horse on a beach ball

Animator Showcase: James Baxter

Here is an animator you may recognize as a certain horse riding a beach ball from Adventure Time, James Baxter!

James Baxter not only did work at Disney, but also at DreamWorks and later got to voice and animate two episodes of Adventure Time with James Baxter the Horse! Here are many examples of his amazing work and even check out his blog on @jbaxteranimator!

The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Character Animator for Joanna

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Supervising Animator for Belle

Originally posted by the-disney-elite

The Lion King (1994)

Supervising Animator for Rafiki

Originally posted by slipknotpyro

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Character Designer / Supervising Animator for Quasimodo

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Animator for Moses

Originally posted by holden-caulfieldlings

The Road to El Dorado (2000)

Senior Supervising Animator for Tulio & Animator for Chel

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

Senior Supervising Animator for Spirit

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Supervising Animator for Sinbad

Enchanted (2007)

Animation Supervisor 

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Animation Director for Dream Sequence

Gravity Falls (2012 - 2016)

Animator for Intro 

Originally posted by pretendplaytime-blog

Adventure Time (2010 - 2018)

Animator / Voice of James Baxter the Horse

Originally posted by 2dtraditionalanimation

Originally posted by crystalcrumblr

Samurai Jack (2017)

Animator on Episode XCV

I just saw another Adventure Time tattoo and had to submit mine!

This is my James Baxter tattoo. James Baxter the horse rides around on a beach ball and his only purpose is to make people happy.  I’ve struggled with depression for a long time, but every time I see him, he puts a smile on my face.  How can you not smile when you see him!?

Done by my good friend Javier, at Marks of Art in San Jose, CA.

Episode Review: ‘Horse & Ball’ (S08E18)
  • Airdate: January 26, 2017
  • Story by: Ashly Burch, Adam Muto, Kent Osborne, Jack Pendarvis
  • Storyboarded by: Seo Kim & Somvilay Xayaphone
  • Directed by: Cole Sanchez (supervising), Sandra Lee (art)

“James Baxter the Horse” is undeniably one of the highlights of Adventure Time’s excellent fifth season. There’s just something inherently funny about a gorgeously animated Adventure Time-stylized horse, rolling around atop a beach ball and exclaiming his name in a delightful British accent. In the past four or so years since the episode for aired, the beach-ball-balancing horse neighed his way into many hearts.

And in “Horse and Ball”, he returns!

In this episode, James Baxter’s beach ball is destroyed, causing the horse to go into a state of shock. Finn tries to cheer him up while Jake and BMO attempt to locate a new beach ball. Eventually, a beach ball is secured, but James Baxter decides to stop expending so much energy in making others happy, and instead make himself happy for once. The episode concludes with the horse break-dancing while neighing his name.

“Horse & Ball” is very similar to the previous James Baxter episode, “James Baxter the Horse”. However, this installment is a little more meaningful, as it functions as a backstory episode. We learn that James Baxter, before he took on his moniker was a relatively wealthy horse who wished to escape from the doldrums of modern horse society. After leaving the city and throwing what cash he had in a river, he stumbled upon a cave filled with abandoned toys. In this cave was also a sobbing bat. James Baxter, hoping to cheer the little critter up, grabbed a beach ball and began balancing on it. He looked around the room, saw two signs that read “Games” and “Bookstore”, and erroneously read aloud “James Baxter”. While balancing on the beach ball, he neighed this name, and successfully cheered the little bat up. Down the line, however, James’ attempts to cheer others up causes the little bat to sadly leave, possibly because she feels that James no longer has time for her.

What could all of this mean? I have a theory: could James Baxter be a metaphorical representation of Adventure Time itself? In the beginning, both James Baxter and the show decided to break from the norm and do something silly, spontaneous, and ultimately funny. Just as James Baxter cheered up a multitude of people, so too did Adventure Time. But as time wore on, some of those who had previously loved James Baxter felt abandoned (e.g. the little bat), and left. Likewise, some long-time fans of Adventure Time felt like the show changed and left them behind. As such, I contend that James Baxter coming to the realization that he should make himself happy is analogous to the Adventure Time staffers realizing that they should write episodes that make them feel creatively fulfilled, rather than delivering mere fan service. James’ breaking-dancing is thus a poetic way of representing the show’s breaking from the norm and trying new things (e.g. guest animated episodes, miniseries, solo storyboards).

Or, I could be reading waaaay into this.

As in “James Baxter the Horse”, James Baxter the animator once again showcases his artistic talents in this episode; in addition to voicing the character, the British artist animated several scenes featuring his equine counterpart. Baxter’s animation is smooth and beautiful, and while it fits into the Land of Ooo, it also stands out as its own, distinct thing. It is for this very reason that the James Baxter episodes are special: they are rare instances wherein the show’s aesthetic as we know it is laminated underneath another style, which both compliments the show’s usual style, and also makes the viewing experience unique (the only other episodes that do this very thing, in my opinion, are “Guardians of the Sunshine” and “Beyond the Grotto”).

And ultimately, the episode is very funny. Sometime in season 7, Seo Kim and Somvilay Xayaphone became the show’s ‘funny’ storyboarding duo, and their honed knack for comedy is on display here. Both of the ‘boarders’ halves of the episode make use of conventional humor, as well as lol-wut humor that we have all come to expect from Adventure Time (for instance, the explosion of the elder mole-person), and the result is an even and enjoyable episode.

And I feel the need to reiterate this: the episode ends with James Baxter the horse break-dancing. How can you not love that?

Mushroom War Evidence: The cave wherein James Baxter finds his ball appears to be the ruins of an old book and toy store.

Final Grade: