Review: “Over the Garden Wall”


Ashley Hoang, Co-Features Editor

Throughout history, animation has been for a younger audience; they dealt with simplistic themes and happier, lighter tones.

Cartoon Network’s new miniseries “Over the Garden Wall” contrasts with all of the norms and characteristics of the standard children’s cartoon show. Created by Patrick McHale — who also worked on other popular cartoon series as “Adventure Time” — the aesthetically vintage show incites a darkly comedic feel for viewers as it tells the story of two children who find themselves lost in a mysterious forest.

McHale’s miniseries is heavily influenced on European folklore; viewers are able to see traces of Brother Grimm’s elements woven into each chapter of the series.

Told in ten fifteen minute independent episodes, “Over the Garden Wall” follows the adventures of Wirt and Greg, two brothers who find themselves stranded in a mythical forest called “The Unknown.”

Wirt, voiced by Elijah Wood, is the older of the two and with his aversion to adventure, he symbolizes the rational, realist aspects of life. His younger brother, Greg, voiced by Collin Dean, is the foil to his brother: he provides charm and innocence to lighten the darker themes of the show, such as helplessness and loss of control.

Throughout their journey back home, they encounter terrifying creatures and whimsical characters that present an unique obstacle and challenge for them in each episode. Despite each episode being independent of each other, viewers are able to connect the mysterious stories together in the final episode.

The miniseries plays on it’s mismatched theme, its elaborate and extremely detailed background contrasts the character’s simplistic illustrations. The show also provides a quirky, comedic relief underneath its dark and spooky tones.

“Over the Garden Wall” also presents itself similar to the films of Hayao Miyazaki; some of his films include Spirited Away and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Similar to Miyazaki’s works, “Over the Garden Wall” also has the sense that true evil is rare: the wolf kills not because it’s cruel, but rather because it is hungry. Similarly, people hurt each other not out of malice, but because they have incompatible needs.

Viewers may initally find themselves confused due to the stories serialized nature and because it requires viewers to piece the story together themselves. However, as the story unfolds, viewers will find themselves engulfed in the story’s mythical world as they discover the answer behind the plot.

While the series is generally aimed for the younger audience, teenagers are able to relate to the angst, the older-sibling-versus-younger-sibling dynamics, and laugh at the show’s ironic humor and representation of modern dilemmas in a folk setting.

“You don’t need directions, pilgrim,” someone tells Wirt. “You follow that compass in your heart.”

“No,” Wirt replies. “I think we need directions.