Friday, November 14, 2014

Over the Garden Wall: A Dark Sort of Animation

    You know those series that you kind of snap out of watching in a fumbling, blurry mess, not knowing where you are or what time it is? It's kind of like getting drunk, but then having the hangover happen almost immediately. You love it but you hate it, you question your life over it but you'll do it again. And for me, this (the binge-watching daze not the drunk one) happened late one night when I was looking around for something to distract me from doing actual work.
     And luckily I happened to stumble across this little series, Over the Garden Wall, by Cartoon Network. The little eight year old within me perked up at seeing something that resembled the cartoons I had grown up loving fondly. And so I thought, why not, and plunged into the abyss. And so I found myself awake at 4am, desperately wanting to tell someone to experience roller coaster of emotions I had just been thrown on.
     This was everything that I love about cartoons because it's not something that can be explained completely in one sentence. Like I said, it also felt like a throwback to my childhood: a strangely dark and oddly twisted sort of storytelling.
      Written by Patrick McHale, it started off as an award-winning short called Tome of the Unknown that was picked up and produced as a full-length, ten-episode mini-series. Gathering some well known talent such as Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd, they've put life into these characters that is realistic in style and performance. Every single actor put life into their characters and they certainly wouldn't have been nearly as interesting had they not had the right voices.
    Over the Garden Wall follows two brothers (Greg and Wirt) who finds themselves lost in the woods, trying to find a way home. Their journey takes them across many lands and into many people, all of whom they effect in different ways. But while their journey seems whimsical on the surface, there's a darker tale that follows them like an ominous shadow. It's as if Alice in Wonderland and Courage the Cowardly Dog had a lovechild that was into musicals. It's a crazy sort of storytelling that you can't keep your eyes off of.
    And the aesthetic is something that made this a truly outstanding thing to see. It's a dark sort of animation in both context and illustration, one that only helps to express the tone of the series better than anything. It's as if we too are lost in these imposing woods, surrounded by an ominous feeling of being watched.
    Seeing the credits roll after the final episode, I was left feeling unsatisfied. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you question the universe. Because it was a story about two brothers more than it was a story about two brothers being lost in the woods. There's a sense of astute realness to their conversations and their actions (without the rigid confines of a writer trying to be too serious and prolific). And while it may have been non-sensical at times, there was still something about it that made sense in a linear fashion. Looking back, you can almost piece together what would happen next, given the many hints and clues that allude to what exactly is in "The Unknown."
     It's definitely a series to check out: if not for the aesthetic, for the story (and vice versa). It'll suck you in and it won't let you go until you've long since passed the urge to turn away. It'll leave you with more questions than answers, but you'll be okay with it. Because in the end it's just about two brothers. Two brothers who went over the garden wall.

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