One of the greatest strengths of using animation to tell a story is its ability to bring the creator’s imagination to life. Whether through pencil drawings or computer images, creatures and places can look exactly as they should, with no real world constraints to limit them. This can be seen especially in landscapes that look strange or operate on their own logic.
In children’s entertainment, traveling to other worlds provides escapism for children seeking a reality more interesting than their own. However, they are often not all fun and play: sometimes behind the smile is an enemy in disguise, and about the next mountain could be an adult lesson waiting to be learned. Neither they nor the public will find out unless they are willing to take the next step.
Adventure Time is perhaps the most important cartoon of the last two decades. The story of Fin and Jake and their adventures through the land of Ooo helped Cartoon Network pull out of its dark period and ushered in a new golden age of children’s cartoons. It achieved this thanks to its memorable characters, willingness to tackle heavy themes, and its simplistic yet creative art style.
The Land of Ooo offers the characters many landscapes to explore, from a kingdom inhabited by living candy to a never-ending dungeon. However, sometimes Fin and Jake find themselves in parallel universes, on other planets or even in the land of the dead. This is when the animators and story writers could get creative and weird in a show known for being just that.
‘Star vs. The Forces of Evil’
Princess Star Butterfly of Mewnie gets a magic wand on her fourteenth birthday. However, her unruly nature convinces her parents to send her to Earth as a foreign exchange student so that she will not destroy their castle. She teams up with a boy named Marco, learns about Earth culture, fights monsters and develops as both a magic user and a princess.
The adventures of Star and Marco are not limited to Earth and Mewnie. An item called Dimensional Scissors allows them to travel to all sorts of universes, many of which are aware of each other because of these dimensional travels. It offers an interesting look at how different worlds would practice diplomacy with each other, especially in today’s multiverse-obsessed society.
When Anne Boonchoy steals a music box for her friends, it opens a magical portal and sucks them into the world of Amphibia. Anne is separated from the others and ends up in the village of Alsem. She is accepted by the Planter family and together they learn about their respective cultures as they try to get Anne and her friends home.
The idea of a world inhabited by frogs makes it possible amphibian lots of room to be creative, especially in nature. While many creatures resemble giant versions of snakes, praying mantises, and dragonflies, they have been enhanced with new features that make them feel alien. It’s also fascinating to see how a frog society works, especially with other anthropomorphic amphibians like toads and salamanders creating a cast system.
‘About the garden wall’
Cartoon Network’s first miniseries tells the story of brothers Wirt and Greg. On Halloween, they are far from home and lost in a mysterious forest called The Unknown. With a talking bluebird named Beatrice as their guide, the brothers try to get home while avoiding the mysterious beasts prowling the forest.
The Unknown is a fascinating world because it plays with your perception. It feels like stepping into a fairy tale where characters are referred to by profession rather than names, animals go to school and magic is very real. Very few things are what they seem, and every day the boys have to stay ahead of the feeling of despair or else they will be lost forever.
Somewhere in the multiverse there is a train that travels forever. It finds people with unresolved traumas, brings them on board and assigns them a number on their hands. As the passengers navigate the many cars and face their problems, the number on their hands drops until it reaches zero and they can go home.
Like Adventure Time,infinite train allows its characters to explore micro-worlds connected to a central hub world. The different cars lead to unique and creative landscapes linked to helping the passenger face their trauma. It offers an interesting look at how deep trauma can be buried in the human mind and how much work it takes to move forward.
While trapped, young Rudy Tabootie finds a piece of magical chalk that allows him to enter ChalkZone. In this country, every drawing ever erased from a blackboard is a living, breathing creature, including Rudy’s superhero creation, Snap. Together with Rudy’s friend Penny, they explore ChalkZone and try to protect it from humans and drawings who want to exploit the chalk for their own ends.
The magic chalk allows Rudy to create whatever he wants within ChalkZone, enabling creative problem solving. Things he adds to the world become permanent, such as a second eye on a Cyclops to give him depth perception. It’s not perfect though, as things like real-world water and vacuum cleaners can trigger the apocalypse.
One night in the middle of nowhere, a child named Kid finds a series of space rocks that give their wearers super powers. He attached them to rings and distributes them one by one among his friends to form his own superhero team. Together, they fight to protect the community from aliens seeking to acquire the stones for galactic conquest.
While season one is set on Earth, the show’s second season teleports the local truck stop into space. This allows the characters to experience fun alien planets, each with creative designs and a few new bricks of power. The show is a beautiful tribute to pulp science fiction stories, led by the creator of The Powerpuff GirlsCraig McCracken.
‘Mia and I’
When Mia Marconi receives a book from her late father, she discovers that it is a portal to a magical land called Centopia. Here, Mia turns into an elf and befriends many of the land’s inhabitants, including elves, pans, and unicorns. Together, she tries to understand the mystery of the book and save Centopia from evil.
Although designed for a younger audience, Mia and me is a perfectly usable show. The world of Centopia has bright, vibrant colors and the designs of the different creatures, especially the unicorns, are creative and fun. It offers a very sharp contrast to the human world, which is presented with the help of live actors, reflecting the imagination of the children watching the show.
Reggie Abbot loves being a kid and never wants to grow up, to the point where she created another world called Endless, populated by all her old toys and drawings. With her friends Todd and Esther, they have fun playing superheroes and avoiding the responsibilities of the real world. Unfortunately, the more they run away from their problems, the more their problems follow them into Endless.
Endless Island works wonderfully as a location for the series. The inhabitants are bright and colorful, matching children’s toys. Yet many of them also have unpleasant designs and are unable to make decisions without the help of the main characters. It is a subtle way in which the series depicts the transition from child to adult.
In a dystopian world, a horse and her rider are attacked by Minotaurs while they recover a magical artifact. The horse wakes up to find that she can talk and has been transported to a strange world of centaur creatures. Teaming up with a friendly centaur herd, she sets out to combine her artifact with similar items scattered across Centaurworld in hopes of being brought back home.
Centaur world asks how many things can be made in centaurs, and the answer is “everything”. In addition to using more animals than just horses, inanimate objects such as buildings and tornadoes are turned into centaurs, with a unique design that contrasts with the harsher, more grounded world Horse comes from. Still, there is a danger in the pastel world, because the longer Horse stays, the more her art design shifts to resemble the residents.
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