tek's rating: ¾

Over the Garden Wall, on Cartoon Network
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This is based on a 2013 short film called Tome of the Unknown. The miniseries consists of ten 12-minute episodes, which aired over five days, in the first week of November 2014. I didn't get to see it because I didn't have Cartoon Network. But I watched it on DVD a year later, in the first week of November 2015. I liked it from the start, though at first I didn't like it quite as much as I did the original short. But by the end of the miniseries, I loved it slightly more than the short, because it told a complete story, and told it brilliantly. It's got a charmingly absurd, surreal, retro quality to it, and it's amusing, creepy, and sometimes touching. I really like the animation, and the music, and the characters, and the stories (both as individual episodes, and as a series).

In the first episode, two half-brothers named Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Greg are lost in a forest called The Unknown, trying to find their way home. Wirt seems to overthink everything and be constantly worried, while Greg is always happy, doesn't seem to put much thought or worry into anything (and he kind of seems to have ADD, or something). Greg has a pet frog, and throughout the series he keeps giving it new names. Wirt and Greg briefly meet a talking bluebird (voiced by Melanie Lynskey, a different actor than in "Tome of the Unknown"), but she soon flies away. Then they meet a Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd), who warns them of a Beast in the woods. The Beast (apparently) ends up attacking them, but is finally defeated... but then the Woodsman says it wasn't the Beast, after all. And the two boys continue on their way. (We will see the actual Beast later in the series.) In the second episode, they again encounter the bluebird, whose name is Beatrice. She was stuck in some brambles, and Greg frees her. This means she is now indebted to the boys, and has to help them find their way home. (Though she and Wirt don't really get along, most of the time.) She wants to take them to meet a woman named Adelaide, who she believes could help them. But first they have a strange experience in a town full of people wearing pumpkin costumes. I don't want to say what all that involves, but... by the end of the episode, they once again continue on their way.

And... I don't really want to talk about every adventure they have, but I'll mention a few things. Like in episode 5, Wirt and Beatrice begin to learn more about each other, including the fact that Beatrice and her whole family used to be human, but were transformed into bluebirds, and now she wants to find Adelaide, in the hope that she can change them all back. At the end of episode 6, they finally meet Adelaide, but... there's a plot twist that I don't want to spoil (but it leads to Wirt and Greg getting separated from Beatrice). In episode 8, for reasons I won't reveal, Wirt gets separated from Greg. Episode 9 starts with a flashback set on Halloween (which explains a lot), and shows how the boys ended up getting lost in the Unknown in the first place. In the present, Wirt wakes up and meets Beatrice's family, then continues searching for Greg. And... I don't want to say exactly how the miniseries ends, but I will say that it's a very happy ending.

I've left out lots of details, and lots of interesting characters. Some of the guest stars included John Cleese, Tim Curry, Bebe Neuwirth, Shannyn Sossamon, Shirley Jones, Fred Stoller, and Chris Isaak. (And a bunch of people with whom I'm unfamiliar, but everyone who worked on the miniseries was great.) And, um... I can't think what else to say. I feel like I should say more. I'm really happy to have seen it, and I would love for it to have been longer... but still, it's perfect the way it is. Although there are also a few comic books that I'd like to get. So I guess... the story actually is longer. Neato.

miniseries index
Halloweenish movies & TV series