‘Adventure Time’ exclusive clip: Adam Muto on the show’s evolution
The Emmy-nominated third season of “Adventure Time” is out on Blu-ray and DVD today, and Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at a video clip from the bonus features.
The massively popular Cartoon Network series, created by Pendleton Ward, follows Finn, a human boy, and Jake, his magical shape-shifting dog, as they fight monsters and rescue princesses in a whimsical, post-apocalyptic candyland called the Land of Ooo. The third season’s home video release includes episode commentaries for all 26 episodes, an interview with Ward and an alternate show introduction, not to mention a custom slipcase which transforms the video box into a figurine of BMO — Finn’s sentient video game system, camera, alarm clock and, of course, loyal friend.
Hero Complex readers get an exclusive look at a bonus video clip (watch it above), featuring storyboard artist and day-to-day show leader Adam Muto, who examines the archetypes in the show.
“We have the princess and then the hero, and the sidekick, and we usually try to not completely flip them around, but skew them enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re just watching a hero,” Muto says in the video. “They have as many neuroses as we do, and they get as nostalgic as we do. You know, it’s like a kid, and he fights sometimes, but he also just hangs out and is really casual. We try to slow it down as often as we can, where he’s just sitting on the couch, and you know, making up a song with Jake.”
Hero Complex caught up with Muto, who began as a writer and artist for the show and now serves as co-executive producer, about Finn’s evolution, quirky new princesses and what’s next for “Adventure Time.”
Hero Complex: You began as a writer and storyboard artist for “Adventure Time,” and you’ve worked your way through the ranks as creative director, supervising producer and co-executive producer. How has your perspective on the show changed over time and in your varying positions?
Adam Muto: My job title changed and I storyboard a lot less, but my basic relationship to the show remains unchanged. “Adventure Time” feels like a living creature that I observe, prod at and sometimes comprehend. There have been these great sea changes in the show’s tone and scope that I’ve only been able to perceive in hindsight. They feel part of a very natural evolution, though. It’s only when I revisit episodes from Season One or Two that the stark difference becomes apparent.
HC: A lot of “Adventure Time” episodes feel very organic, like a story that’s being made up as it’s being told. What’s the writing process like? Is it as free-flowing as the fans imagine, or is there a structure or process you stick to?
AM: If the episodes feel completely free-flowing and organic, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the storyboard artists and the working method Pen established early on. It belies all of the regimented work that goes into every episode. No matter how outlandish the premise, every story starts in the writers’ room with a very formal three-act outline. There’s a lot of room for variation and experimentation within that, but the bones of the show haven’t really changed from season one. After the outline goes to the storyboard artists/writers, they’ll revise, rewrite, and contort it in innumerable ways to make it their own. That’s when it can really become personal and wonderful.
“Adventure Time” has always been somewhat autobiographical. The writers and artists draw on their experiences and interests and pour a lot of themselves them into it. It manages to be both a collaborative effort and an expression of unique points of view. These later seasons also feel like they’ve been, in part, about the creative struggle that went into their own creation. The show has become its own semi-autobiographer.
HC : Finn is such a lovable hero, and continues to be even as he is aged up. Do you have a cap in mind — a point at which he’ll be too old for the life he lives in a treehouse with his best friend? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as the character has aged?
AM: Finn doesn’t have any human role models to compare himself to, so the pressure to grow up, move out and get a real job aren’t as present in his daily life. He’s aware of his own mortality so he must know he’s aging. Being a hero is his job. Why wouldn’t he live with his best friend if they still got along alright.
The biggest change in response to Finn’s aging (aside from the voice lowering) is how he’s written. There are certain lines that would have been fine in Season One or Two that don’t sound right coming out of him anymore. He’s at an awkward stage in his love life. That’s a pretty big change from when he was young and universally beloved. I know that bums some viewers out but it feels more honest to have him be a confused teenager rather than figure it all out in an episode or two.
HC: Which character are you most proud of designing/developing and why?
AM: I like the facets of Princess Bubblegum that we’ve been able to explore, especially in the fifth season. She has such a rich, complex personality. She can be a steadfast friend, an obsessive intellectual and a fallible autocrat without it seeming like a contradiction.
