Owl House, The

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (2020-current). Disney Television Animation. Creator and Executive Producer Dana Terrace. Directors include Aminder Dhaliwal, Stu Livingston and Stephen Sandoval. Writers include Charley Feldman, Zach Marcus, Molly Ostertag, John Bailey Owen, Dana Terrace and Rachel Vine. Voice cast includes Alex Hirsch, Wendie Malick, Sarah-Nicole Robles and Isabella Rossellini. Ten 22-minute episodes. Colour.

Worried by Luz Noceda's (Robles) disruptive nature – such as bringing snakes to a school book report – her mother ("I love your creativity, but ...") sends her to the Reality Check Summer Camp (motto: "think inside the box"). However, distracted at the bus stop, Luz chases a bag-carrying owl into another Dimension. The owl steals items for Eda the Owl Lady's (Malick) "Human Collectables" market stall; Eda calls herself the "most powerful witch on the Boiling Isles" (that location being a continent-sized corpse), also explaining that all human myths (see Mythology) are leakages from that world ("Griffins, Vampires, Giraffes"). Eda takes Luz home to The Owl House, introducing her to King (Hirsch), self-proclaimed "King of Demons", the bane of whose life is being told how adorable he is. For he is. Luz decides to stay and learn to be a witch.

Luz nonetheless concedes "this is clearly not the PG fantasy world I dreamed about": though some of the population are human-like, others have a just-about child-friendly Hieronymus Bosch appearance. There are many other Horror elements: the Magic School's Principal appears to be wearing a face mask, but it's a small imp whose mouth engulfs the top of his head (see Parasitism and Symbiosis); the Bat Queen (Rossellini) is a giant winged head. Meanwhile, Eda is cursed, perpetrator unknown, turning into a giant owl-like Monster without medication (parallels to serious illness are implied: "if you take the right steps, it's manageable"). The other main plot thread concerns the world's Politics: Eda is an outlaw, witches being supposed to join a coven, with their Magic kept limited. The exception is the Emperor's Coven, which enforces the Emperor's will: it is led by Eda's sister, Lilith.

There is Satire of Fantasy and its tropes: Eda loathes Luz's favourite fantasy novel's prose ("so flowery, so awful"); a wizard tells Luz she is a Chosen One, giving her a map and magic staff and sending her on an enchanted quest (see Clichés) – but her Perceptions are here being manipulated by a puppeteer demon, to trap Eda. The Magic School is mocked by Eda for teaching "blind obedience", though Luz befriends some of its pupils and meets the school's Human Appreciation Society ("where are your gills?"). She ends up getting banned, to Eda's approval "Ah! baby's first wanted poster." There are also magic Libraries; Identity Exchanges; references to Howl's Moving Castle (1986) by Diana Wynne Jones; magic mimicking social media (cell phones, selfies) and crystal balls behaving like laptops (see Internet).

Though Eda, "sassy, surprisingly foxy for her age", is the most interesting character, Luz and King are memorable too. This is a very promising new series: funny, inventive, with exciting animation and a potentially strong storyline. Its message – that imagination, individuality and weirdness are positive attributes – is not subtly presented, but it is a healthy one. [SP]

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