So here are a pair of storyboards from the first Adventure Time episode to go into production.
After Nickelodeon passed on the show - twice - Cartoon Network said it would gladly take on the series. That is, provided Pen could prove the seven-minute short made for Nick wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Especially as the length would move from seven to eleven minutes, Pen needed to deliver something more substantive (if that’s the word I want). In other words, CN wanted the essence of the short, but expanded for a series. This was in the summer of 2008. The network suggested Pen deliver a script or two, but we recommended he storyboard out an episode. After all, working from an outline to storyboard, not from a script, was the way Pen would want the show to go. A board would give a better sense of what was on Pen’s mind, we felt.
With the help of Pat McHale and Adam Muto, Pen turned in a board centering around a spaghetti-supper date between Finn and an oblivious Princess Bubblegum (I don’t have a copy of this; I doubt if anyone does). Cartoon Network wasn’t having any of it. Besides their thinking the romantic aspect would alienate young boys, the network was asking - not specifically, but generally - for those things they felt made the short so special, like the crazy opening dance, the “Abe Lincoln moment,” funny catchwords, and the awkward princess/kiss moment at the end. Pen then created “The Enchiridion,” which includes a crazy opening dance, an “Abe Lincoln moment,” funny catchwords, and an awkward princess/kiss moment at the end. That rough board is at the top of this post.
The network greenlit Adventure Time for a full season of thirteen half-hours in September 2008. Normally a show gets a few months of development time to figure out, among other things, the look and tone of the series. CN, however, was eager to get the show on the air and put the series right into production, hoping to be on the air by Christmas 2009. At this point, though, everyone - including you, probably - had different expectations of what the show should be and the direction it should take. The series should be like the short but different, it’s too young-looking, the humor’s too random, it should have more adventure, but what about the comedy, it’s about story, no, it’s about character, too girly, etc. (I should mention Pen, again with Pat and Adam, had previously put together a pitch package for Nickelodeon. You can see the art at least from that here.) Lots of other meetings about the title, the logo, the voices, the art, the writing, the music. While trying to get a handle on the direction of the show himself, and now working under production deadlines, Pen did his best to please everyone and address what was important to them. (Like Finn shouts in “Memories of Boom Boom Mountain,” “Everybody wants different things!! And some of them want stuff that’s exactly the thing the others don’t want! What am I even doing here, Jake?”) After several versions, a storyboard upon which everyone was in agreement came about in January 2009. This board is below. If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll see a few extra scenes here that never made it to the finished piece. Maybe they’ll pop up again in future episodes. Who knows?