There is a really fun series I do over on my youtube channel that I normally post on my other blog smilingldsgirl.com called The Friday 5. It was set up by a fellow youtuber named Sarah Crawford and each week she picks a topic and we have to choose 5 of our favorite songs that fit that topic. Normally my other blog is more suited to music but since this one involved animation I decided to include it on this blog this week.
This week’s topic was ‘5 of your favorite themes from TV Shows” and since animation is my favorite I decided to go with that.
I think they are 5 really fun themes and 5 great shows. If you haven’t seen them you should totally check them out. What are some of your favorite themes from TV shows, animated or not? I would love to hear. I do this series every week and next week is wild card so if you have any suggestions of a fun topic I could pick put in the comments section. If any of you have youtube channels it’s a very fun series to be a part of.
I know I am super late in the world of animation bloggers with this post but I finally got around to seeing the Cartoon Network series Over the Garden Wall from last year and let me just say the hype is deserved. Wow!
Created by Patrick McHale from a short he did called The Tome of the Unknown, Over the Garden Wall is a miniseries about two step-brothers who get lost in a mysterious forest world. The only way I can think to describe it is a mixture of Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. It has the randomness of Alice and the journey of Wizard.
For people that bemoan the state of 2D hand drawn animation this is stunning. It looks so beautiful particularly how it uses light to create layers of the forest and to show mood. I was blown away by the animation! It’s unique and shows a lot of different styles while still keeping a consistent feel. It is carefully done animation with little details like the lighting on Greg’s teapot hat always reflecting what’s going on or the colors and texture on Beatrice’s wings. It’s lush, varied, and it reminded me in animation quality of Spirited Away- no small compliment!
Each episode is actually 2 10 minute shorts or chapters in the story of getting the boys Wirt (Elijah Wood) and young Greg (Collin Dean) home. They are such well written complex characters especially Wirt. He worries about life and doesn’t like to take risks. He’s resentful of Greg and I think a little bit envious. He wishes his family wasn’t a blended family and that Greg didn’t even exist. He wants to go back home but he is not unempowered or weak.
Greg is sweet and carefree. He loves nature and carries around a frog that he often gives historical names too. He is unafraid of monsters and when given the chance to lead he takes it very seriously. A character like Greg could be grating and irritating but he’s not. He also gives most of the humor of the show (and it can be very funny).
They have a third member of their group a blue jay named Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey) who joins the boys to try and find Adelaide a mysterious woman who will break the curse on her family and help the boys get home. Beatrice gets irritated easily and is free with her opinion about everything. It’s a funny juxtaposition given she’s a sweet looking bluebird without being too crass or vulgar. Her character arc has much of the heart of the series.
There is a beast in the forest and a woodsman (Christopher Lloyd) as well as other magical creatures. It can be quite scary and probably isn’t for very small children. But the segments are short so you are never left dwelling on the scary for long.
In a world where hardly anything feels new Over the Garden Wall is such a refreshing surprise. Every episode feels like something I’ve never seen before. It’s so creative and different and constantly surprised me. It might be a little too random for some people but I thought that’s what made it brilliant. You never knew what to expect. It could be a bonfire with vegetable people or frogs on a cruise or a trip into the clouds. Whatever it is I loved it!
I love how the boys interact with each other. It felt like 2 brothers, especially two step brothers. I like that they never had to ‘learn’ anything and yet they did. It’s not one of those animated shows where there is a moral at the end of every episode. Sometimes there isn’t even a story. It’s just the boys interacting with cool stuff (again kind of like Alice in Wonderland in that regard).
The music is also wonderful and eclectic. Some songs are very fun like Potatoes and Molasses, others are spooky, others are very tender and heartbreaking.
I’m not sure who wrote the score but it is perfect. It manages to feel consistent with all the eclectic stories being told.
Normally I hate when adults play children on animated shows (Simpsons being the exception) but here Elijah Wood is terrific as Wirt. He captures a skeptical but earnest teen so well. All the vocals are great including John Cleese, Tim Curry, Chris Isaak, Shirley Jones and more. You can tell this was a real labor of love for all involved.
People are always bemoaning the lack of originality in today’s television and movies. Indeed it feels like every day we get a new sequel, prequel, remake or adaptation. This makes Over the Garden Wall even more of a treasure. It’s so original in every way. I think you could watch it a thousand times and get something new each time. Each episode is so rich with details and artistry it is definitely one I want to get on blu-ray.
Especially as lovers of animation we need to support such creative visionaries and let the Cartoon Network know such efforts are appreciated. I would love to see a series 2 of Over the Garden Wall but I hope at least the network will continue producing such bold entertainment.
Any of you see Over the Garden Wall? What did you think? It’s the kind of series you want to discuss so feel free in the comments.
Since its animation I thought I would share with you a video I just posted of my favorite Simpsons episodes. It’s a longer video but the list starts at 4:17 mark. Please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel if you haven’t.
