DVD, BLU-RAY | CERT: PG | STARRING: ELIJAH WOOD, COLLIN DEAN, MELANIE LYNSKEY | RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2ND
Five years since its initial release on the Cartoon Network, Patrick McHale’s Emmy award-winning animated miniseries is finally available on Blu-ray in the UK. The show follows brothers Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Greg (Collin Dean) as they wander lost in an autumnal forest wilderness called ‘The Unknown’, regularly encountering talking animals, walking pumpkins, and ferry-boating frogs, all the while being stalked by a mysterious entity known as ‘The Beast’.
The miniseries’ cast features several STARBURST faves, with Christopher Lloyd, John Cleese, and Tim Curry all lending their voices. Cleese particularly excels in his two roles as Adelaide of the Pasture and an eccentric tea company owner, Quincy Endicott, raising both characters through his verbal tics and performance. The older brother Wirt’s worry and anxiousness about trying to find a way home (and just about everything else) is balanced wonderfully with Greg’s carefree childishness where the only thing even approaching a concern for him is trying to think of a name for a pet frog he found. They also find a talking bluebird called Beatrice who acts as a guide to The Unknown for the lost brothers.
McHale took inspiration from the old cartoons from Fleischer, Tex Avery, and similar from the 1920s and ‘30s, particularly the dreamlike eighth episode ‘Babes in the Wood’. The series keeps a slightly dark and wistful quality that separates it from other Cartoon Network series. As it is a modern Cartoon Network series, there are of course songs throughout and Over the Garden Wall has a few folk-style songs that fit the story and universe McHale has created. ‘Potatoes & Molasses’, sang by Dean, is a particularly catchy highlight of the soundtrack.
With only ten, twelve-minute long chapters, the series moves at a good pace and doesn’t outstay its welcome; each episode is fairly self-contained as the boys come across new situations. Over the Garden Wall was made to stand alone by itself as a single miniseries, so there are no loose ends, although there is a comic book miniseries by Boom! Studios that explores The Unknown a little more, and there will sadly be no more further seasons of the cartoon.
While the animation doesn’t reach the quality of its contemporaries like Steven Universe or Adventure Time, Over the Garden Wall’s fairly unique feel, its vocal performances and its writing more than make up for these small shortcomings.