This weeks recommendation is the CArtoon Network produced short animated series ‘Over the Garden Wall’ which centers around the strange tale of two brothers trying to find their way home through a strange forest however about 5minutes into the first episode you realise there is much more to this show than meets the eye as it slowly becomes darker and darker and more engrossing by the minute.
The show is the first mini-series specifically developed for Cartoon Network, and stars Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd as two of the main characters who do a great job of bringing their unique voices to the characters. The story has many elements that become apparent as the series unfolds but the main tale centers around Wirt and Greg (Elijah Wood and Collin Dean respectively), who become lost in a strange forest called the Unknown. In order to find their way home, the two must travel across the forest, apparently magic, with the help of the wise, elderly Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd) and Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), an irritable bluebird who travels with the boys in order to undo a curse that has affected her whole family.
The first real positive to this series is that it has a very unique look to it, as at times you almost feel that some of the animation is painted over the backgrounds as the characters really stand out as works of beauty while the forest itself is allowed to look dark and moody with a host of creepiness lurking right at the edges of the screen. All of the characters are very well designed, and both Wirt and Greg look like bizarre children from a world far away as do many of the characters they meet. The woodsman looks like a broken man from the beginning, and this is only furthered as he is seen later on in the series and looks like he has gone through an ordeal between each time we meet him. Other characters of note are the walking and civilised frogs- yes im not making this up who look totally brilliant; the entire town of Pottsville and their pumpkin kin; Auntie Whispers and the eventual reveal of who or what the Beast may be.
The series starts out as simple mystery of how the children got lost and the tale of how they will get home, however after the mention of the Beast in the first episode you get a small sense of dread relating to their journey which is only further compounded by the woodsman warning “Beware the Unknown.” It’s from this point onwards that the show starts to feel less like a children’s animated short and really gains a sense of darkness which it only builds upon as the episode continue to move towards the end. There are some real moments of dread, as you know that given what has come before the latest character the boys have met cant be what the initially seem. The sense of dread you feel, really shows how good the show is at getting you attached to the characters (My daughter was very upset towards the end with one moment) and this is real testament to the writing of the show and the interactions between the brothers as you truly do want them to make their way home safely, and at the same time unravel the mysteries of this world.
With this being an episodic short series there is very little filler or wasted time within the episodes as each episode builds towards the climax while continuing to get darker and much more story focused. However along the way to the end there is a host of twists within the story that are somewhat shocking, and the final episode is the biggest of all of these as it takes place out of the continuity of the rest of the series before fitting nicely back into the correct and current time line. This episode works so well as it gives it a unique feeling, and its at this point you understand just how invested you have become in the characters and the series.
This show has a unique look, feel and a very well written narrative that really hooks you in and gets you truly engrossed within the universe and tale that’s being told. if there are any hidden gems of 2014 that need to be shared with the world this is easily one of the biggest and best.