|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||8|
|Original network||Cartoon Network|
|Original release||November 16 – November 19, 2015|
Stakes is an American animated miniseries based on the show Adventure Time by Pendleton Ward. It aired as part of the show's seventh season from November 16, 2015 to November 19, 2015 on Cartoon Network. Adventure Time follows the adventures of Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada), a human boy, and his best friend and adoptive brother Jake (voiced by John DiMaggio), a dog with magical powers to change shape, grow and shrink at will. In this limited event series, Princess Bubblegum (voiced by Hynden Walch) removes Marceline the Vampire Queen's (voiced by Olivia Olson) vampiric essence, which unleashes five recently resurrected vampires onto Ooo. Marceline, Bubblegum, Finn, Jake, and Peppermint Butler (voiced by Steve Little) are forced to deal with the fallout.
The miniseries' story was developed by series creator Pendleton Ward, showrunner Adam Muto, head writer Kent Osborne, and staff writer Jack Pendarvis. The eight episodes were storyboarded by Ako Castuera, Jesse Moynihan, Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Herpich, Seo Kim, Somvilay Xayaphone, Emily Partridge, and Luke Pearson, whilst Andres Salaff, Elizabeth Ito, and Muto handled supervising direction. Former Adventure Time storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar returned briefly to the show to voice Marceline's mother, and to contribute a song, entitled "Everything Stays". Stakes was a ratings success, and was met with mostly positive reviews, with Sugar's song in particular being met with critical applause. With that being said, a few commentators felt that the miniseries did not meet expectations. For his work on the Stakes finale, Herpich won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation at the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in 2016. Stakes was released on DVD on January 19, 2016.
Told in eight parts, Stakes documents the reemergence of five of Marceline the Vampire Queen's most powerful vampiric foes: the Fool (voiced by Ron Funches), the Empress Eyes (voiced by Rebecca Romijn), the Hierophant (voiced by Paul Williams), the Moon (voiced by Beau Billingslea), and the Vampire King himself (voiced by Billy Brown). The quintet remerges after Bubblegum tries to extract Marceline’s vampiric essence, in an attempt to return Marceline to her normal half-demon state. The reappearance of these vampires forces Marceline, Bubblegum, Finn, Jake, and Peppermint Butler to stake them one-by-one.
Stakes was announced in February 2015 alongside news of Long Live the Royals, a separate miniseries created by Sean Szeles, at an upfront regarding Cartoon Network's programming for the 2015 to 2016 television season. Writing for Cartoon Brew, Amid Amidi speculated that both were commissioned following the success of Over the Garden Wall, the network's first miniseries created by Patrick McHale (a former writer for Adventure Time). Michael Ouweleen, the chief marketing officer of the network, later said that "miniseries provide the network with more opportunities to try different creative textures and give new properties a chance to get on air." Despite being touted by some outlets as a "spin-off", Adventure Time showrunner Adam Muto later clarified that Stakes would air as part of the series' seventh season.
At the 2015 New York Comic Con, Muto revealed that the miniseries originated with ideas that were initially developed during the show's second season. He remarked, "There was this idea from season two about Marceline and ... how she got her powers to begin with. We kind of rolled with that and expanded that into eight episodes." When Olivia Olson—the voice actress who plays Marceline—was informed that the show would be making an eight-part series about her character, she reportedly cried because she was so excited. Due to the Marceline-centric nature of the miniseries, a new opening was created that features Olson singing the theme song. This intro was storyboarded by Tom Herpich and was animated by Masaaki Yuasa's company Science SARU.
The miniseries' story was developed by head writer Kent Osborne, series creator Pendleton Ward, Jack Pendarvis, and Muto. The eight episodes were storyboarded by Ako Castuera, Jesse Moynihan, Muto, Hanna K. Nyström, Herpich, Seo Kim, Somvilay Xayaphone, Emily Partridge, and Luke Pearson. Andres Salaff, Elizabeth Ito, and Muto served as the miniseries' supervising directors. Notably, the miniseries saw the return of several artists who had previously left the series, like Castuera (a storyboard artist who had left the series after working on the fifth season finale "Billy's Bucket List"), and Rebecca Sugar (a storyboard artist and songwriter, who had left the series after working on the fifth season episode "Simon & Marcy"). Castuera storyboarded the first, sixth, and seventh parts of Stakes alongside Moynihan, and Sugar wrote a new song for the miniseries entitled "Everything Stays" and voiced Marceline's mother.
