Since its premiere in 2010, Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time has become something of a cult hit series (and that’s might be an understatement). You can’t walk ten feet at any convention without spotting a stall setting Adventure Time backpacks or Pez dispensers, or fans dressed up as the Ice King, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, Lumpy Space Princess. But it’s easy to see why: Adventure Time is bloody great.
We spoke to actor Jeremy Shada, who voices Finn, about the show, the movie, the fans and more…
Were you surprised by the reaction to Adventure Time when it first started? It’s become something of a cult series.
Yeah, definitely! I think when we first started, I mean, we had a certain amount of audience because the little pilot short was on YouTube and there was a kind of cult audience for that. But no matter what, when you’re starting a new show, you never really know what the reaction is going to be. You hope for the best but you also expect it to not go anywhere. When the show came out and it was huge, the very first time I realised was when we went to San Diego Comic Con and there were a couple thousand fans just screaming about the show. They all had their own homemade Adventure Time costumes on we were like, ‘wow, yeah! This is definitely a success!’
What was it about the show that attracted you to it in the first place?
The funny thing is initially my brother Zack is the voice of Finn in the original little short, and then three years afterwards it got picked up by Cartoon Network. But his voice had changed so they ended up doing open auditions. When I auditioned I looked that up so it’s cool when you’re auditioning for something, having something to go off and knowing, oh, this is how the show looks, sounds, this is how it’s going to work, and so when I started doing it that was a nice thing. But I think the fun thing about Adventure Time is it’s so kind of surreal. There are a lot of good levels to it. There’s a lot of awesome comedy mixed in with real character moments, which is always a nice mixture. I love to be able to make people laugh, make people cry and have all of that mixed into one awesome show.
How did you develop Finn’s voice when you first started playing him?
When we started, Finn’s voice was very, very close to my normal voice. When we started the show I was probably about 12 years old. So pre-voice change, my voice was much more high pitched and very tinny I guess, and throughout the first season my voice started changing so it turned into more of a character voice after that point, which is great. Luckily they age the character throughout the show as well. Finn, you just want him to sound like a natural human kid that happens to be very energetic, very excited, and so that’s kind of what the voice comes down to.
Do fans get you to do the voice when they see you in the street and at cons?
Oh, totally! Yeah, that’s always the big thing when people find out I’m Finn from Adventure Time. They want to hear you do the voice or to hear their favourite line, or their favourite scream as the character, so I’ve done many of them in my day.
What’s the most requested line?
I get ‘Puncha Yo Buns’ a lot, that’s the baby Finn song, people want me to sing that a lot. There’s also this specific scream that Finn does in an episode, I think in Season 4 or 5, that sounds almost like a fire alarm-type scream. I don’t think I can even actually do it any more. I don’t think my voice even goes that high!
Some of the storylines are pretty wild. Do you ever question them or are you happy to go along with it all and do whatever?
I think with Adventure Time you just have to take it as what it is. Some of the stuff is so bizarre. It’s like, I don’t know how the creators could get so creative with the storylines. I definitely couldn’t come up with half the stuff they come up with. It’s pretty insane. But you just have to kind of go with it. You’re like, okay, I’m fighting a demon, I’m going through a portal and I’m being transformed into a foot. All right! Sounds good!
Do you have a favourite Adventure Time character?
Besides Finn? It’s hard but I love the Ice King a lot. The Ice King is one of my favourite characters for sure.
What character would you say was most like you?
Probably Finn, I guess. Obviously I don’t go slay dragons or go through portals into places unknown day to day, but besides that Finn is quite a bit like me. He’s generally kind of a good dude who is ultimately trying to do the right thing for the most part. He doesn’t always get things right, but he’s ultimately trying to do the right thing. He’s got a hero’s heart. He’ll screw up along the way but that’s his ultimate goal: he’s trying to be a good person, essentially.
Do you think this is going to be a series that endures long after it’s over?
I definitely think it will! I don’t think I did at the beginning, but considering how long the show’s gone now I think it will definitely have some kind of legacy like those classic shows. It’s like this generation’s Spongebob. It’s been going so long and at this point there’s no stopping point. As far as I know, it’s going to keep on going for a while too. I think, because the series is such a great show in general, it’s definitely something that could be rewatched into eternity for sure.
What do you think it is about the show that fans have responded to?
I think Adventure Time has a lot of great things they have responded to. One of the coolest things is the arts style in itself. It’s very bright and vibrant and colourful, and it sort of draws you into this world while you’re watching it. It makes you want to see more places and see all the little nooks and crannies. And then the writing, the mixture of the comedy, [is brilliant]. Some of it is great for kids. Some of it is for people over a certain age. And obviously the real character moments, all the arcs that the characters have, let you really see characters move and change. I think, even though all this insane, crazy stuff is happening in the show, there’s a real relatability to a lot of the characters for a lot of people, which I think is also a big reason.
Did you grow up watching Saturday morning cartoons?
Oh yeah, I grew up watching a lot of cartoons when I was little. I liked Kim Possible, Teen Titans – Teen Titans was awesome, it was one of my favourites… I watched Spongebob, Recess, I can’t even think of them all right now… Pokémon was huge when I was little. A lot of stuff.
Are there any animated shows on right now that you’d love to guest star in?
Yeah! It would be fun to do maybe Steven Universe or Bob’s Burgers… There are a lot of great shows on right now, and I’d be down to do pretty much any of them.
What can fans expect from the new season?
The mini-series of Season Seven stakes was awesome. That went down super, super well, so I think we’re going to be doing maybe a couple more mini-series in the future. Obviously I can’t say when but people really liked that format, and we like that format because it lets us tell longer form story arcs, so we’ll be doing more of that.
What’s going on with the Adventure Time movie?
I think it will definitely happen at some point. When that kind of whole thing broke and that was news, I think it just leaked so they kind of announced it, it was so far off at this point. They are in the very, very early mapping stages and storyline stages of a feature film. They’re still probably just outlining the whole story in general, so if that was going to come out it would probably be a long way from now. They have to write the whole thing, and then there’s the recording process and the animation process would probably take a couple of years.
Catch Adventure Time every day at 5pm on Cartoon Network.