The audience roared Sunday morning at New York Comic Con for the guests of the TimesTalks: Adventure Time panel. Dubbed by moderator Dave Itzkoff, NY Times Culture Reporter as "totally mathematical," the event featured the talented Pendelton Ward (Creator, Lumpy Space Princess), John DiMaggio (Jake the dog), Jeremy Shada (Finn), Rebecca Sugar (writer, artist, ukulele player), and Kent Osborne (head of story).
The discussion was kicked of by Itzkoff asking Ward what he was like as a child.
"I don't know… I was an idiot!" Pen chucked. "I was fat and I ate a lot of pizza and played Diablo one. Video games, comics, and cartoons were my entire life. It was all that I knew. I lived in that world. But I knew what I wanted to do when I was little… that I wanted to be an animator. My mom would carry post-it notes around… and I would sit by myself and animate stories on them."
John DiMaggio took the reigns after that, relating a story to the full house about Ward's childhood.
"His mom brought Penn over to Matt Groening's house as like an eleven or twelve year old. And said 'Hi!' Just cold-called, knocked the door. Matt answered the door… and she said 'This is my son, Pendelton Ward, and he wants to be an animator. Do you have any advice for him? And Matt gave him advice. And sure enough, one of Matt's favorite shows is Adventure Time."
When asked how the show was created between that childhood memory and now, Ward said, "The first thing people don't do is… stuff. I think you just need to take a stab at stuff as soon as you can. Just start animating if you want to be an animator. That's what I was doing. I went to school."
Itzoff then inquired about the origins of the Adventure Time characters.
"They were just doodles in my sketchbook," Ward said. "That's where it started. I just picked two doodles when I was pitching for my book and I plugged in the personalities of my friends. When you're trying to figure out what to pitch or what your story is just start drawing and look to your friends. Your two weirdest friends."
DiMaggio and Shada then fielded questions about how he got into voice acting and the similarities between his voice and Jake.
"I've been acting since I was a kid. I did stand-up in my twenties here in NY. I started doing voice-over for tv radio commercials. Then I moved to Los Angeles and started to audition. I got Futurama. That's it. You audition and you hope for the best. You never know when a show is going to explode like this one did. Jake's voice is close to mine, but with a little more… You wanna cuddle up with this voice."
"I started out doing live action," said Shada. "I had done some voice-over commercials… and when they cast Adventure Time, my brother Zack did the original pilot and played Finn in the pilot, and so when it rolled around to Cartoon Network about three years later my voice sounded just like his and I kind of copied him. Went through a few rounds of auditions and then (pantomimes explosion)."
"Good thing your brother went through puberty," added DiMaggio. "Hooray for puberty, yeah!"
There was a break in the discussion for the screening of two clips. One which has never been seen on television, and was exclusive to NYCC attendees, followed by one that has already been seen.
Itzkoff started the conversation again by asking if the creators plotted out the world in advance, or if they just improvised.
"I want it to be real," said Ward. "I'm playing D&D writing, role-playing characters. We're figuring it out as we go along. We play a lot of writers games, drawing funny pictures, trying to make each other laugh. The fate of the world isn't all figured out."
"It's not all figured out, but you know when something's right," added Sugar. "It's a powerful thing."
"We were talking about Finn crying," said Ward. "I think when you're writing kids as an adult, you end up punishing them with the getting beat up and crying. I wanted to watch the show and feel inspired by Finn. I wouldn't be inspired by a big whiney baby. So I was like, 'Let's not make him cry a bunch."
When asked if Finn as grown up at all, Shada responded,"Do you mean is he better with the ladies? I think Finn has definitely grown up a lot. He's had birthdays and stuff. We're adding some really cool backstory stuff coming up."
The topic was brought around to the ideal audience.
"We just try to make each other laugh," said Ward. "I think that's all you can do. We crack ourselves up and kick it out the door."
"Such a diverse group of people like it," DiMaggio added. "People watch the show with their grandparents. It's just brilliant."
There was a brief music break before the audience Q&A, where Sugar and DiMaggio preformed a stirring rendition of "Bacon Pancakes," and Shada sang "Buff Baby."
The discussion ended with talk of Lumpy Space Princess.
"You're the only one that can do Lumpy Space Princess," said DiMaggio. "It's perfect!"
"I'm embarrassed about how much I relate to LSP," explained Ward. "I'll sign your love handles. Gimme those handles. I'll sign your lumps!"