With the recent announcements of Cartoon Network’s most prolific shows, The Amazing World of Gumball, Regular Show, and Adventure Time, coming to their foreseeable ends, it’s fair to ask what will be next to fill in the gaps as Cartoon Networks beings to move onto new and different headliners. Each of these shows has had a significant impact on the lives of millions for the past five or six years. No matter the addition to the newest lineup, it’s important to reflect why fans loved these shows in particular as much as we did, and what made them so impactful for such a long period of time in television and pop culture.
In spite of each of the aforementioned shows having its own unique premise and characters, a similar aspect that each beloved show posses with their diverse cast of characters is the growth and character development found throughout the show. As wacky and senseless as some of these shows may appear on the surface, dedicated fans will be the first to argue their underlying significance. In addition to the original and creative storytelling, the focus on the development of their core characters is what sets these shows apart from the norm. The commonality that characters like Rigby, Finn the Human, and Gumball all share is their growth. Throughout each season of these particular shows, this growth becomes extremely significant in how viewers begin to define, and see each character.
For those who aren’t familiar with, the video game loving, funny, self-centered yet likable, raccoon, Rigby, from Regular Show, this is just a brief summation. Rigby started the series as a lazy, unapologetic, and mostly selfish character who only cared for the well-being of himself, but cared enough about his friends when it counted to still be liked by the fans. He lives and works at a park with his best friend Mordecai, and gets himself into crazy misadventures within the span of 11-minutes episodes. As the show beings to progress into more mature and deeper content, Regular Show uses its strong and individualized characters as its foundation to begin to tell more serious and emotional stories. into its later seasons, viewers began to see a change in Rigby’s behavior with the addition of the character, Eileen, the quiet, and sweet-hearted coffee shop worker She became the beginning point of Rigby’s character development and jump from more than the two-dimensional character he previously was. This can be primarily seen in the episode, Eileen Flat Screen, where Rigby not only takes on the responsibility of ensuring the safety of Eileen’s brand-new flat screen, but also goes out out of his way to personally install it himself as a surprise for Eileen. Mordecai, Rigby’s best-friend and partner in crime, even remarks this action as one of the nicest things he has ever seen Rigby do. As the relationship with Rigby and Eileen continue to grow, the viewer begins to see a deeper side of Rigby. A side of compassion, thoughtfulness and love that was not previously seen. Rigby began to grow up, and even though he is still the same lazy, video game playing, raccoon, he is one that now takes on a second and much deeper layer with his actions, and that is true growth.
A similar form of growth can be seen in the show Adventure Time with Finn the Human. Even though Finn started as a young twelve-year-old hero, with an urge to fight evil alongside his best buddy Jake the Dog, his character also began to change with the passing of time. From the sudden appearance of his estranged father coming into his life, to a physical struggle resulting in the loss of his arm, to the emotional struggle of heartbreak and failure all within the span of a few episodes, it’s easy to see how this could evoke an enormous amount of growth in an individual. Following this, viewers began to see a Finn they weren’t quite used to; one who was filled with depression, and uncertainty. Viewers witnessed a difficult journey, but saw how Finn grew up from the wide-eyed adventurer seeking to win the heart of a princess, to a young man determined to do what was right while living life to its fullest. There were dynamic changes for Finn within only a few seasons, but like all true heroes, with grit and determination, Finn uses these past experiences as lessons to grow and lead him into a better future.
More so, growth can even be seen in smaller details within the less sequential life of Gumball Watterson. Although the adventures of a talking blue cat with a walking goldfish for a brother may seem strange, for the most part, Gumball is just a normal kid with a family. Each story may not have the same level of continuity as Adventure Time from episode to episode, but Gumball’s development is still evident in a different and more “physical” way. The obvious change in Gumball and his brother Darwin’s much deeper voices in later seasons were the focus of numerous jokes early on. It shows that although the world and the adventures Gumball experiences may not change his life significantly, Gumball himself must still grow, even if it’s in a small way.
For the most part, growth and development itself is a gradual and slow moving process. It’s not until one takes a step back that they notice the amount of growth one went through in the six years since these shows started airing, but what sets shows like Gumball, Regular Show, and Adventure Time apart from the rest is the fact that they aren’t afraid to address this growth and allow their characters to change and develop over time. Viewers have seen characters like Finn at his highest points in life, but also at his all time lowest. This is vital because it shows how characters dealing with turmoil and hardship can deal with these things in a positive way and use it to grow into a stronger and better person. An important lesson millions have come to see firsthand. Although each of these shows will begin to come to their end moving forward, these shows, along with these characters will hold a special place in the heart’s of millions because not only have these characters grown into older, and more mature individuals, but because we as the viewers have also grown alongside them in each of our own lives. And that’s what makes it so hard to part with not just characters, but people.
If you are interested, and are looking for more on Finn as a character, and his specific character path throughout the last 7 seasons, stick around for a more in depth look on his character next Tuesday!