Adventure Time made a grand appearance at this year's New York Comic Con. The show's 90-minute panel Q&A not only brought along a wealth of goods for fans eagerly anticipating next season's premiere, but it was also satisfying on an emotional level.
Right out of the gate, the first news to come from the super-sized session, which featured executive producer Adam Muto, Jeremy Shada (Finn), John DiMaggio (Jake), Olivia Olson (Marceline), Niki Yang (BMO) and Rebecca Sugar (former storyboard artist, creator of Steven Universe), was the airdate of the upcoming season. Adventure Time's seventh season will begin Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. EST on Cartoon Network.
Muto shared a brief clip from the season premiere, entitled "Bonnie and Nettie," which saw Finn and Jake working for the King of Ooo under what he claims are orders from Princess Bubblegum. The King is still in charge of the Candy Kingdom after the events of May's season finale, in which the Princess lost an election and her right to the crown. "Everything is still broken at the start of season seven," Muto later told us in an interview, and the creators are not afraid to shake up the status quo.
Instead, the cast and crew were excited to talk about how this season focuses on building out the back story of one of the show's most popular characters: Marceline the Vampire Queen. "Stakes," an eight-episode miniseries beginning Nov. 14, finds the undead, eternal teenager (who has a new, shorter haircut) begging the ex-Princess Bubblegum to use her as a test subject for a highly-experimental procedure to remove her of her vampiric traits.
"Stakes" came about when "the network ... asked us to do a longer form event," Muto said. "There was this idea from season two about Marceline and ... how she got her powers to begin with. We kind of rolled with that and expanded that into eight episodes."
While as it's matured, the series has increasingly solidified its continuity as the lore behind the land of Ooo became more elaborate, this is the first time that the crew has availed itself to producing and airing one complete, connected story. "We're used to really short 11 minute [episodes], so it was really fun to see what the board artists would do with a longer story," Muto told the audience during the panel.
"Stakes" offers a lot of insight into Marceline via its use of both a present-day plotline as well as flashbacks that detail how the Vampire Queen earned her title in the first place. Con-goers were given a sneak preview of the first two parts of the storyline, including its completely revamped title sequence that hands Marceline the microphone as she performs a cover of the show's theme song.
The first episode primarily sets up the experiment and its subsequent, vampire-filled fallout premise while the next takes a step backward into the past. Most exciting was a first look at Marceline's mother, who joins her daughter for a sing-along in a brief but affecting scene in the second episode. Voicing the character is none other than Rebecca Sugar, who was best-known for writing much of the show's music during her tenure as a storyboard artist.
Sugar and Olson reprised their duet, called "Everything Stays," on-stage. It was a touching performance that made the venue feel at once more intimate, and the other cast members appeared visibly moved.
"Stakes" promises to be a major arc and something of a centerpiece for season seven, following a paucity of Marceline-focused episodes in the previous season. As her voice actress, Olson was perhaps the most excited by the storyline. "I cried when they told me they were going to do it," she said.
Although the miniseries will answer a lot of the questions surrounding Marceline's mysterious and dramatic origin story, one thing the cast and crew were hesitant to talk about was how it would focus on the relationship between her and the Princess. One fan asked whether the popular theory that the pair were once more than friends was true, which Muto danced around. "A theory can be neither real nor unreal," he told us. "We can't talk about that here."
This doesn't mean that the strong connection between the two will be completely ignored. Olson shared with us later that "you definitely see a lot more of [Princess Bubblegum and Marceline's] friendship" during the arc, "and you'll see ... where their relationship is now."
Marceline is not the only character grabbing the spotlight. "After the miniseries," Muto revealed, "we have a half-hour BMO holiday special." This news garnered a widespread collective "aww" from the crowd, especially after Muto shared that it would be a "very emotional BMO story." A clip for that was shown, as well, in which BMO excitedly anticipates a guest attending its birthday party.
Other characters who are promised to return this season include the Earl of Lemongrab (voiced by Justin Roiland of Rick and Morty fame) and the gender-swapped Fionna and Cake.
Overall, Muto and the rest of the Adventure Time team emphasized the season's shift away from the "really heady and philosophical" bent of the previous batch of episodes. "In season seven, we've kind of pared back and focused on simpler stories with the characters. No space gods will be fought this season, but it's not a throwback to the beginning of the show," which was more strictly a comedy.
Shada, whose Finn bore the brunt of the heavy duty action over the course of last season — Finn met, and lost, his dad, as well as his arm &mdash echoed this statement when we talked to him later on. "It will be lighter, for sure," he said, then joking that there "are not as many of the ‘dad' revelations.'" He then hinted at what's to come in season eight, however, which will mark a return to the trials and tribulations of the human boy.
Adventure Time has increasingly shifted away from its Finn and Jake tagline as the show fills out its extensive world and deepens its larger cast of characters. "Stakes" is a primary example of the series' current m.o. But the brothers remain the heart of the show, figuring heavily into the episodes we watched during the panel. Star DiMaggio put it best: Donning his Jake voice, he told the crowd, "My best adventures are with my best friend Finn."