‘The Owl House’ Review: Magic, Mythology & the Most Intriguing Lore Since ‘Gravity Falls’

     January 8, 2020

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Disney Channel has already ordered up a second season of their new animated series The Owl House ahead of the series’ premiere on Friday, January 10th (8:45 p.m. EST), and with good reason. Created and executive-produced by Dana Terrace (Disney’s DuckTales), the series follows Luz (Sarah-Nicole Robles), a self-assured teenage girl who stumbles upon a portal to a magical realm where she befriends a rebellious witch, Eda (Wendie Malick), and a tiny warrior, King (Alex Hirsch). Despite not having magical abilities, Luz pursues her dream of becoming a witch by serving as Eda’s apprentice at the Owl House and ultimately finds a new family in an unlikely setting. And that’s just the beginning!

I had a chance to check out the first episode ahead of its premiere on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW this Friday. In short, it’s packed with promise: The three lead characters of Luz, Eda, and King deliver a balanced mix of chaos, ingenuity, and cuteness, which is really all you need to establish your heroes right out of the gate. They work well together despite having just met, so whether they’re window shopping in the market of the Boiling Isles or braving the fortress of the terrifying Warden Wrath, their individual strengths counter each other’s weaknesses. They make for a solid introduction, but for me, it’s the lore that’s even more interesting here.

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Image via Disney Junior

The first episode–“A Lying Witch and a Warden”–throws a lot at you, visually and narratively. You’ll want to know more about Eda’s backstory, her magical powers and their limits and rules (if any), and her part to play in the story of the Boiling Isles. The same goes for King, a pint-size character whose bark is worse than his bite, but whom we want to protect at all costs. And then there’s Luz, the fantasy-loving human who acts as a stand-in for all of those who feel out of place in the “real world” while being more at ease in a fictional, fantastical world.

And the Boiling Isles is certainly that. The structure of the land itself is the remains of a fallen titan. How did it get there? What happened to it? Do our heroes have any connection to its story? We don’t know! But watching The Owl House for more lore drops is a big part of the show’s appeal. It’s also populated with some of the strangest characters we’ve seen in a while, from skin-eating fairies, to eyeball-eating monstrosities, to other creatures that will undoubtedly eat a variety of other even more unpleasant things; it’s a demon realm, after all. That fact, perhaps, is the one thing that sets The Owl House apart from recent, similar fish-out-of-water/magical realm series like Amphibia or Infinity Train; it’s got a dark, yet darkly comic edge to the whole thing.

I mean, we’re following a rogue witch, for starters, and our hero is a wannabe witch as well, partnering up with Eda and the “demon king”, King. That might rub some people the wrong way, but I loved it. It feels like being dropped into the creepiest creations of Adventure Time or the weirdest and most dangerous depths of Gravity Falls but The Owl House is very much its own thing. It’s far more Lovecraftian than I, or anyone really, was expecting, and all the better for it. How that world shapes the adventures of Luz, Eda, and King is a very compelling question going into Season 1 and beyond. I can’t wait to see more!

Rating: ★★★★ Very good

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Image via Disney Channel

The guest voice cast for Season 1 includes Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Isabella Rossellini (Shut Eye), Tati Gabrielle (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Issac Ryan Brown (Raven’s Home), Mae Whitman (Parenthood), Bumper Robinson (The Game), Parvesh Cheena (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Eden Riegel (All My Children).

Coinciding with the series premiere, the DisneyNOW app will unveil an adventure game set in the supernatural world of The Owl House, where players can join Luz on her mission to become a witch by completing tasks, collecting relics and playing mini-games. New shorts featuring Luz, Eda and King will begin rolling out in the spring on Disney Channel and Disney Channel YouTube. An exclusive The Owl House t-shirt, designed by the series’ art director Ricky Cometa (Steven Universe), is currently available at Amazon.com/DisneyChannel, with additional designs debuting in January. Keep an eye out for my interview with both Terrace and Cometa about all things The Owl House later this week!

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