I realized something today: I’ve never properly written about Adventure Time here on Pop Poppa. I’ve compared everything from other cartoons and comics to the longrunning series created by Pendleton Ward, but haven’t really gotten into it much over here. I also reviewed the Blu-rays of the first two seasons, but that was over on UnitedMonkee.
In that post, I talked about how I first heard about the show and how much I appreciated and even loved the big, bright elements seen thanks to the fantastic Blu-ray presentation. That’s all still here in the fifth season, which originally aired between 2012 and 2014 in addition to the rad friendships and relationships between our heroes Finn and Jake.
I also mentioned how much my then-2-year-old daughter liked watching the first two seasons, which is still the case, though she’s far more taken with the larger number of kids channels we have after moving into a house last year. She still asked to put the Season One and Two Blus in from time to time, which raised a few eyebrows from my mom who watches the kids over here on a daily basis. When she was 2 I wasn’t worried about some of the heavier material, especially the stuff between Marceline and her dad or the episodes featuring the ultra spooky Lich because so much of that flies over their heads at that age. I would frequently ask if she was okay with what she was seeing and she’d say yes, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.
She’s 4 now and was super stoked to put in the new Adventure Time Blu-ray (“Jake’s eating a sandwich!” she proclaimed after taking off the slipcover). Though we’d had the discs (two of them featuring all 52 episodes from that season) in our possession for a while a vacation to a Blu-ray player-less place and other family events kept us from actually putting the first disc on until last weekend when it was my turn to wake up early with the kids so my wife could sleep in (we take care of each other like that, Finn-and-Jake-style).
I’ve got to say, I was a little bit worried as the first episode “Finn the Human” started. They start off by chasing the Lich through crazy inter-dimensional space only to wind up with a dude named Prismo who grants wishes. Finn asks for something that changes all of reality (Jake’s cool because he’s still hanging out with Prismo). The result is an alternate reality where everyone looks different, Finn has a robot arm, Jake doesn’t talk, Ice King is dead and Finn winds up being driven nuts by his crown. It’s all pretty intense — and continues into the next episode “Jake the Dog” — which made me wonder how my kiddo would handle the whole thing. You know what? She was totally fine.
Over the four years that I’ve watched her watch things, I’ve come to the realization that context and communication are key. If something scares her, she’ll let me know (though I did find myself asking if she was cool quite a few times). If she thinks it’s “weird” (a word I’m trying to weed out of my personal vocabulary given the fact that I am and don’t want her to feel bad about different too) she’ll let me know that too and we can talk about what’s going on.
In fact, watching the fifth season of Adventure Time — we got about over an hour into the first disc and plan to watch more this weekend — was actually a pretty great learning moment for me because I realized that she’s got the wherewithal to know when something freaks her out and also knows that she can come to me with that information. We’ve also got a solid dialog going where she feels comfortable letting me know what I need to do to make her feel safe and comfortable, which is good to know.
I also think there’s merit in the idea of cartoons like this giving kids context to ideas and situations that they might not have felt or experienced yet, but could come up later. As a parent, I’m constantly saying, “Do you remember when CARTOON CHARACTER did THING FROM EPISODE” to help my daughter understand where I’m coming from. So, while the episodes might not be currently relevant to her life, they might be later (though I’m hoping she never wishes an alternate reality into existence, that would be rough). Because I watch this kind of stuff with her, I can speak her language later on down the line when and if a reference makes sense.
I’ve gotten pretty heavy in this review, but there’s plenty of fun adventures as well. I particularly enjoyed “Jake the Dad” not only because I can easily relate to his exhaustion, but also because it’s fun to see a bunch of adorable little dog-Rainicorn mash-ups join forces Voltron-style with their dad. There are plenty of fun episodes like that to be found on these discs as well, though I’m particularly looking forward to watching the Fionna and Cake episode “Bad Little Boy” with her which will be pretty early in our next viewing experience.
Ultimately, is this viewing experience for everyone? No, definitely not. While the building blocks seen in earlier seasons are all there, Ward, the AT crew and Cartoon Network have all decided to push the boundaries of what works in all-ages animation and that’s fantastic. I fully support that kind of creative endeavor, but I also understand that this material might make some parents and kids very uncomfortable. As always, I recommend watching this kind of thing with your kid or before they get their hands on it to gauge how they’ll react and keep the lines of communication open when it comes to elements that might spook them.