The atmospheric craftsmanship of Over the Garden Wall

over the garden wall

By Nathan Woodham

In October 2014, a 10-episode miniseries aired on Cartoon Network called Over the Garden Wall. It aimed to celebrate the Halloween season while telling an emotional and sometimes funny story about siblinghood.

The show stars characters Wirt (voiced by Elijah Wood) and his younger brother Greg (Collin Dean) as they make their way through a dark, surreal wood called The Unknown. There is a lot to be said about the adorable comedy, the visually disturbing antagonist, the haunting story and the pointed yet fitting message about familial love, but more than anything else, the series excels at creating atmosphere. 

The animation and music work in tandem to perfect the tone of the fall season. The backgrounds are all painted, with careful attention paid to the lighting, effectively making The Unknown dreadfully eerie. Even the trees are given just enough detail to make the viewer uneasy at the sight of them.

The show plays with the idea of darkness, both in concept and design. The antagonist, called “The Beast,” is made of pure shadow, with two glowing white eyes and branches coming out of the sides of his head like antlers on a deer.

Even the colors add to the tone. They are mostly reds, browns and yellows, all unsaturated to make the lighting stand out. Imagery like pumpkins, fallen leaves and turkeys parade throughout the series.

On top of all of this, the music that plays throughout the show is both beautiful and grim. Sometimes it is sung by a frog or a burglar character, but it is always perfectly ambient.

The tone of Over the Garden Wall is perfect for the season it attempts to encapsulate. The series has become a Halloween tradition for me and my friends and I hope I’ve convinced you to check it out too.

Over the Garden Wall receives used Halloween decorations that are still in good condition.

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