Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer that loves reading books, listening to music, and watching movies.
A Fantasy's Fresh New Take
Created by Dana Terrace on the fantasy, comedy-horror genre, Disney's The Owl House is an impeccable display and another example of what future's high-quality animations and captivating storytelling should be about.
The animated series not only brought sweet justice for my ever-loving subtle subversions of used-up tropes and cliches, but also did its plots and narratives great enough to hook viewers, like me, to keep watching from episode to episode. The whole series felt like an anti-matter, a mix of light and dark contrasts, against some overused published and made fantasy genre books, movies, and series. It felt something out of the ordinary and all-around likable. And, apparently, I'm one of those weirdos.
Strangely enough, I find the series to be similar to another popular series of mine Gravity Falls. And when I learned that the creator of the said series helped making The Owl House, and voiced one of the characters, I would instantly know that the show will be worth watching.
Out of this World
I once saw commercials about the show months ago and thought that it would just be another bland, uninteresting series for kids to enjoy filled with slapstick jokes, common tropes, and overused cliches rendering me to ignore the series when it showed. And when I finally, well, forced myself to watch it from start to finish, I would then just wished that I could go back in time to slap myself in the face twice for not noticing how good the series will be. Almost every initial expectations I had with it were wrong, and I was glad to finally catch the same train other fans are waiting to arrive: a train to an upcoming second season.
When a teenage Luz Noceda stumbles upon a magical world, she meets Eda, King, more friends, and more enemies. It's an escapism series about a teenage, misunderstood girl from living in a bland world to finally deciding to stay in a world where magic and weirdness runs amok.
She gets the idea that maybe she could do magic as well, but humans can't do magic in this world. Well, not until a secret unfolds that let her discovers what Eda's weakness is and where magic comes from.
Stories of each other about what dorks we were in high school.
— Dana Terrace
Away from the Usual
Seems kind of familiar, right? Most of us had at least read or watched or heard about a "chosen one" destined to bring peace in magical, out-of-this-world place because some what's-his-name had threatened the status quo for not abiding the natural order. And you'll also think that this might be just another fantasy media that only kids would gobble up like sheeps and enjoy. But don't let this show's trailer or synopsis keep you at where you at because it will surely uncover more than you'll ever expect.
Each episode is set on a seemingly floating timeline-like manner; time within the series is set anywhen but still follows a linear narrative progression. However, the series does conclude that the whole series is set within Luz's supposed compulsory Summer Camp "vacation." They range from 10-15 minutes each, accumulating to a total of 19 for the first season. Each episode was also seasoned for you to feast in its design oddities, story humors, and emotional investments. The series seems to follow a formula in creating plots and sub-plots, those that are familiar during this decade's golden age of animation. But the formulas' execution are so well-done that it hides from the meticulous views of the beholder.
Diverse and Dynamic Characters
The Owl House comes through and through with uniquely designed diverse characters that the "word" diversity will exist in the series as a pure understatement. Here, we have human-hybrids, humanoids, dragons, witches, warlocks, demons, and everything in between. Character and animal designs are also top-notch, where you'll really notice the design and property differences between the human world and the Boiling Isles. The animators also changed real-life elements to further distinguish the Boiling Isles from Earth, such as making the ocean purple. The commonality isn't a word with every character presented in the series. We also have healthy relationships, proper and unforced LGBTQ+ representations (plus, no queerbating), antics between siblings and their rivalries, as well as conniving, mischievous, and nefarious villains, antagonists, and adversaries.
Most of the main characters are dynamic and well-written that their individual character developments and arcs are chef's kisses. There are also characters that are real and highly relatable, you'll be looking forward for his or her possible deep developments in the future. The antagonists are eerily villainous in nature, some that can be a little familiar for cartoon binge-watchers like me. Though, they did added some twists in these characters, especially the main antagonist of the series. People would love revel to the mysteries of their pasts, ulterior motives, and lore. And the second antagonists may not seem what or who they are in the first season. With more surprises to be unpacked, especially since a second season of the series is on its way, fans and daily viewers are itching to find out more answers and revelations to be uncovered.
Ominous and Satisfyingly Weird Worldbuilding
The Boiling Isles is said to be a dead, rotting giant (or Titan) in the middle of a vast, purple-tinted body of water. Because of the intense magical energy from the place, it gave birth to the witches and demons that roamed and used magic. That is not until a mysterious Emperor Belos called criminalized mixing types and kinds of magic. This, in turn, gave birth to the Covens where magic users are indoctrinated to use only one study of magic. Any mixing of magic and its usage is highly prohibited. Anyone caught by the Emperor's Coven can/will be petrified for life. One particular "Wild Magician" the Emperor and his underlings have been wanting to do is to catch Eda, the Wildest and most powerful witch in the Isles.
