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Summer Camp Island

Entry updated 20 December 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2018-current). Cartoon Network. Creator and executive producer: Julia Pott. Writers include Leah Beckmann, Emma Fletcher, Sarah Lloyd, Kent Osborne, Jack Pendarvis and Julia Pott. Art direction by Sandra Lee. Voice cast includes Oona Laurence, Ethan Maher, Julia Pott and Elliott Smith. 100 eleven-minute episodes to date (plus the pilot). Colour.

Summer Camp Island transforms once the parents depart: the three counsellors become witches; little Aliens on flying saucers (see UFOs) appear; Monsters come out of the woods; pretty much everything becomes animate. This metamorphosis produces high levels of cuteness (the children, being anthropomorphized animals, are already cute). Head witch Susie (Potts) provides a harsher note: "Don't come to me with your dumb baby problems, I'm not your Mum, I'm the prettiest girl who will ever talk to you".

The main protagonists are best friends: bashful young elephant Oscar (Smith) and the scientifically minded Hedgehog (Laurence). Oscar: "I can't imagine what it would be like ... to forget that you and I were best friends." Hedgehog: "Awww!" Oscar: "Don't you want to say the same thing?" Hedgehog: "It's implied."

In one episode an alien, Puddle (Maher), takes the pair to their planet. Here everyone is apathetic, the King explaining that someone has been hoarding emotions and "not expressing them back out into our emotional eco-system", so Oscar and Hedgehog's emotions will be drained and shared. Fortunately Hedgehog deduces that Puddle is the hoarder, finding their mix-tapes (including a "painfully revealing love song mix to never give the King").

When Oscar's Dinosaur underwear is exposed he wishes it hadn't happened: so he follows Puddle's advice to use the Time-Travel quicksand, despite Hedgehog's cautioning that her sf novels suggest altering the past is never a good idea (and so it proves). As, in other episodes, Hedgehog is able to build an intergalactic Communication device and is accidentally shrunk following an experiment (see Great and Small; Miniaturization), her scientific abilities may be boosted by the island.

Episode 20 has Hedgehog's father saying she must leave the next day for Business Camp to begin "securing her dream retirement": the sympathetic Moon gives her and Oscar a piece of time-freezing rock and they spend three months in this static world. Friendly creatures live there ("immune to time" suggests Hedgehog), but a "Jabberwock" spooks them and they all flee to a cabin; therein an old lady explains that it is "hungry for what shouldn't be here". Hedgehog's bravery enables the pair to return to the normal world, where, emboldened, she stands up to her father. Later Hedgehog shows Oscar a photo she's found: dated 1892 and showing the old lady as a girl ... with Suzie, unchanged (an earlier episode had celebrated Suzie's "annual 15th birthday party", that wording now significant); Puddle flies by singing "Hello forever"; starry-eyed, Hedgehog announces "It's a mystery!".

Later Oscar and Hedgehog learn the island is apparently the last redoubt of Magic and monsters in the world. From the second season the focus begins to shift from Oscar to Hedgehog, who becomes a Werewolf and trains to be a witch. But Oscar has his adventures too, at one point being put on trial by moles; Hedgehog, defending him, finds their laws baffling, #520 being "Last week was all Tuesdays" and #801 "No salad for Dave". The overarching story moves forward: we discover that Susie is 400 years old, that the camp used to be a witch school (what happened to its students is unexplained), and that the children are the latest (possibly last) generation of magical creatures. Season 4 suggests Hedgehog's ancestry may be important, while its finale is the memorably dreamlike "Pepper and the Fog", which wanders into folklore.

Summer Camp Island is a very entertaining (mainly) fantasy series, created by the former Adventure Time writer Julia Potts; the animation style and cuteness may put off some viewers, while for others the charm, gentle weirdness and Humour will win out. [SP]


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