Setting and Mythology: Creative Writing Lesson Plan Tuesday 7/9/13 (Continued)

Recommended Reading:  The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. - 501 A.G.E.
Recommended Reading: The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. – 501 A.G.E.

What is Adventure Time and why does a cartoon matter in Creative Writing? How can we use it to stimulate our own work?

First, let’s look at its concept and creation:

According to series creator Pendleton Ward, the show’s style was influenced by his time at California Institute of the Arts and his work as a storyboard artist on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. He tries to include “beautiful” moments like those in Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, as well as elements of subversive humor. The show began as a single stand-alone animated short which ran for seven minutes. Ward created the short almost entirely by himself, and wrapped up production for the short in the spring of 2006. It aired in January 2007 and again as part of Frederator Studios’ Random! Cartoons on December 7, 2008. After its release, the short video became a viral hit on the internet.Frederator Studios then pitched an Adventure Time series to Nicktoons Network, but the network passed on it twice. The studio then approached Cartoon Network. The network said they would be willing to produce the series if Ward could prove that the series could be expanded into a series while maintaining elements from the original short.


Written by Lord of Evil Himself to amuse and confound the citizenry of the Nightosphere, Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is perhaps the most dangerous book in history.

Although seemingly a guidebook to the Land of Ooo and its post-apocalyptic inhabitants, it is in fact an amusing nightmare of literary pitfalls, bombastic brain-boggles and ancient texts designed to drive the reader mad.

Complete with secret lore and wizard spells, fun places you should visit and places where you will probably die, whom to marry and whom not to marry, how to make friends and how to destroy your enemies–this volume includes hand-written marginalia by Finn, Jake, and Marceline.

Arguably the greatest encyclopedia ever written since the beginning of the cosmos, it is also an indispensable companion to humans and demons who know what time it is. Adventure Time!

Ward quickly retooled the concept of the pilot; he wanted a potential series to be “fully realized”, rather than possess the “pre-school vibe” that the original pilot had. One of the major changes from the pilot to the series was the emphasis placed on the background art. Dan “Ghostshrimp” James, an artist, was tasked with fleshing out the background; reportedly, he was told to make the series look like it took “place in a ‘Ghostshrimp World'”. He designed major locations, such as Finn and Jake’s home, the Candy Kingdom, and the Ice Kingdom.Ward, with help from Pat McHale and Adam Muto, turned in a rough storyboard that featured Finn and an “oblivious” Princess Bubblegum going on a spaghetti-supper date. However, the network was not happy with this story, and asked for another. Ward then created an early storyboard for the episode, “The Enchiridion”, which was his attempt to emulate the style of the original short. Cartoon Network approved the first season in September 2008, and “The Enchiridion” became the first episode to enter into production.

Setting and Mythology:

The show is set in a fictional continent called the “Land of Ooo”, in a post-apocalyptic future about a thousand years after the “Great Mushroom War”. According to Ward, the show takes place “after the bombs have fallen and magic has come back into the world”. Before the series was fully developed, Ward’s original intention was for the Land of Ooo to simply be “magical”. After “Business Time” aired, in which an iceberg containing reanimated business men floats to the surface of a lake, the show suddenly became post-apocalyptic, and Ward notes that the production crew “just ran with it.” Ward later described the setting as “candyland on the surface and dark underneath”. Ward stated that he has never intended for the Mushroom War and the post-apocalyptic elements to be “hit over the head in the show”. In fact, he limited it to “cars buried underground in the background [and elements that do not] raise any eyebrows.”  Ward has acknowledged that the post-apocalyptic elements of the series were influenced by the 1979 film Mad Max. Kenny called the way the elements are worked into the plot “very fill-in-the-blanks”, and DiMaggio noted that “it’s been obvious the Land of Ooo has some issues”.

The series also has a mythology, or an overarching plot and backstory that is expanded upon in various episodes. This backstory largely involves the Mushroom War, the origin of the series’ principal antagonist the Lich, and the backstory of several of the series principal and recurring characters, such as the Ice King, Marceline, and Princess Bubblegum. Ward has admitted that the details behind the Mushroom War and the series’ dark mythology form “a story worthy telling”, but that he feels that the show will “save it and continue to dance around how heavy the back-history of Ooo is.”

