TV Review: Cartoon Network’s ‘Over The Garden Wall’

"Over The Garden Wall" Miniseries Review

“Over the Garden Wall” aspires to, and in part achieves, true whimsy, which doesn’t make the outlook for this animated, not-so-grim fairy tale for adults any less cloudy. Patrick McHale’s creation has been expanded into a 10-part miniseries (each night runs a half-hour, consisting of two chapters), which Cartoon Network will air over consecutive nights. Yet while the notion of two brothers seeking a way home is simple enough, the resulting production might be a bit too mature for kids, and not edgy enough for young adults. Who that leaves is anybody’s guess, but credit the network for taking a leap of faith over this “Wall.”

The series, based on McHale’s film short, mixes various styles, juxtaposing extremely basic character design (the noses are dots and triangles) against beautiful, ornate backgrounds, filled with mood and atmosphere, and accompanied by original songs.

The story is equally rudimentary: Two brothers, the older, more serious Wirt (Elijah Wood, appropriately back on another quest) and the chipper Greg (Collin Dean), become lost in the Unknown, a mystical forest. Accompanied only by a talkative, irascible bluebird (Melanie Lynskey), they seek to find their way home, navigating past various threats, obstacles and exceedingly strange characters.

And that’s pretty much it — what amounts to an indie animated movie diced into smaller parts, mixing silliness with a mild tinge of the macabre, including a ferocious beast in the premiere and a strange town in the subsequent chapter. “You guys find this place as creepy as I do, right?” the bird asks.

Almost everything about “Over the Garden Wall” feels slightly mismatched. Just as the lovely-to-look-at backgrounds represent a detailed, classic quality that contrasts with the characters, the tone is both spooky and playful, the music folksy and quirky.

What the project hasn’t done is conjure magic or create much of an investment in the kids, who are essentially blank slates, there to be alternately scared and childlike. In that respect, there’s less interest in how they complete their journey home than in just savoring the imagery of getting there, which should appeal to a rather narrow and refined palate. The benign content also reflects a (mostly welcome) departure from the more abrasive characteristic of many Cartoon Network nighttime offerings.

This miniseries thus feels like an admirable experiment, but a bit of a tweener — one that lacks the heft to sustain the five-night commitment. All in all, though, given the glut of snide animated programs out there, Cartoon Network deserves credit for trying to do something that’s more than just another brick in the wall.

TV Review: Cartoon Network's 'Over The Garden Wall'

(Miniseries; Cartoon Network, Mon. Nov. 3, 7 p.m.)


Produced by Cartoon Network Studios.


Executive producers, Patrick McHale, Jennifer Pelphrey, Curtis Lelash, Brian A. Miller, Rob Sorcher; producer, Pernelle Hayes; story, Amalia Levari, Tom Herpich, McHale; art director, Nick Cross; animation directors, Robert Alvarez, Larry Leichliter, Eddy Houdins, Ken Bruce. 30 MIN.


Voice cast: Elijah Wood, Collin Dean, Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Lloyd, Chris Isaak, Bebe Neuwirth, John Cleese, Shannyn Sossamon, Jack Jones, Samuel Ramey, Tim Curry, Deborah Voight

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  1. Art Lover says:

    I am commenting on this way after it was written, but you entirely missed the mark with this review. I’m an adult with two kids and we were all enthralled with Over the Garden Wall. It certainly IS magical. The story is touching and humorous, yet also down right scary. And the vintage style characters and artwork are simply inspired. You don’t give kids today enough credit for being able to appreciate subtlety and quality. And shame on you for writing a review without watching the whole series. The characters developed beautifully. It got better and better with each vignette. And hindsight is twenty twenty. It won three Emmys.

    • NathanBailey says:

      So. Emmys, Shmemies that doesn’t mean anything. I like Uncle Grandpa more than that show, And I Hate Uncle Grandpa. Pretty much every thing that they added after every show on Cartoon Network, after about 2014 SUCKS. Thats why I don’t really watch TV that much.

  2. is the best animated TV show i have seen, with ease…. and clearly u havent seen the whole show… u should watch it beffore posting something like this

  3. Will says:

    How about you watch the entire show before you write a review. It’s the equivalent of watching 20 minutes of a two hour long movie and writing a review based on what you saw.

  4. sadie says:

    is over the garden wall over?!?

  5. Jenna says:

    I know a couple of comments have said the same, but it feels like you didn’t finish the mini series. You bring up some points- like the characterization of the brothers- that are fleshed out later. Those different personalities were intentional, and they lead to unsettling moments further in.

    If you decide to see all of it (though by now, you might have), I’d recommend looking at how Wirt treats Greg. Special mention goes to the way he runs from the first episode’s monster without grabbing his little brother first. It’s nothing intentional on his part, but… it’s safe to say that he does not have a great big brother instinct. This becomes central to the story.

