Come Wayward Souls: Why You Should Watch Over The Garden Wall

This year I’d like to take a step back from the usual shock, gore, and uneasiness of many films associated with Halloween to bring light to a special little series. Over The Garden Wall is a ten episode miniseries that aired on Cartoon Network in 2014. The series follows siblings Wirt and Greg as they try to find their way through a mysterious forest called “the Unknown” with the help of a talking bird named Beatrice. Over the course of the show the brothers find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the Unknown, where nothing is ever quite what it seems. Although visually similar to other shows airing on the channel, Over The Garden Wall is a unique offering, and well worth at least watching once.

Perhaps the most immediately noticeable ways in which the show stands out is its look and atmosphere. Over The Garden Wall feels like something out of an early 20th century children’s book, and this comparison was entirely intended. Drawing from a variety of sources for inspiration, the creators of the show were able to give it a certain charm that you don’t see much these days. Old illustrations, comic strips, folk tales, superstitions, and literature all come together to paint a picture of old fashioned Americana not often seen in entertainment these days. In an era where most animators are inspired by 90s cartoons and anime, having a series on a major network feel like Wind In The Willows or Winnie-the-Pooh is fascinating to see. The warm, rustic aesthetic and cute characters may remind you of old cartoons or books you might have seen or read when you were younger. Stories where your neighbor could be a giant badger or a happy old wizard, and fantastical adventures start just by walking down the street.

The music is also superb. The Blasting Company provided excellent, period-appropriate tunes that work well with the old fashioned mood of many scenes. The song sung by the characters are particularly excellent. There often sung on the spot while the characters interact with their environments, which harkens back to old forms of entertainment where songs were part of the story. It also adds to the nostalgic feeling the show may give you, like an old holiday special or Disney movie.

But you’re not hear to read about a show that makes you feel nostalgic, you want something scary, right? Well, I can’t guarantee Over The Garden Wall, will scare your socks off (however that’s supposed to work), but it does have its fair share of creepiness. Instead of jump scares and a bunch of scary creatures, the atmosphere and music are used to create an uneasy feeling. As the brother’s journey goes on, the residents of the Unknown become stranger and stranger. Something is always off in away, and there’s a sense of an ever-present threat that exists out in the clouded mists of the forest. Its that odd mixture, halfway normal and halfway freaky, that can really get under your skin. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the series plays a lot with the idea of the unknown. Sometimes not knowing what lines ahead can be just as scary as any monster or murderer that can be metaphorically thrown at you. This is often optimized in a fear of the dark. Its a fear many of us could have had when we were kids, and helps tie together the way Over The Garden Wall plays with our own childhood experiences.

Which isn’t to say the series is all doom and gloom. It did, after all, air on Cartoon Network. What really brings everything together about this show are the characters, and how earnest the story feels. As someone who values strong, likable characters, I was pleasantly surprised. The characters are endearing, and it truly is incredible just how much the creators were able to do with them in such a short run time. Without trying to give too much away, Wirt and Greg’s trip ends up becoming deeply personal for the both of them, and what we assumed to be a strange fantasy kids story with some scary parts ends up being a very personal story that effortlessly blends the imaginary with reality. I’ve seen plenty of shows try to have big “shocking moments” and combine drama with fantasy, but they ultimately fall flat due to poor writing and poorer execution. Thankfully, we don’t see that here. Here the story thought out and well paced, and the characters are believable. At the core of this bizarre adventure through is a story with a lot of heart.

So while you know doubt have your own fall traditions, I’d highly like recommend you give Over The Garden Wall a shot. Sometimes journeying into the unknown isn’t so bad.

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About the Author

Greyson Nance is probably a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Art and plans to concentrate in graphic design. He enjoys jazz, comics, watching movies, sleeping, and a bunch of other stuff he can’t fit in a short bio.