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Adventure Time Q&A at NYCC 2015

Eldubc October 12, 2015 User blog:Eldubc

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The cast and crew of Adventure Time was at New York Comic-Con to give fans a sneak peek of the first two episodes of Stakes and do some interviews. See what Jeremy Shada (Finn), Olivia Olson (Marceline), Adam Muto (Executive Producer), Niki Yang (BMO), and Rebecca Sugar (lyricist/composer) had to say about the upcoming season, weird ships, and comic artist influences.


Jeremy Shada and Olivia Olson

AT OO JS

Olivia Olson and Jeremy Shada

Q: You're the voice of Finn, do an incredible job. Who would you say is Finn's favorite MC or rapper?

JS: In real life or in Ooo?

Q: Let's go with real life.

OO: He'd go old school, don't you think?
JS: I don't Finn listens to a whole lot of modern rap. I think Finn's favorite rapper would be like MC Hammer. Put that out there.

Q: Perfect. Elaborate a little bit.

JS: When it comes to fighting evil creatures and demons and dragons and such, you just can't touch Finn. You can't touch this. See what I did there?
OO: And the pants are very forgiving.

Q: What 90s band would Marceline invite over to play Guitar Hero with?

OO: She's a little grunge so I would say Nirvana.
JS: I freaking knew it.

Q: In the beginning, this show was known as this thing where all this weird stuff happened. Slowly you guys have done an eight-parter this season from a show that has fourteen minute episodes. How does it feel to do more serious stories? Do you guys approach that differently when you're recording? Are you guys told this is going to be a serious episode?

JS: They don't really go this one's a comedy episode, this one's a serious episode. Especially the more recent years. Adventure Time is a show that's very funny. It's very awesomely funny. No matter what, even in like any episode there's always those moments where it gets very relatable and emotional. For us, just kind of like going about it the whole show has been that way. You kind of realize which moments are the really serious moments and which ones are the comedy moments.
OO: I think for you too, you are almost in every single episode so you get to do the comedy ones, smart joke lines, sad ones.
JS: Exactly! The one where my arm is getting ripped off.
OS: Marceline, she's kind of always had, since about the second season they've been doing...
JS: Most of your episodes have been very much serious.
OS: ...yeah, these emotional back-story episodes. For me, that's kind of second nature. Marceline's not the comedy character whatsoever. She's like the heavy, emo one. I was really excited when they said they were going to do the Marceline series. I was simultaneously writing the book for "Marcy's Super Secret Scrapbook" at the same time that was going on. I felt super-connected to her during that whole process. I think it was easy to kind of do all these back-story episodes when I was also writing some of her back-story.
JS: I think it's just a natural inclination of where the show would naturally progress and go to anyway. As our fans have been growing up and getting older too you just naturally go there, you want to get more of the meat of the back-story, what's going on. These characters do have character arcs; they do go through really deep, dark, relatable stuff.
OO: I think a lot of it has to do with how invested the fans were too. They started doing more and more of these stories where you're figuring out what these characters spawned from. All the questions we've been getting have been making the writers go there with doing all these, "Who are Finn's parents?", "Who are Marceline's parents?", "Why are they this way?"
JS: You'll see a lot of that in the mini-series.

Q: Have you recorded much of Season 7 yet?

JS: We actually have...
OO: I think we wrapped it.
JS: Almost. I think we have three episodes left to record for Season 7. We're very, very close to wrapping up a bit. They're hard at work writing, at least outlining, Season 8. We're already picked up for Season 8.

Q: Beyond the "Stakes" are there any interesting character moments for you?

JS: Yeah.

Q: Anything you can talk about?

JS: Not really anything I can talk about. I can barely talk about some of the stuff that's in Stakes. Yeah, there's plenty of stuff coming up for Finn. He always has plenty of stuff that I can actually say. That's the worst non-answer of all time.

Q: Do you think it's going to be a bit lighter for Finn this season? He's done some pretty heavy stuff lately.

