Adventure Time: Princess Day
R1 - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (27th July 2014).
The Show

Set in the whimsical, and vaguely post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time”, a surreal animated series from the mind of CalArts grad Pendleton Ward, tells the many tales of Finn (Jeremy Shada)—a perennially optimistic teenage orphan—and his adoptive brother Jake (John DiMaggio), who also happens to be a magical talking dog. In their oft-amusing and sometimes arduous adventures, the boy and his dog traverse a terrible terrain that’s not unlike, as Ward once described it, a cross between Dungeons & Dragons and “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” (1981). Ooo is a land of many kingdoms; the remnants of a planet once nearly destroyed by a great mushroom war, now rebuilt as a sort of feudal democratic-dictatorship—a mash of political ideologies that only really make sense in a weird world that resembles the margin sketches of a particularly gifted, presumably ADD-addled, 12 year old who’d rather draw and daydream than pay attention in class. Cutesy yet occasionally horrifying, and silly, but also kind of smart, the series is a contradiction: a children’s show, but one that has plenty for adults to digest as well. It mixes rude, occasionally crude-for-a-kids-show humor with concepts like reincarnation and the metaphysics of the universe, all while attempting to slip some tenable, teachable lesson about friendship or something else into the mix.

With the many kingdoms of Ooo come many rulers. The Candy Kingdom is led by the wise beyond her years, part-time scientist, Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), whom Finn fancies despite their age difference and her close-to-total romantic disinterest in the 14 year old boy. The Fire Kingdom is overseen by the feisty Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), Finn’s on-again, off-again ex with a fierce temper. Lumpy Space is the place where the purple cloud with a gold star on her forehead, Lumpy Space Princess (Pendleton Ward), lives with her parents and siblings. There are countless kingdoms, and countless rulers—princesses, like Wildberry Princess (Maria Bamford) of The Wildberry Kingdom or the Hot Dog Princess (also voiced by Maria Bamford) of the Hot Dog Kingdom; kings, like the worrying sometimes evil but mostly misunderstood wizard, Ice King (Tom Kenny) of The Ice Kingdom; Marceline (Olivia Olson), the Vampire Queen, and so on. With such an eclectic collection of characters, it’s only natural that, especially as the series has morphed in later seasons into something more than just fun adventures in the forever-friendship of Finn and Jake—the currently airing sixth season has a long-form, serialized, plot in which Finn is trying to find his father—the team behind “Adventure Time” and Cartoon Network have come together to compile a themed DVD set that puts the spotlight on side characters like the many royals of Ooo.

Presented in easily digestible 11 minute episodes—the norm for CN—each entry of “Adventure” is often overflowing with enough content to fill twice that amount of time. Ward’s “Adventure Time” is a wildly imaginative series, and over the many seasons, the creator and his writers have established a vast, expansive universe with hundreds of years of history, complicated back stories, and its own subset of references. With so much to pull from within its own world, episodes are refreshingly rarely reliant on outside material, by which I mainly mean pop culture, to make a joke. Slight, silly, but subversively smart too, with its absurdist humor, surrealist visuals, and just generally imaginative storyline and characters, there’s plenty to be enjoyed by pretty much anyone willing to take a look. “Adventure Time: Princess Day” includes 16 episodes from the series, most if not all of which are geared toward the princesses, princes, kings and queens of the many kingdoms. Episodes include:

- “Princess Day”—At the annual Princess Day meeting, Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline team up to terrorize and prank Breakfast Princess (Grey DeLisle).

- “Princess Potluck”—Ice King isn't invited to the princess potluck, so he tries to ruin it.

- “Bad Little Boy”—The princesses are sick and tired of Ice King’s crazy Fionna and Cake fan-fiction stories. Marceline listens to the Ice King’s latest tale, then tells him a, much better, story of her own.

- “Candy Sheets”—When Lumpy Space Princess reports a mysterious theft, without revealing what was taken, Finn and Jake investigate the Candy Kingdom for the object and culprit without much help.

- “Jake Suit”—Jake is sick and tired of Finn using his body as armor. He convinces Finn to trade places for a day.

- “The Party’s Over, Isla de Senorita”—After another one of his schemes fails miserably, Ice King, tired of always losing fights with Finn and Jake and failing to win the love of Princess Bubblegum, moves to an island that turns out to be sentient.

