Authors: Pendleton Ward, Nick Jennings, Paul Linsley, Andy Ristaino, Phil Rynda
Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 111 pages
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
For nearly as long as they’ve been in existence, cartoon shorts have begun with a title card, a drawn picture that usually contains some hint as to what kind of story the viewer is about to see. Adventure Time has proudly carried on that tradition, but, like everything else the series does, it puts its own spin on the practice. For one thing, Adventure Time’s title cards often have a strong morbid flavor to them. The card for the episode “Death in Bloom,” for instance, features the skeletons of the show’s protagonists, Finn and Jake. Finn’s body has a teacup raised to his skull, while Jake is cradling a book titled Feelin’ Fine. Both have flowers growing out of their eye sockets. It’s grim but humorous, as befits a show which likes to cheerfully remind its young audience of more troubling, darker themes.
Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards is made to grace the coffee table of any animation lover who’d care to have it. It features every title card from the first two seasons of the show. That’s 52 separate pieces, each of which get their own dedicated two-page spread. Alongside the cards are pictures of the original concept art drawn up for each one, as well as some commentary from the artist who drew it. It would likely take no more than an hour to read at the longest, but these kinds of books aren’t made for reading — they’re meant for browsing.
Still, it would have been nice if the book had covered more content. Since the show is still ongoing, making a collection for the complete series was out of the question, of course. So the choice for this publisher was to either go for staggered releases of different volumes of episodes, or wait until the show had finished, and who knows how long the second option would have taken. Still, it’s hard to ignore the allure in the idea of a thick, bountiful book with hundreds of title cards in it.
Perusing these title cards, the array of influences on Adventure Time become extremely evident. The style and tone varies wildly with each new one. The card for the first episode, “Slumberparty Panic,” is a cross between a poster for a ’60s teen beach party film and one for a horror B-movie. The next episode, “Trouble in Lumpy Space,” has a card that’s designed like the cover of a ’30s pulp adventure novel. My favorite is probably the eerie, ethereal “The Real You,” which features a portrait of a nebula with the image of a dreaming Finn drifting across it. It makes little sense and relates to what actually happens in the episode on a metaphorical level, but it fits with the episode’s philosophical ponderings.
Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards is a good little gift for anyone who’s a fan of the show. Like any “art of” books, its appeal is limited to people who are familiar with the work it celebrates, so anyone who hasn’t seen it will likely not find much to chew on. But then again, who cares about terrible people who don’t watch Adventure Time?