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Adventure Time: The Complete First Season (2010)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 7/10/2012

All Ratings out of

Show:
1/2
Video:
1/2
Audio:
1/2
Extras:


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/10/2012; Updated on 6/2/2013

I know that it sounds cloyingly clichéd to say this, but things used to be so much simpler. Cartoons used to be aimed at kids. Sure adults could enjoy them, but they were primarily for children. Over the years, cartoons matured and we got some which were made for adults. This idea solidified in the late 1980s when The Simpsons created the template for the prime-time animation we have today. There was still a clear line between cartoons for adults and cartoons for kids. However, today those lines have blurred or disappeared altogether and we get animated shows which have no clear target audience. They feature storylines which are immature enough for children, but elements which appear to be fashioned for older viewers. This bizarre hybrid is definitely illustrated by the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time.

Adventure Time is a fantasy-adventure show set in the Land of Ooo. Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) is a human boy who lives with Jake (voiced by John Di Maggio), a magical dog. We learn that Finn was adopted by Jake’s parents. The pair spend their days adventuring. They travel around looking for individuals to help and evil to fight. Through their quests, we meet some of the odd residents of the land, such as Princess Bubblegum (voiced by Hynden Walch), Lumpy Space Princess (voiced by Pendleton Ward), the Ice King (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Marceline the vampire (voiced by Olivia Olson). While their aims aren’t always the same -- Jake can be self-centered and easily distracted -- Finn and Jake find a way to win the battle.

If that synopsis made Adventure Time sound straight-forward, then I did a terrible job describing the show. If you are looking for any sort of logic or continuity, then this is not the show for you. While Finn and Jake and their treehouse home remain consistent, nearly every other aspect of the show is random and seemingly interchangeable. They do run into some of the same characters from time to time, but never in a way which builds story arcs. Each 10-minute episode is a stand-alone adventure and this allows those behind the show to do whatever they’d like with it. And what we get is a collection of bizarre characters, non-sensical dialogue and stories which don’t always have a beginning, middle, and end.

At first, this approach really threw me and I found Adventure Time very difficult to watch, much less like. One of the my prime issues with the show is the lack of backstory or explanation. The first episode included here is not the actual pilot, which was made in 2008. But, from what I’ve read about that show, it doesn’t explain how Finn came to live in Ooo or why he was adopted by Jake’s family. Finn doesn’t seem to have any issues with the strangeness happening all around him. Given that, the first episode simply starts and we watch Finn being attacked by zombie candy people (or would that be candy zombie people?). The show makes no apologies for this and the audience is simply asked to accept the fact that randomness is the order of the day and things simply happen for no reason. The show plays as if it were designed by a 12-year old boy with severe ADD. This approach does not embrace the viewer and the oddness doesn’t equate to much comedy. (Save for the voice with series creator Pendleton Ward has given to Lumpy Space Princess which just cracks me up.)

But, mid-way through the season, one of two things seemed to happen. Either I began to actually understand the show, or the episodes got a bit more linear. (A third theory is that the DVDs themselves were laced with drugs and by touching them, I suddenly got the show.) Now, don’t get me wrong, the latter half of the season is still way out there, but the plots actually had structure and there were some funny moments and humorous lines like “You just like saying poop that jacks my brain!” (Which actually describes the show.) Did I begin to like Adventure Time. Well, let’s just say that I became more tolerant of it. I enjoy weird-for-weird sakes, but in small doses. Adventure Time looks like the result of a cruel experiment to see if people would watch something which was completely bonkers.

But, don’t take my word for it -- Here’s a mini review which was written by my daughter, who is an aspiring writer:

“Cartoons have definitely established their own place in television. With classics such as "Scooby-Doo" and "Mickey Mouse" kicking the fad off, cartoons have never lost their status as interesting projects that can go beyond the bounds of reality. "Family Guy" and "Phineas and Ferb" have made their mark as popular cartoons, as well as "Adventure Time", which has received praise from critics and developed a cult following. Does it deserve the response it has generated? Or is it just another example of how animated television shows can do things a live-action show can never approach?

