Get your Finn ski caps on your head and your toy Golden Swords of Battle in hand because the fourth season of Adventure Time begins tonight. We spoke with creator Pendleton “Pen” Ward, who also voices Lumpy Space Princess. Ward previously worked on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and is heavily influenced by The Simpsons, Hayao Miyazaki, The Adventures of Tintin, and David Lynch to name a few. That last one explains a lot, actually. See what Pen had to say about the upcoming season and creating a show that’s funny to him and how that in turn becomes funny for a kid.
What can you tell us about Season 4?
PW: It’s funny. It’s weird. Each season gets a little more weird and hilarious. You’ll see today at the panel, we’re going to play a clip where it’s little episodes within an episode, which I think is awesome. It feels like The Simpsons when they do Halloween specials where they tell three stories that are more unusual than usual.
That’s tough to do that on this show.
PW: Yeah it is tough, it’s hard; we run into story problems when we want to start the story with something out of the ordinary, but to have something out of the ordinary is difficult, because everything is crazy on the show, with magic and weird monsters on the show. Finn turns into feet so it’s hard to come up with something that’s abnormal to start up that kind of plot.
How much do you get to play with the form of the episode to make it so original?
PW: We can do pretty much anything we want. There’s a lot of room to experiment at Cartoon Network. I think that’s the case, which is rad for me. I was talking to someone else about the episode 309a, “Thank You,” it was a day-in-the-life story of a snow golem living in the ice kingdom, and he was essentially this big creature made of snow, this snowman that’s alive and how he walks around and Finn and Jake are barely in it. I think that’s weird. The show is called the Adventures of Finn and Jake and we followed this random monster and his life, which is awesome that we can do that. So there’s going to be more experimental episodes coming down the line.
Does it amp you up that Adventure Time has such a wide audience? It reminds me of when Looney Toons and you could view the show with two pairs of eyes as a kid and as an adult.
PW: Yeah it is, I feel like we’re shooting in the dark most of the time, sometimes it’s intentional and I see a joke that I feel will appeal to little kids. For instance the joke I always refer to my little kid sense of humor was on The Simpsons where Bart was talking about Homer is “my dad’s a half-man / half-monkey type creature.” I’m mixing up that quote but as a kid imaging a half-man / half-monkey just rocked my world. I was like [exaggerated laughter] but as an adult I would be like, “meh,” I’ve heard crazier things. [Laughs]
Kids are being introduced to humor for the first time through cartoons–everything through cartoons and I think it’s cool that we can come up great, dark, twisted stuff and that’s the first time they’re going to see it and their heads are going to explode. I think about that. Then we think about just writing it for ourselves and make us laugh. I think that’s why adults like it; we’re adults making it and we’re laughing at it as we write it.
Is it comedy within your circles that you play the Lumpy Space Princess?
PW: Yeah… Uhhhh… That started by saying curse words in the office with a valley girl accent because you just have to drop the last letter, I’m not going to say them because I’m not supposed to curse. [Laughs] Try saying curse words without saying the last letter, like a valley girl.
Where Jake makes the everything burrito and Finn comes in and just starts beat-boxing, where did that come from because that floored me.
I don’t know. We like to beat box. I think Ako (Castuera) wrote that because she’s a good free styling, we just beat box around the office. [Ward proceeds to start beatboxing and is damn good at it] I’m an amateur beat box artist.
That was awesome. How excited are you to be able to get everyone in the same room to record as opposed to doing it separately?
PW: I think it’s nice. I like the actors to work however they want, but it is nice to them in the same room to play off of each other, especially when Tom Kinney is in the room. There are a lot of comedians that come into the room and act for us. I think they’re always better with an audience with people around them. I’m assuming they like that more.
Who derails the recording sessions the most?
PW: Derails. [chuckles] I don’t know, I think everyone’s responsible for that. There’s time blocked out so we can’t horse around too much.
Is there any improvisation that goes on in the recording?
PW: Tom Kinney (The Ice King) improvises a lot and we always try to use those in episodes. We’ll write it out and draw it out and Tom will riff on it. We’ll have this additional dialogue and have to go back and add poses for it. It’s always hilarious. He can make reading the back of a sugar packet funny. You’ll be dying, busting up. It’s awesome having that talent, making the show good. That’s one of the biggest reasons why the show is successful is that there’s so many funny people acting on it.
Who’s the most surprising guest-star to come onto the show, like when they accepted you were like, ‘Aww this is awesome!’?
PW: The one that everyone freaked out the most about was “Weird Al” Yankovic. When “Weird Al” came down to record everyone from the crew came down, ‘Oh-my-god! Oh-my-gosh!’ and they were taking photos with him. I can’t speak for him but he wigged out and ran out the door, kind of. Everybody was saying ‘Bye, “Weird Al” Bye! Bye!’ and he just left. Maybe I’m reading into it but that’s what it felt like.
Tune into Cartoon Network tonight for the Season 4 Premiere of Adventure Time at 7:30pm ET/PT and 6:30pm Central.
Photo taken by Lucky Bronson.