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Adventure Time's "Flippin' Awesome" Recognition of Crossover Fandom

by Ethan Tussey

by Andrew Seroff for IN MEDIA RES

Fandom culture has always been somewhat of an odd periphery in the television consumption experience. Social TV to this point has led to the acknowledgment that there is value to fan activities, but social media is a veritable wasteland of fragmented and isolated fandom. It is difficult to find meaning or momentum beyond empty statistics like "tweets per second." This fragmentation is not only disappointing for fans but also for networks who can't convert any of this buzz into ratings. The exhibited Cartoon Network promo for Adventure Time is a rare example of a network comprehensively addressing a show's fandom, and engaging at a deeper level than a hashtag on the screen.

Pendleton Ward's quirky setting and dynamic writing quickly attracted a particularly excitable following outside Adventure Time's target demographic, but what became apparent is that both the show and its audience were not trading in the currency of "conventional" buzz (though it's hard to imagine any show outside of primetime getting 'buzzy'). By establishing an Adventure Time fan art Tumblr early on (well, months before the pilot aired, and more than a year before the first episode of the series aired), Ward created a unified home for the lean-forward creative fans that the show would go on to attract. The blog now has over 200,000 followers, which is a sizable portion of the show's average two million viewers for an episode premiere.

Cartoon Network's promo for Adventure Time demonstrates the network's goal to utilize the show's creative crossover audience, by featuring fan art submitted to the show's Tumblr, cosplayers at comic conventions, and a song remixed from clips of Adventure Time episodes. Both the fan art and the cosplay can be attributed primarily to the older crossover fans (and you could estimate their average age given the footage of cosplayers in the promo). The remixed song is also an unmistakable indication of high-tech, media-literate fandom. The result is not just recognition, but celebration through explicit appreciation (at 1:50, three characters and the voiceover say "thank you"), the reward of being on TV, but most importantly, the exposure to the legion of kindred fans. Pendleton Ward's home for, and Cartoon Network's feature of Adventure Time's seemingly out-of-place crossover fans was a highly effective way to encourage fans to continue sharing, and of course watching, the show, regardless of its intended demographic.

Promo for Adventure Time

Fan promo for Adventure Time

from Adverture Time Promo (2011)
Creator: Cartoon Network
Distributor: Cartoon Network
Posted by Ethan Tussey