Shows airing on channels like Cartoon Network can easily be passed off as nothing more than entertainment for kids, however time and time again cartoons continue to capture and inspire imaginations across the world. Nonesuch cartoon does this with as much heart, whimsy, and depth as the miniseries Over the Garden Wall. An exploration of dark gothic fantasies, it proudly wears its fairy-tale themes on its sleeve, borrowing from the uncanny fables we are all too familiar with; but hiding under the veneer of these tales comes a deeply complex cartoon about family, adventure, and young love.
Over the Garden Wall, a miniseries that originally aired on Cartoon Network, has now found its home on Prime Video. The episodes consist of a short runtime filled with a treasure trove of quality gothic nuances. The show follows young brothers Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Greg (Collin Dean) as they are thrown 'over the garden wall' into the unknown, and are left trying to get home. From the first moments the show invites you in with a plethora of sombre piano notes... played by a frog. A gentle voice begins to sing as we are introduced to flickering snapshots of a bygone era that hint at the ghostly tales to follow. This brief quirky window welcomes the audience and immerses them in the desolate wasteland of the unknown, inhabited by the series antagonist: The Beast.
The show beautifully blends a dark and pastel pallet of colors creating a foreboding sense of dread. Shadows too are implemented beautifully, becoming inky twisting amalgams of darkness within the already spine-chilling woods. This, accompanied by the Beasts omnipresent baritones echoing throughout, generates a harrowing world, one which seems imagined from the pages of a storybook. The contained narratives within each chronicle help to develop our characters as the show reaches its climax. Episodes challenge the viewer, with characters often contorting the narrative in unexpected ways. When all seems lost the plot is flipped on its head, subverting assumptions in new and interesting ways. The show is a homage to the gothic as much as a critique of it, and this is where it shines.
With a surprising amount of star power, the cast brings stellar voice acting to each role. Wood mans the helm as Wirt and brings the same feeling of heart, naivety, and sense of adventure that is synonymous with his famous Frodo. The supporting cast is littered with acting royalty, whether it be the spritely delight of John Cleese as Quincy Endicott or the sporadic panic of Christopher Lloyd’s Woodsman. The show is filled with a variety of distinct voices fitting the gothic themes perfectly.
The show is innovative and refreshing, for it to be simply be passed off as a kid’s cartoon is an insult to the masterpiece that Patrick McHale has thoughtfully crafted. So turn off the lights grab a blanket, get the hot chocolate, and allow yourself to be whisked away to the immersive world that Over the Garden Wall offers. The show can be binged in just over ninety minutes and although it does not offer as much watching as the sword-swinging spectacular that is Games of thrones or The Witcher, this quaint little gothic fairy-tale fits beautifully into an evening. Over the Garden wall can be watched now on Prime Video and is more than worth the cost or subscription.
Review by James Watkins