Cartoon Network were responsible for some really fantastic childhood-favourite(that still hold up) shows like 'Dexter's Laboratory', 'The Powerpuff Girls' and 'Courage the Cowardly Dog', but have over the years gone downhill. Although there is the odd great show such as 'Young Justice', 'Regular Show' and 'Adventure Time' there are also abominations such as 'Johnny Test' and 'Uncle Grandpa' (which sadly are two of the shows most often aired).
And then here comes the 10-part mini-series 'Over the Garden Wall', and while it's not one of Cartoon Network's all-time greatest it is a gem of a show. One of their best in a long time and in a completely different league to what aired now. The high quality has not diminished at all with "Chapter 3: Schooltown Follies". That it also is not quite one of the best episodes and that 'Over the Garden Wall' got even better is a testament to 'Over the Garden Wall's' greatness. There will be some reiteration here and in my future reviews of the other episodes of that for the show, because all the episodes have exactly the same qualities.
For one thing, "Chapter 3: Schooltown Follies" is really beautifully animated, with the handsome and very smoothly detailed backgrounds coming off particularly strongly and the mystery of The Unknown setting is realised brilliantly. Think 'Adventure Time' but with more detail, darkness, sweetness and colour. As well as being good-looking animation, what the animation also does so brilliantly is two things, one being that it sets the melancholic but sweet folksy atmosphere of the stories very effectively and maintains that quality consistently and the other being how well it transports one to another world completely and draws one into the world to utter transfixing effect.
It is very charmingly and hauntingly scored, having a real presence while also allowing the atmosphere to speak, which it wouldn't have done as effectively if the scoring was louder, brasher and more constant. "Chapter 3: Schooltown Follies" definitely benefitted from having a more melancholic, lilting and sometimes sparse approach to the music. The main theme is very memorable too.
The unique story is paced perfectly, feeling swift but never rushed and gentle while never dragging, and are very imaginatively and compellingly told even when episodic in nature. It is better than anything airing on the network at the moment and rivals (or comes close) its best work too. Like with the animation, the atmosphere is melancholic, quirky and folksy, these qualities coming over in a gentle and very touching way and never getting silly or confusing.
Writing is also hugely successful. It's funny, suspenseful and remarkably poignant, but it's not just that these qualities are present; it's also how they're balanced and written that made the writing strong. The humour never felt juvenile or too much, in fact especially with Greg some of the writing is adorable and at its best hilarious, the numerous emotional moments which can be primarily found in the characterisation of Wirt don't make the mistake of dragging things down. It really succeeds in allowing one to relate to Wirt and his troubles and the suspense is nail-biting but should not unsettle younger viewers too much. All this without one of them over-powering the other, this easily could have had too much humour of the wrong kind jarring with the atmosphere or been too scary, neither the case here.
Here in "Chapter 3: Schooltown Follies", the characters are very well written, looking like and having the personalities of folk fairy tale figures. The protagonists are very easy to relate to, especially Wirt and it is easy to be endeared by the resourcefulness and cute optimism of Greg. The voice acting is strong, Elijah Wood's Wirt is very deeply felt and Colin Dean's chirpy enthusiasm contrasts most endearingly. Can't fault anyone else either.
Summing up, wonderful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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