In regards to the miniseries' song "Everything Stays", Nyström revealed that, during the storyboarding of the episode of the same name, she found herself unable to write a lullaby for the scene between Marceline and her mother. She relayed her issue to Muto, who contacted Sugar and asked if she would be willing to pen the song. Sugar agreed and based the song on an incident in which she lost a stuffed animal in a garden. A year later, she found it; the sun had bleached the exposed surfaces, but the underside was still the same. She explained, "[The stuffed animal] wasn’t better, or worse, just different. It was the first time I realized that things will change no matter what, even if they’re left alone, and stay completely still." Muto was excited to have Sugar return to work on the show, and noted at the 2015 Adventure Time San Diego Comic-Con International panel that "because [Stakes] was a Marceline miniseries, it wouldn't really feel complete unless Rebecca Sugar wrote a song for it." At San Diego Comic-Con, Sugar and Olson performed the song live.
Ghostshrimp, a background artist who worked on the series during seasons one through four, also returned to draw around 70 background pieces for this miniseries. Ghostshrimp, who had left the series during the middle of season four, noted: "I was super pumped that they wanted me to work on it, [and] it was great to return to that world for another go around."
The miniseries features vocal performances courtesy of the show's regular crew: Jeremy Shada (who voices Finn the Human), John DiMaggio (who portrays Jake the Dog), Olivia Olson (who portrays Marceline), Tom Kenny (who lends his voice to the Ice King), Hynden Walch (who voices Princess Bubblegum), Steve Little (who plays Peppermint Butler), and Pendleton Ward (who voices Lumpy Space Princess). The Adventure Time cast records their lines together in group recordings as opposed to different recording sessions with each voice actor. This is to record more natural sounding dialogue among the characters. Hynden Walch has described these group recordings as akin to "doing a play reading—a really, really out there play."
The miniseries also features several guest actors lending their voices to various characters. Sugar, in addition to her role as songwriter, was also brought on board to voice Marceline's mother; this role marks her first foray into voice acting. Other guest stars include Rebecca Romijn as Empress Eyes, Billy Brown as the Vampire King, Paul Williams as the Hierophant, Ron Funches as the Fool, Beau Billingslea as the Moon, Kyle Kinane as Cloud Dance, and Ava Acres as Young Marceline and the rabbit-hatted child.
Release and reception
Although several sources suggested that the miniseries would air in October 2015, the miniseries instead debuted on Cartoon Network on November 16, 2015. An exclusive sneak peek was screened at the New York Comic Con on October 9. The first two episodes of Stakes debuted on November 16, and, following this, two episodes aired every day for three days. On November 20, the entirety of the miniseries re-aired. On January 18, 2016, preceding the miniseries' January 19, 2016, DVD release in the United States, Cartoon Network aired Stakes as an 88-minute standalone movie.
The miniseries made its international debut on Cartoon Network in Australia and New Zealand on January 18, and concluded airing on January 21, 2016. Stakes premiered on Cartoon Network UK and Ireland on March 14, 2016, and concluded on March 17, 2016.
According to a Cartoon Network press release distributed prior to Stakes being available on DVD, the miniseries was a "phenomenal success, ranking as the #1 program in its time period with all key kids and boys audiences." The premiere episodes, "Marceline the Vampire Queen"/"Everything Stays", were collectively watched by 1.87 million viewers and they both scored a 0.45 in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic according to Nielsen (Nielsen ratings are audience measurement systems that determine the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States); this means that 0.45 percent of all households with viewers aged 18 to 49 years old were watching television at the time of the episodes' airing. This made the two episodes the most-watched installments of the series, in terms of viewers, since the sixth season episode "The Diary", which was viewed by 1.91 million viewers. The miniseries' finale, "Checkmate"/"The Dark Cloud", was viewed by 1.7 million viewers, and scored a 0.4 in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.
