Tag Archive | Natasha Allegri

“Dad’s Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: February 6, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Pendleton Ward, Adam Muto & Natasha Allegri

Dad’s Dungeon is just too fucking rad. It incorporates pretty much everything that makes Adventure Time so great: big laughs, great visual gags, terrific animation, beautiful colors, layered backgrounds, fantastic interactions between our main duo, and a big heart at the very center. This one collabs some of AT’s biggest talents, with Adam Muto, creator Pen Ward, and Natasha Allegri at the helm. It was originally going to exclusively be boarded by Pen, but he needed extra help as the process went along. That information alone shows you how much of a passion project this one really was; Pen has rarely ever boarded during his original run on the series, and he really only does so when he thinks something’s particularly silly or cool to be working with. All of the boarders did an awesome job of keeping the episode so simple in its plot that it harks back to the old days, but also keeps things fresh and new with elements we haven’t seen much of yet. It’s a fun dungeon themed episode, but at the center is a very interesting dynamic between Finn and his adoptive father.

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This episode is one that I consider funny and energetic from beginning to end. From the very first scene with Jake asking Finn and BMO to come up with suggestions regarding what he could shapeshift into, you’re immediately sucked in by the boys’ wacky antics, and it only continues full force from there. There’s a ton of really strong visual gags, including Jake jumping through the treehouse and posing as he lands, from Finn’s dynamic jump into the actual dungeon. There’s even a brief moment where, while in the dungeon, Jake briefly switches back into his cheetah form for no contextual reason. I really love these “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” AT jokes that the series has become so good at adding in overtime. It really makes every rewatch more worthwhile, as you’re able to pick up on more subtle gags occurring in the background. In addition, it’s filled with great jokes and lines, primarily from Joshua. His 1950’s accent provided by Kent Osborne will literally never get old to me, and pretty much anything he says gets a chuckle out of me (“The whole Kazoo!” “Cover your ears, Sue!” “You’re both squishy babies!”). I specifically love the absurdity behind him reminding Jake that he can’t hear any of his messages, yet anticipating all of Jake’s possible answers and responding back to him anyway.

The connection between Joshua and Finn in this one is particularly strong. The relationship between F&J and Joshua has really never been explored in great detail, so it was kind of neat as is to get some development on a connection between two characters that we really haven’t gotten a chance to see yet. It’s pretty interesting, mostly because I think Joshua is the most positively represented father figure we’ve seen in the series up to this point, and actually of all time in that regard (though you could argue Lady’s dad is a pretty good guy, but he tried to fucking eat Finn that one time). That being said, I think Joshua’s morally ambiguity has come into questioning at times. For one, he blatantly steals from demons for no other reason than besides the fact that they’re demons. Specifically in this one, he labels Finn as a whiny crybaby even though Finn is a literal baby at the time. It has a strong psychological effect on Finn as you would expect, and it’s debatable on whether Joshua’s actions are out of irrationality or his failure to understand the human culture at all. It’s clear that Jake is definitely more emotionally mature than Finn is, but even then, it may be that his ability to hide his deeper emotions and stresses came from his father to begin with. So Joshua’s desires to toughen up Finn may just derive from his methods of dog culture on how he feels Finn is supposed to act as a teenage boy. It might also be an elaborate setup. From Joshua’s pre-meditated answers to Jake, it could be concluded that he knew exactly what was going to happen, and used his backlash towards Finn as a possible way to motivate him. Or it could even just be that he’s the typical macho dad that believes that boys shouldn’t ever cry for the course of eternity. It’s really something that I think can be analyzed and allows you to draw your own conclusions. I also really love Finn’s desire to please his dad as well; it kinda shows that, even though it seems like he is, Joshua isn’t actually a jerk. Finn wouldn’t value him so much as a father, as well as his opinion, if he was just an asshole. It’s clear that Joshua was a caring and cool father, and that his respect and love is very important and well-appreciated by Finn.

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The dynamic between Jake and his father is great as well, mostly because Jake isn’t simply just a slave to Joshua’s wishes. I like that he initially goes along with Joshua’s orders simply out of curiosity and respect for his dad, but later loses trusts in his opinion, and ultimately chooses to side with Finn in the end. It’s a really sweet move for Jake to choose his brother above all, and even decide that, while he loves his father, the emotional state of his brother matters more to him. It’s evident that Jake is certainly more in touch with his sensitive and compassionate side than his father, and would rather care for his brother than to watch him suffer.

