Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wander Over Yonder: My Thoughts and Hopes

So Wander Over Yonder officially premiered last Friday on the Disney Channel.  It's a new animated show created by Craig McCracken, the creator of classic Cartoon Network TV series such as The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.  I saw it with a couple of friends of mine, and I eventually showed it to my mom and personal trainer.  The two episodes that aired, "The Greatest" and "The Egg", are available on iTunes, so you can go ahead and checked them out!  When I got them, they happened to be free (though I went ahead an purchased a seasonal pass anyway); I don't know if this offer is still available, or if it's available anywhere outside the USA, though.

I'd like to take some time to talk about what I thought of the show, as well as some other things about the show.  Apologies in advance for the super-duper, triple-extra-large post following the break, and preemptive "screw you"s to anyone who feels the need to reply to this with a dumb "tl;dr".  If you didn't read it, you don't need to respond to it!  ...Thought since I don't get comments anyway, that shouldn't be an issue.

But anyway, first of all, let me preface this by saying I saw the sneak peek titled "The Picnic" before I saw this, so I'll be making a lot of comparisons to this, particularly with...

The Greatest

I've seen people talk about The Picnic and think if it's a proper introduction to the series.  For one thing, it does give us a typical scenario where Lord Hater is at odds with or has his galactic domination impeded by Wander, and it DOES let us know that it wasn't the first time Wander and Hater have met, the way Wander asks if Hater remembers him.  In some ways, it IS a good introduction, or at the very least, a good episode for people who haven't watched the series before to get a good idea of what the series is like (thereby making it a perfect sneak peek).  However, there is one fatal flaw with the episode as a good introduction, and it's that Sylvia was not present for the vast majority of the episode, and she's pretty much one of the central characters of the series alongside Wander.

By contrast, The Greatest (which, incidentally, is the first episode in the production line) is a more proper and perhaps the perfect introduction to the series, as not only does it feature all the main/major characters of the series (Wander, Sylvia, Lord Hater, and Peepers, the last of whom I'll get to later), but also gives the perfect story/plot to give you a general idea of what the series is about.  The Picnic, while awesome, had a lot of action, fighting, and was focused more on Hater battling Emperor Awesome, which could be a possible regular scenario and is cool enough, but this episode plays out the way many have described the series: Lord Hater conquers a planet or is just generally hating, Wander gets involved, Hater gets "defeated" through Wander's carefree, super-nice attitude.  As Craig McCracken put it, the series is less "good vs. evil" and more "love vs. hate", and this is emphasized not only through Wander besting Hater without actually fighting him, but also by the fact that the planet Wander inadvertently saves being the most over-the-top, sickeningly sweet kind of cutesy-poo aliens you can imagine.

In addition to being a good introduction to the series, there is also the vague implication that this is Wander and Hater's first ever encounter...  or at the very least, this is the first time Wander and Hater have come face-to-face.  Sylvia mentions that Lord Hater has conquered many planets, which just grinds her gears and makes her want to give him what-for (again, a good way to portray what kind of character she is, as opposed to Wander), so clearly they (or at least Sylvia) knew OF Hater, but here it feels like Wander hasn't encounter the Watchdogs, Peepers, or Hater before.  Wander walks up to the Watchdog army, assuming they're the residents of the town he arrives at, and the way Wander acts and reacts to Peepers and Hater himself makes it seem like they've never formally met before.  Compare this to The Picnic, wherein Wander immediately recognizes Lord Hater and asks if Hater remembers him.  I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it turns out this was actually the case.

As to the actual episode itself, it was great!  Perhaps not "the greatest" ironically enough, though we'll have to wait and see about that.  Incidentally, this episode was partially written and directed by Craig McCracken himself.  And while he did have a hand in writing and story-boarding "The Picnic", it was actually written and directed by different people (thought that episodes writer, Ben Joseph, co-wrote this episode along with McCracken himself).  I bring this up because if there's one way to describe this episode, it's very...  Craig McCracken-y.  Like, it just REEKS with his style, in terms of facial expressions, fast-paced humor, certain angles, and just the overall look and style.  I was actually SLIGHTLY taken aback by this, seeing as it had a bit of a contrast between The Picnic and it's overall look.  The tone is still the same, but there are still quite a bit of differences, most of them being very subtle and hard to describe.  One thing I can definitely note that took a while to get used to was the fact that lightning strikes and the screen flashes red and black whenever Lord Hater proclaims somethings.  Now, I loved Lord Hater's monologuing and "evil hamminess" in The Picnic, in fact it's probably why he's my favorite character so far, but the lightning I felt was a bit much, and...  kind of gave me a head-ache after a while.  Not to mention, some of his poses were a bit more crude whenever the screen flashed, as opposed to how more detailed (well not "detailed" just...  normal) he looked in The Picnic.  Some of his expressions in this episode also reminded me of how Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls looked at times...  Not really a criticism, just something I noticed, particularly when he tries to sit in that tiny throne.