Any magical spell is cast by drawing perfect circles in thin air, depending on the user's knowledge and the magic of course. The theorized precursor of this peculiar conjuring system is from drawing modified alchemical insignias or symbols on any drawable surface, as seen when Luz finally learns her first spell. The magic also exists within the user (literally and figuratively) as well as within the world by drawing essence from the fallen Titan. And just because they are magic, that doesn't mean that these would do good. Some may curse, haunt, scare, and even kill the user or the receiver of the magic. And most are just plain weird, all-around, and wild that imagination can only be the limit.
The magical combats and battles in some episodes are impressively and fluidly animated that their scenes would make your eyes want more. They are so breathtaking that if you're a Grunkle Stan you can definitely sell them (a Gravity Fall's reference for those unbeknownst). I mean, just look at this jaw-dropping sequence of a duel:
Not much is known about the Boiling Isles history, map, and lore. But the show did a great job of informing its viewers of its scopes and limitations. All the information that you'll digest isn't forcefully dumped, isn't underwhelming, and isn't overwhelming to the point that it'll bore you to sleepy time. The upcoming second season, however, offers more information about the Boiling Isles, its history, the characters, the lore, and the magic system.
Dana Terrace said that the general lore for the series was inspired by art and storybooks by Hieronymus Bosch. Alex Hirsch, Terrace's partner and creator of the TV series Gravity Falls on which Terrace served as a storyboard artist and revisionist, serves as a creative consultant on the series. Hirsch also voices one of the memorable main characters in the show. If you also love Gravity Falls, then the hint I'll give you is that this character is another demon of new form with a new life in a new world. Terrace also said that the visual style was inspired by Remedios Varo, John Bauer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Russian architecture.
Critical Responses, Backlashes, and Positive Reviews
The first season of the series was met with mostly positive receptions:
- "The show embraces that feeling of being a fan regardless of what other people might think. For me, The Owl House has found its stride as Luz has started exploring the magic school and meeting other teen witches." – Los Angeles Times
- "The show's irresistible force, though, is the instantly identifiable, bourbon-soaked voice of the wonderful Wendie Malick, who plays Eda, the impatient witch who takes on Luz as an apprentice and all-around punching bag." – New York Times
- "The show feels like being dropped into the creepiest creations of Adventure Time or the weirdest and most dangerous depths of Gravity Falls." – Collider
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I love how it scrutinizes common, overused formulas for fantasy-genre writing, and bend them for their own will for very creative deliberations. The show will often subtly imply it as a joke, a spoken dialogue, or even a scene. But some are so on-your-face that you'll laugh along with its satiric comedy.
For example, Eda is a very powerful witch. Surely, she'll be someone who was great a wizarding school or someone with a linear moral compass. Nope! She's wild, like her magic. She's free and she choose to be one because she doesn't like the coven system placed for the other witches. She learned more than one type of magic because she sees learning only one means not exploring the others for her own benefits. And she sees the Emperor as the evil, villainous person he is despite how most people see the character.
She is not a hero, or an anti-hero. She's not a villain, either. She's a complex character with her own set of personal beliefs, moral, and personalities for the world she's living. Of course, through the progression of the series, she's not the only one who's like this in the series. Most characters arcs are well-written enough for you, as a viewer, to see their changes throughout the series.
An exceptional, quirky fantasy series that has broad viewing appeal.
— Common Sense Media
Of course, this show will be also prone to a few (or several) controversial reviews. The also drew few criticisms stating the series as an attack against traditional religious beliefs and conservatism. The conservative evangelical Christian religious television network, called the Christian Broadcasting Network, attacked the show by declaring that it was part of a "witch agenda to make witchcraft look positive." This assessment was called "hyperbolic" from a writer for The Mary Sue and stated that a "rebellious Latina witch" is, to those like CBN, "probably the scariest thing" and stated that the show sounds like "a ton of fun."
Despite a show made to draw ire from some parents and critics, the series successfully paved its way within the fantasy genre culture and fandom and chipped those put-up walls the popular media had established. People would often create art inspirations drawn from the show, as well as dedicated forums and discussions for stories and theories about the underlying and rich lore, characters, magic system, and world that managed to manifest within the screen.
The Owl House is a must-watch for those wanting to join new waves of communities and people that had craved new, fresh, and idealistic animation series. It will be one of your all-time favorites from all the series Disney had ever shown, and it will also soon belong as an all-time classic if the series' consecutive episodes and seasons are as properly and surprisingly well-executed. And with the many horrendous events that had happened, it served as one of 2020's pinnacle for modern creative writing, storytelling, art direction, visual effects, music scoring, and animation.
© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente