On sale today, Titan Books latest title (Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards) takes a look behind the scenes of what could be considered one of the most under-appreciated parts of animation: the art of the title card. Seen for only a few seconds before a show starts, most title cards are painstakingly painted pieces of art meant to convey both an episode’s story as well as it’s title. They’re sort of like a modern day illuminated manuscript, albeit only a one page version.
It’s these works of art that this book aims to recognize, specifically for Pendleton Ward’s wacky fantasy adventure series, Adventure Time. Anyone familiar with the show will no doubt already have an appreciation for Ward’s serialized story-telling and clever character development. Those seeking the same level of depth here, however, might be a little disappointed. While the book does include early sketches, alternative versions and artist commentary, each entry is relatively scant.
Featuring the title cards from both the first and second seasons—by artists Pendleton Ward, Nick Jennings, Andy Ristaino, Phil Rynda and Paul Linsley—the book does reveals a few fun factoids about the show/artwork such as Linsley’s weird obsession with breakfast burritos (which he snuck into cards like “Trouble in Lumpy Space” and “Business Time”) as well as the strong influence that old pulp fiction novels played on many of the titles. Romance novels, Dungeons & Dragons, Frank Frazetta and horror movies also play prominent roles in how these pieces were created.
The lack of substance doesn’t diminish the overall design of the book, however. Each page is laid out in a beautiful spread that (roughly) documents how each title card was created and there are some really interesting comments from the artist, such as the importance of lighting (“My Two Favorite People”) and color (“The Duke”) can have on how an image is interpreted. The design for “The Enchiridion” actually underwent a few revisions, evolving from Finn stabbing Jake with a knife (complete with spurting blood) to Finn trying to stab Jake with a baguette. It’s deeper glimpses into the show’s creative process like this that I wish the book had a little bit more of.
OUT OF 5
Not a bad book by any stretch, Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards just feels too light on content and doesn’t offer many reasons to go back and read it again. Fans of Adventure Time will no doubt still appreciate the presentation and artist commentary that is provided, making it a cool gift—just not a must have.
+ Nice presentation
+ Commentary from artists
– Content feels sparse
– No in-depth features
– Lack of re-readability