Stakes was met with mostly positive reviews, although a few commentators felt that the miniseries did not meet expectations. Charlie Jane Anders of io9 applauded the miniseries, noting that it's an interesting meditation on the concept of change, as well as the on philosophical idea that everything is cyclical. In regards to the art and direction of the miniseries, Anders wrote: "There is so much insane gorgeous imagery in this [miniseries], including a ton of really fantastic dream sequences. This show is really pushing its limits in terms of pure visual artistry." Anders noted that, while some fans of the show have been suffering from "Adventure Time fatigue"—largely based on the belief that the show has not moved forward since Finn met his father—Stakes "really feels like a rejoinder to the people who complain the show isn’t moving fast enough with its plots". Writing for Vox, Todd VanDerWerff wrote highly of the miniseries, arguing that it was an excellent example of the coming-of-age story that "shows off the kids series' emotional maturity". He did note that the miniseries is "less a cohesive whole than a bunch of short stories that feel as if they accidentally add up to something bigger", and that the need for every installment to exist as a self-contained unit made Stakes "a little clunky". With that being said, he felt that it ended up being "suitably epic" and "rich with metaphor". Ultimately, VanDerWerff felt that the moral message of the miniseries was: "Change is good. Growth is good. Supporting others' growth is good. And accepting others when they need to change is the best thing you can do."
Heather Hogan of Autostraddle lauded the miniseries for "color[ing] in some of Marceline's past, answer[ing] lots of questions about her relationship with Bonnie, and promis[ing] her a richer future." She argued that the miniseries as a whole was a commentary on depression, and that at the conclusion of Stakes, while Marceline had not vanquished depression, "fighting it helped her grow." Brandon Russell of TechnoBuffalo wrote, "The miniseries does an excellent job of exploring themes of depression, change, and forgiveness." Russell praised the miniseries for showing Marceline's emotional transformation, noting that Marceline's momentary depression in "The Dark Cloud" at the futility of her plight is "a reminder that, although change is hard, it's necessary for growth." However, Russell critiqued the fact that, due to the individual episodes' lengths, some of the miniseries' more poignant material was not explored to its full extent.
Oliver Sava of The A.V. Club awarded the miniseries a "B", noting that the event "loses steam when it moves away from the introspective personal elements of the past to detail Marceline and her friends' vampire hunting adventure in the present." He also bemoaned the fact that only "Everything Stays" features flashbacks, arguing that "rushing through those past events is a missed opportunity to offer a more comprehensive look at where Marceline comes from and how those circumstances have shaped her". With that being said, Sava was highly complimentary towards the voice acting, with praise being directed towards Olson and the actors who voice the villains; Sava wrote, "The new characters' personalities are quickly solidified by the guest stars' expressive performances." Eric Thurm of Pitchfork Media opined that Stakes "includes all sorts of cool action sequences and, best of all, it focuses on the backstory of the show's most musical character: Marceline [...] But Stakes, as fun as it is, ultimately fails to fully deliver, mostly because of a lack of, um, stakes."
Sugar's "Everything Stays" was met with critical praise. VanDerWerff described it as "beautiful". Russell argued that it is "arguably the most beautiful and poignant song in the Adventure Time canon." Sava called it "poignant", noting that "Olson brings a mournful quality to the song when Marceline reprises it later, and the combination of her somber vocals with Sugar's delicate songwriting gives the song a quiet power that highlights the importance of this melody in Marceline's story." Likewise, Thurm called it the "most exciting moment" in the miniseries and that the song "is pretty much a perfect Adventure Time song. It's quiet, beautiful, and heartfelt—a lullaby for children at heart, no matter their age."
