Fans of Cartoon Network's cult fave Adventure Time have known that the end was nigh for quite some time, but that doesn't make it sting any less now that it's finally here. The network announced back in September 2016 (via Collider) that Adventure Time won't return after its tenth season finale, airing Monday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET. The modern animated classic may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean it won't have an impact that far surpasses the length of its run.
Winner of eight Emmys out of a total 15 nominations, the children's series with a wide adult fanbase has always occupied a league of its own when it comes to genre. One former Cartoon Network staffer told IndieWire that the network was never quite sure what to make of the runaway success of Adventure Time, and maybe that was part of the reason that it couldn't sustain a longer run. "It was a gradual burn and grew into a realization that this was indeed a massive epic that could be made into a pop culture powerhouse," the unnamed staffer. "It never really fit into a category, so Cartoon Network didn’t really have a model in which to manage its ever-growing popularity."
Animation producer Fred Seibert, owner of Frederator Studios, which produces Adventure Time, also told IndieWire that he thought there was a slight disconnect between Adventure Time and Cartoon Network's target audience. "Cartoon Network aims for kids ages two to 14," he said. "The fact that Adventure Time has a significantly larger audience for that, a more expansive one, is great gravy… but they can’t benefit from it directly."
According to an interview with Rolling Stone, series creator and showrunner Pendleton Ward stepped down from his job at the head of Adventure Time back in Season 5. "For me, having quality of life outweighed the need to control this project and make it great all the time," he expalined, opting instead to stick around as a regular writer and storyboard artist.
Would Adventure Time have managed to hang around for longer if Ward hadn't left the driver's seat? Much like the true identity of Meat Man, that's something that's just going to have to remain a mystery forever.
One thing's for sure, though: even if Adventure Time didn't have exactly the Simpsons-rivaling run that fans might have been hoping for, it was still significant and memorable in its own way. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ward explained that he and the rest of the Adventure Time crew were extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to make the show. "Adventure Time was a passion project for the people on the crew, who poured their heart into the art and stories," Ward said. "We tried to put into every episode something genuine and telling from our lives and make a show that was personal to us and that had jokes, too! I'm really happy that it connected with an audience for so long. It’s a special thing, I think."
It is a special thing, and even the folks at Cartoon Network agree. Rob Sorcher, the network's chief content officer, was certain that the show's impact would live on in audiences, young and old. "Adventure Time changed the definition of what a kids’ TV series could be, and it’s had a resounding impact upon popular culture around the world," Sorcher told THR. "Cartoon Network Studios is proud to have brought together this group of brilliant artists and animators who helped make Adventure Time one of the most critically acclaimed TV series of a generation."