Adventure Time Worth Watching: Why or Why Not?

Here’s why Adventure Time is or isn’t worth watching:

People who enjoy Adventure Time watch it because it has clever humor, dark undertones, and finds approachable ways to explore heavy topics.

People who dislike it often are turned off by humor aimed at kids and an odd art style.

Whether or not it’s worth watching really depends on your specific tastes.

So if you want to learn all about the reasons why Adventure Time is or isn’t worth your time, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

What Is Adventure Time?

Adventure Time is a kids’ cartoon that aired on the Cartoon Network from 2010 to 2018.

In those 8 years, it spanned 10 different seasons.

Considering the long run, it was clearly a very popular show, and it still has a fairly strong fanbase to this day.

Ultimately, Adventure Time is a kid’s show that was aimed at audiences from around 10 to 13 years of age.

Despite that, people of all ages watched it fairly regularly.

To put it all in perspective, the Adventure Time movie grossed over $42 million worldwide.

That’s not exactly a mega-blockbuster, but for a movie that came from a cult-favorite kids’ cartoon, that’s not a shabby return.

What’s Good About Adventure Time? (3 Positives)

To really answer your question, I think it’s best to break everything into two parts.

First, we’ll talk about the good aspects of the show and why so many people like it.

Later, we’ll discuss what people dislike about the show, and you can weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

#1 Adult Themes

Adventure Time proved popular with adults throughout its run on the Cartoon Network.

One of the key reasons for that is that the show was never shy about addressing adult themes.

The very premise of the show really puts that into context.

It’s about a kid going on adventures with his dog-brother (yes, you read that correctly) through a post-apocalyptic world.

The very world the characters live in is the post-wasteland of a nuclear holocaust. 

That’s not a light topic, and Adventure Time is built from the ground up on that premise.

Yet, the show always managed to treat the adult themes gently enough that children could enjoy the show.

It was never shown that nuclear weapons ravaged the world.

Instead, they talk about how the world was changed through the “Mushroom War.” 

That’s the gist of the show.

There are winks and nods throughout, and they really engage adult themes and knowledge, but they lightly glide above the heads of some younger viewers.

You get to appreciate the exploration of adult themes while enjoying the subtle ways the ideas are expressed to remain kid-friendly.

#2 Complex Emotions

While the exploration of adult themes is great, Adventure Time really hits a home run when it comes to exploring emotions.

Many kids’ shows tackle emotions and feelings.

Even something like Paw Patrol (which is for toddlers) has the characters experience different feelings of happiness, frustration, anger, and sadness.

There is no such thing as a kids’ show that can succeed without exploring emotion.

What separates Adventure Time from the crowd is how it explores emotions.

Typically, kids’ shows simplify emotional exchanges to make them easier to understand.

Characters feel one thing at a time, and the type of emotion is rather basic.

If a character has its feelings hurt, then that character is sad.

There isn’t much more to it.

Adventure Time completely abandons this simplicity.

Finn is constantly facing fantastic sequences and adventures, and through them, he experiences a lot of confusion.

The show doesn’t always present clear, right choices, and Finn has to think deeply about what he wants and how he feels.

His sidekick, Jake, often offers poignant advice that reaches far beyond the realm of most kids’ shows.

The reason for all of this is that the show’s creators were deliberate about addressing the complexity of emotions from the start.

The show’s creator, Pendleton Ward, put it best.

The show explores “ambivalent emotions, such as feeling happy and scared at the same time.”

With the show’s dark premise, fantastic moments, and interesting characters, there is an endless well of potential, and the show’s ability to explore emotions in their complexity while still catering to a young audience is truly impressive.

Many fans of the show would cite that they love how it makes them feel, even if they can’t perfectly articulate this aspect of what makes the show great.

#3 Consistency

If you have ever watched kids’ shows, you’ll find that many of them suffer from consistency issues.

Things that happen in one episode don’t matter at all in a later episode.

Plot lines don’t extend beyond single episodes, and characters and events will often contradict things that happen earlier or later in the show.

It happens because young audiences don’t often care as much about consistency, so show creators focus more on keeping young people’s attention.

Keeping attention focuses on very different writing techniques when compared to consistent storytelling or world-building, and that really shows when you compare Adventure Time to other shows aimed at audiences of the same age.

Adventure Time is remarkably consistent.

It’s still fiction, so you can definitely poke holes in it if you try, but the show clearly puts effort into maintaining internal logic.

Magic and fantastic elements run rampant through the show, yet there is so much internal logic that you can often understand how a new magical element will work even before it is explained.

This consistency is rewarding for mature viewers.

It allows for greater intellectual investment in the viewing experience, and that investment is rewarded with nods back to previous episodes and a consistency that allows you to really stay in the world with greater immersion. 

What’s Not Great About Adventure Time? (3 Negatives)

The highs of Adventure Time are very high, and that’s why so many people love the show.

It’s not just nostalgia where a bunch of people who watched it as a kid still like it as an adult.

The show has a large millennial audience that was already very much grown when the show aired.

Despite all of that, Adventure Time isn’t for everyone.

The show has its highs, but it has low points too, and unfortunately, the low points don’t pertain to specific episodes.

Instead, because the show tried to perfectly combine adult themes with a presentation aimed at young viewers, it left some things to be desired.

