Original Airdate: November 23, 2011
Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich
Taking a tertiary character, or even a character we haven’t even met before, and putting them at center stage has become a staple of AT over time. It’s a risky move for any show to divert its attention from the main cast, but Adventure Time typically almost always pulls this off with great success. This episode, written and solo-boarded by Tom Herpich, is another introduction this season (the other being Fionna and Cake) to an experiment that would later open doors for new opportunities within the world of the series. And while this episode goes in a completely predictable direction that anyone could see a mile away, it’s one I think is really remarkable. It pushes Finn and Jake to the side for two characters who can’t even speak, and it takes advantage of that concept to its fullest degree.
It’s hard to say what works so well about Thank You, but I think most of that can be contributed to its atmosphere. It’s quiet, solemn, and whimsical. I think there’s a good handful of moments that aren’t exactly funny, but extremely charming. The everyday life of the Snow Golem, from his bird alarm clock to his bowl of acorns and pears, is just very delightful to watch. The Snow Golem himself isn’t really a strong personality, but he’s kind of supposed to be an eccentric everyman. He’s introverted and cautious, but nevertheless friendly and likable. His connection with the fire pup is also really endearing: it hits all the right notes, from the initial distrust to how the Snow Golem genuinely begins to care about the poor pupper. I love all the little moments with them spending time together, including the golem’s finger puppet show and the fire pup quite aggressively sucking on the udder of a cow.
There’s some great bits of voice acting between Dee Bradley Baker and Pendleton Ward in this one. Not a single line of dialogue is uttered between Snow Golem or Fire Wolf until the very end, and yet they managed to add little sounds of expression to really carry the episode forward. I love all the hectic noises Snow Golem makes whenever he’s being paranoid or distraught, and the cries and barks from the Fire Wolf pup are really adorable. I’ll never understand how Dee Bradley Baker is able to so masterfully imitate animals, but he’s a freakin’ legend when it comes down to it.
There’s a lot of really nice artwork and colors in this one. Ghostshrimp once again did a standout job with this one, in addition to Santino Lascano and Chris Tsirgiotis lending a hand with their lovely artwork. Really nice design of the Snow Golem’s house, which, in the promo art, is revealed to be a barn that was once owned by members of humankind. To my knowledge, this is the first major appearance of the Fire Kingdom, and while it’s a bit different in design, it still looks great. Although it feels a bit odd that the Fire Kingdom and Ice Kingdom are so close together; not sure if that’s a bit of discontinuity or just something that was overlooked for the purpose of plot, but it’s only slightly distracting and doesn’t affect the overall scope of the episode. In addition to the background art, there’s some really nice sunsets, textures between snow and fire, and overall animation quality. You can tell Herpich, the other storyboarded artists, and animators really put their damnedest into this one. Even something as simply as a three second clip of the Snow Golem walking has an extended walking cycle (courtesy of Adam Muto) that just looks terrific and really makes me appreciate that extra effort.
Once more, I just really love the quiet and poignant feel to this one. I love all the little moments of the Snow Golem trying to figure out what to do with the fire pup; it really feels like a simple but crucial situation that I think is treated in the most careful way possible. The ending, as I mentioned, is really predictable, but sweet. I especially just love the last few minutes, including the Snow Golem’s willingness to put himself into grave danger for the sake of a wolf he met only a day ago, and the humble reunion they share in the end. It’s a very endearing way to cap off the episode, and one that I can’t help but smile at on every view.
The one thing that feels a bit shoehorned in this episode is the presence of Finn, Jake, and Ice King. Their brief in-the-background subplot is fine, but I feel like you could’ve taken them out of the episode entirely and you wouldn’t miss much. I like the moment at the end with Finn putting aside his differences with the IK, but besides that, it just feels like Finn and Jake are there to explain what we already know. Yeah, yeah, fire wolves and snow golems hate each other but they’re able to get along. We know this, we don’t need any extra exposition. It’s just a minor detail I would change or just completely withdraw for more time between the two leads. The only interesting bit is Jake wearing the Ice King’s crown completely unaffected, which can only likely be rooted to the fact that the crown already has a host. We see this in a couple other episodes later on, but this was the first time the concept was introduced.
As is, this is a great one. It really feels like something out of a Pixar short or something along those lines, and just feels so especially unique and beautiful. It’s no wonder this one was nearly nominated for an Oscar! I love the atmosphere, the artwork, the connection between the two main characters, and just the overall message. It’s a thing of beauty that opened a lot of new opportunities for AT to tackle the lives of other secondary characters, as well as the practice of writers being able to solo-board, and one that I’d consider up there with some of the greatest. Definitely one that the Adventure Time crew is really proud of, for all the right reasons.