Over the Garden Wall (2014)
November 9, 2014 2:37 PM - Subscribe

Two brothers are lost in the woods in this animated ode to fairy tales.

Actually run on Cartoon Network last week as 10 15-minute episodes, "Over the Garden Wall" is the story of two brothers who are lost in the woods and trying to find their way home. (Inexplicably, one of them is carrying a frog.) It was created by Patrick McHale (Flapjack, Adventure Time) and is the first mini-series ever created by Cartoon Network. (Note: Incorrect IMDB link, as there is evidently not an entry for this yet.)
posted by jbickers (43 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is my favorite thing in a very long time. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this, it is so masterfully done. The music is especially fantastic. I felt the Miyazaki influence strong in places, and a strong whiff of Gaiman.

Eager to go rewatch this in a single sitting.
posted by jbickers at 2:39 PM on November 9, 2014

I did a FPP for Over the Garden Wall, but I don't want to spoil too much over there, so I'm gonna stick this comment here.

I ended up really moved by the reveal of just what the brothers are doing in the woods in a way that's really stuck with me. I rewatched the first five or so episodes with the ending in mind, and there's a lot of nuance and meaning that's especially evident on rewatch. I thought the reveal was well done, in that a canny viewer can guess what The Unknown and the woods really are, and in that the lack of explanation of why they're wandering through the woods built a great and subtle sense of tension and unease.

It's a pretty bold move to make a kids' miniseries be about the journey through death and/or limbo, even if it (thankfully!) didn't end with Greg and Wirt's deaths. Which, ahahaha, when I fully realized what was going on, I clutched my pillow in terror at the thought of Over the Garden Wall ending with one or both kids dying, and I would have lost my shit if either of them died. I had my suspicions starting with the Pottsfield episode ("aren't you here a little...early?") and then started feeling fairly certain when Beatrice said they needed two cents to get on the ferry. I think I literally said, "OH NO," out loud at that point, because two cents? A ferry? CHILDREN, YOU ARE IN THE UNDERWORLD DO NOT GET ON THE FERRY.

Also, a bit on the nose to have Beatrice be their guide! I'm wondering what other allusions I missed.
posted by yasaman at 4:19 PM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I watched the last episodes of this yesterday, and I still don't think I have anything coherent to say about it. It is certainly the best meditation on on growing up I've seen in a long, long time. I definitely choked up as Wirt woke up at the very end and I realized what has actually happening. And having seen it, every other animated show seems to have dimmed a little bit, nothing has nay weight to it the way this did. I desperately hope this is only the beginning, for both Cartoon Network and the creators. And I haven't even mentioned the art or the voices or the music, all of which was amazing.
posted by hobgadling at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2014

oh my glob this show was incredible! I personally loved how the twist was revealed very slowly throughout the series - it starts out looking completely like Brothers' Grimm euro fairytale land but mentions here and there (of the artwork in the two mansions was the first I picked up on it) that these kids are... contemporary!

The music was great, the art was great. I wish there was a viewers' guide that explains all the artistic references. I think i'll watch it again tonight :)
posted by rebent at 7:22 PM on November 9, 2014

oh man, all the reveals right in the first opening scene... the frog, the dog, the circus, ITS ALL THERE! im trying to figure out if these are supposed to be scenes that inspired wirt outside of his dream, or if they were only in his dream.
posted by rebent at 7:25 PM on November 9, 2014

I watched the whole thing yesterday. The art is SO GOOD. And lots of elements reminded me of Miyazaki, in particular the design of Auntie Whispers.

Also I loved the reveal that Jason Thunderburger is a scrawny, whiny-voiced dork. I was totally expecting him to turn out to be a jock stereotype.
posted by Librarypt at 6:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I just watched the first 2 episodes and am saving the rest for the next couple of weeks. (Sorry, not reading the comments here yet til I do, I don't want anything spoiled.) I loved what I saw so far.
posted by Catblack at 7:16 PM on November 10, 2014

Librarypt: Also I loved the reveal that Jason Thunderburger is a scrawny, whiny-voiced dork.
That was my favorite part. Wirt is so clueless he doesn't realize that both that he's much cooler than Jason Funderburger and that Sara is trying to signal that she likes him.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:47 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

That was my favorite part. Wirt is so clueless he doesn't realize that both that he's much cooler than Jason Funderburger and that Sara is trying to signal that she likes him.