As I mentioned before, this episode is very fast-paced, though when I say that, it's mostly in terms of the visuals and not so much the dialogue (though the dialogue can get pretty fast depending on the scene).  I feel like that's the best way to have comedy like this, though it could be disorienting to some (my mother liked the visuals, but couldn't keep up with how fast it got).  Some jokes fly by so fast, some might not have even registered, though I personally find that adds to it's rewatchability.

Not sure what else to mention about this episode.  Nothing else was particularly noteworthy to me, outside of certain moments, which I don't want to spoil for those who haven't seen it yet.  I suppose I'll end this by saying it's a very solid episode and a great introduction to the series!

The Egg

Hey hey everypony, this episode was co-written by Lauren Faust! ;)  Incidentally, Craig McCracken said that they're truly a team when it comes to this show.  He said this is more about "love vs. hate" then "good vs. evil", and he has Lauren on board to make sure the series stays true to that.  Basically, he says that she makes sure the show has heart, while he just tries to make it funny.  This episode perfectly exemplifies that notion.

The plot goes that Sylvia is tries to fight off a giant black flying dragon creature, when Wander finds an egg, that apparently rolled down from it's nest at the top of a mountain.  Assuming the egg is the dragon's egg, Wander encourages Sylvia to bring the egg back up to the mountain in the hopes that it will sooth the savage beast.  Sylvia, of course, wants nothing to do with it, and would rather just kick the monster's butt then try to be nice, but reluctantly goes along with Wander's plan when she sees that he can't actually carry the egg himself.

That's all I'm going to say, because again, I don't want to spoil anything, but I WILL say that the ending is one of the most heartwarming things I've seen in recent years.  My friend, who watched the episode with me when it premiered (but managed to see it beforehand) said it's basically about Sylvia combating what she wants to do versus what Wander wants to do, and that's true.  I was also a bit nervous myself, because I actually saw a song that was in this episode before it aired:

And judging from that one song, I was nervous that Wander came off as an unintentional jerk by singing while Sylvia gets battered and beaten.  Thankfully, in the context of the episode, it doesn't come off that way at all, and instead, it's more or less Sylvia who's to blame for her own misfortune, seeing as she wants to keep fighting the dragon, even though it isn't working and she keeps losing the fight.  Sylvia also learns a bit of a lesson at the end, which is probably obvious but I still won't spoil it.

The episode is less fast-paced then "The Greatest", though still has that fast-paced style that's by now a signature of the series.  It's probably at least as fact-paced as "The Picnic".  The jokes aren't QUITE as funny as the other episodes, though it still has quite a few good ones! :lol:

If there's anything else worth mentioning about this episode, it's that it establishes the relationship between Wander and Sylvia.  While The Greatest pretty much introduces the core cast and concept of the series, and The Picnic further solidifies Wander and Lord Hater's relationship, The Egg gives us a good look at what it's like to see Wander and Sylvia at odds with each other.  While they're still friends, and heck even though Sylvia clearly would rather do things her way, she still helps out Wander regardless, it shows just how the two contrast and how one differs from the other.  This was set-up in The Greatest, but here it's made more clear; Sylvia's gruff, she's a fighter, she'd rather lay the smack-down on someone then try to go for a non-violent solution, while Wander's a lover, not a fighter, he's eager to help but would rather settle things through THE POWER OF LOOOOOOVE!!! :P  I personally love these kinds of ying-yang/two opposites dynamic.  In a way, it almost reminds me of Finn and Jake from Adventure Time, though they don't have the same personalities, not to mention their differences are less pronounced...  I could go on about that, but I need to stay focused.  Anyway, another solid episode!  Both of these episodes make up a great premiere!

