Hot Daniel is dead. Long live Hot Daniel!
He only appears in this one episode, but Hot Daniel the Truck makes a lasting impression, sacrificing his life to save the Candy Kingdom from a giant lizard replicate of Princess Bubblegum. As flames char Daniel’s newly revived frame, Finn and Jake give their fallen brother two thumbs up for going out in a blaze of glory, and it’s a testament to the strength of this episode that the feeling of loss in these final moments is palpable. Hot Daniel is just a broken down truck that Finn finds on a walk, but his arrival reveals how a shared project can bring people together when the guys call in Banana Man to help figure out why it won’t run. The episode does remarkable work capturing the thrill of successfully completing a difficult task, so when a repaired and tricked out Hot Daniel goes careening into a giant lizard’s face, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness.
Over the past five seasons, the best episodes have fallen into three different camps: dramatic, comedic, and experimental. “We Fixed A Truck” is an outstanding comedic episode of Adventure Time, striking a perfect balance of education, music, action, and, most importantly, humor for 10 minutes that epitomize the show’s fun side. Based on the straightforward title and my general disinterest in auto mechanics, I didn’t have very high hopes for this episode, but the entire point of the first half of the story is to create an interest in auto mechanics for people like me. Finn, Jake, and BMO are ignorant about how cars work, so they ask Banana Man for help; luckily, the fruit is so desperate for friendship that he forgives them for destroying his home, his land, and his rocket in “The New Frontier” and jumps at the chance to fix Hot Daniel.
Given an awkward charm by voice actor Weird Al Yankovic, Banana Man is a great mechanics teacher, providing his helpers and the audience with a primer on how an engine uses fuel to power a vehicle. These include handy visual guides breaking down how the cylinders of an engine send an air-fuel mixture through a vehicle to power it, detailing a much more complicated process than the usual children’s show how-to segment. These guys aren’t cutting snowflakes from pieces of paper or making jewelry out of macaroni; they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with a complex machine and find a way to make it work again.
As someone who just went to a mechanic and mostly heard a bunch of gibberish when I was told what was wrong with the car, I was able to gain valuable information from “We Fixed A Truck.” It’s a wonderful feeling to watch a children’s show and actually learn something, and Banana Man’s engine cylinder lesson taps into the scientific reasoning section of my brain that hasn’t been exercised very much since high school. Learning what individual car parts are is enough of a challenge for kid viewers, but this episode goes even further and details the complex reactions occurring within those parts. Some people will be like Finn, Jake, and me, invisible question marks floating around their heads even after Banana Man breaks it down, but some will be like BMO and totally understand what he’s talking about. I can imagine kids watching this episode and developing a desire to become mechanics, one of those occupations that tends to not have the same allure as astronaut or firefighter or doctor.
Banana Man’s first appearance didn’t give Weird Al the opportunity to sing at all, but this episode remedies that by giving him an entire song about the joys of budding friendship. Weird Al has decades of experience bringing real passion to incredibly goofy songs, and that talent makes “Hanging Out Forever” a heartwarming exploration of Banana Man’s optimistic expectations for the future. The round of “hanging out forever,” “board-game Friday nights,” and “best friend pillow fights” at the end of the song creates a wave of good feelings, not unlike the happiness felt when chilling with a group of your best buds. This episode also features the return of one my favorite music cues on this show, the electronic montage music previously used for Ice King’s Manlorette Party in “When Wedding Balls Thaw.”
At the end of that montage, Hot Daniel is repaired, filled up with biodiesel made from oil stolen from a hashbrown pool in the Breakfast Kingdom, and ready to go. There’s a certain energy that comes from the sound of an engine roaring and tires screeching, and when the key turns and Hot Daniel roars to life, that energy drives the rest of the episode to its finale. Because of Starchy’s radio show, “Graveyard Shift,” BMO thinks an evil lizard has replaced Princess Bubblegum, so they take a beautifully animated joyride to the Candy Kingdom, the first and only joyride of Hot Daniel’s new life. That sleek sequence makes me wish for more of the tricked-out truck in the future, but alas, it’s not to be. The suspicions of Starchy’s radio show caller are proven correct and the gang turns Hot Daniel into a spinning death machine to stop the lizard monster, but he leaves this earthly plane in a way fully deserving of two enthusiastic thumbs up.
- My favorite visual gag of the episode is BMO changing his batteries. He places a new pair in the exact place where he’ll fall backwards after removing the old ones, experiencing a brief moment of no power before the fresh batteries click in place. Just a great moment of physical comedy using the given circumstances of BMO’s handheld console nature.
- Awesome Jake transformations this week: tire pump, tire jack, and thumbs-up tree.
- Banana Man’s teaching session reminds me of Howtoons, comics/instructional manuals that show kids how to create things like kaleidoscopes, an arsenal of summer weapons, and snow globes. Parents should check them out.
- "Okay, cool. Informative. (Whispers) What is he pointing at?"
- "You see, that's the cool thing about cars. One tiny little thing messed everything up, so nothing works. So it's up to us to figure it out!"
- "This grease monkey is torqued up on automotive science. (Crushes aluminum can on head.) Yeah boyee!"
- “They’re wrong! You look more like a hippo than a lizard.”
- “You ain’t got enough peel on that nanner!” Hot Daniel may be dead, but at least Banana Man might get some lovin’ out of all this.