Wondering whether there will be more seasons or episodes of the Max animated series “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake”? So is executive producer Adam Muto. “It’s in discussion,” Muto told Variety last week at the SCAD Animation Fest in Atlanta. “But the person who greenlit the first season is no longer at Max.”
The future of “Fionna and Cake,” and the “Adventure Time” franchise as a whole, is still in the brainstorming phase, Muto said. “My hope is that this series did well enough that they feel like they can invest in future seasons,” he said. “What shape that takes, if that’s a ‘Fionna & Cake’ Season 2 or it’s more of an anthology kind of approach and we focus on another character, is still kind of up in the air… There’s a running list of what we think could work as a series, what we think could work as a miniseries or a special.”
Muto took over as executive producer of Cartoon Network hit “Adventure Time” mid-way through its run, and created the spin-off “Fionna and Cake” in the early days of what was then called HBO Max. Since then, the streamer — and actually, all streamers — has undergone a reassessment of its adult animation strategy. Because it was part of an already established IP, “Fionna and Cake” managed to keep going and finally premiered its ten episodes in late summer.
“Since our show was already in production, it was already cooking, we couldn’t really shift it at that point,” Muto said. “But we were watching a lot of projects around us just get crushed by a rock. You keep going, rocks are falling around you. It just felt so arbitrary, that there was nothing really we could do. We couldn’t navigate, we could only hope that whatever we were working on fell in line with what their strategy was. Because it was so opaque a process.
“It was kind of freeing, because you can’t navigate that,” he added. “You don’t know how those decisions are even being made. One week, you’d hear, ‘we’re moving away from 6 to 11,’ or ‘we’re moving away from preschool.’ And then a couple months later, it’s like, ‘well, maybe we’ll do preschool.’ It’s been very hard to strategize long term, because the strategy is kind of changed and evolving.”
Muto is one of the last remaining Cartoon Network alums to be housed at Warner Bros. Animation, as the two studios merged late last year (which led to the cancellation of several series at Max).
“We’re all in the same building,” he said. “And [WBA head] Sam Register started at Cartoon Network. So, he’s not a stranger to [the Cartoon Network brand]. It feels like we’re kind of learning how each other works.”
“Adventure Time” may be the easiest thing to pitch, since it’s a pre-established universe that he knows well. But Muto is also hoping to create some new original ideas — which he knows is pretty difficult in this environment.
“Because even when you have general meetings with people, they’re like, ‘here are the IPs we own,’” he said. “You have figure out what idea you have that can kind of Trojan horse into something they already own. But that’s not entirely satisfying. I’m hoping that we get to a point where they’re a little less shy about taking a chance on stuff.”
Muto was at the SCAD Animation Fest to accept the 2023 Spotlight Award, “for his innovative contributions to the animation and entertainment industries.”
The three-day event, held at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s new Atlanta theater SCADshow, also honored DNEG Animation global head of character animation Theodore “Ted” Ty for outstanding achievement in animation and the premiere of SCAD Animation Studios’ “The Last Dungeon.”
The festival wrapped with a screening of Fox’s new animated comedy “Krapopolis,” followed by a conversation with supervising director Pete Michels and lead character designer Andy Ristaino.
The Dan Harmon-created series, which has already been renewed through Season 3, centers on a ruling family in Ancient Greece — including Richard Ayoade as “Tyrannis,” the benevolent King of Krapopolis; Hannah Waddingham as “Deliria,” Tyrannis’ mother and goddess of self-destruction; Matt Berry as “Shlub,” Tyrannis’ father, a mantitaur (half centaur [horse + human], half manticore [lion + human + scorpion]); Pam Murphy as “Stupendous,” Tyrannis’ half-sister, daughter of Deliria and a cyclops; and Duncan Trussell as “Hippocampus,” Tyrannis’ half-brother, offspring of Shlub and a mermaid.
The show opened to strong numbers on Sept. 24; Variety’s review gave positive marks as “an amusing, high-concept riff on the family sitcom set in an extremely loose rendition of ancient Greece.”
One noticeable aspect of “Krapopolis”: It doesn’t shy away from the cartoon gore. Even Michels and Ristaino admit they were surprised with what they got away with.
“I feel like on the crew we were holding back on how gory it could be,” Ristaino said. “And we kept being told to make it gorier!” Added Michels: “We’re surprised that the notes we get is not on the blood and gore and decapitation. It’s a brutal era, it was the Bronze Age with everybody getting stabbed and cut in half and their heads get cut off. We get more notes on the nudity. Like you can’t show a butt even.”
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