Over The Garden Wall: A Journey Into the Unknown

If dreams can’t come true, then why not pretend?

This marks the second article I have written on criminally underappreciated television programs. The last show I covered, Utopia, is a vastly different type of show, but one I wholeheartedly recommend. You can read that article here. Whereas Utopia is written for adults and is not a show that you would do well to put on for your children, Over the Garden Wall is a different story entirely. It bears the same care as the BBC program, but is suitable for children and adults alike.

Over The Garden Wall is an animated miniseries produced by, and aired on, Cartoon Network in the fall of 2014. The series is remarkable for its blending of folklore and modern day. Set in an ambiguous year the series follows Wirt and Greg, step-brothers who find themselves in a world entirely unfamiliar from the one they were in just minutes before the start of the show. Soon after the show begins, the brothers have already embarked on a journey to find their way home from the strange world they’ve found themselves in.

This journey makes up the meat of the program. Structured in a way similar to Mushi-Shi, a Japanese animated series which is also well worth your time, Over the Garden Wall is divided into largely self contained sections that function independently while still linking into the greater narrative. With just ten 10 minute episodes, the show never feels stale. Each episode is a unique excursion into the world of the show.

Each episode finds the brothers in a new environment with its own characters and mysteries. Among the most memorable rank: a manner owned by an eccentric businessman who they convince is their uncle; a small cottage inhabited by a young woman and a woman she calls Aunty Whispers; and a schoolhouse, populated with animals. Each of these could be the setting for a fairy tale of old but here are used as set-pieces to aid or hinder the brothers as they work to return home and avoid “The Beast.”

The Beast is first introduced in the premier episode by a woodsman Wirt and Greg happen upon in the wood. He warns them of the Beast and his evil intent. Throughout the following episodes the brothers encounter him multiple times as he stands between them and their way home.

I will stop there in describing the story because any more could be seen as spoilers. Still, the story is far from the spotlight of the show, read on for more on why the show is so special — or just go watch it now.

Over the Garden Wall has become a staple in my family. We rematch it yearly sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving — right about when the show itself takes place. Autumn is my favorite time of year. The pumpkin spice lattes, chilly weather, changing color palate and cozy atmosphere make it a time to look forward to throughout the rest of the year. Over the Garden Wall makes it just that much more special and embodies the season perfectly.

The world crafted by Over the Garden Wall creator Patrick McHale is one that begs to be visited. The beautiful vistas populated by colorful and interesting characters makes the program a joy to return to year after year. It is this, the ambiance of the show, that I believe is so alluring.

Over The Garden Wall will remain a favorite of mine for years to come. With fall on the horizon it is the perfect time to consider a journey into the world of the unknown.

My recommendations and reviews are underscored. Generally I find it difficult to translate my thoughts into a number that stays consistent. Instead I give my thoughts and allow you, the reader to make an educated decision on whether or not the subject of the piece deserves your time. What I will leave you with, however, is a brief rundown on the highlights and drawbacks of the show.

Highlights of the Show:

  • The ambiance
  • The art style and animation
  • Music / original soundtrack
  • Performances across the board

Less Standout Aspects:

  • Some of the stories in the middle episodes feel as though they were given too little attention.
  • One of the reveals in the penultimate episodes fell a bit flat when compared with the rest of the show.

Sam Duffy lives in California’s Bay Area. They write on a variety of topics from social justice to entertainment.

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