The events of the show take place in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world, inhabited by multiple strange creatures, good and evil. Two of these characters are Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, "brothers" who go around helping people in danger and warding off evil. Sounds simple, doesn't it? On the contrary, "Adventure Time" is one of the most bizzare shows I have ever watched.

Let's get a few things out of the way. The animation here is creative and original, displaying creatures that have never been seen on television before. The facial expressions are ever-changing and often grotesque, and the show never shies away from violence and gore. Appropriate for children? Well, even I was nauseated at a few points by the grisliness and blatant grossness. There is occasional swearing, but otherwise, if you have children who enjoy that sort of humor, they'll have a blast.

Another aspect of this show is the eclectic nature of the script. The characters use words you wouldn't normally associate with the situation, and the dialogue is unique. But the story is typically all over the place, and the sheer weirdness of the situations really takes away from any humor the show might be attempting to contrive. It feels like a twelve-year-old took over the script a few pages into it.

So, is "Adventure Time" a good show? Well, the pros and cons almost balance each other out. There were a few moments where I laughed, but otherwise, I was lucky to have survived the long ordeal. Perhaps the next season is better than the first, because "Adventure Time" really needs to find its rhythm and stick with it.”

There you have it.

Adventure Time: The Complete First Season has one character who speaks Japanese for some reason on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The two-disc set contains all 26 episodes from the show’s first season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the show is quite colorful, bursting with greens, reds, and blues. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is pretty good and the animation shows few jagged lines. The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track nicely reproduces all of the odd sounds from the show and the in-show music sounds fine. I did spot a few examples of specific sounds coming from the right or left.

The Adventure Time: The Complete First Season DVD set has several extras spread out across the two discs. Disc 1 offers four AUDIO COMMENTARIES, as follows; "Trouble in Lumpy Space" with John Di Maggio, Jeremy Shada, Tom Kenny, and Pen Ward; "Prisoners of Love" with Di Maggio, Shada, Kenny, and Ward; "Tree Trunks" with Bettie Ward and Polly Lou Livingston; and "Ricardio the Heart Guy" with George Takei, Kenny, Hynden Walch, Shada, and Ward. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "A Behind the Scenes Featurette" (10 minutes) was shot on a faux-Steadicam by series creator Pendleton Ward, so it's sort of nausea-inducing, and we can't hear the speakers. Ward wanders through the show's offices while pre-staged shenanigans with animated characters take place. "Behind the Scenes of the Behind the Scenes Featurette" (2 minutes) shows us how the effects for the featurette were done. Ironically we can actually hear the speakers in this raw footage. Composers Timothy Kiefer and Casey James Basichis talk about their approach to the music of the show in "Adventure Time Music with Casey & Tim" (10 minutes). We get "Animatics" (49 minutes) for four episodes -- "The Enchiridioni", "Rainy Day Daydream", "Slumber Party Panic" and "Dungeon" -- which show rough animation for the show. This is accompanied by commentary from Pen Ward, Adam Muto, Pat McHale, and Derek Drymon. The "Music Video" (2 minutes) is a long promo for the show which is actually shown on Cartoon Network. "Finndemonium" (2 minutes) is another music video composed of footage from the show, as well as art and cosplay from fans of the show. (This contains footage which is not from Season One.) "The Wand" (2 minutes) is a short featuring Jake and Finn.

Update:

On June 4, 2013, Warner Home Video released Adventure Time: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray Disc. When I first heard this announcement, I told my kids, "Hey, we'll get to see Lumpy Space Princess in all of her HD glory." I may have spoken too soon. The 26 episodes from the show's first season have been collected on one Blu-ray Disc. The show is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors looks very good, as the shows features a wide palette of hues and each stands out with no over-saturation. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail lends to a nice amount of depth here. The transfer rivals HD broadcast quality. It's the audio where this release disappoints. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 192 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is essentially the exact same track which appeared on the DVD release. It's a smidge crisper, but that's about it. Perhaps a surround sound mix was never created for the show, but given the popularity of Adventure Time and the fact that some of its target audience is most likely tech savvy, one would think that they would have taken the time to create an lossless audio track for this release.

The special features found on the Adventure Time: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc are identical to those found on the DVD release.

Review Copyright 2012/2013 by Mike Long