Other Stuff

So I find it weird that I've become a fan of a show, AND am dedicatedly following a show since it's premiere.  With most of my other favorite shows, I got into them after their premiere.  It makes me feel proud, being one of the few who've been a fan "since the beginning" so-to-speak.  Then again, the whole reason I was even interested in the show in the first place was because Craig McCracken was behind it...  I was saying on forums how this'll be the first good show Disney Channel's had in years, even before it aired.  This doesn't stand anymore in light of Gravity Falls and the new Mickey Mouse shorts, and I did feel a little nervous.  Even though Craig's had a good track record, what IF this show wasn't as good as I was making it out to be...  As soon as I saw The Picnic, though, those fears were laid to rest; this show is just as good, if not better, then I thought I would be!

I'd also like to take a minute to talk about Peepers.  For those of you unaware, Peepers is Lord Hater's right-hand man, and commander of the Watchdog army.  He's voice by Tom Kenny, Craig McCracken's "good luck charm", being the voice of the Mayor of Townsville and the Narrator in The Powerpuff Girls and Eduardo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.  Here's a scene prominently featuring him from The Picnic:

Peepers is interesting, in that he's specifically mentioned as a character back when the series was first announced alongside Wander, Sylvia, and Lord Hater.  So he's basically one of the main characters, as I see it.  Despite that, he doesn't seem to be getting that much attention, both from the media, and even the fans...  There seems to be more fanart and attention given to Emperor Awesome, who so far as only appeared in one episode, and likely won't show up again (though who knows for sure)!  I mean, I could totally see why he'd get more attention, he's just so...  flamboyant.  But, I digress.  I sincerely how that at one point int he series, Peepers gets his own episode, or that there will be more focus on him in the future.  I think there could be a lot of potential for him.  After all, he seems to be more competent then Lord Hater in some regards, and yet despite that, is intensely loyal to him.  SOMETIMES it's out of fear, yet other times it seems to be genuine admiration (such as when Lord Hater is total trashing Emperor Awesome's all by himself).  Makes me wonder what he truly things of Lord Hater, or why he's following him...  Or heck, how he became a commander, since he seems to be just like any of the numerous Watchdogs just with a different uniform.  I'd also like to see more about his relationship with the other characters.  Craig McCracken has gone on about how he loves cartoon characters who you can just take and put in any situation and that would be a good premise, and created this show with that mindset, focusing on the characters first and foremost.  With that in mind, I wonder what his thoughts are on Peepers, and how he'd interact with Wander and Sylvia...  Well, we've seen interactions, but not that much.  I can't get a good grip on the relationship between Wander and Peepers, and the only thing I've seen from him and Sylvia is Sylvia beating him up in the opening.  So yeah, possible idea for a future episode.

Speaking of future episodes, here are some upcoming episodes that I'd like to briefly touch on:

The Fugitives

Wander and Sylvia have become fugitives on a distant planet ruled by Lord Hater, but just as fast as Sylvia can concoct their escape plans, Wander inadvertently keeps foiling them by helping strangers in need.


A preview for this episode was shown during the series premiere, but even before seeing it, I could tell EXACTLY how an episode like this would pan out...  From the synopsis, Wander sounds like he's going to do EXACTLY what I would expect someone like him would do, same goes for Sylvia.  It has me excited to see how the episode will actually pan out!

The Good Deed

When a series of Wander’s good deeds backfire, the free-spirited nomad sets out to make everything right.


Now THIS is an interesting concept.  Heck, it pretty much flies in the face of the previous episode.  Wander is, indeed, a do-gooder, and will likely stop and help people out, whether it's a good idea for him to do so or not.  However, it is possible for Wander's good deeds to go wrong, and it'd be interesting to see how he'd react to something like that.  In a way, this reminds me of the Adventure Time episode, "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain", wherein Finn tries to help out everyone he meets for personal reasons (basically, he made a boom boom when he was a baby and fell in it, and no one bothered to help him out then, so he wants to help out everyone he meets, so no one would ever have to feel that abandoned), only to find that doing certain good deeds flies in the face of want other people he's helping wants, so he's not sure what to do, or if he should even help them at all.  It's probably one of the best episodes in the series.  Perhaps this will be the same?

The Pet

Sylvia is heartbroken when she believes Wander considers her a pet rather than a friend, which gives Lord Hater the opportunity to use her strength against Wander.


