While Beatrice searches for the boys, Wirt, Greg and the Frog sail down a river in an outhouse. Things are looking pretty grim. The Unknown has gone from Summer Autumnal to Winter Autumnal, Wirt has slipped into a deep depression and worst of all they can hear the Beast singing opera some ways behind them. Or, as Wirt puts it; “The obsidian cricket of our inevitable twilight, singing our requiem.”
Wirt says that it’s Greg’s fault that they’re trapped here and that he’s given up all hope that they’ll ever make it home. Greg asks if that means he’s the leader now and Wirt says “Whatevs” and Greg promises Wirt that he’ll be a good leader and won’t let him down because the kid’s a little champ.
They go to sleep under a tree and Greg dreams of being taken by cherubs up to a magical kingdom in the clouds full of talking animals and children called Cloud City.
He is greeted in turn by the first, second and third Cloud City Reception Committees AND ONLY THOSE THREE BECAUSE THERE IS NOT AND NEVER HAS BEEN A FOURTH CLOUD CITY RECEPTION COMMITTEE.
Greg tells the cherubs and animals that he’s worried that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a leader, so they suggest he leads them in song. It goes great until Greg accidentally frees the Old North Wind, a big sentient storm cloud who menaces cloud city until Greg figures out a way to trap him in a bottle (this show went from “Gravity Falls” weird to “Adventure Time” weird so gradually I didn’t even notice.)
Having saved Cloud City, Greg is thanked by the Queen of the Clouds, who offers to grant him one wish. Greg wishes for he and Wirt to return home, but the Queen tells him that Wirt is too lost and that the Beast has already claimed him as his own. She then shows him a vision of Wirt, covered in vines from an Edelwood Tree. Saying that it’s all his fault for goofing off, Greg makes a fateful decision and tells the Queen his wish.
Back in the real world, it’s started snowing. Greg tells the still sleeping Wirt that he has to go and asks him to look after the frog. As he wanders off into the wood, he asks “And then you’ll show us the way back, right?”
“Of course” the Beast replies. “We made a promise, didn’t we?”
Suddenly, Wirt wakes up and realises his brother is gone. He races off into the forest looking for Greg, trying to follow the Beast’s singing. Suddenly, he slips and falls through some ice.
He almost drowns but is pulled onto a boat by a fishing net. The last thing he hears before he blacks out is Beatrice calling his name and asking where Greg has been taken…
How was it?: Babes in the Wood might be the most interesting episode of the bunch even if it’s not one of my favourites. Whereas other episodes could be dark (Ringing of the Bell and Tales of the Dark Lantern particularly), Babes in the Wood is the only one that I’d characterise as grim. Wirt has finally succumbed to despair, and the Beast has almost won. This, coupled with the grey, wintery atmosphere, makes it a lot less of a fun time than the other episodes, and the bright sugary Cloud City sequences don’t undercut that as much as you might think. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy. The songs (particularly That Old North Wind) are really catchy and it’s about time that Greg got an episode as the primary focus. And it’s definitely an episode that benefits from a rewatch, full of callbacks to previous episodes and tantalising little mysteries. Like, just what is the Fourth Cloud Cit…
Sorry. Lost my train of thought. What was I talking about.
Anyway, moving on.
Holy Crap, that sounds like…: If you’re an opera fan, you might be interested to know that that’s renowned opera singer Deborah Voigt as the Queen of the Clouds.
Can I see some references?: Babes in the Wood has some of the most overt references of any episode, with the Cloud City sequence practically being a remake of the old Disney/Iwerks short Alice’s Wonderland.
Oh, and the Old North Wind is based on Old Man Winter from the 1936 Happy Harmonies short To Spring.
This frog’s name is: Ronald and Skipper. Man. “Skipper the Frog” just sounds like a kids TV show from the seventies about a frog who constantly croaks at people until they realise that a little boy has become trapped down a well.
My book, When the Sparrow falls, is now available for preorder! Links here.
Maybe it’s because I never trust cutesy stuff, but I think this may actually be the creepiest episode. I’m never sure if the Cloud City sequence is just a peek into the Mind of Greg (which certainly seems like it would be a cheerful and colorful place), or if it’s all some attempt by the Beast to Freddy-Krueger his way into Greg’s head and trick him into giving himself up.
Can’t help but feel we’re all heading towards some sort of conclusion here… 😥
Thanks for the review.
There’s so much I could say here, but can’t until the next review.