My top 13 Simpsons episodes.
13. Brick Like Me
12. Bart the Mother
11. Bart on the Road
10. When Flanders Failed
9. Bart Gets an F
8. The Cartridge Family
7. Treehouse of Horror V
6. Secret War of Lisa Simpson
5. Homer the Great
4. Lisa Gets an A
3. Marge vs the Monorail
2. King Sized Homer
1. Homer’s Enemy.
Being a Disney buff I have often been asked for my feelings on Once Upon a Time and indeed I probably should have started watching the show much sooner but it was on Sunday nights and my Sunday nights were filled with Amazing Race, The Simpsons and other shows. Now TAR is on Fridays and I find myself having little to nothing to watch on Sundays besides the Simpsons and I’d heard great things about the recent OUAT season featuring characters from Frozen that I decided to give it a watch. Luckily seasons 1-3 are on Netflix stream so that makes catching up very easy!
It’s a pretty simple premise for a show, one that only ABC could stage with it’s Disney pedigree. The story begins with a town in Maine called Storybrooke. It is a town of displaced fairytale creatures who have all forgotten their alter-egos because of a curse put on them all by the Evil Queen/Regina in modern world. Regina is played with a lot of gusto by Lana Parilla.
A seeming commoner named Emma comes into the town by a boy who claims to be her son. She is played with mixed results (the acting is not great in this show…) by Jennifer Morrison who some might recognize from How I Met Your Mother.
Henry played by Jared S Gilmore is Regina’s adopted son but he hates her and knows she is out to destroy everyone in Storybrooke. It’s kind of funny to have a kid completely deplore their mother. Never seen that in a show before.
Emma becomes the Sheriff and as she seeks to uncover her past we meet with a variety of storybook characters. The biggest are Snow White played by Ginnifer Goodwin, who I am not a huge fan of but she is Ok here. Of course she has her Prince Charming who is played by Josh Dallas in a more fleshed out role than the few seconds the animated film gives us (naturally of course). His storylines about being a false prince is one of the most entertaining of the first season.
Then we get episodes with one or more of the following characters.
Geppetto and Pinocchio
Belle played by Lost’s Emile de Ravin
Cinderella played by Jessy Schram
The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio (and other fairies and one who I think is Tinker Bell but I’m not sure) The 7 Dwarves, Grumpy in Particular gets a plot Hansel and Gretel
Red Riding Hood by Meghan Ory
Jimminy Cricket- a heavy Snow White and Pinocchio influence on the show
The Mad Hatter
And our main villain of the franchise aside from Regina is Rumpelstiltsken who is played very creepily by Robert Carlyle. I kind of hope that success of this series might inspire Disney to do a Rumpelstiltsken. I’ve often wondered what their version would look like. It would be different than any of their other animated fairytales because it would have to feature a princess who gets married towards the beginning of the story and has a baby. So far Disney princesses have always been virginal adolescent girls. Also, you’d have to have her marry a King who was going to kill her if she didn’t make straw into gold which isn’t exactly PC but it would be interesting to see what the Disney people could do with it .
So what are my thoughts on the first 22 episodes of the show? Well, overall I’m entertained by it. The acting is sometimes cringe-worthy and the production values are not strong but the story is interesting enough and keeps me flipping between worlds enough to be engaged. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, just a lot of fun.
Some may wonder why I hated Maleficent, a recent fairytale adaptation and give a passing recommendation to this telling. Here’s the difference- Maleficent fundamentally changes the characters. What was once evil is now good and what was good is evil or inattentive and idol at best. In this show what was bad in the movies are still bad. Sure Regina has a few softer moments but she’s pretty ruthless both as the queen and mayor of town. Anything that is added to it is in addition to the original stories, not a replacement for those stories.
Maleficent pissed me off because it ruined the character of Maleficent. Plus, I am way more likely to be forgiving of terrible production values and bad acting in a TV show than a big budget Disney movie. When they carefully restage pivitol scenes from the original movie and then change everything that happens it makes me angry. They do not do anything like that here in Once Upon a Time. The events are the fairytales. It is the before and after for the characters and the importance of said actions that matter.
For example, the Snow White story is basically the same as the movie down to the poison apple. Where it changes is after they are married and the curse is placed on them and all in attendance. Pinocchio is basically the same down to Monstro and the Blue Fairy (although no Pleasure Island yet) but what happens to Pinocchio when he grows up is different. You see what I mean?
All the lame fairytale retellings of late have attempted to reshape and reform the originals and they’ve all sucked. This does it’s own thing and it works pretty well. It’s campy and silly but I was entertained. I’m curious to keep watching (which I suppose is the real test of a good show).
What do you guys think about Once Upon a Time? I’ve still got 2 seasons to watch before I can catch up to Season 4 but I have been enjoying the podcasts over at Post Show Recaps by my twitter friend Mike Bloom. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check it out.