Marketed as the ‘ultimate Adventure Time fan experience’ Adventure Time Live is designed to gather and delight admirers of the quirky children’s TV show. Mixing video mashups and clips with live readings and Q&As, the event is a slightly awkward, though ultimately affirming experience for the Adventure Time fan.
Since first airing in 2010, Adventure Time has become a huge international sensation. It’s juxtaposition of the crude with the cute, the familiar with the bizarre and the silly with the poignant, along with its playful style of visual storytelling and world building, sets it apart from other TV shows and animations of its kind. Its fan breadth is wide, with people across the age spectrum drawn into the magical, almost surreal world it presents. Adventure Time Live showcases this breadth of fan base, with kids and adults alike lining up outside the show dressed in yellow onesies and bubblegum pink gowns. Approaching the hall, one starts to see more and more hints of Adventure Timification in people’s outfits and this recognition of other fans helps build up of the kind of frenetic excitement that is almost palpable within the event. This collective energy is the highlight of Adventure Time Live. When the Adventure Time theme song plays, the whole crowd sings it together and there is a beautiful warmth to the creation of community from what can essentially be a lonely act: the watching of a TV show.
It is an interesting dynamic for a performance – a room full of wig-toting, screaming fans and four voice actors mediated by an MC. How best can this space and the voice actors be utilised to create a fulfilling and satisfying experience for the audience, especially when the actors’ creative involvement in the success of the show is limited? It is very apparent throughout the staged Q&As that the voice actors’ involvement and investment in Adventure Time is limited – they seem surprised and flattered by the attention and fame that comes with voicing the beloved characters, but the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo is not a space that they creatively inhabit. While they are the most recognisable aspect of Adventure Time, it is not their humour or imaginations that the fans love. This is particularly clear in the brief audience Q&A in which the voice actors respond briefly and uncertainly at being addressed as if they were the real characters from the show or when asked creative questions. Adventure Time Live seeks to mediate this by interspersing discussions with the actors with clips of the creative team discussing the development of the show. These clips are an interesting behind the scenes look at Adventure Time, but seem detached from the promoted liveness of the space. Live episode reads are the most engaging use of the performers and the fact that the actors occasionally make mistakes and depart from the script into familiar banter is compelling and joyful to watch. As a live look at the voice actors’ actual engagement with the show, the playfulness with which these reads are attended sparks with an alive energy, and the performance of a musical episode showcases the skill and talent of the actors.
Another way Adventure Time Live navigates this space between fan and actor is the interactive element of the event. However, while the interactivity occasionally heightens the sense of community, it is one of the most difficult aspects of the show. With so many Adventure Time lovers in the crowd, it seems an imperative to create an overall experience that feels special for attendees. However, the messy way in which audience interaction is handled means that many fans are given false hope of being able to interact with the performance and then are told to sit down disappointed. Perhaps this adds to an air of exclusivity, but why the creators of Adventure Time Live would want to leave paying fans disappointed in this way seems unclear (though perhaps the fact that the Melbourne show is the first in the tour is a reason for the relatively chaotic handling of this interaction). This said, the portion of audience interaction which has the entire crowd howling or clapping together adds further to the community spirit of the night.
Overall, Adventure Time Live feels confused as to how it engages with the fan dynamic. However, the event contains enough entertaining content and fosters enough of a sense of community to make it an enjoyable night for lovers of Adventure Time.