Saturday, October 03, 2015


Originally to be entitled "TOME OF THE UNKNOWN" (the pilot version of which is available on the DVD), O.T.G.W. is a consciously old-fashioned feeling fairy tale which gathers its influences from many different quarters.  There is quite a bit of Grimm's fairy tales about it, as well as echoes of such children's classics as THE WIZARD OF OZ, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS.  However, there are also strong influences of early 20th century music (from folk songs to country blues to New Orleans jazz), early 20th century advertising art, early cinematic cartoons by the Fleischer Brothers, Betty Boop, Bosko and Felix the Cat
as well as faint hints of Winsor McCay, the Studio Ghibli work of Hayao Miyazaki, the fright tales of Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne and a particularly strong call-back to those old Victorian Halloween postcards produced by the Tuck's Co.; the Pottsfield episode features those famous Tuck's Halloween postcard vegetable people (examples of which appear below).

"OVER THE GARDEN WALL" features the adventures of Wirt (voiced by Elijah Wood) and his little brother Gregory (voiced by Collin Dean) who become lost in the woods (is there are bigger fairy tale trope than THAT?!?!?!) and encounter all manner of strange beings.  
Wirt and Greg are joined by a bluebird named Beatrice (voiced by Melanie Lynskey) and are menaced by The Beast (Samuel Ramey) loose in the woods.  
Along the way they encounter a spooky old Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd),
Adelaide of the Woods (John Cleese), the townsfolk of Pottsfield led by a huge pumpkin-headed Enoch (Chris Isaak),
a Georgian tea baron named Quincy Endicott (John Cleese again) and a French Rococo tea baron named Marguerite Grey (Bebe Neuwirth), a put-upon girl named Lorna (Shannyn Sossamon) and her Auntie Whispers (Tim Curry) as well as a host of other oddball characters.  Throughout their journey, they are also accompanied by a frog whom Gregory constantly renames in each episode (played by that LOVE BOAT theme-song-singin' Jack Jones).  THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY's own Shirley Jones also plays Beatrice's mother.  

The tone of the series, from the very first moment, is moody and autumnal; just perfect for October viewing.  Autumn leaves are everywhere and the sky is frequently gray and overcast.  The title card for the series is even framed in orange and black with a winged skull at the top.  It isn't until the penultimate episode, in fact, that we learn explicitly that this IS all taking place at Halloween.  The artwork for the background scenery in particular is absolutely exquisite; watching it you immediately feel yourself transported into this folkloric universe of the Unknown.  
The aforementioned "old timey" look and feel of the show is quite deliberate and expertly done; however, here and there we are clued into the fact that this is actually taking place in the here and now.  During the Pottsfield episode, Wirt asks to use their phone, for instance.  
And the penultimate episode provides the backstory as to what happened before Wirt and Gregory became lost in the woods.  Children of the 70s and 80s will thrill to the demonstration of how a pencil relates to a cassette tape!  The off-kilter genius of this show combines a vivid depiction of the world of a child along with moments that alternate between funny and downright scary.  
Whether you watch this all at once as if it were a movie (what I did) or else spread it out episode by episode amongst your Halloween movie viewing, I think any fan of horror and Halloween will love "OVER THE GARDEN WALL".  


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