The dungeon in this one is dope. I love all the different aspects of it, from the burgers and hot dogs monsters (some really amazing animation sequences during this part!) and when Finn and Jake eventually reach the portal of flowers. The bit with the Fruit Witches is probably my favorite part of the entire episode. It starts out as a really beautiful scene: the colors are nice and lush, the music is soothing and pretty, and the general atmosphere is very calming and laidback. Once one of the Fruit Witches takes a bite of an apple, things go batshit insane in the craziest way possible: the Fruit Witch is wrapped with vines until she becomes an apple, is brutally eaten by her accomplices through demonic mouths on top of their heads, and the entire area grows dark gray and threatening. It’s a really amazing contrast that sets you up for two completely jarring moods: light and relaxed, and dark and frightening. Everything in this dungeon is pretty well-designed too; really love the extra detail to the Fruit Witches, especially during their transition, and even the gross monster that Finn and Jake encounter. I love how everything Pen draws blends grotesque and cute so perfectly together.

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The final climax is terrific as well: the beast Finn faces is awesome in its design, and the darkened lighting of the room helps the colors of the characters (as well as that totally kickass demon blood sword) stick out even more prominently. The final message from Joshua is too sweet. It’s a crowning moment of heartwarming that through everything, Joshua simply set up this dungeon not out of sadism for Finn’s mental and physical help, but out of love. He knew that Finn would love the dungeon, and even through his struggles, he’d be able to make it to the final stage. It’s a moment of beauty that leads into the final battle between Finn and monster, complete with Joshua’s awesome mash-up rap. It also segues into Finn obtaining his brand new possession: the demon blood sword! One of my favorites of Finn’s swords in the entire series, it’s by far used the most, and is frequently a key item from this point on.

Goddamn, this episode is cool. It has pretty much everything you could ever ask for in an Adventure Time episode, as well as doing so much more. I have very little to even nitpick in this one: I love pretty much everything from beginning to end. The connection between Joshua and his sons is so great; I love how, even in its rocky introduction, it still remains one of the strongest father-son relationships in the entire series. The dungeon setting always makes for a pretty bangin’ setting, and considering AT‘s strong roots to Dungeons & Dragons, you know these are the kinds of episodes that the staff (especially Pen) have a lot of fun with. Dad’s Dungeon is also Adventure Time at its absolute funniest, and the characters and visuals do their damndest to carry it through entirely. It’s certainly one of the most riveting dungeon experiences Finn and Jake have faced, and one of season three’s greatest efforts as well.

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Favorite line: “But(t)s are for pooping!”

“Fionna and Cake” Review

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Original Airdate: September 5, 2011

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Rebecca Sugar

A bit of background for this episode: the characters of Fionna and Cake were created by storyboard revisionist Natasha Allegri (as I’m writing this, it’s actually her birthday. Happy birthday, Natasha!). Allegri put the characters in several different humorous comic strips, and Pendleton Ward liked ‘em so much he said, “fuck it, why not make a whole episode around these two characters?”

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That’s where Fionna and Cake comes in, the show’s first big experimental challenge. The thing about Fionna and Cake as characters is that it would’ve been so easy to just make them carbon copies of Finn and Jake. Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar took it one step beyond that. Fionna and Cake become fully defined characters in the course of 11 minutes, and the Land of Aaa feels like its own entirely realized world, despite it being fictitious. That’s what works so greatly about Fionna and Cake; it is just like fanfiction, and can take characters, relationships, areas, and so on wherever it pleases. This episode is pure, illuminating enticement, from brilliantly using characters we all know and love and slightly altering them to giving us a legitimately well devised plot that would work entirely in a standard episode of the show.

As I mentioned, Fionna and Cake themselves are gender swaps of Finn and Jake that take on almost entirely different roles, but still retain attributes of the boys that inspired their creation. Fionna is very independent and even more mature than Finn, but maintains her love of adventure and excitement. This also works with her gender swap as well: she’s much less interested in what society stereotypes in terms of how women should be portrayed and more interested in what she loves to do, that being swinging swords and fighting bad guys. In addition, Cake’s possibly the most defined of the Fionna and Cake cast, and the most different from her male counterpart. Cake’s loyalty to Fionna and her relationship advice pose similarities to Jake, but she’s much more outspoken, sassy, and spunky. When it comes to others, there are minor differences, Gumball’s very proper demeanor and Ice Queen’s downright villainous persona, but part of the fun is just the way the two main leads work off of these characters. This episode captures pretty much all the AT typicalities: Fionna’s crush on Gumball, Ice Queen’s desire to marry Gumball, Cake and Lord Monochromicorn’s interest in each other (there’s an exclusive vinyl of the two that I’d give anything to have, but alas, I am a broke college student), and so on.