JS: Yeah. I think it will be a little bit lighter for Finn for sure.
OO: For the first half within Stakes, everyone in the episode is dealing with the Marceline issue. It's put everyone else's issues on the back burner for a little bit.
JS: Finn's pretty, not light in the Marceline series, but he's not as focused emotionally on other stuff. He's trying to help her out. It's much more light for Finn. Which is cool, we get a little bit of a breather. I think this whole season, there's stuff that happens but I think the whole season is lighter on Finn post him finding his dad and all that stuff. There's not as many of the crazy dad revelations.
OO: He's dealing with someone else's problems.
JS: Yeah, exactly.
OO: Going back to saving people.
JS: I think Season 8 will be more...a lot of Finn's crazy stuff.

Q: Is Finn ever going to have another love interest?

JS: We'll see. I really hope he does.
OO: He's got to get over Flame Princess.
JS: I know, he needs to get a girlfriend. He needs someone. I don't know who it is at this point. PB, FP, some new princess. It doesn't have to be a princess. It could be someone else. He just needs a lady. Petition a campaign.
OO: He should stop going after the princesses. They keep breaking his heart.
JS: Set his sights a little lower.

Q: Speaking of love interest, people like to ship your characters together a lot. Has it ever spilled over into real life? Someone says, "Oh Olivia, I can't wait for Marceline to get with Finn."

OO: Gross.

Q: Exactly. First of all PB is 800 something and Marceline is 1000 something. I think Finn needs to go a little more to his age group.

OO: You have big aspirations though.
JS: Yeah, you know me.

Q: I want to know, have fans ever approached you, "Oh man, I wish you guys would get with X person?"

JS: Like in real life? Like I wish Jeremy would date said person?

Q: Has that happened? I'm curious.

OO: I've had death threats.
JS: Yeah. Okay, I'll just explain the story.

Q: Is it dating related?

JS: Kind of? Not really though. There was one time we were at a Comic-Con, me and Olivia. We went out to dinner. It wasn't even like the two of us at dinner. In the picture...
OO: Your dad was there.
JS: Yeah, we posted a picture of us at dinner holding up the empty glasses, doing the "ding." You can see in the picture my Shirley Temple soda. Fans were like, "Oh, they're dating? I'm going to kill Olivia!" It was like, "No, no we're not."
OO: In the same day I got like 800 new followers on Instagram but they were all hate followers. Everyone was like, "He's mine!" I'm like, "Oh my god, he's seventeen, you can have him."
JS: They're like, they're so awful. They're drinking alcohol and stuff. These are empty glasses. My Shirley Temple is right here.
OO: Yeah, they were both my wine glasses.
JS: That's the main thing. I really don't have a whole lot of people shipping me and other people because generally the fan girls are like "I ship me and you." Look at that.
OO: I think for Marceline, nobody ships anyone except maybe PB. There's no one on her level or old enough or been through her experiences.

Q: No Ice King fan ficts out there?

OO: Ew! He's like her dad!
JS: That's weird. He's like a father figure. There's kind of a, that's a little weird.
OO: You're twisted man.

Q: Are we going to see more between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline's past in this upcoming season?

OO: In the mini-series, they don't really go to the past, but you definitely see a lot more of their friendship. You'll see kind of how the relationship is now. They don't really go to the past or anything like that.
JS: They'll go to Marceline's past with other stuff.
OO: Yeah, they go to Marceline's past but nothing even when she knew Princess Bubblegum.

Q: Is there anything from this season or any previous seasons that sticks out in your mind as something that you wanted to explore or you guys were considering exploring but didn't get to or it was trashed for some reason?