For his work on "The Dark Cloud", Tom Herpich won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation at the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in 2016, making it the series's fifth win in this category.
|Written and storyboarded by||Original air date||Prod.|
|1||"Marceline the Vampire Queen"||Andres Salaff||Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan||November 16, 2015||1034-212||1.87|
|Marceline approaches Princess Bubblegum and asks her to cure her of her vampirism, as she no longer wants to be immortal. Bubblegum agrees to perform an experimental procedure which extracts the vampiric essence from Marceline's body, but is unsure of whether it has worked or not. As Marceline recovers, the extracted essence gains a mind of its own and escapes. Meanwhile, Finn and Jake are called out to investigate livestock being attacked by a bloodsucking creature. Suspecting Marceline, Finn and Jake confront her, only to discover the extracted essence has transformed into the vampire attacking the livestock. However, as Finn and Jake chase the vampire, a mob of angry villagers capture Marceline and leave her to be destroyed by the rising sun.|
|2||"Everything Stays"||Elizabeth Ito||Adam Muto & Hanna K. Nyström||November 16, 2015||1034-213||1.87|
|As the sunlight engulfs Marceline, she begins reliving memories of her past. As a child, she is comforted by her mother's lullaby. She witnesses Simon leaving her to protect her from himself. As a teenager, she hunts vampires and discovers she can absorb their powers. Later she befriends a tribe of Hyoomans, who are constructing a boat to escape the continent and avoid an impending catastrophe they fear will happen. Marceline helps fight off more vampires, and tells the Hyoomans to flee when the Vampire King arrives. Back in the present, everybody is shocked when they see that the sunlight doesn't kill Marceline, meaning that she has been cured of her vampirism. Meanwhile, Jake encounters the vampires Marceline had previously killed, now resurrected from Marceline's freed vampiric essence.|
|3||"Vamps About"||Andres Salaff||Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard||November 17, 2015||1034-214||1.82|
|Old foes surface from Marceline's past. The five deadliest vampires on the planet are the Vampire King, strongest of the vampires, The Fool with his flight power, The Empress with her invisibility and her hypnotic eyes, the shape-shifting but old-fashioned Hierophant and the ever healing and nearly unkillable vampire the Moon. The vampires are surprised that they are alive again, but quickly disagree on what to do next and go off on their separate ways. Witnessing this, Jake warns Finn and Marceline. Upon realizing the Vampire King is alive again, Marceline flashes back to her previous battle with him. In order to preserve the vampire race, the Vampire King sacrificed himself to bite Marceline, making her the last vampire. Marceline manages to track down and confront the resurrected Vampire King, killing the Fool and reabsorbing his power of flight. However, before she can battle the still weak Vampire King, he warns her that the Empress is headed for the Ice Kingdom. Fearing for the Ice King's safety, Marceline leaves immediately.|
|4||"The Empress Eyes"||Elizabeth Ito||Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone||November 17, 2015||1034-215||1.82|
|The Empress (who had previously known Simon) arrives at the Ice Kingdom and uses her powers to hypnotize the Ice King, ordering him to bring her the blood of Finn. Marceline attempts to attack the Empress right as the Ice King returns with a captured Finn. Finn escapes, and the Empress orders Ice King to capture them. In an attempt to jog the Ice King's memory, Marceline tells him that she was motivated to start hunting vampires when she killed one trying to attack a human family. However, it is revealed that the Ice King was never hypnotized by the Empress, but merely acting as he always does around women. Marceline then attacks the Empress, but the Empress quickly gains the upper hand until she is paralyzed by a special gun Bubblegum developed. Marceline kills the Empress and reabsorbs her power of invisibility. She then apologizes to her friends for trying to fight the vampires alone and tells them they will hunt the remaining vampires together.|
|5||"May I Come In?"||Adam Muto||Emily Partridge & Luke Pearson||November 18, 2015||1034-216||1.85|