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What really works beyond anything else in this episode is just how naturally it flows. A lot of the time with experimental episodes of television, I find myself in a brief moment of disbelief, no matter how good said episode might be, of whether it connects to the world of the series enough or has a chance of succeeding by pushing the boundaries so drastically. Right off the bat, Fionna and Cake takes you right into the action. It doesn’t take the time to introduce individually to everyone because, as I continuously mention, we already know these characters in a way. The idea that we’re able to so easily adjust to something that’s so wildly different, yet exactly the same, from the standard episode of Adventure Time is so delightfully pleasurable and only helps the viewer enjoy every bit of the journey a little bit more.

Aside from that, it’s just generally a really fun episode. There’s plenty of great jokes, primarily from Cake (love the bit with her and Monochromicorn out of breath). The song Gumball sings to Fionna is a catchy and sweet homage to Aladdin that gives the entire episode a big, sweeping cinematic feel. And, as I mentioned, just the general interactions between the characters. I really love the honesty of Fionna during her time with Gumball (“dude, that was like, the stupidest thing ever”) and just the fun of seeing all of the various gender swaps. A character like Marshall Lee, who became so popular off of less than five seconds of screen time, shows how enjoyable it is to be able to see pre-existing characters who you still don’t know a single thing about. They can be anything you want them to be in that sense, and you’re able to allow the mind to create whatever canon you please. Although, I think Lady Cinnamon Bun deserves more love. Was her inaudible dialogue with Gumball simply not enough? Also fitting is the addition of Gingerbread Rebecca taking Gingerbread Muto’s spot in the opening theme, especially considering the two worked together on the episode. Even little things, like the lack of change for BMO and Ice Queen’s penguins, are really nice touches that are so subtle that they may be overlooked.

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The scene when faux Gumball brings her to his room is straight out of a horror movie, even dealing with the uncertainty of Fionna when it comes to intimacy. Finn is awkward and hesitant when it comes to his relationship with the Princess, but I always believe his reaction would be slightly different in this scenario. Maybe I’m just reading way too much into a brief moment, but I really think that Finn would look at this instance with shyness, but acceptance, whereas Fionna expresses briefly that she’s most likely uncomfortable.

Of course, she’s made even more uncomfortable when Gumball is revealed to be the Ice Queen. This whole sequence is some of the best animation in the entire series. It’s a thrilling battle between good and evil, equipped with just the right balance between the two that Ice Queen actually comes across as a threatening villain. It’s slick, smooth, and flowing, right down to the moment when Fionna smashes Ice Queen’s head in with her frozen hands. Once defeated, the scene when Cake runs in and attacks Gumball when she see’s Fionna’s ripped dress is another moment of significance. I could totally see Jake walking in and acting like Finn’s weird uncle and just giving him a simple thumbs up or a wink, but the gender swap allows for some interesting views of cultural differences that apply to our real world as well.

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Finally, the ending reveal that the entire episode was a mere story from Ice King’s fanfiction. This pissed a lot of people off, but honestly, that makes it all the more interesting to me. Not only that Ice King wrote a surprisingly coherent piece of work outside of the ending, but it’s just really fascinating to view the entire story from Ice King’s perspective. His depictions of the characters are especially intriguing, right down to the fact that he wrote Ice Queen as a straight up villain. It almost makes you wonder if he believes this of himself, and Fionna’s line of “be careful! You might catch her crazy!” makes me question if deep down, Ice King subconsciously does know truths about himself that he wouldn’t consciously realize otherwise. There’s also the really creepy notion that Fionna is kissing Ice King in the cover, so I don’t know what to make of that, besides the more endearing version that Ice King simply likes the idea of Finn and Jake worshiping himself, rather than resenting him. That’s the fun part with future Fionna and Cake episodes. They are all told from a certain person’s perception (albeit the most recent one) and it leaves more room for analysis and allows us to unintentionally explore the author’s psyche.

All in all, I really love this one. It takes full advantage of the opportunity at hand, and goes one step beyond by giving us one of the most beautifully crafted episodes to date. This is truly my favorite of the Fionna and Cake saga. There are a couple of other goodies, but I think this one particularly crafted so much from so little. It’s an episode I never truly get tired of watching. Terrific character explorations, nice animation, terrific writing, lovely music (all thanks to a sweet hammered dulcimer), and genuine fun: it’s simply Adventure Time in its truest, most passionate format.

Favorite line: “Why are y’all breathless if we’re the ones running?”