Soon to be premiering its third season, Adventure Time has been on a seriously roll since it was first broadcast all the way back in 2010. Is there some kind of secret sauce that Pendleton Ward and co. have been hiding from everyone else? The answer is no, but there are a few things that the team, the studio and the network have done to ensure the shows success.
1. It’s Premise
Two best friends living in a magical land called Ooo? How could that not be special? How about if one of them was a magical dog who could talk? Even more so of course! The setup for Adventure Time is the ideal cartoon setting in that it allows for plenty of room for story. Being magical and all that, there have been no shortage of stories that make full use of such a location.
2. The Diverse Characters
Adventure Time is chock full of quirky characters who fill an episode and make it all the more fun to watch. Besides that, the regular cast are a diverse crowd, with a human, a talking dog, a bubblegum princess, a vampire and a flying ‘rainacorn’. Much like the Land of Ooo, the core characters are suitably different and complex as to permit a wide array of stories to be centered around them.
3. The Original Short
The original short, was part of Frederator’s Random! Cartoons and was broadcast on Nickelodeon back in 2008. Since Nickelodeon declined to pick up the series, it could have sat on the shelf for a year and a half. Instead, someone (somewhere) was clever enough to ensure that the short made it onto YouTube. In no time at all, it had ratcheted up over a million hits and a pseudo-cult following.
Besides that, the short was also extremely effective at introducing the world, the cast of characters and the kind of situations they have to deal with in the land of Ooo. Such a solid base was perfect as the foundation for the show’s fans on which to grow.
4. Getting Picked Up
With a bit of internet popularity, there was already an audience waiting for a series, so it came as no surprise when Cartoon Network announced their acquisition of the series, that there were many fast-paced discussions on forums as to how the show would turn out. As a result, the show’s premiere was one of the highest watched in Cartoon Network history and the show has remained a top ratings winner ever since.
The key here is that thanks to the show being on YouTube, it already had a group of people who wanted to see it. As such, it was easier for the creators and network figure out which direction the show should go in and what made it so popular in the first place.
5. The Tumblelog
The good folks at Frederator have run production blogs for all their shows since My Life as a Teenage Robot so it is no surprise that they have one for Adventure Time too. Stretching all the way back to the original short, there is literally hundreds of bits and bobs from the show like character model sheets, colour studies, sketches, storyboards and promotional art. It’s a veritable treasure trove of Adventure Time paraphernalia.
Why this is so important is because until now, the vast majority of shows normally hide such stuff away and try and keep it out of the public’s eye until at least the show’s premiere (the common fear is ‘piracy’). Posting such a large amount of art on a regular basis only served to whet the appetite of the fans, however, and when the first series was broadcast, many fans were already familiar with the episodes and were anticipating them even more.
6. The Secret Sauce of Awesomeness
[Shhh, don’t tell anyone]
7. Actively Engaging The Fans
I wrote about this last year sometime, but it is still something of a rarity in the cartoon landscape in that the producers actively engage fans and encourage them in many ways. Of note is the original tumblelog but also the many many fansites that have sprung up. The official tumblelog also requests, accepts and posts fanart and pictures of people either cosplaying or wearing Adventure Time clothing. No other show (outside of Frederator) seems to be doing this even though it has immensely helped cement the show’s reputation as being fan-friendly.
So there you have it, seven things that have helped Adventure Time become the success it is today. It should serve as a role model for other shows on how to successfully grow your viewer base into a fan base.