The show has received positive reviews from critics and has developed a cult following among teenagers and adults; Adventure Time has a passionate audience of both children and adults “who are drawn to the show’s silly humor, imaginative stories, and richly populated world.” Television critic Robert Lloyd, in an article for the LA Times, said that the series was a good companion piece “to the network’s [then] currently airing Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.” He complimented the setting and compared the two previously mentioned, noting that each take “place in a fantastical land peopled with strange, somewhat disturbing characters and has at its center a young male person or person-like thing making his way in that world with the help of unusual, not always reliable, mentors.”[2] He went on to write that the show is “not unlike CN’s earlier Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, about a boy and his imaginary friend, though darker and stranger and even less connected to the world as we know it. Lloyd also compared it to “the sort of cartoons they made when cartoons themselves were young and delighted in bringing all things to rubbery life.”

Mike LeChevallier of Slate magazine awarded the third and fourth seasons of the show four stars out of five. In a review of the third season, LeChevallier wrote that the series “scores relatively high marks for storytelling, artwork, music, voice acting, and realization with its neatly wrapped, 11-minute packages of multicolored awesomeness.” He further complimented the show because he felt that “it scarcely appears to be trying too hard to attract attention, yet it does just that”. He did note that “the short-form format leaves some emotional substance to be desired”, although he noted this was inevitable for a series with such short episodes.  In a review of season four LeChevallier positively complimented the show for “growing up” with its characters, and that “the show’s dialogue is among the best of any current animated series.” He concluded that the series possesses “strikingly few faults”.

The A.V. Club reviewer Zack Handlen summed Adventure Time up as “a terrific show, and it fits beautifully in that gray area between kid and adult entertainment in a way that manages to satisfy both a desire for sophisticated (i.e., weird) writing and plain old silliness.” He concluded that the show was “basically what would happen if you asked a bunch of 12-year-olds to make a cartoon, only it’s the best possible version of that, like if all the 12-year-olds were super geniuses and some of them were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the Marx Brothers.” Robert Mclaughlin of Den of Geek wrote that Adventure Time “is the first cartoon in a long time that is pure imagination”. He heavily complimented the show for “its non-reliance on continually referencing pop culture […] and the general outlook is positive and fun.” Eric Kohn of IndieWire said that the show “represents the progress of [cartoon] medium” in the current decade. Kohn also enjoyed the way the show not only revels in “random, frequently adorable and effusive” aspects, but also “toys with an incredibly sad subtext”. Entertainment Weekly named Adventure Time #20 on their The 25 Greatest Animated Series Ever list. Later, in 2013, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Darren Franich awarded the series an “A” and called it “a hybrid sci-fi/fantasy/horror/musical/fairy tale, with echoes of Calvin and Hobbes, Hayao Miyazaki, Final Fantasy, Richard Linklater, Where the Wild Things Are, and the music video you made with your high school garage band.” Franich praised the series’ “consistently inventive” plotlines and its “vivid landscape”, as well as its continued maturation.


And we will continue our discussion of literary devices including motifs, found in Titanic:

In Titanic the constant images of the ship sailing on the ocean are visual motifs. But these images themselves fall into two categories:

See this link for more info.

Because there are two categories of ship shots there would in fact be two motifs.

  1. When the ship is shown in detail a particular idea is being presented. This idea is all about how great Titanic is and what an incredible achievement she is. These shots all present Titanic as a masterpiece, “the largest moving object ever built by the hand of man.” They also present the social structure of the ship because many of the details shown are those that apply to the luxury of the first class areas of the ship.
  2. When the ship is shown in extreme long shot the idea being explored is completely different. The ocean dwarfs the ship and so the motif means that even though Titanic is so great, she is still insignificant when compared to the ocean. It is these shots that provide the visual dramatic irony of the film. We know how this film will end because it is an historical fact that the Titanic sank, but the characters in the film are unaware of the tragedy that is sliding towards them.

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