Adventure Time has spent a significant amount of time exploring the artist lifestyle in its 2016 episodes, beginning with Viola and LSP’s foray into the theater in “Summer Showers” and continuing with the production of BMO’s western in “Angel Face” and development of Jake’s soundscapes in tonight’s stop motion episode “Bad Jubies.” “Summer Showers” explored the sad reality of a struggling actor’s lifestyle and the self-indulgence that fuels vanity projects; “Angel Face” detailed the process of putting on an elaborate production and the personal dangers of overly committing to a part; and “Bad Jubies” looks at how the act of creation can alienate the artist from others, but ultimately unites people with the finished product.
“Bad Jubies” is the most personal of these three stories, written and directed by stop motion filmmaker Kirsten Lepore and dealing with a lot of the themes that have appeared in her past work. Lepore likes telling stories about nature, friendship, and creation, and that’s what she does in “Bad Jubies,” although on a bigger scale thanks to the resources provided by Cartoon Network and the production team at Bix Pix Entertainment, who animates the episode. It’s also her first project with extensive dialogue, and she has both a strong understanding of the show’s silly language and a firm handle on all the characters’ voices, making this episode sound like any other Adventure Time.
That consistency is welcome when the visuals have undergone such a striking change, and the most thrilling thing about this episode is seeing the world of this series depicted through the medium of stop motion animation, which gives the characters and environments weight and texture that they don’t normally have. This is an event, as indicated by the special stop motion intro and the clips of the episode’s construction played during the credits, and Lepore is the perfect creator to bring this show into three dimensions. The scale of the story is small because of the considerable limitations of the stop motion medium, but Lepore gives the episode depth by crafting a narrative that directly speaks to the art she’s making and the process behind it.
I had the privilege of interviewing Lepore in advance of tonight’s episode, and after learning more about the stop motion process and how isolated Lepore typically is when she’s creating, I recognize that her story for “Bad Jubies” is about the work she puts into her own art. Like Jake, Lepore focuses on replicating nature in her movies, and much of that process involve conceptualizing and planning how her ideas can be reasonably translated into stop motion animation. There’s a certain amount of preparation that needs to be done in order to make effective art, and that preparation may not look like work to people outside of the process. Jake is in that same position as he gathers information from nature that he will use to soothe his friends later, but his research looks like laziness to the others.
I didn’t have to interview Lepore to know that LSP was her favorite character to work on, and LSP gets the best dialogue and visual gags in this episode. Pendleton Ward gives an impassioned performance as the increasingly furious LSP, and the energy of the vocal performance is reflected in the exaggerated movement of the LSP puppet. The expressions of the character are heightened by the physical form of the puppet, particularly with regards to the eyeballs, and Lepore mines considerable humor from different eye shapes. My favorite moment of the episode (and one of my favorite LSP moments ever) is the quick shot of LSP attempting to hammer a nail into a wooden board during the montage of the group building their underground bunker. Her beady eyes stare straight ahead as her arm gently taps the hammer against the wood, completely missing the nails, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of the vapidity that makes LSP so hilarious.
LSP freaks out many times in this episode, and each time is funnier than the last. She ambushes Jake when he’s communing with nature on a hilltop, a purple lump of chaos interrupting the serene scene in hopes that she won’t have to do as much work if Jake helps out. Jake’s oneness with nature is visually represented by the orange sunset that lights this scene, and while he blends into the background, the purple LSP pops against it. The various woodland creatures assemble around Jake, but LSP has no patience for this natural majesty and barrels through the tableau because she’s tired of Jake not pulling his weight.
LSP’s anger at Jake is justified, and in especially dire circumstances, everyone should chip in to ensure the immediate safety of the group. Jake isn’t helping with the most pressing concerns, but he’s doing the work that will come in handy when cabin fever sets in and the bad jubies start to fill their underground bunker. Jake has been cataloging sounds from nature that he plays for the rest of the group when negativity takes hold, and these sounds make everyone feel good by reminding them of the beauty of the world outside these walls. Jake’s nature sounds are a stand-in for any type of art, but especially music, which is a reliable go-to for creating good feelings in the listener. It takes time to create that art, but the benefits are clear once the art reaches its intended audience.
When the storm crashes into their underground bunker, Jake and the rest of the gang use these sounds to change the attitude of the living cloud, quelling his anger by reminding him of the natural loveliness he’s denied himself by raining on everything. While the message of curing depression with nature sounds is simplistic and doesn’t reflect the real struggles of living with depression, Lepore effectively uses the storm as a metaphor for negative thought and the ways it can dominate a person’s life. Getting rid of negativity isn’t as easy as hearing some soothing nature sounds, but exposing yourself to beautiful things and allowing yourself to appreciate that beauty is a way of countering depressing thoughts.
- It’s disappointing that Jake doesn’t stretch very much in this episode. I understand that the mechanics of stop motion make shapeshifting a big challenge, but it would have been very cool to see the animators attempt it.
- I love how LSP’s lumps move when she gets especially worked up. I also love how the episode ends with her getting snatched up by a bird of prey.
- Weather descriptions for a “Mega-Deadly Thunderthquake Disasterstorm”: “Pressure: Bloat-worthy; Visibility: Overcastastrophe; Pricipitation: Ice-Crisis; Winds: Byebye; Gusts: Pretty Bad; Feels: Stressed Out”
- Finn: “Oh, man. My body feels weird.” Jake: “Uh, dude, that’s because you just got glide-sliced by the ice duo.”
- “Expect stormnado winds and an impending monsoonami. Flurricanes possible. Chance of survival: 29%.”
- “What is it, man? Nervous poots?”
- “I will never know the pleasures of skinny-dipping.”
- “You’re thinking too much with those eyeballs, not enough with your mind-hole, or whatever computer thingy you’ve got up in there.”
- BMO: “Is she O.K.?” Finn: “Yeah, I think she’s already asleep.” (Cut to LSP sleeping and snoring on the floor, drool dripping out the side of her mouth.)
- “Whatever, Finn! I’m not hear to make friends! I’m here to not die.”