Created by Patrick McHale and released in November 2014, “Over the Garden Wall” quickly carved out a niche among audiences young and old. The catchy songs, goofy characters and silly jokes appeal well to young audiences, but there’s something for adults too. Morbid themes, a whimsical yet beautiful aesthetic, and the nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of past autumns really touched older audiences.
The story follows two brothers, the angsty and reserved Wirt and his bubbly younger brother Greg. The boys get lost in a mysterious place called The Unknown and spend the series looking for a way out. They meet all sorts of strange characters, such as Beatrice the talking blue bird, Fred the talking horse, and a frog whose name literally changes every episode. However, not all characters are equally likable. As the boys journey through The Unknown, they also face the looming threat of The Beast, a dark and mysterious figure that all of The Unknown’s inhabitants live in constant fear of.
However, these figures, coupled with a New England postcard art style, evoke a sense of nostalgia in the viewer. The images of crops, changing leaves and the vignette shots of the outdoors remind the viewer of a strangely specific feeling that only occurs in autumn.
In addition, the soundtrack aligns perfectly with the style of the series. Folk-style songs that sound like they came from your grandfather’s radio, paired with beautiful string arrangements and dramatic choral songs, provide the series’ backdrop, while the songs sung by the characters serve as fancy foreground.
It’s kind of like the show itself; fantasy in the foreground, maturity and complexity in the background. Goofy characters and bizarre subplots keep the show grounded in its childish, cartoonish style. On the other hand, the themes of growth, death and the unknown keep a mature, dark and morbid side to the show.
For example, the brothers enter a strange town called Pottsfield, a town full of skeletons in pumpkin costumes. While the silliness of a town full of skeletons wearing pumpkin costumes with a cat named Enoch in a comical pumpkin costume keeps the show geared towards kids, the ominous nature of the episode appeals to adults. The Pottsfield connection refers to a potter’s field or a graveyard of strangers, the ominous references to how the boys “weren’t ready to join them yet” but “would be back one day”, and the Cultistic nature of the city creates a dark, uneasy and downright morbid atmosphere.
Overall, the dark and cartoonish nature of the series creates the perfect mix for a Halloween classic and a must-have fall watch. Plus, it’s also a fast watch, with just ten episodes of around eleven minutes each, making the whole series take around two hours to watch. However, with the genuinely clever and intriguing plot, gorgeous art style, and “blink and you’ll miss it” amount of detail, you might need to allow a little more time to watch it again.