Over the Garden Wall invokes youthful fear, adventure

Nick Moran, co-editor-in-chief

When you’re a teenager, you look back toward a childhood of awe and bliss, hoping to relive an era of imagination and firsts. Growing up, for some of us, we shift into a world of worries and personal insecurities, a stark difference to a cheerful past. Only once in my life have I had the pleasure of watching a series that so rightfully compares both ways of life thanks to Over the Garden Wall.

Created by Patrick McHale and released two years ago on Nov. 5, the series has become traditional watching for me as autumn strolls into frame. No matter how many times I watch the show or listen to the soundtrack, I’m filled with the same warm, exciting emotions as the first time I saw it.

The miniseries features main characters Wirt and Greg, step-brothers who find themselves lost in a desolate forest during the first episode. Within minutes, dominant and opposite personalities are established, leaving you attached to both, but split in judgement.

Wirt, the elder of the two, is burdened with insecurities, worries and the responsibility of bringing the duo home. Greg, on the other hand, is his adorable little brother who radiates positivity and curiosity; his small, plump body similar to the kettle he wears on his head.

Every time I watch the series (which runs at around two hours in total), I become so attached to each of the step-brothers. Wirt reminds me of my insecure, old self who was uncomfortable but good hearted. Greg is the embodiment of hope, full of new ideas and wanderlust. The unique feeling you get when you see a child explore the world for the first time is a constant one I get with whatever Greg does.

Each episode is a vignette, or a small adventure, with a recurring plot and supporting cast. You quickly meet characters like Beatrice, an enchanted girl in the body of a bluebird, and the Woodsman, a mysterious old man who cuts down Edelwood trees to keep his lantern lit.

But with each set of heroes, we need our villain, and Over the Garden Wall provided me with one of the most menacing villains I’ve come to see. The Beast doesn’t wield fear through cheap scares, but through manipulation of the unknown and the human mind. His shadowy presence and echoing voice makes my heart race just thinking of him.

The already incredible story is matched with superb audio work. Fans of Lord of the Rings may recognize Wirt’s voice as Elijah Wood, who voiced Frodo. Wood is extremely talented; he evokes so much fear in his voice at times that it’s hard not to be afraid with him. On the flip side, Greg’s voice actor, Collin Dean, has the uplifting, young voice that makes anyone want to smile.

Behind the voices is one of my favorite soundtracks released to this point. The music sounds straight out of the early 19th century, something that would be played out of an old phonograph. Tracks are varied, with one of Greg’s songs being about potatoes and molasses while others feature the resonant, baritone voice of the Beast. The strong soundtrack plays a key role in establishing the atmosphere as the story takes us from a river boat full of frogs to the Unknown.

Another key point of artistic genius for me is the art style, directed by Nick Cross. Saturation – the level of vibrancy of a color – is kept at a low for much of the story, used sparingly to highlight items or moments of cheer. On the flipside, shades of brown and grey coats much of the mysterious world that the brothers explore, a reflection of the “dark fantasy” style of storytelling McHale aims for.

When characters, sound and art come together, the truly unique result is Over the Garden Wall’s atmosphere that is full of both fear and wonder. It captures our brightest inspirations and our darkest moments. It harnesses two entirely opposite ways of seeing life into a compelling and inspiring story.

Over the Garden Wall teaches us that as we look into the Unknown, we can look through a lens of adventure and wonder or one of anxiety and desperation. We can wander through it looking for home or we can embrace helplessness. But in the end, what separates us from joy or sorrow is whether or not the Beast makes his claim on us.