Original Airdate: May 21, 2015
Written & Storyboarded by: David Ferguson
Uggggggh. Water Park Prank.
The point of the guest animator episodes, to me at least, is to capture Adventure Time’s style and tone within the medium of a different animation style (A Glitch is a Glitch and Bad Jubies), or to execute a certain story that is effectively ties into a unique animation style (Guardians of Sunshine, Food Chain, Beyond the Grotto, and Ketchup). It’s also a chance to introduce a fresh face to the AT world, which Water Park Prank does with Scottish animator David Ferguson, but ignores the former elements. Ferguson’s style doesn’t really capture the essence or tone of AT at all, and the way the animation works with the story is virtually pointless.
A bit of background to Ferguson in general: he’s an indie animator who lives in Glasgow, and publishes all of his work on spazpat.net. Pendleton Ward himself stated that he’s a big fan of Ferguson’s work, and after checking out his cartoons myself, I did find myself enjoying his genuinely charming animations and their unique stylization. Do I think this style works with Adventure Time? Not at all.
Adventure Time’s style allows for a lot of attention to shapes and fluidity in the characters’ movements. Their bodies are mostly rounded and their arms and legs are super noodley, which allows for some really malleable animation and motion. The designs in Water Park Prank are super flat and stilted, in a way that imitates early South Park episodes, and just really fails at capturing that motion and energy on a visual level. It doesn’t help that a good amount of the designs are super ugly. I don’t know what Ferguson was thinking when he concocted his own version of Finn, but the little guy looks pretty hideous and unappealing in almost every way. There are some cute designs, namely Jake’s, which is still true to his character, but I think the heavy focus on giving everyone else eye-whites is more off-putting than charming. Not to say that eye-whites can never work in Adventure Time art, but this is one example that I think does it wrong; I typically think the dotted eyes are more fitting for the simpler, cartoon-y adaptations, while more realistic interpretations allow for more of a focus on human anatomy.
The story in this one is about disjointed as it gets. The daddy sad heads concept was something that I actually thought was a decently cute concept that could easily fit within this world’s atmosphere, but it adds absolutely nothing to the actual plot and merely exists as an opportunity for a couple of jokes surrounding the magic token Finn gets from Princess Orangutan. The story within the water park itself is even less substantial, as it’s a series of gags that never really leads to anything of interest, and occupies most of the remainder of the episode until its quick procedure to wrap itself up. I get that Adventure Time has some elements of real-world civilization even in its post-apocalyptic state, but man, do I think a water park is waaay too out of place in this era. And how uncreative, as well! Ooo is a realm with mystical springs and streams located everywhere, Ferguson couldn’t have settled with something a little more ambitious than an actual up-and-running water park?
This isn’t really a story-driven one, however, as it’s more focused on being as jokey and humorous as possible. That would be fine if it was the least bit funny, but God is it painful in how it approaches humor. The writing is SO fifth grade, and is quite possibly this series at its most juvenile. Finn singing about his underwear, the boys arguing over eating ginger hair as a snack, and Ice King being unable to get down the slide because Jake keeps propelling him back. There are two moments I actually did think were funny: the moment when Jake’s fake watch quickly changes as he talks about Finn being late and Jake saying “ooooh” as a circular transition opens to the next scene were both clever visual gags. Otherwise, every joke was pretty pitiful to get through. And by God, is this episode dialogue heavy as well. It barely ever takes a second to breathe, and seems incredibly fast-paced in its writing style, while somehow also slowing down the episode even more to a point where it feels like it’s going way past 11 minutes. I can’t think of an instance where I’m more painfully bored watching this show than when Finn and Jake discuss whose coin they should use for the locker.
I usually don’t care about continuity when it comes to guest-animated episodes, but man, does it feel like Ferguson only watched about four or five episodes from season one. Ice King is presented as a straight-up villain to Finn and Jake, and the boys outright have a vendetta against him. Ice King was also painted in a similar antagonistic role in A Glitch is a Glitch, but that episode was at least true to his pathetic and creepy ways, and didn’t treat him as if he was just a downright evil guy. His plan in Water Park Prank doesn’t even make sense… he wants to freeze the water park and turn it into a frozen water park? W-why? He already has an entire kingdom made of ice. What purpose would this serve him? I similarly thought Finn and Jake were presented as way too immature. They haven’t been strangers to pranking Ice King in the past, but was publicly antagonizing him for their own gain really a proper way to deal with his behavior? I get that the entire episode is based around said behavior, but it really doesn’t feel in line with the boys’ demeanor, and paints them more as goofy, immature kids, rather than fun-loving and righteous bros. The sentient whistle lifeguard also seems to only exist as a method of Ferguson being somehow incorporated into the actual episode. His character was virtually pointless.
This has been considered by many to be one of the worst episodes in the series, but is it really that bad? Ehhhhh, kinda. I will say that it has SOME decent elements and isn’t just a total shitshow; one part I actually really love about this one is that the music is terrific! Seems like Tim Kiefer had a ton of fun with this one in particular, and released a sample of the music he composed for Water Park Prank on his SoundCloud, which you can listen to here – it’s great stuff! One subtle element I like is the fact that Finn actually uses his Finn Sword in this episode. Finn is usually never depicted with his current weapon of choice during the guest animated episodes, but this is one that actually utilizes said weapon and feels in touch with the current series. Though, that somehow makes it more distracting. Finn is sporting his Finn Sword, yet he’s acting this childish? Yeah, not the best example of this method. Aside from those elements, this episode is pretty bottom-of-the-barrel. It’s not even bad in the way that an episode like The Red Throne is bad; The Red Throne is at least interesting in analyzing exactly what went wrong with it, while Water Park Prank is just a boring, unfunny mess.
But all of that negativity aside, y’all should really check out Ferguson’s other work. As I mentioned above, he has some really neat and cute animations that are benefited entirely by his distinct style, which is much more fitting when he’s doing his own thing. You can check out his website here. I don’t like this episode by any means, but I commend Ferguson for taking on this role regardless. It can’t be easy to work with an already existing property and make it your own, and it obviously shows, but it was probably a huge honor and an exciting escapade to take on a big series like Adventure Time regardless. One final comment, this episode also has a special outro, which was actually pretty fun. It depicts all of the other villains previously banned from the water park, including Lemongrab, the squirrel, Magic Man, Tiffany, Ricardio, Lumpy Space Princess, and a rare cameo from Donny.