Yes, I loved the trope reversal that Funderburger is some dorky kid that Sara doesn't even seem to like. That and Wirt's "we can't go into the party, I wasn't invited!" when everyone was cool with him at the party really underline that teenage insecurity.
posted by john-a-dreams at 3:31 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really appreciated that Sara wasn't the typical teenage love interest either.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 1:04 PM on November 13, 2014

The other moment that played nicely against stereotype was that when Wirt was trying to get the tape back from Sara's jacket, the football player nearby told him to stop not to bully Wirt, but because he was looking out for Sara.

Also, the joke with the cops saying something like "you're under arrest! ...just kidding, happy Halloween!" never got old.
posted by yasaman at 2:49 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved the Rock Facts and once Greg said why he was wearing a teapot, I was like OH YEAH that makes so much sense!

I was surprised by the voice cast once I looked the show up. I knew Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd were I. It but I completely missed Tim Curry (as Auntie Whispers) and Shannyn Sossamon (as Lorna).

This was so awesome. I hope they do more!
posted by IndigoRain at 1:19 AM on November 14, 2014

And that's a Rock Fact!
posted by rebent at 8:55 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also I enjoyed one of the most underlined *wink wink* to adult viewers ever:

Sara: "Nah, we're just going to hang out and drink age-appropriate drinks."
Wirt: "Like juice?"
Sara: "Yeah, whatever, age-appropriate stuff that's not illegal."
posted by john-a-dreams at 4:12 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just watched the whole thing in one sitting, and this was the most wonderful thing I've seen in a long time. I can't quite wrap my head around it yet (it's gonna need a re-watch or four), so for now I'm just gonna focus on gushing about that soundtrack.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

What nebulawindphone once said about a certain scene in Moonrise Kingdom is true even more of this show: they step into the Dreamtime, where the Animal Spirit People live.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:50 AM on November 19, 2014

We've been singing Potatoes and Molasses around here. The kid who plays Greg is terrific and hilarious.
posted by Glinn at 8:06 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

jbickers: “Eager to go rewatch this in a single sitting.”
The entire run of the mini-series will air Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 starting at 5:30 PM EST and again Sunday, January 4th, 2015 at 3:30 PM EST.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gawsh. I watched it OnDemand and within 24 hours of finishing the last episode, went and purchased it on Amazon. Just from Yasaman's comment above, I'm now driven to go rewatch it immediately (something already planned) and really try to figure all the hints and everything and everything planted in the show.

The animation was superb, as well the directing and writing. The show carried itself with a strong desire to push against expectations of the viewer and at the same time, offered things that to most would come across as insane, but for the main characters, it was just a shrug and move on (dressed up frogs enjoying a steam boat ride, sure, why not).

I love that Adventure Time has helped expand the studio's side of things in terms of thinking about what to produce and air. Animation is an incredible medium for storytelling and I hope that the future will hold more ever expansive attempts to produce such incredible stories.
posted by Atreides at 9:42 AM on January 2, 2015

So I took advantage of the re-air to watch the whole thing in one sitting. What I realized is that while the whole setting is utterly charming, it's actually quite horrific to think that the "loveliest lies of all" might be a terrifying adventure being chased by The Dark Man. I actually want to watch it again with the Comic Bardo Thodol [PDF]l in my hand and see how it compares.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

On rewatch, at the end of the last episode, when everyone is in the hospital, Greg is showing Jason Thunderberger off to everyone. When he does this, the frog's stomach lights up, as if the bell is still inside him.

....So should we take it that the entire thing was real and not just in the mind of Wirt?
posted by Atreides at 7:04 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

The pilot for the series is up on Youtube now: Tome of the Unknown. It's just as delightful as the rest of the series, and features some charming music, vegetable people, a watermelon car, and a goose.
posted by yasaman at 8:24 PM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I finally watched this over the weekend, and I looooved it. I'll need to watch it again (I plowed right through the whole thing in one sitting), but I think my favorite thing about it was how it took so much inspiration from the really super fucked-up parts of old European fairy tales. When I was a kid, I loved the old Brothers Grimm/Hans Christian Andersen stuff where people piss off the moon and have to wander the earth with no shoes forever, or get tricked into skinning their grandmothers, or what have you. But most adaptations of fairy tales remove all the really disturbing or disquieting elements. This managed to walk a line of making it ok for little kids to watch, but keeping that sense of "wow something is really off about this."
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

My very favorite part, though, might be how Greg solves the Beast's three puzzles (golden comb, silver thread, cup full of sun). That exact scenario is so so typical of old fairy tales, but usually it's to show how the (usually pretty boring) hero is so scrappy and resourceful.

