How Adventure Time’s offspring measure up

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Following up the success of the show that made them, Adventure Time alumni have gone on to create inventive animated shows of their own.

A show as successful as Adventure Time opens a lot of doors for its staff. You can’t help but wonder whether, as with Beckett and Joyce, there is a clear line of lineage; whether the offspring works show the influence of the place that nurtured their creators. Well, nurture Adventure Time did: A glance at Rebecca Sugar and Natasha Allegri’s individual IMDb pages shows no major credits prior to Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors is only Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s second show, stylistically so similar to Adventure Time that it’s hard to see it being greenlit had the former been unsuccessful.

Bravest Warriors is heir apparent, being further fruit of Pendleton Ward and bearing a similar style to Adventure Time

If we’re continuing the ‘alumni’s shows are children’ metaphor, then Bravest Warriors is heir apparent, being further fruit of Pendleton Ward and bearing similar visual and comedy styles. Fast paced, surreal and frequently non-sequitur, Bravest Warriors is everything people accuse Adventure Time of being. A native of the web, episodes are generally six or seven minutes, so the action and comedy is tight. The length and infrequency of the episodes, along with the bigness of the entire universe compared to the one planet of Adventure Time, means the world isn’t as deep in Bravest Warriors, nor is it ever likely to be. It also shares its parent’s fault of overusing cute fan-favourite characters (BMO there, Catbug here).

It has the same creator, so of course Bravest Warriors will be similar to Adventure Time, just like Tarantino or Ken Loach films all bear their makers’ marks. More interesting are the shows created by Natasha Allegri and Rebecca Sugar, staff from Adventure Time’s art department: Bee and PuppyCat, and Steven Universe. Both their shows are takes on the ‘Magical Girl Warrior’ genre (think Sailor Moon or The Powerpuff Girls), but what do they share with Adventure Time? All three occasionally have songs, but that’s minor. Bee and PuppyCat for one is, like Adventure Time, weird. Everything’s strangely tranquil. PuppyCat is voiced by a vocaloid called Oliver. Bee is at that stage of her life many of us will experience where she’s stuck in a series of menial, short term jobs but lacking the employment skills and drive to get anything better, making her an incredibly relatable hero.

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Steven Universe is weird too, but in the Gravity Falls way – surreal moments (fighting a magically-mutated giant breakfast, for example) and sometimes plots that deal with the kooky, but it’s fairly conventional for a kids cartoon: Steven is the youngest member of the Crystal Gems, essentially a superhero team. He can’t control his own powers yet. It should come as no surprise then that Steven’s main motivation is to ‘master’ (or even learn to activate) his gem powers so he can feel accepted by and prove useful to the team. Less conventional is the fact that the Gems (bar Steven) are all female, yet the show is not promoted or perceived as a ‘girls show’, something not really seen since Powerpuff.

Bee and PuppyCat and Steven Universe have the playfulness of early Adventure Time, more so than Bravest Warriors

Bee and PuppyCat and Steven Universe have the same playfulness early Adventure Time had (and which occasional episodes still display); before Finn was a confused teen moping about his ex and Bubblegum a shrewd but apparently benevolent dictator (“Peeps will never starve in my eternal empire!”). They have more so than Bravest Warriors, which for all its zany universe has had unrequited love and portentous warnings from future selves since episode two. PuppyCat, despite his permanent scowl, constant brooding and tragic backstory, still fires a laser from his mouth if you pick him up and cock his tail. Steven, having learned that two of the gems can combine into one being like transformers or something, thinks that’s so awesome he pesters them to do it all episode, even singing a song.

Adventure Time evolved, from starting as surreal, seemingly random stoner-fodder through masterful use of its short format to create a patchwork of backstory for both the characters and the world, scattering lines and moments like a breadcrumb trail to create a deep world capable of being incredibly moving (managing to make a wizard fighting off slime-zombies to protect a vampire while singing the Cheers theme an emotional highlight). Inevitably when something like this happens, wonderful as it is, some of the lightness of, “Hey you guys want some free magic powers?” is cast by the wayside. Allegri and Sugar pick it up.

 

Praising the show that started it all: Five reasons you should watch Adventure Time

 

Featured image: Cartoon Network

Inset images: Cartoon Hangover

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