Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of friends who are always out experiencing the best of entertainment. Be it plays, films, concerts, exhibits, or games, they’ve learned that the arts are best when experienced together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. Today, the Girls discuss Cartoon Network’s harvest-season miniseries of ghosts, curses, and thieving horses. Let’s listen in on their conversation…
Dania whistled softly as they walked down the street under the moonlight. A lilting melody, just enough to echo off the sides of the buildings as they walked, rising above the crisp crackle of yellowed leaves. Dania aimed her boot towards the largest patches, hoping for the satisfying snap of twigs – as did Gwen, though she’d never mention it.
“What’s that melody?” Gwen asked, after a gap in the leaves let her listen to the song.
“The frog song from Over The Garden Wall,” Dania replied. “I think it’s actually called ‘Over The Garden Wall,’ but you know, the one the frog sings.”
“Jason Funderburker?” Eleanor asked.
“I think he was George Washington at that point,” Dania thought. She whistled the melody again – making up notes past the point where she could recollect them.
“It does look a lot like the Unknown out tonight,” Eleanor said, glancing at the scenery. Dark trees twisted upwards, all down the street, like paper cutouts against the sky.
“That’s what I thought, that’s why it’s in my head,” Dania said. “I just watched it again, last week.”
“You watched it and didn’t tell me?” Eleanor asked.
“Uh, yes,” Dania said. “It’s Halloween themed, and I was watching it late. I thought you were already in your Christmas-holiday phase.”
“Don’t mention Christmas until November 24!” Gwen warned.
“Fine, fine,” Dania said. “Anyway, it was late, but I wanted to watch it again.”
“I’d totally watch it again, anytime,” Eleanor said. “For me, it’s more of a fall-in-general show. October through November, anytime that leaves are falling is the right season.”
“The harvest time,” Gwen suggested.
“You’ve seen Over The Garden Wall, right, Gwen?” asked Dania.
“Oh, certainly,” Gwen said. “I watched it right after it premiered, and again last year.”
“Why haven’t we watched it together yet?” Eleanor asked.
“I was just about to say!” Dania agreed. “We should watch it tonight. It’s still ‘Harvest Time,’ it only runs like two hours altogether.”
“It’s late,” Gwen yawned.
“The witching hour,” Eleanor said, with jazz hands.
“Ugh, I just want to listen to the music,” Dania said. “Even the weird tavern people songs.”
“Um, excuse me,” Eleanor said. “What’s wrong with the tavern people songs?”
“They’re great,” Dania said. “I just like the dark songs more. The opening in particular, also the sad version of ‘Potatoes and Molasses.'”
“I forgot about that!” Eleanor said. “Aw, Greg!”
“He makes it out alright,” Gwen said.
“I mean, I like the regular ‘Potatoes and Molasses’ too, duh,” Dania added. “I don’t know who doesn’t.”
Eleanor shot a look to Gwen.
“It’s fine,” Gwen said, dryly.
“Okay, good,” Eleanor said. “I was worried for a moment.”
“In general, I think the series is pretty solid,” Gwen continued. “Excellent animation, some truly effective voice work.”
“Probably Elijah Wood’s best role,” Eleanor said.
“Except Frodo,” Dania agreed, before adding, “maybe including that.”
“Even the supporting cast,” Gwen said. “Chris Isaak as the pumpkin monster, Fred Stoller as the horse, Tim Curry as Auntie Whispers – that’s a no-brainer, clearly.”
“And Beatrice!” Dania said. “The best character. Sass Master of the Forest.”
“I do enjoy the dialogue she has with Wirt throughout,” Gwen said. “Both of them being headstrong keeps the conflict internal, despite the things they encounter.”
“Maybe,” Dania said. “I mean, they encounter some pretty conflicting things. Literal monsters and gorillas.”
“I love how realistically Wirt and Greg respond to everything, though,” Eleanor said. “Like, even before we get the ‘Real World’ reveal, we can tell they’re from the real world because they’re as surprised as we are. Trying to explain everything and justify things.”
“It’s a testament to the dialogue,” Gwen said. “It’s why my favorite episode is ‘The Ringing Of The Bell.'”
“What, for Tim Curry?” Dania asked. “Or for the adorable romance between Wirt and Lorna?”
“Wirt is such a cinnamon roll!” Eleanor cried. “I mean, he can be stubborn, but somehow you just never lose sympathy for him! Tell her that you like her, you nerd!”
“Both positive qualities,” Gwen continued. “I like the episode for it’s pacing and atmosphere. The brothers find the shed, and are just settled when Lorna arrives. Then they’ve just gained her sympathy when Auntie Whispers arrives. Then they’ve just escaped – it all follows, like dominoes.”
“Like a candy trail.”