JS: Yeah, I don't know if there was anything we didn't get to, like it was trashed. There was a couple things in the mini-series. Actually, some of it, because we just saw the first two episodes completed. I haven't seen them until then. That was pretty awesome. In the second episode, which I thought was fantastic, there's stuff with... I guess I can talk about this because they just aired it. People can Tweet this out anyway.
OO: Yeah, but you don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't seen it. Just be vague.
JS: I'll be super vague. There's stuff with Marceline's mom that was pretty interesting.
OO: Fans have been asking that question for a very long time.
JS: Yeah, you're going to see a little bit of that. That, to me, was just fantastic. I loved that. There was one other thing but I can't really say it because it's pretty revealing as to origins of certain people. There's surprisingly some stuff that they're going to run with which relates to Finn which I saw in that episode that makes sense to me. The mini-series itself is pretty fantastic. There's a lot of stuff hidden there that I really wanted to see.

Q: I've got kind of an esoteric question. Adventure Time is kind of raising a whole generation of kids. It's got a whole lot of cultural elements like BMO's gender vagueness and even a possibility of romance between Marceline and PB. People are thinking about it in a way that the previous generation wouldn't. What do you think is the significance of this show with a capital "S?"

OO: With a capital "S."

Q: Significance. Maybe with some little lines around it.

OO: I think it's great that they're doing it. There's so many kids out there that are having questions about their sexuality or their gender. Just the fact that they have the like whole gender swap episode with Fiona and Cake I think is really. What did they call it? They called it "cross playing" now. They come and do the conventions. I think it's really cool because you can see a guy and he can be dressed up as Marceline or a girl as Marshall Lee or vice-versa with Finn and Fiona. It's making it more acceptable, I think. Not that it shouldn't be acceptable, but just having anything like that on TV is really important.
JS: Yeah, I don't really know what I would say after that. There you go.

Q: The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show made people comfortable with black families. Do you see Adventure Time having that kind of impact?

JS: I think Adventure Time, all of what you just said. There's a lot of relatability in the show. It's a super bizarre crazy show. At the end of the day it's really a very character driven show with problems and stuff that I think kids can really relate to in real life. There's one thing that I thought was fantastic that I didn't really expect. It's involving for me, with Finn, when he finally meets his dad. In real life, I love my dad. I have a great relationship with my dad, he's fantastic. I loved in the show everyone was expecting this great family reunion between Finn and his dad. What we got wasn't exactly that. There was a lot of issues there. There were a lot of problems there. His dad really wasn't necessarily the greatest guy. Finn had to really come to a point of forgiveness and reconciliation there. I think that's really awesome. There's a lot of people who don't have good relationships with their parents in a lot of ways. For me I thought it was a great way to have this awesome relatability in this type of show for kids. I think stuff like that is really, really important.

Q: Speaking of family, your brother voiced Finn in the pilot.

JS: That is true.

Q: It's been repeatedly saying that he wants to do someone on the show. Has he had the opportunity yet?

JS: No, he has not had the opportunity yet. I'd love the opportunity for him to be on the show just as a nod to him being the in the original, little short. I have no clue.
OO: Maybe Finn will have some brother somewhere.
JS: I don't know, it's possible. The fun thing for him, the nice thing in a lot of ways too, is originally the character is called Pen in the short. It's kind of like he played Pen and I played Finn, if that makes sense. The show has a lot of legs with it. It's going to go for much longer. I think it's definitely possible that somewhere down the line that could happen. I'd love to see it whether it's an older version of Finn or an alternate reality where he's Pen or something. I don't know. Anything like that would just be fantastic. As of now that's not happened and that's not in the cards.

Q: Finn has be consciously aging throughout the show.

JS: Yes, which is great for me. Fantastic.

Q: Is that something that the creators have done to accommodate you as you're aging? You could see that Finn could progress to an adulthood in the show? Is that a natural endpoint?

