Everyone has those movies that they rewatch every October. The Disney Channel original or classic Tim Burton film that scratches the Halloween itch just right. There really seems to be something for everyone when it comes to finding that perfect spooky movie!
One movie that is perfect for this time of year, but often under appreciated, is Cartoon Network’s 2014 release “Over The Garden Wall”. With an eerie soundtrack and atmosphere, chillingly spectacular animation, and a compelling plot, OTGW is the perfect spooky or fall season movie.
It originally aired on Cartoon Network from November 3rd to November 7th of 2014 as a miniseries. At the time, I was 11. I can remember seeing it on tv when it first aired and thinking “Oh my gosh, this is definitely not a kid’s show”. It gave me nightmares for weeks.
A fair word of warning, “Over the Garden Wall” isn’t your average children’s cartoon. Well some characters and monsters in the show can be frightening to a younger audience, the series also holds the reoccurring themes of death and mortality. The series main antagonist, The Beast, still to this day freaks me out. So now before you go off and watch this with your younger siblings or little cousins, you have been warned!
It wasn’t until last year when I revisited it that I found it’s mature themes and imagery were actually quite appealing to my older self! So allow me to share with you the magic of OTGW this Halloween, no spoilers!
The series was created by Patrick McHale, a creative director on Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time”, and based the series off his award winning short, “Tome of the Unknown” (2013), which is free to watch on Youtube. The cast includes Elijah Wood, who is best known for his role of Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series, Christopher Lloyd, Doc Brown in the Back to The Future series, as well as Tim Curry, Bebe Neuwirth, and John Cleese.
Over the course of the ten, short episodes we get to know our main characters, two stepbrothers named Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Greg (Collin Dean). They are lost in the Unknown, and with the help of a talking bluebird Beatrice and a frog of many names, try to find their way home.
The Unknown has a lot to offer as a setting. It is represented as a dark, unsettling forest that is seemingly never ending. As Wirt and Greg travel through, trying to find their way home, they only seem to get more lost. The boys soon discover that a creature known only has the Beast lurks within the Unknown and may be after them. Its a hopeless journey that the audience is sucked into.
The Unknown also contains several strange characters and unusual places. For example, in “Chapter Two: Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee”, the boys stumble upon the unique town of Pottsville, where the pumpkin headed residents are harvesting more than just vegetables. In “Chapter Five: Mad Love”, the boys meet a paranoid billionaire who’s home is so extensive, he’s convinced he’s not the only one living there anymore.
Along with the setting, another crucial piece of OTGW is it’s music!
If you were wondering if you’d enjoy OTGW, wonder no more! Just take one listen to the song linked above because it perfectly encapsulates the feel of the entire series. OTGW is filled with good music! The completely original soundtrack has an unsettling, folk-inspired vibe that fits the show so well! The characters themselves also occasionally sing. While most of their songs aren’t as morbid as the rest of the soundtrack, they can still give you chills! Though Greg himself sings the most upbeat songs of the series, “Potatoes and Molasses” and “Adelaide Parade”, two songs that I have caught myself humming multiple times.
The only thing that isn’t fully shown through the music is the whole other level the main characters bring to the show.
The main group is essentially the most normal characters in the series, a big contrast to the rest of the Unknown’s eccentric cast! Wirt especially is usually the voice of the audience when weird and creepy stuff starts happening. He freaks out and asks questions, much like any of us would if we were in his situation. Greg on the other hand, is mainly comedic relief. Throughout the series, he is uplifting and lighthearted, keeping the series from becoming too dark at some points. Of course the boy’s journey through the Unknown may be pointless and a metaphor for a human’s slow walk to death, but the cute little kid is singing a song, so it’s really not that bad! After being scared half to death by this series when I first saw it, I didn’t expect for it to have me laugh once, but it can actually be really funny at times!
I’m not going to pretend I know everything about what it takes to make a cartoon series for Cartoon-freaking-Network, but I can guess its a lot. Just the way the soundtrack, characters, settings, and design can fit so perfectly together is enough to let me known that a lot of time and work went into this series. And it pays off!
So would I say this series perfect? ABSOLUTELY! If you’re looking for a spooky cartoon to watch this Halloween or fall season, this is 100% the way to go. The first episode is on YouTube for free (its only 11 minutes) and if you enjoy that, then the whole series is available on Hulu and HBO Max. If you watch it, please comment your thoughts on it below!
Thanks for reading!