an answer like ‘Because it’s cool!’ and ‘because the fights are great!’

But if you were to look on cartoon forums, you will find older fans discussing Adventure Time in detail, picking apart it’s deeper elements.

The Great Mushroom War is referred to a lot in the show as the creator of Ooh as a post-apocalyptic Earth.

These references are always subtle, allowing the show to continue to be innocent on the outside, but there are many fans that dedicate themselves to finding these references, bringing out the eerie emotions of the cartoon.

This may be something that draws the older generations in, the same thing that draws audiences to shows such as The Walking Dead, the ‘what if that happens’ feeling.

One of the most common references to a nuclear war is in the opening credits, where we see a hill covered in nuclear bombs and other waste such as a broken TV and a disfigured skull, giving hints to the fact that life on Earth was affected by radiation.

Other little ones include a quick view of the Earth, which seems to have a large chunk missing, hinting that it was blown to pieces.

Although it is pretty to look at and the characters themselves do not look particularly evocative, the story lines behind the bright colours are often deep and thought provoking.

The show often follows certain themes that you wouldn’t usually see in a child’s cartoon, or not at least so deeply, such as love, humanity and loss.

Such as Ice King sacrificing his sanity to save Marceline or a Snow Golum putting himself in danger to return a fire pup to his family. Both of these episodes have heart wrenching endings.

The Ice King loses his mind completely and cannot remove the crown making him completely forget Marceline and turn to isolation and the Snow Golum melts into a puddle but gets to play with the puppy for the last time before his hands melt.

Plot lines like this shouldn’t work in a child’s cartoon, but because they are done subtly and often hidden behind other subplots, they are not as hard hitting as they should be.

This can be viewed as both a good thing, that we are teaching our children about real issues hidden behind the setting of a harmless cartoon.

But also as a bad thing. That we might be giving our children the stress of ‘grown up problems’ too early.

Whether you think this show should be bumped up to a more age appropriate channel or not, with more seasons of deeper and more outrageous story lines on the horizon, Adventure Time is here to stay.

“Mathematical!”