|While on the trail of the vampire known as The Moon, they then run into trouble when the shape-shifting vampire Hierophant tracks them and finds them. The group attempts to fight him, but he proves to be too powerful. When notified by Peppermint Butler that the Hierophant cannot enter houses without permission, Jake shapeshifts into a house and the group takes shelter inside. The Hierophant then tells Marceline that he did not come to fight, but to propose an alliance to take down the Vampire King together. Marceline agrees only on the condition that the Hierophant no longer drinks blood, but he attacks her instead. During the struggle, he is accidentally knocked into Jake and dies due to entering a house uninvited. Marceline reabsorbs his shapeshifting powers, but then falls ill, having been stung and poisoned by the Hierophant's stinger.|
|6||"Take Her Back"||Andres Salaff||Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan||November 18, 2015||1034-217||1.85|
|Princess Bubblegum takes Marceline to the Candy Kingdom to try to find a cure for the Hierophant's poison. Meanwhile, Finn and Jake track down the Moon in hopes of using her healing power to heal Marceline. Upon finding the Moon, they find that due to her healing powers, they cannot kill her with their stakes. When the sun sets, the Moon wakes up and Finn and Jake flee, luring the Moon to the Candy Kingdom. However, when they try to fight back, the Moon uses her powers to incapacitate Finn and Jake as she attempts to kill Marceline. Fortunately, Peppermint Butler stabs the Moon in the back, her only weak spot, and Marceline reabsorbs the Moon's healing power and fully recovers from the poison.|
|7||"Checkmate"||Elizabeth Ito||Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan||November 19, 2015||1034-222||1.70|
|While Marceline and the group plan how to battle the Vampire King, he himself appears before them. The group attempts to attack him, but Vampire King reveals that he has no wish to fight them. He has grown tired of his endless battle against Marceline, and instead seeks a new path by asking Bubblegum to cure him of his vampirism. The group reluctantly agrees to help the Vampire King and takes him to Bubblegum's lab, where she extracts the Vampire King's vampiric essence. As a result, the Vampire King reverts to his original form, a lion. Bubblegum then tasks Peppermint Butler with properly disposing the essence to ensure it cannot harm anybody, but he accidentally drops the container and releases the essence, which explodes into a black cloud and begins to form into a giant monster.|
|8||"The Dark Cloud"||Andres Salaff||Tom Herpich & Steve Wolfhard||November 19, 2015||1034-219||1.70|
|The essence forms into the Dark Cloud, which begins to make its way towards the Candy Kingdom. As Finn, Jake, and Bubblegum go out to battle the Dark Cloud, Marceline loses the will to fight, believing everything she has done has made matters worse. The Ice King then arrives to observe the battle and after a brief talk with him, Marceline decides to fight the Dark Cloud to save her friends. Meanwhile, the Candy People witness Bubblegum battling the Dark Cloud, and sick of the King of Ooo's leadership, overthrow him and head out to battle the Dark Cloud. Other Kingdoms from Ooo such as the Fire Kingdom join in on the attack. Marceline finally arrives and uses her demonic powers to absorb Dark Cloud at the cost of becoming a vampire again. However, Marceline is fine with being a vampire again, as she feels she managed to mature during her brief time as a mortal. As Marceline sings her mother's lullaby, it is shown that Bubblegum once again becomes the princess of the Candy Kingdom and the rest of the residents of Ooo return to their normal lives.|
|Set details||Special features|
|Region 1||Region 4||Region A||Region B|
|January 19, 2016||April 6, 2016||TBA||TBA|
- Adventure Time staffers Andy Ristaino and Nick Jennings had previously won this reward in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and Herpich had previously won in 2016; "Bad Jubies" production designer Jason Kolowski also won in 2016, and because his name was listed first in press releases, Herpich's award is being counted as the series' fifth win in this category.
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- Production codes for the season derived from the following sources:
- Adventure Time production staff (November 8, 2013). "King of Ooo". Tumblr. Retrieved November 9, 2013. Note: Production codes are stamped onto various storyboards that must be searched for.
- "Adventure Time – Season 7". Cartoon Network. Retrieved January 10, 2016. Note: Production numbers are listed following the code line "<episodeNumber>".
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- Lambert, David (November 3, 2015). "Adventure Time – CN/Warner Announce a DVD Date for 'Volume 11: Stakes!'". TVShowsOnDVD. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- See the following sources:
- "Cartoon Network: Adventure Time – Stakes! Miniseries (V11)". Amazon.com. ASIN B017E6KW0A.
- "JB Hi-Fi | Adventure Time: Stakes! DVD". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved November 17, 2016.