Who's who in the Land of Ooo? Click through this gallery to meet some of the zany characters in "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
Finn, a human boy who was found in the wild and adopted by a dog family, is passionate about being a hero. He spends his time rescuing princesses and battling evil monsters and wizards. As far as we know, Finn is the only human in the Land of Ooo. (Cartoon Network)Link
Jake, a dog with magical stretching powers, is Finn's adopted older brother, best friend and adventuring buddy in "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
The Ice King is Finn's nemesis. He lives in an ice castle with penguins, who are his pets and henchmen. He uses his magical crown to shoot icy lightning bolts at anyone who stands in his way of finding a princess to marry. Upon closer inspection, though, it would appear the seemingly evil Ice King may just be a victim of circumstance. (Cartoon Network)Link
Princess Bubblegum is a scientist, turtle farmer and ruler of the Candy Kingdom. She's good friends with Finn and Jake, and they've helped each other out of a series of pickles. Finn has fostered a lifelong crush on PB, but except for a few short episodes in which the princess is reverted to age 13, she hasn't reciprocated. (Cartoon Network)Link
Marceline is a mischievous prankster, rocker girl and fearless vampire queen who feasts on the color red. She gives Jake and Finn a hard time, but isn't as bad as she'd like people to think. Marceline is more than 1,000 years old, and her dad is the Lord of Evil and ruler of the Nightosphere. (Cartoon Network)Link
Lumpy Space Princess, voiced by Pendleton Ward, is the Land of Ooo's resident drama queen. LSP comes from the cloud-like kingdom of Lumpy Space and is friends with the other princesses as well as Finn and Jake. She loves to be the center of attention and spends a lot of time gossiping and complaining on her phone. (Cartoon Network)Link
BMO is Finn and Jake's roommate, loyal and protective friend, camera, alarm clock and video game system. BMO is genderless, speaks with an East Asian accent and pretends to be human when nobody else is around. (Cartoon Network)Link
Flame Princess is the hotheaded daughter of the Fire Kingdom's Flame King and Finn's girlfriend (though he gets burned if they hold hands or kiss). Her fiery powers are tied to her emotions, and she's a formidable force of nature when she's angry. (Cartoon Network)Link
Lady Rainicorn is Princess Bubblegum's loyal and majestic pet and primary means of transportation. Rainicorn, who speaks Korean, is also Jake's girlfriend and the pair share a love of music. The couple are expecting puppies. (Cartoon Network)Link
The Land of Ooo is home to a host of princesses, each the ruler of her own dominion. Among the princesses are Lumpy Space Princess, Wildberry Princess, Slime Princess, Hot Dog Princess, Breakfast Princess, Ghost Princess, Embryo Princess, Muscle Princess and many more. They're all targets for Ice King's unwanted advances. (Cartoon Network)Link
HC: The show is constantly revealing more about the pre-apocalyptic world that existed before the Land of Ooo, and how magic came to be. It’s a rather dark tale, especially for a children’s series. Do you plan on telling the whole story at some point? Where do you see “Adventure Time” headed?
AM: I wouldn’t say constantly. If you look at the show as a whole, the history of Ooo is usually only glimpsed in dribs and drabs. There are backstory-heavy episodes, like “Simon & Marcy” and “The Vault,” but we try to space those out.
It’s continuity light. We’ll probably continue in that pattern as long as it makes sense to do so. Also, I’m not sure showing the “whole story” would be satisfying for either us or the audience. There needs to be some room left for imagination and conjecture.
HC: What can you tell us about what’s next in “Adventure Time”? Any quirky new princesses? Any fun new villains we can look forward to?
AM: Yeah, there will inevitably be more princesses and villains for as long as the show runs, I imagine. Strudel Princess shows up at some point. Spoiler.
We’re always looking for ways to bring back characters in unexpected and meaningful ways. That’s usually a lot more satisfying than creating new characters on a whim. There are a couple new recurring characters coming up. It will be interesting to see how they fit in to the larger “Adventure Time” universe. Fans can look forward to a momentous season finale, an even bigger season premiere and another story set in Fionna & Cake’s universe.
There’s also an upcoming episode by a guest director that features the most exhilarating animation that’s ever been featured on the show. I hope they announce that one soon.
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