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Wander over Yonder

Entry updated 7 June 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2013-2016). Disney Television Animation. Created by Craig McCracken. Directors include Dave Thomas and Eddie Trigueros. Writers include Francisco Angones, Robin Budd, Amy Higgins, Ben Joseph and Craig McCracken. Voice cast includes Jack McBrayer, Keith Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Noël Wells and April Winchell. 43 22-minute episodes (usually with two segments) and eleven shorts. Colour.

Orange, hairy and sporting a tall floppy hat which contains many things, the rustic Alien Wander (McBrayer) travels from world to world with a positive attitude, accompanied by his friend and dragon-like steed, Sylvia (Winchell). Wander is naive, helpful and cheerful; Sylvia, though she cares for Wander, is more grounded and always prepared for fisticuffs, particularly when they cross paths with Lord Hater (Ferguson) and his army. Hater is attempting to conquer the universe one planet at a time – however Wander's affable interventions and Sylvia's fighting skills regularly frustrate him. Not all episodes involve Hater; in one Wander attempts to return a lost sock to its owner; in another he and Sylvia open a door in space and enter into The Void, a white room where anything you wish for appears, reminiscent of the Warner Bros. Cartoon "Duck Amuck" (1953). There are occasional Parody episodes: of Batman (1966-1968); of Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984-1985) (see Voltron: Legendary Defender); and a cartoon within the cartoon that satirizes He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985): it ends with the Gravity Falls cast (played by their voice actors) as characters from Scooby Doo (1969-1970) but set in the universe of The Jetsons (1962-1963).

The status quo is upended at the beginning of season two, with the arrival of Lord Dominator (Wells), who is considerably more effectual than any other Villain. Ignoring the danger and Sylvia's pleas, Wander insists on greeting them: "I have a secret weapon [a fruit basket] ... if you don't like fruit, there's also a selection of small cheeses." Out of armour Dominator looks like a goth teen: at one point, on a break, she befriends Sylvia after they start a fight in a karaoke bar; but they fall out when Sylvia refuses to obey her. By the end of the second and final season, Dominator has ruined all but one of the planets in the galaxy: here all the defeated species, led by Sylvia, unite to destroy Dominator, to Wander's horror. He goes to her HQ: "I just want to get to the root of your pain, maybe hug it out." She would rather torment him: however, with Hater's help, Sylvia's forces defeat her, so she departs in a sulk ("bunch of dorks!"). With her gone and the galaxy's planets now (somehow) revitalized, Lord Hater announces he will conquer them – thus the status quo is restored.

This is an enjoyable show, the second season being particularly good: Angones has said Lord Dominator was introduced to contrast the traditional episodic "silly" cartoon show with the modern day fondness for story arcs and series-length mysteries (see Gravity Falls; Adventure Time; Steven Universe). Wander himself is an amusing character, though perhaps not quite strong enough a protagonist; whilst Hater is (usually) too traditional an antagonist. However, there are many other memorable cast members – in particular Dominator, Sylvia, and Hater's loyal though exasperated assistant Commander Peepers (Kenny). As is usual with a McCracken series, the animation is visually interesting. [SP]

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