‘Adventure Time: Fionna And Cake’ Showrunner Adam Muto On Creating The Spin-Off & Making The Scarab To Avoid “Retreading What’s Been Done” In Multiverse Stories (2024)

After the success of the original series, it was no surprise when Adventure Time: Distant Lands came to HBO Max in 2020 to flesh out some of the stories that were left to tell. For Adam Muto though, the characters of Fionna and Cake had a bit more story left than what could be told in a 44 minute special. So, in 2023, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake released on Max with a ten episode season that was well received enough to garner a renewal for season 2.

A spin-off of the 2010 animated series, Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake follows Fionna Campbell (Madeleine Martin) and her cat Cake (Roz Ryan) who live in an alternate reality without magic. While Fionna spends her days at dead-end jobs and nights dreaming of magical lands, she and Cake are thrown into a multiverse-adventure when Simon Petrikov (Tom Kenny), formerly the Ice King, accidentally summons them to Ooo. Although the concept of a multiverse was part of the series already, the Scarab (Kayleigh McKee) was created as way to keep the series from “retreading what’s been done a hundred times” before.

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DEADLINE: What was the process of bringingFionna and Cakeinto their own spin-off series?

ADAM MUTO: It was a pretty long process because it stretches back to the ending of the original series, where we had options to either do a volume of episodes, that turned into theDistant Landsspecials, or a limited series.Fionna and Cake was always on that list because we hadn’t explored a ton about those characters and they were also recognizable on their own. It basically started with asking, “What haven’t we done on the original series that we would only really be able to do with a different set of characters?” Eventually, it just felt like that was the best fit forFionna and Cakeinstead of just trying to do a straight reboot of the original series or just remaking stories that we had done with Finn and Jake. What stories did they lend themselves to uniquely?

Honestly, it felt easier to think ofFionna and Cakeas a series because the specials were cool, but it felt like starting over every single time. Those all potentially could have been miniseries and you have to do the front-end work to treat it like that, but they were only 44 minutes each and even that was a different format than the 11 minutes we had been doing. So, going back to a series, even if it’s 22-minute episodes, was a bit easier than approaching it as these long forms.

‘Adventure Time: Fionna And Cake’ Showrunner Adam Muto On Creating The Spin-Off & Making The Scarab To Avoid “Retreading What’s Been Done” In Multiverse Stories (4)

DEADLINE: Tell me about creating the Scarab as a villain for the series.

MUTO: One question was how can we explore the multiverse concept without retreading what’s been done a hundred times pretty well by now, but it’s also a concept that audiences are really familiar with. Just presenting it as there being other dimensions isn’t necessarily enough of a draw, so we wanted a villain that could drive them through different multiverse-hopping stuff, but also have a perspective that other characters wouldn’t have, like his relationship to Prismo. He sees Prismo as this lackadaisical, sort of failson who doesn’t really deserve his job, and this antipathy would build up over time. So, we’d have this character, who was as powerful as Prismo, but sort of had a bigger chip on his shoulder. We didn’t really have any other antagonists that would fit that exact mold already in the show, so it was a chance to expand the lore of the show without introducing an entirely different tier of deities. It’s just a coworker who feels like he should have had the job that Prismo did.

DEADLINE: What were some of the biggest challenges for you on this series?

MUTO: Creatively, it’s kind of the same problem we’ve always had, which is how do you make new stuff without feeling like you’re repeating yourself, especially on a long running series. It helped to pivot to characters that are popular, but definitely secondary to Finn and Jake’s story. So, kind of balancing what is interesting now to us, and what can we call back to without feeling like it’s pandering and how would this play to somebody who hasn’t seen the original series and might not have any of that grounding? Would it make any sense? And watching season two, you kind of have to allow that. People should have watched season one, but when you’re watching a new series, you are trying to also treat it like an entry point. Hopefully the stuff that feels weird to a new viewer plays as a joke and has more meaning to somebody who’s seen the original series, but it’s not a barrier for understanding. That is definitely a new problem we’ve had. Is this character saying this line because it’s a callback, or because it’s funny? And if it’s a callback, is it a funny callback or is it just repeating the line?

DEADLINE: You mentioned season two, how far along are you on that?

MUTO: We’re in production right now and it’s sort of in the middle stages, I’d say. I don’t think there’s a release date yet, but probably not until next year.

DEADLINE: You have this multiverse framework already built-in, do you have an idea of where you’d like to take the characters or the series in the long-term?

MUTO: I think potentially, but I don’t know if we’d use that aspect of it. It feels like the most interesting part of the multiverse stuff was to use that as a mirror for the cast that we know. So, it’s like they’re using this to have some sort of insight about themselves as opposed to, ‘What is the craziest alternate universe that we can come up with?’ I think there’s stuff as far as the timeline of the show, that it might be cool to set a show in the far distant future, or far in past, so there’s enough separation from the current continuity that we wouldn’t necessarily have to be beholden to it or comment on it. As long as there’s avenues that feel interesting and not like we’re just repeating or trying to retcon something, I think it will keep going.

But since it’s part of the Warner Bros. umbrella now, I think there’ll always be a version ofAdventure Time. We’ve shown that it can work in different formats in different age groups. The way I see it, even if this version of the show ends, I’m sure a version of it will live on somewhere. It might just be stripping it down to the most elemental version of, ‘There’s a blue thing and a yellow thing and they rescue the pink thing from the other blue thing.’ I don’t want to oversimplify it, a lot of it is the sensibility that Penn [Ward] established, because he had a very unique sensibility rooted in sincerity and idiosyncrasy. But I feel like it’s flexible enough that a version ofAdventure Timecan always exist. As far as this version of it, we’ve been lucky in that the cast is so huge that we can pick a character and really flesh them out or try to tell a story that only they can experience. And I think once we’ve gone down all of those roads, that will determine where this continuity ends.

‘Adventure Time: Fionna And Cake’ Showrunner Adam Muto On Creating The Spin-Off & Making The Scarab To Avoid “Retreading What’s Been Done” In Multiverse Stories (2024)


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