  6. William says:

    Your wrong I am a father and my boys love the show and they watch the whole series.and they are 13 years old and 9 years old boys. they asked me why they made it to a small series?they loved the show and they keep watching it every night on comcast on demand.they like the little boy and his frog and the monsters.I am in my 30 and I like the show.they should mAke more.great voice and story. We want more.

  7. Patrick says:

    I don’t know exactly how I want to tackle my response to this review because to me it is achingly evident that the entire mini-series was not viewed prior to it being posted and therefore it’s contents are null and void to any of us who have in fact given Over the Garden Wall a real chance to express itself. It is an irony unto itself that someone might actually watch only part of a mini-series and declare themselves a worthwhile critic of it. This series tells a complete story and it relies on it’s viewers to have the capacity to absorb it as such, which to me is not out of the question for children or tweens or teens or adults, it’s what Disney has been doing for all of us since Snow White in the 1930s, which this mini-series has successfully likened itself to in many ways. Yes, this is a modern take on a classic tale and just like all the classics before it the juiciest details are savored in the final scenes, which happen to be episodes 9 and 10 of the series not 1 and 2 like this lackadaisical reviewer seems to have assumed. So, yes, you may think Wirt and Greg are flat and insignificant as characters but it’s more than likely that you’ve failed to wait and see their development and their genesis before writing this runny nose rubbish, which in fact makes YOU flat and insignificant. In other words, Patrick McHale has created a masterpiece which may in fact return for years to come as a holiday tradition, a story about strange things, strange people and a strange land through the eyes of some truly average kids, as classic as classic gets and as beautiful as can be. So yeah, Variety sucks. Let me write for you guys I’ll make people hate you less.

  8. cealestia says:

    I guess that people didn’t finish the series Friday? It took a very unexpected twist. Seriously people, the beginning, was at the 9th episode. It was VERY well written and very planed out. It seemed or at least they wanted it to seem like a little twist of Narnia (Very Victorian scenes yet funny and “up to date” characters .) I honestly will say not for little kids (The beast is creepy and the big aunt is disgusting.) ,but not catchy enough for teens. (Series like this take time and smart brains to follow and to understand.) So…a winner series for the tweens :). I love the ending , it’s something very fresh and way new. A must see. 10/10 rating

  9. jhalli922 says:

    I can understand greatly with the article.But I feel that this show is a nice escape from the tongue in cheek like shows that floods today’s screens.I can understand that it may not be a jewel to some people’s eyes but its a diamond in the rough.

    I just love the simpicity of the story and the fun whimsy no overdramatic violence, no edgy double meanings just story.It reminds me of the black and white cartoons that start it all before hanna barbara and others.
    It may not be the multilayered 3 dimesional character story but kind of an ode of the days before.

  10. Andrew says:

    You clearly havent finished the series. It ends with an amazing mind-blowing twist that has more depth and heft than the first several. Watch the damn thing before calling it slight.

  11. Kent says:

    Soooo tired of posts saying what cartoons used to be. It’s a a fantastic, imaginative arena to tell stories in all shapes and sizes. You know what the good thing is about America, or just about any other place that has cartoons? If you don’t like it, there’s always something else or someplace else to watch the content that DOES make you happy. This isn’t a comment to the article, but more to some of the talkbackers and the tried and true verbiage we see on every site — what cartoons used to be.

    Making cartoons, or television, or films or anything else in these evolving storytelling mediums takes heart, desire, and effort. Talent, vision and something to say? Even better. But dissing something that is obviously different and trying to bring something fresh in a growing animation pool is small. I salute everyone that tries to make something special, and Cartoon Network and their latest installment here is just that. Bravo.

    • jim says:

      You know what’s also great about America? Freedom of speech and opinion. You obviously sound like someone who would like this type of weak and lazy work. At least the old stuff was more individual. This new stuff is recycled material. Even the art is borrowed from past work. Nothing is new anymore. Don’t take it as a personal attack. It’s my opinion and I think it’s pretty valid. You should have thicker skin and not loose your lunch when someone days something you don’t agree with. Lol.

      • jim says:

        You know you already lost the argument when you name call, lolz. I pity you (and laugh ever so gently at the same time). BTW nice name (says a lot about you).

      • Pooh Flinging Monkey says:

        You are absolutely entitled to your clueless opinion. Even the dumb are allowed to speak, just don’t whinge when we laugh at you.

  12. jim says:

    Soooo tired of adventure time style cartoons. Not to mention all this mystical nonsense. Cartoons used to be fun to watch. Wish toons were made like the old Hanna-barbera and Warner Brothers jewels I watched as a kid (timeless classics).

    • Carrot King says:

      Jeez. You’re kidding, right? Pretty much everyone involved with or at least knowledgeable of animation acknowledges that Hanna-Barbera cartoons were terrible. Horrible, stiff animation, uninspired character designs, and terrible comic timing. Their practices, as well as those of Filmation, ruined animation in the US for 20 years until Disney broke into the TV animation market with DuckTales, Gummi Bears, and Wuzzles.

      Warner Bros., Disney, and Fleischer are where it’s at when it comes to classic stuff.

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