archive for March, 2013

Cartoons have gotten a lot smarter.

Adventure Time

Adventure Time characters

The other day I asked my 14-year-old daughter what “Adventure Time” was. (She has a couple of T-shirts that say “Adventure Time” and have wacky little characters on them.)

“It’s a show,” she replied (in that way teenage girls have of wanting to keep something secret yet implying you’re incredibly out of touch for not having heard of it).

“Is it for little kids?” I asked. (The primitive randomness of the characters on her T-shirt seemed tailored to an audience of 3-year-olds. I figured she was wearing it just to be ironic, the way all the kids have lately glommed onto “My Little Pony.”)

“No, it’s funny,” she objected. “We all watch it.” (“We” being herself and the Greek chorus of giggly, shrieky girls with whom she has surrounded herself.)

“So and so’s parents watch it too,” she added, as if to further emphasize my squareness.

The gauntlet had been thrown down. (For those of you under 30, that’s a medieval challenge analogy.) It was time I found out what “Adventure Time” was all about.

So I watched an episode. It was only ten minutes long. But that’s good, because if it had been longer I might have passed out from laughing.

It was really funny. And clever. And, like the characters, randomly wacky.

There were unicorns. There’s a talking dog that’s all stretchy and stuff. And there’s a little vampire girl who feeds on the color red instead of blood and plays a mean bass guitar.

The show, as it turns out, is also big hit and has been on for, like, four years. (Okay, Dad’s a little slow.)

But now I get it. I’m 100% on board with “Adventure Time.” In fact, I’m also on board with “Phineas and Ferb” and a bunch of other cartoons that I’ve discovered are a lot more sophisticated – and much funnier – than the ham-fisted, slapstick stuff cartoon stuff I grew up with. (Seriously, how many times can you laugh at a bowling ball dropped on a foot or an anvil falling on a coyote’s head?)

I’m not sure what to attribute the improvements to. It’s likely that making the humor interesting enough for adults as well as kids to enjoy improves viewership. Maybe the competition of numerous cartoon channels requires a show to be a cut above to be successful. Maybe kids have developed a taste for more sophisticated humor (Zack & Cody notwithstanding). Whatever the case, it’s a positive development.

Out of appreciation, I might even get my own “Adventure Time” T-shirt. (Plus, it’ll be fun to watch my daughter roll her eyes and sigh with embarrassment if I ever wear it in public.)