Perfect timing: Cartoon Network talks the enduring appeal of Adventure Time

Anyone with half an eye on the pop culture space will know that as of September this year, the fan scene will wave a fond farewell to the series that launched the now burgeoning kidult market into the spotlight.

Adventure Time – the simple premise of one boy and his dog wandering a magical world of space princesses, vampire queens and of course wizards – struck a chord with a new wave of audiences that continued to resonate for the series’ full eight-year run.

Its depth of characters, including the progressively aging protagonists Jake and Finn as the series played out its entire 140 half hours (and whom audiences watched grow old before their very eyes) breathed new life into what it means to be a cartoon in this day and age.

Pendleton Ward’s creation never once shied away from life’s tougher subjects of mental illness as depicted fascinatingly by the Ice King character or the gradual passing of childhood dutifully played out by both Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, and as a result, the series’ devotion to narrative was returned in fan love.

And as of September 3 this year, those fans watched the cast play out its final adventure in the close of its US run. However, while this year did signal the completion of the series’ linear broadcast run in the US and those in the EMEA markets gear themselves up for its series end this year, Cartoon Network’s message to the global fan following is clear: it’s in no way calling time on the journey.

In fact, Adventure Time is and remains a priority franchise for Cartoon Network.

‘The show was genre defining,” Johanne Broadfield,vice president of Cartoon Network Enterprises EMEA tells “It attracted a diverse fanbase of kids, adults and celebrities and for some of our key partners it was their most successful license ever.”

From its first appearance back in 2010, Adventure Time became the starting gun of what is today being billed a pop culture explosion and through long term partners in that same scene – partners like Funko – it has become a staple of the genre. Yes, the series may have come to an end, but its legacy will certainly reach far beyond.

“The brand is now making the natural transition into the evergreen space and whilst the future will be different, it will be no less exciting,” continues Broadfield. “We fully intend to take all those hugely enthusiastic fans, licensees and retailers on the journey with us and pick up more along the way.”

Such is the loyalty among fans that the show has developed over its near decade on TV screens that Cartoon Network is well aware of the care it must now treat the franchise IP as it continues this journey. Fans know this brand. They’ve grown up with it just as its characters have grown before them. They’ve even listened as the voice actor behind Finn the Human has matured and gone through puberty himself, ending with a deeper voiced Finn by its last episode than it started with in 2010.

In essence, fans won’t be fooled by any note that might ring unauthentic.

“For Adventure Time, as the content evolves in new directions, some elements of the licensing programme will follow suit,” says Broadfield.

The franchise itself is no stranger to evolution, and as advances have been made in the way licensing is today used in the consumer space, Adventure Time has been there, at times a forerunner in new trends such as the merging of consumer tech and IP licensing.

“Adventure Time was actually the brand we used to anchor our first foray into VR in EMEA with the 2016 launch of I See Ooo, complete with Jake-the-Dog-branded VR Viewer,” explains Broadfield.

“With a number of hugely successful apps and games already in the marketplace, we’re forecasting digital growth and experiential remains key.”

That’s even stretched to permanent theme park space in the Middle East as well as an Adventure Time-branded Cartoon Network cruise liner soon to launch in Asia.

“I told you we like surprises,” smiles Broadfield.

But for those already lamenting the days of switching on the TV for their daily fix of Lumpy Space Princess drama or dose of Earl of Lemongrab – calm down. The series won’t be leaving our screens any time soon.

“The show will live on through its extensive back catalogue of episodes and specials, which will continue to air on Cartoon Network and free to air channels across the region, as well as through the multiple consumer touchpoints that we are committed to developing in the long term,” Cartoon Network’s vice president reassures us. “There will still be off the wall retail activations and partnerships that embrace the rich universe of characters and the universal themes of friendship and adventure that will endure.

“There is so much more to come, and as any fan knows well,” she muses, “the fun will never end for Adventure Time.” 

About Rachael Simpson-Jones

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