Well I'll be damned, 3 straight episodes of awesome concepts I want to see done with this show.  What has me about this episode concept is the fact that it touches on something that hasn't been that established that well in any previous episodes, namely what Sylvia's relationship is to Lord Hater and vice versa.  I mean, we know Lord Hater ticks her off to the point of wanting to beat him up, but we haven't seen Lord Hater interact with Sylvia, nor do we really know what he thinks of her (aside from not caring where she is when Wander shows up for when the planets align).  This also makes me wonder how Hater is going to take advantage of her.  I mean, Sylvia seems savvy enough not to be fooled by whatever Lord Hater could cook up to trick her, not to mention I have a hard time picturing Hater trying to trick her or manipulate her emotions to his benefits; he can't pretend to sympathies with her since he's...  well, Lord Hater, and Hater doesn't strike me as the manipulating type.  He's more of a "come in, stomp everything good, laugh and monologue about it" kind of guy.  I also feel like Wander referring to Sylvia as a "pet" will likely be a misunderstanding or sorts, he'd never think any less of Sylvia (even though I've only known him for a short time).  So yeah, perhaps my most anticipated episode so far!

Craig McCracken also mentions in an interview an episode known as "The Box", in which Wander, being the nice guy he is, agrees to deliver a box to someone, with the promise that he won't look inside the box.  Wander, being innately curious about everything (it's in his name, after all), wants to see what's inside the box, and is put at odds with his good nature and his natural curiosity.  Really, so many good ideas to come with this series!

Okay, I know I'm running long here, but I want to touch up on one last thing: characters.  The series has 4 central characters: Wander, Sylvia, Lord Hater, and Peepers.  Not sure if you'd count the army of Watchdogs, though...  Even though those are the main characters, there are and will be many other characters in the show, some one-off, others POSSIBLY recurring.  Who, exactly?  Well let's go down them.

Apparently, there's one specific member of the Watchdog army named "Westley", and he's Lord Hater's "#2 henchman".  He is/will be played by actor/comedian Aziz Ansari.  I have no idea of he's actually shown up in an episode, there have been Watchdogs who've spoken once or twice, but I'm not sure if any of them are Westley.  Knowing of his existence, it makes me wonder what he does to be Lord Hater's #2...

There's Emperor Awesome from The Picnic, and he's already become something of an "Ensemble Darkhorse" among fans of the show.  And really, he lives up to his name.  On top of looking cool, being some kind of ultra-buff shark man with a kingly cape and crown, and talking like a surfer dude, he commands an army of "Fist Fighters", an army of little men with FISTS for heads, and a giant fire-breathing, laser-shooting dinosaur!  I mean, he's just so unspeakably awesome that of course fans took an immediate liking to him!  Unfortunately, he was punched through a planet by Lord Hater, so it might be unlikely that we'll see him again...  but then again, if he's as awesome as his name implies, he probably survived.  I wouldn't mind seeing him again.  After all, it was pretty vague about what he was fighting for.  I mean, CLEARLY he wanted the wish form the Celestial Star Being for himself, but his relationship with Lord Hater wasn't properly established.  Is he a rival or adversary of Lord Hater's?  Was he there to save the universe, or take over it himself?  After all, he was cut short of saying "The universe is-" before Lord Hater punched him...  was he going to say "the universe is MINE!"?  Or was he going to say "the universe is saved"!  After all, he didn't seem to have that much of an interest in the wish or dealing with Lord Hater ("I have a tanning session in, like, 15.").  Has he deal with Hater before?  Is this a typical occurrence?  Have they known each other longer then Hater knows Wander?  All questions that could possibly be answered if Awesome showed up again...  Not that I would mind never seeing him again (gives me the chance to as Craig McCracken where he is if I ever meet him at a con! :P ), but still, it would be, dare I say, awesome? ;)

According to Wikipedia (they don't have a source on this), a character called Sir Brad Starlight, voiced by James Marsden, will show up at some point.  Wish I knew more then that, though the name sounds cool at least.

Wikipedia also says, this time with at least two sources, that there will be a character called Trudie Traveler, voiced by Edie McClurg.  Judging from the name, it sounds like she, like Wander, is a traveler, and likely traverse the galaxy like Wander and Sylvia does.  This leads me to wonder if she will be the first truly recurring character who's not part of the main cast...  only time will till.

There's also King Bingleborp (voiced by Tom Kenny) and the Binglebops from "The Greatest", though I doubt we'll see them again...  And there's "The Balloon Guy", also voiced by Tom Kenny, who I assume is the guy in this preview:

...It'd be funny if he somehow became a recurring character, wouldn't it?

PHEW!  I did NOT mean for this post to be this long.  Good golly gosh, if you actually bothered to read any of this, I applaud you and deeply thank you for taking an interest in what I have to say...  Regardless, I hope all of you have checked out the series by now.  Hopefully you liked it as much as I did!

No comments:

Post a Comment