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I think many would agree that within the cluttered TV landscape of the last decade, the medium has experienced a renaissance for quality animated series that bring different generations together. From Adventure Time to Bob's Burgers to Rick and Morty (to an extent), animation is as imaginative and far-reaching as it's ever been. To that end, Disney Channel's new addition The Owl House will definitely appeal to fans of two other neo-classics, Disney's own ended-too-soon Gravity Falls and Cartoon Network's Steven Universe.
For one thing, The Owl House was created by former Gravity Falls storyboard artist Dana Terrace, who serves as the showrunner, and it also boasts former Steven Universe art director Ricky Cometa, who serves in a similar capacity on The Owl House. The show follows a fantasy-loving teenage girl named Luz (Sarah-Nicole Robles) who discovers a portal to a macabre world where she befriends a rabble-rousing witch named Eda (Wendie Malick) and a bone-headed (literally) demon warrior named King (Alex Hirsch).
I recently had the pleasure of talking with the two of them after watching the hilarious and wildly promising first episode. When I asked Terrace what she thinks Gravity Falls fans will dig the most about her new project, here's what she said:
Well, we have...how do I say this? What I love most from shows like Gravity Falls is how much they would hide within the actual episode. You know, all the codes, all the secret images, all the little things that lead to a little more information on the world or certain characters. We're doing a bit of that, too, on Owl House in our own way. I think for fans who want to dig deeper into the world, there are avenues and ways to do that if they keep their eyes open, if they're looking for that kind of stuff. Other than that, if people want to enjoy the show as it is, as we presented, that is also just a great way to experience the stories we tell. Yeah, I think people can look forward to the relationships we develop, the stories we're telling. You know, I just thought people are entertained. [Laughs.]
For anyone who's ever gone cross-eyed looking for Gravity Falls codes, or secret background appearances from Bill Cypher and Blendin Blenjamin Blandin, there just aren't enough shows out there that provide the same kind of blink-and-you-miss-it details that rewards careful viewings. And while the premiere episode obviously couldn't set up any gigantic conspiratorial mysteries, the otherworld-ness of the Boiling Isle immediately asserts itself as the kind of place where conspiratorial mysteries are lurking behind every oddly shaped building.
With a similar approach to mixing standalone adventures with a deeper serialization, Steven Universe also shares Gravity Falls' ability to make its relationships feel genuine and tactile, whether they are loving or antagonistic. And that's a lot of what Ricky Cometa thinks those shows' fans will appreciate the most out of The Owl House.
I think it's the story and the characters, and the relationship through-lines. How Eda, King and Luz interact with each other is going to be at the forefront, you know, the main reason why people watch this. It's a fun adventure. It's a heartwarming experience. And also, there's a lot of inner workings in the background with how Dana and the writers and the board artists and directors all explained the world and how the magic works. The demon realm...you can think of anything, and here, there's a specific demon realm that I think we're all happy to share with everyone.
Ricky Cometa's comments speak to how the non-character animation on The Owl House is like the complete opposite of the static and repeated background animation in classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. cartoons. Dana Terrace actually followed that comment up with a compliment for Cometa's group.
Ricky and his design team do such a great job of fleshing out the world visually. Anytime you pause the show, there's something weird and something cool to look at, and that that gets me very excited from like an artistic standpoint.
I mean, it doesn't take much viewing time to appreciate what Terrace is talking about. Even when The Owl House features a scene set inside a single closed-off room, the surfaces are covered with items and decorations that allure one's eyeballs. So whenever scenes do go into the unpredictable outside world, it's even more of a visual treat, and there are definitely moments that will make fans pause the flow in order to check out all the baffling and/or hilarious details. (The ways that bones and body parts are used within the scenery is so intriguing, also.)
For Dana Terrace, working on Gravity Falls (and also the splendid DuckTales reboot, which she directed episodes for) was a pretty perfect lead-in to taking over her own show with The Owl House. And Ricky Cometa mirrored those thoughts when reflecting on his Steven Universe years. In their words:
Terrace: Of course. Gravity Falls was my first professional animation job right out of college. I was a revisionist and then I moved up to storyboard artist, and I did some animation for them as well. I think not only was I learning how to storyboard basically on the job, but what I learned from Alex was just how to handle a crew, how to be respectful to your teammates and how to keep your vision clear, but also leave room for the artists and the writers to play. You know, it's the showrunner's job to keep everything consistent and keep their vision clear, but you shouldn't always be completely closed to other people's ideas. And I think I learned a lot from that experience.
Cometa: That is 100% what I was going to say, too. It's amazing that we get to create art for amazing stories like this, and what I did on Steven, but it was also very amazing to be able to share that with everyone. And also, you hire these professionals and they're exactly that. So you want to be able to collaborate with these people and get the best thing out of everyone and have fun along the way. And I think doing that here and doing that [on Steven Universe] is the exact same fun experience. It's great.
I can't be the only one who's more than a little jealous about getting to work on timeless and near-universally beloved shows like those. Thankfully, we can all soon be distracted by The Owl House following in the footsteps of Gravity Falls and Steven Universe, while also quickly cementing itself as an amazing show unlike anything else. In Luz and King, we trust!
The Owl House, which already received an early Season 2 renewal, will debut on the Disney Channel on Friday, January 10.