The fantasy genre of storytelling has been a medium that flourishes at perhaps just the right time to capture one’s imagination. It manages to stay ever present when something comes along, like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, to inspire fans and audiences. The concept of exploring extraordinary worlds where magic thrives alongside fascinating creatures offers an escape from the harsh realities that exists on Earth. The enthusiasm for such interest, however, can often be ridiculed or even raise concern that it may go too far to be healthy.
Luz is a teenager whose interest in fantasy borders on worrisome. As she is about to be sent to summer camp to accept reality, she stumbles into another dimension where her dreams are bizarrely real. Here she meets Eda, the most powerful witch on the Boiling Isles, and her roommate King, a demon warrior whose diminutive size and personality makes him more adorable than terrifying. Feeling at home, Luz convinces Eda to let her stay and train as an apprentice despite having no magical abilities and there being a prejudice against humans in the land.
The Owl House is notable for being the fourth Disney animated television series created by a woman. Dana Terrace was a story artist on Gravity Falls and directed episodes of the current DuckTales series before she was given the chance to bring something new to the table in the form of a Dominican teenage girl learning about witchcraft in a fantasy world she has always dreamed about. If the first episode of a new show is the embodiment of making a first impression than Terrace made a pretty good one that showcases a vivid and unique imagination.
The premiere episode itself, entitled A Lying Witch and a Warden, does a nice job setting up and establishing the premise of the show and what can be expected as the series progresses while being a fun story itself. Everything moves along in a good pace so that enough happens without coming off as overwhelming. The characterizations of Luz, Eda, and King are quite clearly defined upon their respective introductions, making their personalities easy to recognize and enjoy. And the comedy hits the right notes to be quirky and genuinely funny.
The animation is quite lovely to look at. The designs play upon visualizations one might be used to from the fantasy genre and spin them in bizzare fashion. It’s not quite the PG fantasy world, as Luz comments, one would expect from a Disney animated series. Creatures encountered appear and are often opposite to their stereotypes. An example being little pink fairy has sharp teeth and an appetite for skin. And the color palette to the world is not quite lush or vibrant, instead finding a strange beauty in landscapes that are mutated and saturated.
A big part of the appeal to the show is the voice cast and how they enhance the presentation of their characters. Sarah-Nicole Robles perfectly captures the spirit and enthusiasm of Luz. She’s not over-the-top, so the excitement heard is pleasant and enjoyable. Wendie Malick is great as Eda. Instead of trying to sound like a typical witch, she provides her own flare to the character that’s rather charming. Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch voices King and provides the right fit for a character who thinks he’s one thing but is really another.
With just the first episode out, there’s certainly questions raised that will hopefully be answered as the series progresses. Preview trailers hint upon friends and enemies Luz will make at a school for magic along with an exploration of Eda’s past, so questions regarding those are sure to be addressed. A curious one to ask though would be how Luz will handle returning home. Staying in this dimension is a choice, but the impact of having to leave is sure to be an interesting one along with how she functions with the changes she’ll experience.
The Owl House is off to a pretty good start. The premise is unique enough that it allows for playing with fantasy conventions in a fun and quirky way. The characters are presented quite nicely, both in personality and in their vocal performance. The animation is lovely while breaking from stereotypical designs of the genre. It does raise some narrative questions that will hopefully be answered as the series moves along. Fortunately, the first episode makes a good enough first impression that the rest of the series is sure to be a real hoot.
|The Owl House|
Pilot currently airing on Disney Channel and VOD
Created by Dana Terrace