Fionna and Cake return to the land of Ooo

The weeks leading up to the release of “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” were full of excitement and buzz on social media. From rumors that the voice of Ice King – Tom Kenny (“Sponge Bob”) – found the “Fionna and Cake” iteration to be “the most moving thing he ever recorded” for Donald Glover’s return (“Community”) in the dub, most newcomers to the fantasy franchise were intrigued, but skeptical. How can a show full of fart jokes and occasional relationship tension be so moving? However, since watching the series, I can confidently say that it is important to try the new series. “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” takes the familiar strangeness found in every interaction and layers it with a lens of pensive reflection, forcing viewers to view the protagonists not just as idiotic extensions of Finn (Jeremy Shada, “Interrupting Chicken”) and Jake (John DiMaggio, “Futurama”), but as tragic individuals with their own struggles and pasts.

The show begins with Fionna Campbell (Madeleine Martin, “Californication”) waking up from a dream of a more exciting and magical life. Known for jumping from one job to another and for being rather impulsive and hot-headed, she more often than not finds herself in deep trouble. She relies on her cat, Cake (Roz Ryan, “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack”), and her friends, Gary Prince (Andrew Rannells, “The Prom”) and Marshall Lee (Donald Glover), for support. This sets the scene for his world: a boring little town where nothing ever happens. But everything changes when Cake starts acting strangely, gaining a new fascination with ice and feeling cold to the touch, before suddenly being sucked into a portal.

At the same time, Simon Petrikov is faced with a life he would rather not live, forced to carry his immeasurable grief from his former life as the Ice King (when he created the alternate universe of Fionna and Cake) , and the loss of his fiancée, Betty (Felicia Day, “Monster High”). His circumstances lead him to lead a boring and regretful life, even though he lives in an environment that is anything but boring – with flying vehicles, magical powers, and giant monsters populating the Land of Ooo. When he contacts Finn and Marceline (Olivia Olson, “Phineas and Ferb”), he feels emotionally alone and decides to risk Ooo’s safety in a plan to bring Betty back. Instead, he summons Cake from the portal he creates, thus merging the two worlds and beginning our story.

Fionna and Simon are each other’s foils – a Type B personality and a Type A personality, respectively. Both frustrated with their inability to meet the world’s expectations while stuck in their feelings; however, moving between the two worlds allows them to change each other’s lives for the better, fulfilling their desire to be understood as they grow over the course of the series.

Showrunner Adam Muto (“Adventure Time”) wanted to focus on creating character designer Natasha Allegri’s (“Bee and Puppycat”) characters more than female versions of Finn and Jake by further complicating their personalities and lives. Muto and series creator Pendleton Ward (“Adventure Time”) also worked to make the first two episodes as nostalgic for the original series and memorable as possible. Identifying each gendered version of the original characters was fun in itself, as it was clear that a lot of love and thought went into each character shown on screen and how they presented themselves. The team took the characters and brought their world to life, with Ellis P. (played by Ward) and Hunter (Vico Ortiz, “Our Flag Means Death”) making short but memorable appearances in the series. These appearances continually add to the series’ reminiscent atmosphere, leading the average viewer to think back to simpler, calmer times when everything seemed the same. Any fan of the “Adventure Time” series can enjoy these same moments and remember notable episodes, big reveals and song releases as more and more of the story is revealed.

A good example is Rebecca Sugar (“Adventure Time: Distant Lands”); she is a multi-talented artist known for creating “Steven Universe” as well as other songs on various Cartoon Network shows (including the original series “Adventure Time”). Luckily, she returned to the “Adventure Time” team to sing “Part of the Madness,” a song played near the end of the second episode about Simon’s deep desire to truly belong somewhere. Sugar’s deeply moving, thoughtful lyrics and soft vocals make her tone all too recognizable, while beautiful natural scenery matches the sadness of the song. With the return of many other former composers from different series of the Adventure Time franchise, the music is already transparent and comes across as both upbeat and sad, reflecting the contrasting personalities of Fionna and Simon. Known for their ability to turn strange situations into exercises in existential thought, Muto and Ward both use the freedom that creating more “adult” animation gives them to focus on the more upsetting aspects of well-known lovable characters, fleshing out their stories and giving to the audience. I hope these characters finally get the happy ending they deserve.

To say this series is promising would be an understatement, as the cast and crew are incredibly talented and the material provided so far is incredible – from the complex exploration of Simon’s depression and its effects on his relationships to the style simple, classic art that brings out the fun energy of the Land of Ooo, even in the saddest scenes. Although “Fionna and Cake” can sometimes be “too weird” for those new to the Adventure Time universe, Muto and Ward have given Max viewers another classic to look forward to as they continue to discover the worlds of Simon Petrikov and Fionna Campbell.

Daily arts writer Adaeze Uzoije can be contacted at

Leave a Reply