1. It’s a storyboard-driven show (as opposed to a script-driven one like The Simpsons, for instance).
The process begins in the writer’s room with creator Pendleton Ward, head of story Kent Osborne, Adam Muto, and Jack Pendarvis, a writer based in Mississippi who communicates via Gchat.
“So we’ll try to write a pretty solid two-page outline with a second and third act — not a lot of dialogue in the outlines, just sort of ‘this happens and this happens’ broken up into beats and then that’ll get sent to the network so they can approve it,” says Osborne.
The outline is then handed to storyboard artists who are divided into four teams of two and have two weeks to do a rough outline, which is then pitched back to the writers who provide feedback notes.
“Even if you have an outline with, say, Finn climbing a hill — you have to draw that, and there’s no direction — it’s just kind of up to you where you want to have the camera movement, and while you’re figuring that out, you might do a terrible drawing but it might also give you an idea. Like, Oh, what if he’s wearing a jetpack? I think that’s harder to do with a script.”
2. It takes about nine months to finish one episode.
“I think from writing a premise to delivering the episode to the network is nine months. So we’ll always have a different episode going on in rotation. Like we’ll write an episode one week but then someone will be pitching an episode, someone else will be doing our second pitch, we’ll be recording an episode all in one week. All these episodes are in different stages of the process. So nine months, like a baby.”
3. There’s no set guideline to making it a “kids show.”
“I think the shows that end on a moral or ‘what did we learn?’ — I’ve seen that so much and South Park has been making fun of that trope for so long now so it’s nice to make something and just not have that moment. It’s hard not to talk about it without sounding pretentious, but I think kids can tell when something’s being made for them. The kids at Comic Con are always asking questions like, ‘Why did you do this?’ and, ‘What does this mean?’ and, ‘Why is that there?’ That means you like something, that you’re thinking about it, and you want to know more.”
4. Finn actually ages in the show, alongside his voice actor, Jeremy Shada.
“We’ve had a couple birthdays and we’ve alluded a little here and there that he’s getting older — it is weird because you watch an episode from the first season and his voice is really high … but he does a good job of pitching himself up a little bit. But from the beginning when we were worrying about his voice changing, Pen just said, ‘Oh, well, we’ll just make Finn older.’ And eventually Finn will be like a 25-year-old man.”
5. No idea is fully off-limits.
“If you pitch an idea and Pen shoots it down, you can keep pitching it to him. You can wait a month and pitch it again — I think he really likes it when people are passionate and really want to do something.
We’re trying to make something we like, something that makes us laugh, that we’re happy with. I think anyone making art should be making it for themselves.”
New episodes of Adventure Time air every Thursday at 7 p.m. on Cartoon Network.