Why Over the Garden Wall is the Perfect Fall Series

Over the garden wall is a ten-episode miniseries that aired on Cartoon Network in November 2014. Directed by adventure time creative director Patrick McHale, it tells the story of two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who try to find their way home from a mysterious forest called “the Unknown”. Upon release, the series received critical and popular acclaim, winning an Emmy in 2015 for Outstanding Animated Program.

Over the garden wall has a lot going for it: memorable character designs, top-notch voice actors, amazing music, and sharp writing. But another, more subtle feature hasn’t received the same level of attention: its perfect fit with the fall mood. With its fairytale inspirations and understated color palette, it captures what Vox calls the “loneliness of autumn” – the feeling that comes with falling leaves, colder weather and the impending feeling that another year is coming to an end. So, without further ado, let’s explore what makes Over the garden wall the ultimate fall series.


Fall aesthetic

Over the garden wall takes place almost entirely in the magical forest world of “the unknown”. Both sinister and enchanting, “l’Inconnu” is a setting that seems straight out of a fairy tale. Although unearthly, it exhibits all the qualities of a dense northeast forest in the fall, with fallen leaves, sparse branches, and the occasional stone or wooden chalets. Its color palette is also reminiscent of autumn, thanks to the art team’s use of gorgeous shades of orange, green, yellow, brown and red.

Over its ten episodes, the series takes us through a number of fall-themed environments outside of the forest proper. In one chapter, Greg and Wirt stumble upon a quiet village that turns out to be entirely occupied by living pumpkins (which are actually skeletons wearing pumpkins for heads) in the middle of a seasonal harvest feast. Other locations include cozy taverns, haunted mansions, and a steamship, each retaining the fall aesthetic through thoughtful design choices. The overall effect is Over the garden wall the perfect series to enjoy when the leaves are changing color and the air is getting colder.

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The magic of Halloween

Whereas Over the garden wall isn’t really about Halloween, the holiday plays a major role in the show’s setting narrative. The narrative setting is what defines the fantasy adventure of Over the garden wall moving; we don’t see him until the penultimate episode, in which it’s revealed that Greg and Wirt are actually modern-day kids who got lost, fell into a pond, and magically woke up in “the ‘unknown”. This all happened on Halloween night, which explains Greg and Wirt’s weird costumes.

The show’s Halloween setting narrative does not, like other Halloween-themed media, focus on monsters or horror. Instead, it creates an opportunity to explore what Halloween means for children and teenagers. Over the garden wall perfectly captures the magic of the holidays – the way children flood the sidewalks and streets; the gathering of teenagers and young adults at costume parties and the ghostly, surreal atmosphere that pervades the night. With Halloween, unreality becomes as important as reality, and perhaps that’s why Wirt and Greg can enter the fantastic (and sometimes terrifying) fairy tale world of “the unknown”. Plus, the Halloween setting narrative helps put the audience in a distinctly autumnal mood. It is, after all, the epitome of fall holidays – sorry Thanksgiving!

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The Charms of the Comfort Watch

A “comfort watch” is a series or movie that you turn on to feel peaceful, restful, and (of course) comfortable. If you can picture yourself enjoying it while curled up in front of a fireplace with a hot drink, that’s probably a good choice for a comfort watch. BuzzFeed described the comfort shows as feeling “like a warm hug,” which seems to be their defining characteristic. While some may turn to the media they enjoyed as children to evoke this effect, comfort television need not rely on nostalgia. It can be fresh, new, something totally unfamiliar, and yet satisfy the desire for hug-like comfort. Over the garden wall is a great example. While fans of the show can rewatch it whenever fall rolls around, it’s equally clear upon first viewing that this is an all-time comfort show.

Filled with equal parts fantasy and emotional depth, this is a series that appeals to adults and children alike. For older viewers weary of the violence and misery in more “adult” media, Over the garden wall offers a space of refreshing comfort, while addressing real issues of identity, loss and family. With just ten brief episodes, it’s short enough to rip in an evening, unlike other shows that require a significant time investment. And, more importantly, its characters and world seem tailor-made to produce feelings of comfort and warmth in audiences. When the story arc of Over the garden wall ends with a charming and deeply satisfying finale, you may already find yourself planning your next viewing of the series. Remember to bring blankets and cocoa.