“Some of the other episodes can feel a little, I suppose, arbitrary?” Gwen said. “Like Greg’s dream. It’s cute, and the animation is a clever throwback to that Alice Comedies style ––”
“I love Greg’s Dream!” Dania said. “Even the pointless reception committees, the angel babies song, the North Wind…it’s so weird, but I loved it.”
“It’s all very smartly put together,” Gwen continued. “Though it’s not the most necessary to the narrative. Sure, he gets his wish at the end, but that could have been done more quickly.”
“Well, sure,” Eleanor said. “But if it was quicker, you wouldn’t get all the fun adventures. If you cut out the things that don’t forward the plot, the whole show would be the first episode and the last three. You’d lose all the central stuff.”
“I think it’s all important to have that stuff there,” Dania said. “It wouldn’t be the same without the tavern people, or the horse.”
“But is it important to the narrative?” Gwen said. “Consider: what is the show about?”
“Wirt learning to be less of a jerk to his brother, I guess,” Eleanor suggested.
“Perhaps,” Gwen said. “But in that case, what does most of the superfluous action have to do with forwarding that narrative?”
Eleanor fell silent, considering this. Gwen wasn’t wrong – many aspects of the show seemed included for their aesthetic, rather than for their relevance to the step-brothers’ journey. Could these plot cul-de-sacs be nothing more than that? But then again…
“What’s wrong if they don’t?” Eleanor voiced. “I mean, it’s called ‘The Unknown,’ maybe some lack of clarity is intended.”
“It feels intentional, though,” Gwen said. “The references are all clear: the Cab Calloway animation on the Highwayman, the McLoughlin designs for the frogs on the boat, the Halloween postcards that inspired Pottsfield. Those are very specific homages to get tossed in without it meaning something. But what does it build to?”
“Maybe it’s just building an atmosphere,” Eleanor said. “The spooky atmosphere, the timelessness of it, is what makes it most impactful. It’s why the jump to a modern setting is so strange in the ninth episode; because up to that point, you can’t place it.”
“Perhaps, but does that help the brothers?”
“I think so,” Dania said, jumping in. “The other things happening during the story keep them from having the really big argument with each other until the end of the series. It gives Greg lots of interesting things to react to, while keeping Wirt off-guard.”
“I suppose the aesthetics could be anything, with regards to time period,” Gwen said. “That’s just a choice. But you’re right: the show is very good at burying the lead when it comes to character development. Because of the focus on monster-of-the-week challenges for the first five episodes, you don’t realize how much you connect with the characters. The second half being more plot-focused has a stronger impact when it’s preceded by standalone encounters.”
“It’s also aesthetically gorgeous,” Eleanor added. “With the lush painted backgrounds and the rounded designs of the characters. You can actually see the canvas bumps on the backgrounds when you watch it in HD.”
“I don’t know anything else that looks like this,” Dania said. “The hundred-year-old fairy tale look. It’s the kind of stuff you see on haunted…toys and stuff like that. Like, who has a one-room schoolhouse anymore?”
“I do like that episode,” Gwen added. “Between the musical numbers, the real focus is on the character development.”
“You mean the focus besides the teacher lamenting about her no-good two-timing man o’ mine,” Dania said. She whistled a bit of that tune.
“The real star of the episode, for me, is Wirt and Beatrice having a fantastic conversation about being stubborn, which directly relates to both of their own flaws. The music and the adventure is a cover for that.”
“It’s hard to pick a favorite when all the episodes have really good side characters,” Eleanor said. “Well, except Endicott. Not a big fan of him.”
“Encidott is great!” Dania said. “He’s mad, and he’s in love, just like all of us.”
Eleanor gave Dania side-eye. “Sure, but it’s not as strange as the other episodes. I love the frogs because of the world that it builds. They can’t talk, George Washington is naked, the band is so important. With Endicott, he’s just a guy.”
“A crazy guy. With a horse.”
“I’m still not entirely sure I ‘get’ all of it,” Gwen commented. “Even if the intention is on hiding the character growth within a travelogue, there has got to be some interpretation of what it all means.”
“I think you’re overthinking it,” Dania said. “Like you and Eleanor are saying, if it’s all about atmosphere and feeling, can’t you just accept it for the way it feels watching it – like the fall? Like Halloween?”
“It’s an adventure into a mystical land,” Eleanor said. “A dark one, one with confusion and magic. If we knew what everything meant, or represented, it wouldn’t be as enjoyable.”
Gwen shrugged. “Maybe. At any rate, it’s still an excellent series.”
“We should watch it!” Eleanor repeated. “Tonight!”
Gwen rolled her eyes.
“Or tomorrow night. No rush.”
The girls discussed when they would watch the series together, their voices fading away as they walked further down the street – appearing periodically under the harsh light of the streetlamps before fading back into the darkness.
Image Source: FanPop