Here, it wasn't that at all - instead, it was building on Greg's existing characterization as a little kid who makes weird little kid leaps of logic that an older kid or adult would never make, because they're too set in their ways. Man that was perfect.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

i understood that bit to be the Beast playing into Greg's expectations for how fairytailes were supposed to work, setting up pointless tasks that were too easy for Greg to feel he had vanquished, in order to keep him busy and tire him out so that he fell into the ultimate trap.

Like you say, in the more classic fairy tails, it did feel like the magical woodweft really *did* need a Princess Finger for this or that, and by supplying the Doll hand, the child escaped from the deal while not having to kill the princess.
posted by rebent at 10:55 AM on November 16, 2015

Finally saw this! Just wanted to join in the chorus of liking it a lot, though not quite as much as everyone else here. Anyhoo, going to definitely give it a rematch... Tomorrow? Or Saturday. Very soon.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:09 AM on August 19, 2016

(also, what a great pause from all of the US election threads. The next time I feel inclined to catch up on news, maybe I'll just pop this on...)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:16 AM on August 19, 2016

Caitlin PenzeyMoog, in press-releases-labeled-as-news at The A.V. Club: “Mondo exclusive: An Over The Garden Wall soundtrack is coming in August” The full press-release, including album photos that make the whole thing look hella indulgent.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, “Will the dove never meet the sea for want of the odious mountain?” is such a delightful teenager line. So dramatic! So poetic-sounding! So utterly meaningless!
posted by Going To Maine at 2:09 PM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gregory, when flying up to cloud city - his journey was over. He was at his destination, and the whole episode made me incredibly upset, even as it delighted with silliness. He was beyond the Unknown and just where he was meant to be.

And then he came back, and made a bargain with The Beast...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:44 AM on October 25, 2016

Another thought - at the end, when the Woodsman is re-united with his daughter? This indicates his time in the Unknown was at an end in the same way as Greg in Cloud City, and we were seeing him just where he deserved to be, and with someone who found her way there before him.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:29 AM on October 25, 2016

Slap*, you're suggesting that the woodsman refuses to move on, refuses to accept what's true.

I took it at face value and thought that the woodsman was trapped by the fear of what could be, but overcomes that fear and discovers he had nothing to fear after all.

I think that's the theme for the larger story.
posted by rebent at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2016

No, I'm saying he was re-united with his daughter because he accepted the truth, and there was nothing left to keep him in the Unknown.

What is so heartbreaking about the Babes in the Woods episode is that they are exploring what heaven would be like for a young boy - constant entertainment, excitement and comfort. It's so bittersweet and terrifying, and no less so when Greg wishes it all away for something far darker, even if it does offer the brothers the barest sliver of opportunity.

The Woodsman's daughter wasn't released, because she was never trapped - it was a lie, a false hope offered by the master of false hope. The Woodsman's daughter did not return to life at the end. The Woodsman, no longer afraid of the dark, joyfully reunited with her all the same.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:05 PM on October 25, 2016

Umm. I've got an uncomfortable obsession with Orphean myths at the moment, and in looking up You-Tube covers of "Potatoes and Molasses" - it's pretty much a re-interpreted rendition of the Hobo hymn, "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Greg knew early on what was going on, but as a child, it didn't frighten him...

posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on October 25, 2016

I'm a little late to it this year since it's more winter than fall, but I'm on my annual rewatch and it's just as amazing as ever. Also, it pairs very well with Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown, if you like this and haven't listened to that... you really, really should.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2017

Happy October! It's time to rewatch Over the Garden Wall!
posted by Going To Maine at 7:05 PM on October 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Happy Halloween! It's time to rewatch Over The Garden Wall!
posted by Going To Maine at 10:01 PM on October 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Emma Stefansky at Thrillist: It Is Officially 'Over the Garden Wall' Season
posted by Going To Maine at 1:11 AM on October 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Happy Halloween-in-a-few-weeks! It’s time to rewatch Over The Garden Wall!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:17 PM on October 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

Since Going to Maine isn’t here this year: Happy Halloween! It’s time to rewatch Over the Garden Wall!
posted by Missense Mutation at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just popping in to say that some of the artists behind the show recorded Wurt's "For Sara" cassette, and it's great.
posted by nightcoast at 7:19 PM on December 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

Finally watched this for the first time this year -- it's so good! Will definitely be an annual Halloween watch going forward. (I rushed to watch it before it left Max, but it's still streaming on Hulu.)

The FPP on the blue mentioned the original pilot short, "Tome of the Unknown", not being available to watch. Cartoon Network has it up on YouTube currently here.
posted by bassooner at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Happy post-Halloween! Hope you rewatched Over The Garden Wall. (I was out of town! I have an excuse!)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

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