You know why I watch Adventure Time? Because it makes me happy. The colorful fantasy world, the goofy comedy, the quirky music, it all combines to create a feeling of concentrated glee whenever I watch the show. Sure, some of the episodes have broken my heart, but that’s usually because the melancholy of those stories is such a heavy contrast from the rest of the series. “James Baxter The Horse” is an episode all about finding the right combinations of sounds and actions to make a person happy, and it’s hard not to see it as a metacommentary on the creation of Adventure Time.
When a butterfly aborts the fictional child that BMO imagined he was pregnant with (it’s actually just a chicken egg in a red Solo cup tied to his body), he’s thrown into a depression that can be only be wiped out by the comedic genius of James Baxter the Horse. You see, James Baxter is no ordinary horse. He’s a horse that can balance on a beach ball with his hind legs while neighing his name in a particularly hilarious way that forces anyone that hears it to smile immediately. When I saw James Baxter for the first time, I laughed. When I saw him the second time, I laughed again. The creative team for this episode nailed it with the audio/visual combo on James Baxter, and he’s consistently funny until his final moment that ends the episode.
Finn and Jake want to be able to bring that kind of enjoyment into the lives of the people around them, so they decide to mimic James Baxter’s act and neigh their names loudly when they run into a funeral in progress. It’s not funny, just obnoxious, but Finn just thinks they picked the wrong choice of venue. They go from obnoxious to terrifying when they find a lollipop girl in the Candy Kingdom who has dropped her ice cream cone. They chase her down the street neighing their names, finally cornering her in an alley where she screams until they leave her alone. It’s clear that they’re not going to succeed by copying James Baxter; Jake likens it to shredding on a guitar, which requires a musician to create their own solo rather than duplicating someone else’s notes.
That comparison starts off the segment of the episode that is focused on creative experimentation, beginning with Finn and Jake making silly videos that they will analyze on BMO’s screen. This episode takes viewers on an informative journey through the development of art in the digital age, which opens up so many opportunities thanks to advancements in technology. Filming their silliness on BMO is akin to getting a digital camera and starting up a YouTube channel, although Finn and Jake don’t have the distribution methods available to present-day Earthlings. After breaking down their video, they decide to take their experimentation to the next level and hit up the Institute of So-Und, a place filled with amplifiers and distortion pedals and all kinds of other things that will allow Finn and Jake to create happiness-inducing sounds.
The music on Adventure Time is a major part of its aesthetic, combining the bleeps and bloops of 8-bit video game music with more traditional animation scoring to create a distinct sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if the process for scoring this show was similar to what Finn and Jake do in this episode, which is just mixing and matching different sounds until they find something that is pleasing to their ears, then hope that it will resonate with others. It worked for the Adventure Time audio team, and it works for Finn and Jake. After they find the right sound, they realize that they need an appropriate action to attach to it, and they decide that turning Jake into a trumpet for Finn to play and then a beach ball for Finn to balance on would be a solid combo. The beach ball bit becomes an homage to their inspiration in this new sequence, and it leads to success.
They try out their new moves on the Lollipop Girl, and she loves it. Everyone loves it, including the funeral party from earlier. But when their laughter causes the dead body to rise out of its coffin and attack Finn and Jake, the two are put in a position where they’re the ones that need saving. That’s James Baxter the Horse’s cue to arrive on his beach ball, causing the rampaging spirit’s anger to dissipate completely. He loves that wonderful horse, and if Finn and Jake are his friends, then he’s not going to pound them into mush.
After saving Finn and Jake and bringing joy to all of Ooo, James Baxter has accomplished enough for the day, and the episode ends with him folding up his beach ball and galloping into the sunset. James Baxter’s comedy doesn’t come naturally to him; he’s had to develop it just like everyone else. This is his job, and he loves what he does for a living. If Finn and Jake continue to refine their act, maybe they can bring as much happiness to Ooo as James Baxter. They certainly bring a smile to my face.
- Jake needs to start giving more warning before he smothers people between his butt cheeks. It’s just common courtesy.
- Finn and Jake put BMO in the bathtub to scrub his video, which is a hilarious little tech joke.
- My favorite lyrics from BMO’s tragic masterpiece, “Oh BMO, How’d You Get So Pregnant?”: “All right, last night an electric presence / Came into my room and said / BMO, I need your perfect body / To host the human incarnation of a baby!”
- “Ja-a-mes Baxter!”
- “Sorry, I acted like a little kitty cat.” A pussy, perhaps?
- “He broke my squishy bones.”