JS: I don't know if at first it was the intention or not. I have no clue. Immediately, once we stated the first season, my voice started changing literally as we were recording the first season. All of the voice cracks when he was yelling were not intended. That was me going through puberty. But they liked it. As a character trait it really matched with him. It meshed well. Since then people ask that like, "Oh your brother got replaced." Which is not the case.
OO: Are you going to get replaced next?
JS: Yeah, which is not the case. There was three years between the pilot and when Cartoon Network picked it up. They probably figured his voice had changed or something because it had been awhile. By that point, people asked that question and Penn was like, "No, we'll just age the character." I think that's great because it gives Finn, and not only Finn, but all the characters to actually grow and change and actually have character arcs.
OO: I think it's needed for the show.
JS: Yeah, for this show specifically, it really works. It's not frozen in time where none of the characters ever change. The characters change a lot throughout the course the show which is awesome. I think definitely, depending on how long the show goes, you'll definitely, naturally see Finn go into adulthood, young adulthood, which would be super, super cool. I'd love it. I think it's awesome. I'll keep doing as long as I get to.


Adam Muto, Rebecca Sugar, and Niki Yang

AT NY AM RS

Niki Yang, Adam Muto, and Rebecca Sugar

Q: You came back to Adventure Time to do this song after being away from it for awhile. In your time doing Steven Universe, did you kind of look in on the show from the outside while that was going on? Did that sort of change your perspective on the show?

RS: Yeah, it's been exciting to watch Adventure Time on TV and not know what's going to happen because I was always on the inside before. I'd see all the pitches. I think everyone's voices as story-boarders is clear and clear and clearer as the show went on. I love some of the newest episodes, they just blow me away. They're so inspiring because I'm working on my show. To be inspired by Adventure Time, I always was from the inside but now from the outside too. I think getting to come back for a second and do this was really exciting. Adventure Tim" taught me to be honest in my cartooning and in my song writing. I do that with Steven too. Steven's really broad. The way that Adventure Time is really intimate and personal, I learned it there and I wanted to do that again specifically for Adam.

Q: What positive impact boarding for Adventure Time has had for when you're doing Steven Universe?

RS: Oh, oh! It taught me everything. It was my first job. Adam was my first storyboard partner. I learned everything from Adam.
AM: It's not true.
RS: He gave me a shot at writing a song which I never thought I would be doing for television. I learned everything from working on Adventure Time. I think it's been interesting to run with that on my own and try and make something that's a "me" sort of thing to make after working on something that was so Penn and was so Adam and so everyone on Adventure Time. Yeah, I think everything I know I learned it all from AT.

Q: Who are some of the comic artists who influenced you? Who perhaps might be here or indie artists who you're digging right now that also might be here?

RS: Yeah, just artists that we like? So many of the indie comic artists that I like work on "Adventure Time." Jillian Tamaki. Tom Herpich. I was such a huge fan of Tom Herpich when I went to work on Adventure Time and he was there. I was shaking when I shook his hand. Mike DeForge.
AM: He still works on the show.
RS: He's still working on the show? Yeah, Jesse. Jesse Moynihan's work is amazing. It's interesting to suddenly be in LA and then surrounded by these independent comic artists that I always have looked up to. It's cool to be here too.
AM: That's kind of one of our secrets that we try to find comics artists whose work will translate to the show. We still do that. Do you guys do that as much?
RS: A lot of story-boarders are animators and work on the animation side.
AM: Yeah. She said all the names.

Q: There have been some interesting episodes like "Food Chain," where you went to somebody else and had them do a very special style. Is there anything like that coming up in this season?

AM: Yeah, we have a stop-motion episode coming up. I think it's coming out later, or early next year. It's directed by Kirsten Lepore. She's just another person we were a fan of and thought that her would work would transfer well to Adventure Time. She did this eleven minute film called Move Mountain. It felt like Adventure Time. It was like an episode I wish we had made. She went to CalArts for a time. There was a little bit of a connection. That was fun. I'd never seen a stop-mo. It's so expensive. It's a real hard sell to get stop-mo.

Q: What qualifies a comic as Adventure Time like comic. What do you look for?

AM: They usually have a really strong, I don't want to say personality. Their sensibility is really unique and it kind of shines through. Their world is really complete. They are able to stage things in a cinematic way. I don't know, it's weird. It's this feeling you get from it. This person is telling a story and I like that experience so maybe we can integrate that with the show. It doesn't always work. We've had people do boards and it doesn't quite translate. We're still willing to kind of take that risk.