For many viewers, the lows aren’t enough to destroy the highs, and Adventure Time is worth watching.

For others, the high points could carry the show’s problems, and that’s what we’re going to explore now.

These are the reasons that you might not enjoy Adventure Time, and they’re very much worth considering.

Also, as we go through this, I’m making the assumption that you are an adult reading this article.

If you’re under the age of 15 and reading this, then a lot of what you’re about to read won’t apply to you.

#1 Kids Moments

Adventure Time is a show for kids.

There’s no getting around that fact, and in order to appeal to young audiences, the show uses traditional techniques.

Every time the show explores deep emotional ideas and really gets out of the traditional kids’ cartoon bubble, it comes right back down with a lazy fart joke. (The show also has clever fart jokes, but that’s now what we’re talking about right now.) 

The pacing is geared toward a young audience, and that can prevent a lot of ideas from garnering proper development.

Some themes take time, but Adventure Time can’t really explore them properly because of the young audience.

On top of that, moments in the show are noisy or flashy just for the sake of reminding kids to look at the screen.

All of those moments take away from the deeper aspects of the show.

If you’re looking to Adventure Time to be a nonstop ride of emotional, existential, and thoughtful exploration, you’re in the wrong place.

It’s a kids’ show first that sometimes explores more adult concepts.

#2 Animation Style

On a completely different note, we have to talk about the animation style for Adventure Time.

I’m not trying to pick on the show, and if you absolutely love the animation, that’s fine.

Everyone has their tastes and preferences, and there are no objectively superior art styles.

I’ll die on that hill.

That said, there are mainstream art styles, and Adventure Time does not cater to any of them.

The show uses simplified visuals that might remind you more of an underground YouTube project rather than a high-budget studio.

Of course, part of that is because the show started with a low budget, and even after it became a hit, the showrunners decided not to dramatically change the original art style.

All of that said, the majority of people who rave about Adventure Time don’t spend a lot of words on the art style.

In my opinion, the muted style actually works really well for the show, but it’s not a spectacle of an eye feast that you’re going to recommend to others for the sake of the visuals alone. 

Adventure Time is really about storytelling and exploring ideas.

If the art style is a dealbreaker for you, there’s not really a way to overcome that.

You probably won’t be able to get into the show.

#3 Kid Gloves

This last thing really depends on the individual, but it’s still worth discussing.

Because Adventure Time is a kids’ show first, when it does explore adult themes, it still treats them with kid gloves.

It doesn’t really go all-in on complicated or challenging concepts, as that would probably alienate the core intended audience.

The premise of the show is a perfect example.

It’s really clever to talk about the “Mushroom Wars,” but when every adult idea is handled in that same gentle manner, it can take away from the maturity of the content.

For some people, that’s never a turn-off.

They don’t mind dancing around difficult subjects because the show still captures the feelings of these topics, even if it doesn’t discuss things directly.

For others, this can become frustrating.

Cleverly disguising rough topics can be fun at times, but there are other times when you’ll really want to dive in and stop holding back.

Adventure Time doesn’t satisfy that urge.

It can’t, as such moments in the show would destroy its true purpose—which is exposing kids to adult themes in a palatable manner.

Is Adventure Time Worth Watching?

With all of that covered, let’s get back to the original question.

Is the show worth watching?

Obviously, that depends on what you like.

You’ve seen enough that you might have already made up your mind.

But, I’m going to try to summarize this to make it all easy, and then I’ll leave you with a somewhat odd comparison.

If you have a dark sense of humor and enjoy fantastic adventures, you’ll probably love Adventure Time.

The kids’ elements and odd art style probably won’t drive you away, and you’ll have a good time.

If you’re not keen on content for kids, or if you can’t get past the animation style, then Adventure Time isn’t your jam.

No amount of clever storytelling is going to overcome those aspects of the show.

They’re always present.

If you’re still not sure, then this comparison might help you think about Adventure Time.

Comparing Adventure Time to Rick and Morty

If you aren’t very familiar with either show (Adventure Time or Rick and Morty), then you can skip this final comparison. It won’t mean much to you.

But, if you have watched either one of the shows to any extent (even a single episode is probably enough), then this comparison might be the best explanation I can offer you.

Rick and Morty is another cartoon that has aired on the Cartoon Network that explores adult themes.

It has an art style that is probably more reminiscent of Adventure Time than a lot of other cartoons.

The one major difference is that Rick and Morty is not for kids at all.

It is all-in on catering to an adult audience.

As a result, Rick and Morty explores a lot of themes that are present in Adventure Time, but to a completely different level of severity.

Adventure Time always kept things light enough that kids could reasonably watch the show.

Rick and Morty does not.

It’s brutal toward its characters and audience.

If Adventure Time was dipping a toe into some deep conceptual waters, Rick and Morty hugs tight to a boulder while jumping right into the deep end.

The point here is that you can explore interesting themes, build a consistent world, and challenge audiences.

You can do that while bludgeoning your way through explicit content, or you can dance lightly around the most adult points to keep things friendly for younger audiences.

Either way, it’s easy to put the two shows in the same vein even though they are stark opposites in many ways.

If you love Rick and Morty, there’s a chance that you’ll appreciate its toned-down spiritual predecessor, Adventure Time.

If you hate Rick and Morty, Adventure Time might not be up your alley either.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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