- “Box Prince”—Finn meets the Box Prince, a cat with a box on its back, and discovers the Box Kingdom has been taken over by an impostor. Finn helps the real Box Prince reclaim his rightful throne.

- “Rattleballs”—Finn wants to be trained in sword fighting by an old gumball robot named Rattleballs (Rainn Wilson), who lives in the junkyard.

- “Love Games”—Slime Princess (Maria Bamford once again) needs a husband or else she'll lose the Slime Kingdom to her obnoxious sister. Finn steps in to save the day, but first they will need to win a series of games to prove to the elders that they are really in love.

- “Bad Timing”—Lumpy Space Princess reconnects with an old classmate, where she experiences the emotional turmoil of love, heartbreak and time travel.

- “Princess Monster Wife”—When Ooo’s princesses start losing body parts, Finn and Jake investigate.

- “Hot to the Touch”—Finn tries to prove to Jake that Flame Princess isn't evil. Unfortunately, trying to win her heart turns into a quest to stop her overthrowing The Goblin Kingdom.

- “Reign of Gunters”—Gunter (Tom Kenny) attempts to take over all of Ooo, while Ice King is distracted and sent away on a trip.

- “Beautopia”—Susan Strong (Jackie Buscarino) returns and asks Finn and Jake to help fight off the Lub Glubs and regain her people's home in Beautopia.

- “Her Parents”—Jake is worried his in-laws will hate him and asks Finn for help when they come visit, ultimately putting both his friendship with Finn and relationship with Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang and Pendleton Ward) in jeopardy.

- “Loyalty to the King”—Finn and Jake are excited to meet the Nice King who has come to Ooo. He looks familiar, and starts to act like someone they know, but they can’t quite place him.

Video

Compilation sets can be quite inconsistent, because they’re a literal collection of a series’ evolving art style. An increased budget and just the general passage of time means, generally, there's more articulate animation in the latter episodes, and more issues in the former. The transfer discrepancies and differences between “Adventure Time’s” seasons are rarely more jarring than the jump between the first episode, “Princess Day”, which is so new it has yet to air on Cartoon Network, and the very last, “Loyalty to the King”, an early entry from the second season. 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen framing aside, the clarity of line art, consistency of color, and competency of compression and mastering all suggest an even wider divide than the few years between production dates. As has been the case with many of these sets from Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers, early season episodes suffer from some mild edge enhancement, which I’m now certain is endemic of the episode master if not even original source material. Episodes from early seasons also have more serious instances of banding in background color fills. In broad terms, the DVD looks fine. Colors are bold and the image bright, free of blemishes, and the detail distinct enough within the confines of standard definition.

Audio

Like other compilation releases of “Adventure Time”, “Princess Day” features an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix on every episode—even those selected from the later seasons—despite the fact newer entries in the series are broadcast is surround sound. The stereo track is serviceable, but undistinguished and not immersive. There are no serious issues to report, and dialog is always intelligible. The disc includes optional subtitles in English.

Extras

“Little Did You Know” (6 images) is a text-based gallery of character bios, including:

- Flame Princess
- Hot Dog Princess
- Princess Princess Princess
- Wildberry Princess
- Muscle Princess
- Turtle Princess

Pre-menu bonus trailers are for:

- “Adventure Time: The Suitor” (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; 32 seconds).
-“Regular Show: Mordecai + Margaret Pack” (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; 32 seconds).

Packaging

“Adventure Time: Princess Day” is volume 7 is Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network's ongoing “Adventure Time” compilation DVD series. “Princess Day” includes the titular episode and 15 others from the series' six seasons. The single DVD-9 is housed in a white amaray keep case.

Overall

I’m alway hesitant to outright recommend a compilation DVD like “Adventure Time: Princess Day.” On the one hand, themed collections are eventually made irrelevant by full season sets, which are always bulging with bonus features and an almost bloated episode count. A lack of supplements, and the fact that at least a few of these episodes have already been released in a comparable full season, make me cautious to suggest a purchase by anyone other than the least patient fans who are unwilling to wait for a Blu-ray of newer seasons they’ll eventually buy, too. On the one hand, Cartoon Network and WB have gone a long way in including episodes from seasons that are probably still a few years away from appearing on another disc, and even offer up an episode that’s yet to air on television. The presentation is a limited by the DVD format, but the price point is very reasonable, which should take the sting off of repurchasing episodes in a later, perhaps even high-def, full season release.

The Show: B+ Video: B- Audio: C Extras: F Overall: C

 


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