Q: Kind of a mystery?

AM: Yeah, like Luke Pearson. He hadn't boarded anything before he did a couple episodes. I love his episodes. He could be a full time board artist but he loves comics so much that he mostly does comics.

Q: I have a question for Niki. BMO's gender is pretty ambiguous. Did you have a gender in mind when you play BMO or is it kind of in the middle?

NY: Not really. I don't think I consciously think about gender when I record. Definitely if there is some director's call, like "Can do more like down in the lower man's tone?" then I try to, you know, pull out those. No, I really don't think about gender.

Q: I have a question for both Niki and Adam. We've had a few BMO-centric episodes. One of my personal favorites is BMO and her bubble. I forgot the name of the episode. Will we have any of those this coming season?

AM: Yeah, there's a couple. There's one that will be that will be in the first set called "Football." That's a pretty BMO heavy episode. Without saying too much about it it's kind of about BMO and his different sort of identities.
NY: It's called "BMO is Lost." It's one of my favorites.
AM: There's one later called "Angel Face" which is more about BMO role playing and bringing Finn and Jake into his live-action cowboy role-play adventure.

Q: he relationship between BMO and Finn and Jake, sometimes it's they're best friends and sometimes they're kind of mean. How do you balance that? Have you noticed that? For example, BMO will often pop the bubble. They're like "Oh yay, the bubble." I'm curious. How do you toe that line?

AM: I don't know, they couldn't hear him. In that specific instance I don't think he thought he was popping his fiance. It's weird, it depends who writes it. Sometimes BMO's is written as a little kid, which feels right. Sometimes BMO's written as a wise guy. Sometimes he's almost a pet. It sometimes gets weird, like when they hit BMO with a newspaper. I think that still kind of rings weird with me.
NY: It made me laugh.
AM: Sometimes the joke is funny enough.

Q: For Rebecca, I think it's safe to say that you have the best lyrics in the game.

RS: Oh, thanks!

Q: If you were MC-ing you'd just demolish anyone. What goes into when you're writing, composing the songs for the show?

RS: I do a lot of drafts. The new one I wrote there another whole other song that I wrote first that I scrapped and turned into the new one. I think I have the one, it's in my bag. Oh wait, I do. I have a little notebook where I jot everything down. It's got early versions of "Stronger than You," that I never used. Sometimes I'll just be writing rhyming words down a line.

Q: Something for Adam. Earlier this year, it was announced that there would be an Adventure Time movie in the works.

AM: I think that was a leak. I think they were just trying to build momentum. It's not anything official to announce yet, at this point. I think Penn is working on the premise of it. He'll be really involved when it gets made, hopefully. Who knows? That's so far in the future, I don't know.

Q: What's Penn's involvement with the show day-to-day now? I know he's kind of stepped down.

AM: It varies. He doesn't come in every day but he's still will do Lumpy Space's voice and he did come in to help write outlines again, which was nice. Talked him into boarding an episode which is always fun. He hasn't actually done that that many times. It's usually as much as he wants to be involved at this point.

Q: Would you say that the tone has changed at all now that's he's taken a different role? Is there a consistent tone that's been kept around?

AM: I think even when he was here it had a changing tone. It's grown in whatever direction the people working on it, whatever they are sort of exploring and what they're pushing it towards it sort of ends up being. I don't know. We tried, at the beginning, Season One, to say what would Penn think is funny and what would a Penn episode feel like. That was really hard to sustain. Now it's more trying to find people's individual sensibilities they can bring to an episode that will make it interesting. It's probably different. It's too inside. I can't actually say.

Q: I'd be curious about the mini-series format. Over the Garden Wall didn't go over well. Then there was that Adventure Time mini-series. I'm wondering if those happened concurrently and what do you think that offers that maybe shorter form episodes don't?

