Time for Some Adventure with Pendleton Ward

Rick DeMott chats with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward about creating the series, its quick cult success and other stupid stuff.
Posted In | Site Categories: 2D, Cartoons, People, Television

Pendleton Ward has created one of the most original series in ages. All images courtesy of Cartoon Network
Pendleton Ward's Adventure Time began as an Internet viral sensation as part of Frederator Studios' Random Cartoon program on Nickelodeon. Animation fans of all ages flocked to its slightly off-kilter humor and style. With simple designs, it reminded many of a pre-school show's look, but there was something subversive running underneath. The original short, and now the Cartoon Network series, are what they appear to be on the surface — an adventure series for kids. And yet at the same time, they have fun with the conventions of the kid's adventure series. In the end, the short and the series are one of the most original creations in a very long time. I had a great pleasure talking with the man who created it all — Pendleton Ward.

Rick DeMott: What shows influenced you growing up?

Pendleton Ward: I liked The Simpsons a lot. It made the biggest impression on me. The earlier seasons of The Simpsons. I had a big crush on Lisa Simpson. I think that's another thing that's important to me about [Adventure Time] is trying to make cartoon girls that other bizarre, especially awkward, children can have crushes on. Because they need that. I needed that. I had a crush on Patti Mayonnaise of Doug. And the princess from Little Nemo. I don't know if that's healthy or not.

RD: I think you turned out fine.

PW: Thanks, man.

RD: When did you know you wanted to get into animation?

PW: My mom's an artist and she knew animators. In first grade, I started doing a lot of flipbooks. I knew ever since I was tiny that I wanted to be an animator and make pictures move. I always liked to draw, so it was the ultimate way of conveying anything artistically or funny for me. I'm more of an entertainer than an artist. Cartoons were the easiest way for me to take control over something and make it really funny and entertaining. When I was a kid that was one of my biggest things.

RD: How did CalArts prepare you for working in animation, at first as a storyboard artist, and then as the creator of a show?

PW: The thing about CalArts is that it's a place where all these people who are interested in this one specific thing collect. You learn so much from your peers. It's like any college. You go there and make these friends for life. We're all passionate about the same thing. You drive each other on. You challenge each other to do stuff better than the other person. I went to school with J.G. [Quintel] who has a show on Cartoon Network right now too and we were always trying to out funny each other. We were all on Flapjack, all the same guys from CalArts went on to work as storyboard artists, it was the same close group of people.

The best thing about CalArts is its close ties with the industry. They have this show at the end of the year where you show your student film to Pixar and Disney and whoever else is interested in new talent and they all come and watch your films at this thing called the Producers' Show. Luckily mine got in, not every film gets in. Eric Homan from Frederator approached me and told me to pitch an idea to him. That was my first lead on anything was working with Frederator. I followed it and it worked out. I was very lucky. Extremely lucky.

RD: Did you have any mentors that helped you along?


Excellent interview. Great to get in Ward's head a little. It truly is an amazing cartoon.

Anonymous (not verified) | Sun, 05/02/2010 - 02:06 | Permalink

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