HILDA SEASON 1 – Tillamook County Pioneer
By Andrew Jenck
At first glance, Hilda is like any other Western animated series today: a girl having to move from a fantastic, magical world to the city where she must recognize the wonders it has to offer and learn important life lessons. This story is well-worn territory and the design at first glance seems oversimplified. However, the writers make the most of this territory, creating an emotionally resonant, at times thrilling, play.
Depicting Hilda in her original home in the desert, the first two episodes describe this vast wonderland perfect for a child like Hilda. As the main character, she is genuinely passionate with a great sense of adventure and curiosity. With such observation, she is very kind, often solving problems in unorthodox and compassionate means. Her mother, called Mom, recognizes and appreciates Hilda’s character traits, but fears their home is too dangerous and secluded for a child to grow up in, which has been proven to be true throughout these episodes. A central theme is how Hilda’s kindness benefits many but can be detrimental to herself, realizing that they have to move, albeit more tolerant than she might have imagined.
Spending time in the natural world, the audience spends with Hilda moving to the Urban Trollberg, making Hilda more accessible. This perspective isn’t limited to Hilda, as Mum takes the effort to show her the wonders of the city and how Hilda can still apply her curiosity to it, actually working towards a compromise. The writers set the stage for a series that seems complete; well balanced. Co-stars Frida and David appear as minor characters early in the race before becoming Hilda’s friends, making them more integrated into the narrative; few aspects of character come out of nowhere. Telling emotionally resonant stories, the series further explores Hilda and her flaws, for example by demonstrating how her fearlessness can sometimes lead to recklessness. Being children, the main actors have their own insecurities and flaws that they must grasp. Hilda can be indulgent to herself, unknowingly putting her friends at risk for her own exploration. Frida needs to humble herself and not set unrealistic standards as David learns to apply more and gain self-confidence. The three learn from each other in a naturalistic way thanks to good pacing and interaction between the characters.
The recurring and guest characters are also well defined; some are worse than others but almost everyone feels credible. Everyone can be supportive and selfish while remaining in their character. The character designs in general are fantastic. The clothes of humans will match the personality of the characters. Hilda wears a more traditional skirt and large boots compared to other children’s tennis shoes, which shows how retro and adventurous she is. Almost every episode features new magical creatures, each with their own unique personality. Elves are bureaucratic and have an interconnected system. Trolls are aggressive, but only when they feel threatened, like real life animals.
The frame is well designed with a lot of thought in even minor places. Red is the main color of the background: lighter shades to represent the wilderness such as warm and welcoming shades and darker shades to show the more disturbing side; it all made Hilda stand out with her contrasting blue hair. The lighting reflects the time of day beautifully, with softer undertones at sunset while still looking vibrant during the day. To emphasize how vast the world is, the wide shots will make the characters look like elves as they explore this mysterious world. When the night is peaceful, it has a cool purple tone that will be contrasted with vibrant blue and green undertones in more thrilling footage. The music completes the scenery with its psychedelic vibe, echoing to show just how vast a mystery can be, gravitating audiences around the world and flowing along with the script. This matches the pace of the episodes and helps increase the tension when working with the storytelling like any good score should.
Hilda can be described as holistic: everything in the world feels authentic, continually adding to its tradition while re-emphasizing what is pre-established. There is a constant progression of the story with plot points hinted at in episodes before they are the main plot of another episode. The great thought and care given to the series is almost imperceptible to the comfort and commitment of the entire series. With a focus on exploration and change, Hilda makes a good transitional piece from summer to fall as an immersive journey that is passionate and lovable.