AM: Did they talk to you about a mini-series?
RS: We were doing connected episodes. It was happening anyway. I think that was something everyone was getting really excited about. We don't call ours a miniseries. We call it the "Barn Arc."Because it was a barn.
AM: It was definitely after Over the Garden Wall had been produced. I don't know why exactly. I think they were pushing more towards events. They're looking at what other networks and other platforms are doing. The idea of having this group of episodes and push them out at the same time. They told me all the other shows were making mini-series. So we should do a mini-series. And I go, okay, we're doing a mini-series. It's been a boon I think. You can dig into one idea and explore it more than we ever can. Especially Season One, there was no arcs. No anything. No serialization. That was the biggest fight we lost Season One. I think we've kind of gradually grown into continuity. We have a light continuity but that was definitely not the focus early on. Telling one story over eight episodes was an experiment for us too. We hadn't done it and approached it that way.

Q: On a related point, I'm curious. Was there any kind of direction like that with Steven Universe or were you free to do plotting the way you wanted to?

RS: In terms of continuity? I think that's always something that's really difficult to plan. The setup is not super-conducive to it the way the show sort of works, or worked. I think now because we've been doing bombs and bursts it makes a little more sense. You can binge. The continuity which is great. It was always a struggle to coordinate. It's worth it. I think I learned that on Adventure Time we were doing it very subversively. There was something that was tracking through. You would lose things and they would stay gone. You'd get something new and you'd keep it. I loved that. He'd have a sword for a stretch of time then lose it. We were all keeping track of everything but it was very subtle. I don't feel like anything changed. Trying to do on bigger and bigger scales.
AM: That's true.

Q: My personal episode is "Princess Day." I really enjoyed the relationship between Marceline and Lumpy Space Princess. Those chaotic two forces. Is there any intention or plans to get them together again?

AM: They do appear again in the mini-series for a short time. That episode is funny. They were trying to start a new holiday at Cartoon Network. We'll do "Princess Day." We'll do this "Princess Day" promotion. Okay, here's the episode. They're hitting somebody with their car and putting them in a trunk. I don't know if this is the message we want to get out on "Princess Day." I don't think they every followed up on that. We tried. So many times, they asked for something.

Q: Are there any character pairings that you're looking forward to doing that you haven't done yet?

AM: If it goes long enough you realize what characters haven't really appeared together then Lemongrab is sitting next to Lumpy Space Princess all of a sudden.

Q: Back to the topic of continuity just for a second. The status quo is sort of shaken up at the end of the last season. PB was kind of forced out. She is still out at sea and in that cabin now, the King of Ooo took over. Can you talk a little bit about where we're going to start off in the new season in terms of the status quo? Is the King of Ooo still in charge?

AM: Yeah, it picks up basically right after the last episode of Season 6. They're sort of pledged to the King of Ooo. Bubblegum is off in retreat at her cabin. How long that stays that way depends on how many stories you can get out of it without it feeling redundant. It's hard because Finn and Jake don't feel like they'd stay committed to the King of Ooo that long since he's such a charlatan. We tried to do justice to it. It doesn't instantly get fixed. Everything is still kind of broken at the end of Season 7.

Q: There are a lot shows that have defined a generation. The Jeffersons made people comfortable with middle class black people living in homes like theirs. I feel that Adventure Time is very much one of those shows that's introducing the next generation into a lot of very important ideas that they're parents wouldn't necessarily be cool with. My question is what do you feel the significance of this show is? How do you make a show significant?

AM: I don't know. How do you make a show significant?

Q: What does that look like on your side?

AM: I look at shows like Steven Universe that we tried to find people that had really interesting voices and had interesting stories to tell and really strong ideas that they could go out now and make their own shows and push all sorts different boundaries. Like Steven Universe or Over the Garden Wall or some third thing I can't think of. I think that's been the most satisfying part. Seeing how that kind of continues to spread and that influence branches out.

Q: Cultivating interesting voices?

AM: I don't think a show can stay zeitgeist-y forever. The moment's going to pass. Hopefully the characters are strong enough that their stories are still interesting. It isn't going to stay influential forever. That never happens.

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