Adventure Time - Background

On the surface Adventure Time is just a wacky cartoon about the adventures of a boy and his dog. But this isn’t the case: Jake isn’t Finn’s pet but his friend and equal. And the other characters aren’t simply fantasy creatures. And the Land of Ooo isn’t simply a fantasy land. It’s the Earth of the future and the background to the series is much darker than you might think.


Great Mushroom War

It’s set after a world-ending war, called the Great Mushroom War. This happened 1000 years before the series is set, and apparently almost wiped out humanity and left the survivors mutated. Hence in the show we have Princess Bubblegum, a half-human half-bubblegum person, we have the King of Ooo, who is an earwax man, and we have Jake the talking dog, and we have people made out of wildberries and floating cloud-men.


So what was the Great Mushroom War? From its name, we can gather that it was a nuclear war which created huge mushroom clouds. A nuclear war would also produce the radiation needed to mutate mankind into berry-people and bubblegum-people and to cause dogs to talk (actually radiation would simply produce horrific birth-defects, but this is a cartoon, so let’s go with the mutant-people!) No mention is made of the cause of the war, but it can easily be guessed: a war between nuclear-armed superpowers, or even a global terrorist attack. The aftermath of the War can be seen on many episodes, with recognisably modern artefacts visible in the background, some civilian, some warlike: TVs, fridge magnets, rusted tanks, et cetera.


When was the Great Mushroom War? The show references the 1980s occasionally (for example, shows such as Mr Belvedere and Cheers), but nothing after that decade, so perhaps the event happened in the 1980s. The 80s were a period when the threat of global nuclear war was very present (whereas that threat is much-diminished nowadays). There’s no conclusive evidence  as to when the Great Mushroom War occurred, however: although the show explicitly says it happened 1000 years before, we don’t know the show’s “current” date, so that information is not helpful in pinning down the year it happened.



The show’s setting, the Land of Ooo, seems to be an island. There’s no telling where it is or what’s around it, but the Land itself is divided up into the various kingdoms that Finn and Jake visit throughout the show. Whether Ooo is a modern-day island which has survived the nuclear holocaust of the Great Mushroom War, or whether it’s emerged from out of the sea in the thousand years since the War, is unknown.


Languages spoken in Ooo include the main language, English, but also German, Korean (spoken by a couple of key characters such as Lady Rainicorn and Princess Bubblegum), French, Japanese, Spanish and Latin. The currency of Ooo is the dollar, and this, along with the existence of English as a main language, mixed with others, might indicate that Ooo is the future USA or at least a part of it. As the show is American, this would make sense.


If you want to get into the spirit of Adventure Time, we have some great Dr Martens kids’ shoes and boots based some of the key characters from the show.