Lost in an an­i­ma­tor’s imag­i­na­tion

‘ Over the Gar­den Wall’ is funny, creepy and stuffed with a jum­ble of in­flu­ences, emo­tions and tex­tures.

Los Angeles Times - - Television - By Pa­trick Kevin Day pa­trick. day@ latimes. com

Try­ing to de­scribe “Over the Gar­den Wall,” Car­toon Net­work’s first an­i­mated minis­eries, is at once easy and dif­fi­cult.

Easy, be­cause the story is quite sim­ple: Two brothers ( voiced by Eli­jah Wood and Collin Dean) get lost in a strange land called the Un­known and must find their way home. Along the way, they meet a va­ri­ety of odd char­ac­ters and are ac­com­pa­nied by a grumpy blue­bird named Beatrice ( voiced by Melanie Lynskey).

But to de­scribe the plot of “Over the Gar­den Wall” fails to cap­ture the jum­ble of in­flu­ences, emo­tions and tex­tures cre­ator Pat McHale has stuffed into it. “It’s a com­edy, but first and fore­most, it’s try­ing to be an ex­pe­ri­ence for the au­di­ence,” McHale said dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

Whichis tosay, there are laughs. But there are also some deeply creepy mo­ments, such as a visit toa town of pump­kin- headed crea­tures whose in­ten­tions may or may not be friendly. And some­times those mo­ments are one and the same.

The 10- episode minis­eries con­sists of 11- minute in­stall­ments and fea­tures the guest voices of Chris Isaak, Bebe Neuwirth, Christo­pher Lloyd, John Cleese and Shan­nyn Sos­sa­mon. The show is slated to de­but Nov. 3.

McHale, who was a cre­ative di­rec­tor on Car­toon Net­work’s hit “Ad­ven­ture Time,” adapted the minis­eries fromhis award- win­ning short film, “Tome of the Un­known.” But his real in­spi­ra­tion comes from a va­ri­ety of places, in­clud­ing chil­dren’s books of the 1800s, folk art and Amer­i­can mu­sic fromthe early 20th cen­tury.

“There are a lot of lay­outs bor­rowed from Gus­tav Doré,” McHale said. “And also from Dis­ney’s early ‘ Alice’ shorts.”

Doré was a 19th cen­tury French il­lus­tra­tor, most fa­mous for his wood- en­graved il­lus­tra­tions for “The Divine Com­edy,” “Par­adise Lost” and “The Rime of the An­cient Mariner.” Walt Dis­ney’s “Alice” come­dies were live ac­tion- an­i­ma­tion hy­brid shorts the an­i­ma­tor cre­ated in the 1920s be­fore he found fame with Mickey Mouse.

There are many orig­i­nal songs in the se­ries, but don’t ex­pect it to have the feel of the lat­est Dis­ney ex­trav­a­ganza. “Some of the char­ac­ters do sing— there’s many dif­fer­ent styles, clas­sic Amer­i­can, opera singing — but it doesn’t feel like a Broad­way thing,” he said.

In­stead, it’s about get­ting lost. For the char­ac­ters, they’re lost in this strange world. And for the au­di­ence, it’s about get­ting lost inMc- Hale’s bizarre imag­i­na­tion.

The writer and an­i­ma­tor is a grad­u­a­teof CalArts and worked on “Ad­ven­ture Time” be­fore mov­ing back to his home in Mas­sachusetts in 2010. How­ever, he still con­trib­uted to the show’s writ­ing after that.

His short film was made through Car­toon Net­work Stu­dios’ shorts de­vel­op­ment pro­gram and won the award for best an­i­mated short film at the Santa Bar­bara Film Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year.

“To my sur­prise, [ the chan­nel] picked it up and wanted to do some­thing with it,” McHale said. “We thought a minis­eries would be best. I would do some­thing that felt higher qual­ity than what we could do with a reg­u­lar se­ries.”

The in­tro­verted McHale worked with art di­rec­tor Nick Cross and su­per­vis­ing di­rec­tor Nate Cash on the se­ries with sto­ry­board artists in NewYork and Chicago. “It was dif­fi­cult work­ing with peo­ple from afar,” McHale con­cedes. It­was par­tic­u­larly daunt­ing con­sid­er­ing the idio­syn­cratic na­ture of the pro­duc­tion.

As McHale de­scribed his vi­sion for it: “It’s try­ing to cap­ture a cer­tain mood. If it feels right, then it’s right.”

Car­toon Net­work

WIRT AND GREG are lost in a strange land and­must find their way home — but the Car­toon Net­work’s first an­i­mated minis­eries is not as sim­ple as it sounds.

Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

MELANIE LYNSKEY pro­vides the voice of a grumpy blue­bird named Beatrice.

Maarten de Boer Getty Images

PA­TRICK McHALE adapted the minis­eries from his short film, “Tome of the Un­known.”

Sh­eryl Louis Van­guard Records

MU­SI­CIAN CHRIS ISAAK adds a dif­fer­ent note to the show as a guest voice.

IFC/ As­so­ci­ated Press

THE VOICE OF Monty Python mem­ber John Cleese will be mak­ing it­self heard.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.