Original Airdate: April 30, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Seo Kim
Chips & Ice Cream is certainly not a fan favorite among AT’s audience. Aside from Sad Face, I’m pretty positive this is one of the most universally disliked episodes of the season, and the series in general. While I agree that I think it’s kind of annoying from an audio perspective, the episode has a lot of underlying implications that are quite fascinating. Or, underlying implications that I myself picked up on, even if they might not actually be there. I’m sure this isn’t the first time most of you readers have heard the comparisons between the plot of this episode and Pendleton Ward stepping down as the showrunner of Adventure Time, and AT’s identity as a whole. Again, I’m not entirely sure if this was the intended thought process behind the episode, but it makes it for one hell of an interesting ride.
The Chips and Ice Cream show that’s presented to BMO and a bunch of other children (lil’ rabbits) could easily be seen as analogy for Adventure Time itself, and that’s carried across even further by Finn and Jake’s response to said performance. Any outside viewer of the series, mostly from a parental perspective, would pass off Adventure Time as nothing but absurdity for the sake of absurdity. Of course, there are plenty of adults who do like AT, but Finn and Jake are supposed to represent a first time viewer more so than anything else. It’d be quite easy to fall into that confused mindset if you watched any episode of the series for the first time, no matter how complex or emotional. And then there’s Morty Rogers, the creator of Chips and Ice Cream who just so happens to be a bear. Interesting choice to say the least.
Though he created Chips and Ice Cream, Morty Rogers no longer wants the companionship of the two imps who are literally attached to himself. The reason Pendleton Ward stepped down as showrunner for Adventure Time was because, in his own words, “it was driving [me] nuts.” Ward could have never predicted how popular Adventure Time would become, and when it did reach peak popularity, Ward’s quiet and introverted passage of life became threatened. To the surprise of not a single fan, Adventure Time was huge in mainstream popularity for a period of time, spanning from around the beginning of 2012 to the middle of 2014. It has had tons of different spin-off material from books, games, t-shirts, action figures, and so on, most of which required Ward to devote his time to in regards to production as well, in addition to being a showrunner, which is already one of the most demanding jobs in the industry. Ward felt consumed, and wanted his quality life to return after feeling like he was unable to escape the confines of the series, and separated himself from his creation, as Morty Rogers does.
Chips and Ice Cream are now the responsibility of Jake, and I’m not sure how much of Jake’s response parallels Adam Muto’s (or even how Finn ties into all of this) since Muto is essentially a pretty mysterious guy, but it is intriguing to think of how this could have played out. I suppose Muto’s response could have been quite neutral and unremarkable, given that the weight of said responsibility is not really clearly defined. On one hand, Muto now has a chance to be the head honcho of one of the most prominent forces in modern animation, but he also has to ensure that the quality of the series will remain fresh, or even better than ever. Muto was left with news that he probably didn’t know how to express his feelings on or even comprehend, as Jake does when he’s left with what initially seems like an eternal curse.
BMO is also cleverly used in this episode as the childlike force to help showcase the importance of Chips and Ice Cream. As Chips and Ice Cream are left ignored by BMO’s parental figures and seen as “annoying,” Chips and Ice Cream begin to sing a soft lullaby under the moon, as BMO starts to understand the complexity and beauty behind their simple and silly demeanor. Finn and Jake are two characters that we viewed as silly and enjoyable goofballs when the series began, though as the series progressed, it became quite apparent that they were more than just a couple of knuckleheads, and that their truth strengths lied deeply in the passion and effort that was put into their respective developments.
While Ward stepped down as showrunner, he still remained as a somewhat active participant in story development. Ward did alleviate the stress of having the show consume his life, but he still never escaped from Finn and Jake completely. Morty Rogers’ absolute breakdown could represent this failure to completely escape the thing that was previously tormenting Ward, and the complicated results that often come from obsessions. Obsessions are impossible to escape from completely, especially when one is actively trying to escape them, and it can often be a confusing process on whether you are supposed to avoid said obsession, or to completely give into its power. Both are harmful regardless, and Morty Rogers is left with the pain of not knowing whether he wants Chips and Ice Cream in his life or does not. Again, these are really interesting behind-the-scenes details that we’ll likely never know entirely about, and while this episode doesn’t provide an outward answer to that drama, it is interesting to paint a picture in one’s head about how things actually went down, though I’m sure some bits and pieces hold true.
