If you were at San Diego Comic-Con last weekend, you couldn't miss Adventure Time. The Cartoon Network series about a boy named Finn, his dog Jake and their antics in a magical world filled with princesses and villains stood out this year amidst the sea of comic books, TV shows and movies. Inside the exhibit hall, massive, inflatable versions of Jake and Finn marked Cartoon Network's booth, where passers-by could pick up buttons featuring a different character from the show every day. Offsite, the cable television station had taken over a pizza shop in the Convention Center-adjacent Gaslamp Quarter, decorating it with murals depicting characters from the show. Two to three times daily, a parade headed across Market Street and Fifth Avenue, with Lady Rainicorn-- a rainbow/unicorn hybrid-- held up on poles like a Chinese New Year dragon.It's all too common to see massive marketing spectacles at SDCC, however, what we observed with Adventure Time appeared to go beyond corporate strategy. Throughout the course of the convention, we saw cosplayers dressed as various characters from the show. Finn, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen were popping out of exhibit hall booths and patiently waiting in a long line for the show's Saturday panel. A new line of toys based on the show had sold out by the time we met creator Pendleton Ward on Saturday afternoon. The animated series, which premiered in April of 2010 and is already on its third season, has become a smash hit in a little more than a year, growing dramatically in popularity since we first interviewed Ward before SDCC 2010. This was marketing that fans were clearly excited to see.
Hynden Walch, who plays the incredibly smart Princess Bubblegum, says that she knew that Adventure Time was "going to be huge" since she first auditioned for her role.
"It's going to appeal to five-year-olds, it's going to appeal to college sophomores late at night," Walch recalls thinking. "It's going to appeal to a lot of people."
Her assessment was right. OFWGKTA leader Tyler the Creator has tweeted about the show. Walch and Jeremy Shada, who plays Finn in the series, mentioned hearing about a college dorm that was painted Adventure Time-style. Spend some time on Tumblr and you'll see lots of references to the show, from animated gifs and captioned screenshots to fan art and cosplay photos. Though technically geared towards children, and youngsters certainly watch it, Adventure Time has found its footing with an older crowd, largely teens and young adults."I figured college kids would like it because it's so random," says Ward. "A lot of times it's kind of goofy nonsense all over the place. College kids can dig on that."
But Adventure Time is more than silly pranks that unfold in a candy-colored world.
"I think there's some really intelligent humor in it," Ward continues. "All of the board artists are super brainiacs and are charming people. I think it's just a charming show put together by a bunch of really interesting artists. "