TV

It’s ‘Adventure Time’ With Series Creator Pendleton Ward

On Monday, May 2nd, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward and his merry band of animators will be hitting you with a double-sized episode of their the hit Cartoon Network animated series. And the human boy Jake, his magic dog Finn, and the Land of Oo may never be the same again.

Or maybe it will be. Who knows? Ward is super-leery of spoiling the hard work of his team so there aren’t a lot of details about this jumbo installment of the series. But that didn’t stop MTV Geek from asking. We also learned a little about the source of the series’ unique sense of humor, what to do if you’re really fiending for some of the sweet, sweet tunes from the show, and got some cool details about the upcoming 3rd season, which hits this summer.

Let the Adventure Time [interview] begin!

MTV Geek: So why the double-sized episode?

Pendleton Ward: I can’t remember where it started. I think we just wanted to make an epic episode. [Originally] we wanted to do a cliffhanger, but because it’s episodic, every 11-minute episode has to be self-contained. So we made the cliffhanger a two-parter where each part could be played without the other one—but they’re going to be aired together.

Geek: How do you go about maintaining the tight pacing for the 11-minute format?

PW: It’s easy to over-write everything—and I’m not sure I’m totally answering yoru question here—because it’s funny to put in random jokes and segue ways into nonsensical that happens. Every episode is usually long after the storyboard artists finish writing it. And then I’m the guy, I guess, who has to decide which jokes I think are the best and up having to cut 30 seconds. There’s cuts all along the way.

There’s always extra funny stuff that we always end up having to cut out. It’s a bummer. So I’ve been trying to cut that off at the pass, so to speak, to do it early on so that I don’t end up having to cut all this awesome material when it comes back.

So we end up editing more, now, at the storyboard phase.

Geek: How do you strike that balance between the humor for kids and jokes for adults on the show?

PW: Everyone just writes for themselves. All of the storyboard artists—the guys and gals who are writing the episodes—they’re just writing jokes that they think they would like, or that they would like if they were a kid. It just sort of works out that everyone’s sense of humor is both really vastly sophisticated and also really childish at the same time.

I don’t know. I get excited—it all just sort of rolls out naturally. We don’t intentionally sit down and say, “let’s do an adult joke, let’s do a joke for kids.” But I know that after each board is done, you can spot the ones that will appeal to which age.

I know in “The Real You,” [writer] Rebecca Sugar did this whole sequence with a hypercube, where she was drawing these different kinds of dimensional bubbles—like there’s a one-dimensional bubble, and a two-dimensional bubble, and a three dimensional-bubble, and [then] she does a four-dimensional bubble, which is a bubble whose shadow is intertwined with itself. So it’s this dark bubble.

I thought that was really cool, because it was something that adults might get if they know about hypercubes, but it’s also something that just kind of blows kids’ minds and they’re going to know what hypercubes are after that episode, which I think is really cool. That’s something I would have been stoked on as a kid: the concept of a shadow being combined with a physical object.

Geek: Have you ever gotten any notes from Cartoon Network about any of the jokes?

PW: I like cute things, I don’t like gross things very much. [So] I try to make the show cuter than it is gross. Funny always wins out, so if something’s really gross and it also makes me laugh really hard, we’ll keep it in.

There’s little things, like one of the panels that came back from the episode “To Cut a Woman’s Hair,” Jake had this weird… butt cleft? He was laying down and he was sitting forward—you could see him from his front, and his butt… you could see his butt from his front. You could see it sort of cleft in and underneath itself.

And that was grossing me out too much and I called for a re-take to smooth out the… butt cleft.

That’s a small example of something that didn’t make my first cut.

Geek: How’s production going on Season 3?

PW: It’s awesome?

Season 3… We’re finishing up boards on season 3 and we’ve just started writing on Season 4.

I think the episodes are getting weirder and more like… spiritual—I don’t know what else to say. [laughs] Because the storyboard artists are so talented, I want them to be making episodes that they’re excited about and a lot of the guys and gals are indie comic people, so they’re used to making really interesting, more artful comics for themselves. They’re all really smart, smartypants people. They’re coming up with some really bizarre ideas, which I like. I think it’s putting the show on a higher level than it was first season.

Everything is still really funny and crazy, and we’re still pursuing the relationships between Bubblegum and Finn and Marceline, and Jake and Lady. I think it’s all getting a lot cooler. It’s all stuff I’m really proud of.

Geek: One of the great things about the show is the lineup cool/out-there voice talent. Just this past season you had Henry Rollins and Laura Silverman as the voices of Lady Rainicorn’s parents. Any voice actors or actresses we can look forward to in Season 3?

PW: We’re trying to hire Jonathan Katz of Dr. Katz right now to play the Bananaman. He’s like half a banana with legs coming out of him and he’s an astronaut.

[Ward has since informed us that due to a scheduling snafu, the most excellent Katz wouldn’t be able to make it into Season 3, but he has an equally cool replacement with “Weird” Al Yankovic]

Geek: I love the music on the show—and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Why don’t we have an Adventure Time soundtrack?

PW: I think—someone’s working on it. I keep suggesting it and I get a lot of e-mails from people asking about the soundtracks from each episode. I’d love to hear a soundtrack too because I like their music a lot. Tim, Kiefer, and Casey Basichis are the composers for the show. And if you look up Casey James and the Stay Puft Kid, that’s Casey and Tim’s old band.

It’s really awesome and really complicated music—I don’t know how else to put it.

Geek: Can you talk about any other Adventure Time merch that might be coming out soon? I know you have the Nooka watch (it’s a watch, and it’s Jake!). Any other stuff for the fans?

PW: We’re just trying to design new shirts and stuff… and that is all that I can talk about.

Geek: Could you tell our readers a little about what’s coming up in the double-sized episode?

PW: That’s a little scary. I’m a little scared to—

Geek: How about this: give us one or two of your favorite moments that you can share.

PW: Well, my favorite moments are the moments that are going to give something away. So it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling it. And I don’t want to spoil it.

I can say that the “Waving Snail” plays a large part. The Waving Snail—he’s like a mystery in every episode. There’s a small, waving snail hidden in one scene of every episode. And he’s really hard to find sometimes. Sometimes you can spot him, but in Season 3 as I’m editing it we’re putting him in harder and harder places to spot.

The Adventure Time double-sized episode premieres on Monday, May 2nd at 8PM EST.

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