While Morty Rogers decides he does want Chips and Ice Cream back in his life, it’s all but too late, as Chips and Ice Cream are let free to exist on their own beyond being controlled by one person, as Finn and Jake are through the various creative influencers that Adventure Time has to offer. Obviously that was still an attribute of the series when Ward was at the helm, but this episode reinforces that Finn, Jake, and their TV show are able to flourish and exist creatively outside of the control of one mastermind. Though Ward put a great amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears in Adventure Time, his influence lead for the creation of two characters so strong that they were able to find passionate voices beyond Ward’s sole direction. As Rogers laments, “what am I gonna do without you guys??” I can’t help but feel that Ward may have had similar thoughts. Adventure Time put Ward’s name out there and was his baby, but he gave it up and put it in the hands of another person. He’s worked on video games and web animations since, but has mostly kept himself out of the spotlight. I’m sure he’s much happier now at his own comfortable pace, though that initial separation period must have been a doozy, and he likely felt some form of regret. I have nothing but the deepest respect and affection for this man that brought me one of my favorite shows of all-time, and hope that he was able to find peace and solace when finally creating that separation. And, as Chips & Ice Cream proves, that separation may have been the best choice on both sides: for the show to prove it can thrive beyond one man’s ultimate pull, and for Ward to finally regain his peaceful quality of life.
Looking past these analogies, Chips & Ice Cream is fairly decent on its own. I think Morty Rogers’ obsessive turmoil is pretty interesting in its own right, some of Finn and Jake’s reactions to the imps are quite funny, BMO plays a pretty likable part as the main hero of this one, and there’s some funny gags that humored me. I actually really like the gruff man who owns the ice cream stand a good amount, mainly because his overly feminine voice is both really silly and kind of sweet in hindsight. It’s funny because it defies expectations, but it’s also cool because it’s easy to just accept that this random guy has a really feminine voice. It ties back into the standard that there’s all kinds of different and diverse people scattered around Ooo, and the fact that this guy isn’t treated as a joke within this world is pretty rad. There’s also a nice moody atmosphere that shadows this one, primarily during the nighttime scenes, that help to give Chips & Ice Cream a bit off an unusual and off feeling. I think the Pokemon speak that Chips and Ice Cream deliver can get rather obnoxious, though it tends to bother me less on repeated viewings. It was a nice touch to have Garfunkel & Oates play the comedy duo even if they don’t do much; this is the second episode in a row to utilize a voice actor from Steven Universe! Also quite interesting is that Chips and Ice Cream’s dialogue is translated within the storyboard of this episode, and you can actually check it out here.
So yeah, I think this one is pretty cool. I know not everyone is gonna be able to get behind the mindset that this episode is representative of Ward’s turmoil regarding Adventure Time, but that’s also what makes the show, and primarily season six, so much fun. There’s so much ambiguity that each episode can pretty much be however you interpret it; hell, Oliver Sava over at the A.V. Club has been going on and on about dick metaphors within the series for years! But it is cool to see the different mindsets and perspectives that individual viewers can take away from each episode, and this one strikes me as particularly interesting. I’m always really drawn by developments that happen during the production of TV shows, and using that series to represent said developments is a great way to go about releasing those fears and anxieties. It reminds me of the Reverend Jack Cheese episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, and how that used cleverly placed metaphors to represent its previous showrunner’s influence on the series. Adventure Time takes a similar, yet more heartfelt approach to portraying said drama, and creates something that I think is genuinely pretty intriguing. It’s a personal perspective that I know is likely not shared by most, but it’s one that likewise reminds me what a special show this is to begin with.