CRAIG OF THE CREEK is a Cartoon Network show you wished you had when you were eight years old. It’s a show you could have watched after school with a friend perched in front of a TV. Maybe you could have talked about your favorite CRAIG OF THE CREEK characters such as Earl Williams (Phil LaMarr) or The Scratchless One (Evan Agos).

Perhaps, you could have debated about whether “The Future Is Cardboard” or “Bring Out Your Beast” was a better episode. Your time as a child may have passed or maybe you’re still a growing kid. But CRAIG OF THE CREEK is here, and it’s a wonderfully delightful show that’s really for all kiddos at heart.

The 11-minute CRAIG OF THE CREEK stars its titular protagonist and follows his adventures in the made-up town of Herkleston, Maryland. The first episode immediately pulls audience members into Craig Williams’s (Philip Solomon) world. As Craig roams around his house, trying to find a place to draw his map of the Creek, we are introduced to his family through a series of vignette-style interactions.

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His brother Bernard Williams (Phil Morris) wants to judiciously study for AP Literature in the kitchen. So, Craig can’t draw there. His little sister Jessica Williams (Dharma Brown) wants to watch finance news in the living room. Craig’s drawing will be a distraction.

Craig moves to the basement where his father Duane Williams (Terry Crews) exercises on his treadmill. However, the strong wind from his dad’s forceful pedaling blows his paper and crayons away. We aren’t introduced to his mother, but she’ll become important later.

CRAIG OF THE CREEK is a Show for All Kids and Explorers at Heart

Craig just wants to discover the unknown parts of the mysterious creek outside.

“When my house is not a home, the creek is still the creek,” he says.

So, he joins his friends John Paul “J.P.” (H. Michael Croner) and Kelsey Bern (Georgie Kidder and Noël Wells) to explore the creek. In the pilot CRAIG OF THE CREEK episode called an “Itch to Explore,” they seek out an uncharted part of the creek, which is in the middle of a poison ivy grove.

They want to be the first to find the place and put their names on the map for eternity.

Cartoon Network's CRAIG OF THE CREEK shows outdoors in a new light.
Cartoon Network’s CRAIG OF THE CREEK shows the outdoors and exploration in a new light (Courtesy of Cartoon Network).

So, in an almost ANNIHILATION-type journey, they suit up in white plastic jumpsuits and traverse through the poison ivy grove. Along the way, they notice something following them underneath the poison ivy, and they can’t figure out what it is, but they know it’s frightening. In their attempt to flee, their armor starts to rip and fall apart, exposing them to the itchy wrath of poison ivy.

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At one point, the shapeless ivy monster has cornered them up on a tree branch. Craig so desperately wanted them to become legendary explorers, but he lost sight of what was important to him: his friends and not being so itchy. He volunteers to find help and jumps out of the tree in a dramatic flare, but quickly bounces back up to the tree branch. Turns out, he jumped onto a trampoline — the uncharted place.

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They also uncover the true origins of the shapeless poison ivy monster. The monster is actually a little boy that is poison ivy resistant. He goes by the name The Scratchless One. Craig, J.P, and Kelsey are initially scared of this disheveled boy, but really he’s not so frightening.

“I got six brother and sisters at home so I never get any space to myself. But thanks to my poison ivy powers, I found a place no one dare enter.” The Scratchless One wanted peace and quiet. The creek crew’s adventure would have prevented the little boy from having a little calm in his life. Craig knows what “it’s like to need some space,” and instead of naming the trampoline after the Creek crew, he labels it “Danger, Keep Out!” The Scratchless One is eternally grateful for Craig’s kind act.

CRAIG OF THE CREEK is About Discovering What’s Inside Oneself

Throughout the CRAIG OF THE CREEK season, the Crew encounters similar high jinks. They run into witches, try to capture a monster wreaking havoc on Craig’s grandfather’s garden, and help a Sewer Queen. Ultimately, their discovery of the creek ushers in a better understanding of themselves, which is a crucial aspect of CRAIG OF THE CREEK.

For example, in the pilot episode, Craig learns about sacrificing his goals for the good of others. In the “Wildernessa,” the fantasy buff Kelsey learns that championing for certain causes requires a little bit of planning. In “Sunday Best,” lovable oaf J.P. learns what it means to do laundry, dress up, and be responsible. No matter how small or big the life lesson is audience members can relate to the main characters because they, too, are trying to navigate life.

Sometimes CRAIG OF THE CREEK characters learns true lessons (Courtesy of Cartoon Network).
Sometimes, CRAIG OF THE CREEK characters learns true lessons (Courtesy of Cartoon Network).

Credit is due to creators Matt Burnett and Ben Levin for creating relatable characters. Both former STEVEN UNIVERSE and LEVEL UP writers, Burnett and Levin (along with the incredible art and music team) use those credits to build an imagined world that’s might be right next door to your own neighborhood.

But they also make the effort of showing diverse socioeconomic backgrounds with J.P, Kelsey, and Craig. J.P. lives with his sister who is a full-time nurse and Kelsey is the daughter of a single Dad. Craig lives in a two-parent household with multiple siblings. As an audience member, you always see a plethora of kids of color, who are not superficial characters on screen, but with fully realized experiences, flaws, and strengths.

That’s incredibly important.

CRAIG OF THE CREEK Shows How Black Kids Explore the Outdoors

What’s also noteworthy and how CRAIG OF THE CREEK portrays a young black kid in the outdoors. There are relatively few animated children’s shows that display young kids of color interacting with the outdoors in a meaningful way. DORA THE EXPLORER is one successful example — out a few — that comes to mind.

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For a long time in U.S. history, segregation laws prevented people of color from inhabiting public spaces such as National Parks. Even when those laws were removed, the ramifications remain. Systemic hurdles such as lack of transportation, wealth, and class all impact people of color’s access to the outdoors.

So, it’s pivotal how CRAIG OF THE CREEK represents one aspect of black family life, but that black children can also have positive relationships with the very space they are restricted from.

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The show also uniquely demonstrates the ways in which black bodies exist beyond the confines of enclosed walls. There’s so much to explore, and that discovery is an important part of childhood. Not all kids get to see that when they are young or even know such exploration exists. That’s why CRAIG OF THE CREEK, on top of established Cartoon Network franchises like STEVEN UNIVERSE, is vital within the evolving narrative of kid’s TV.

Like with many new shows, there is room for CRAIG OF THE CREEK to grow. There’s a well-developed creek community, but a lot of potential beyond it. The show’s highest points are episodes that focus on family. For example, in episode “Monster in the Garden,” we learn about Craig’s grandparents, who were activists during what seems like the Civil Rights Movement.

CRAIG OF THE CREEK
Courtesy of Cartoon Network

There is a lovely dialogue between Craig and his granddad that provide context to Craig’s innate sense of adventure. It would be great to see J.P. and Kelsey interact with Craig’s family and vice versa.

CRAIG OF THE CREEK is Building Momentum Towards New Stories

What’s excellent about CRAIG OF THE CREEK is how it shows kids of all ages, genders, and sexualities play in the creek. For the trio, they are more concerned about venturing into unknown parts, inventing knick-knacks, playing (and avoiding) tag. Some older kids use the creek to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Others like to pair up in groups and have paint fights. Every group moves within the creek how they want. There’s also room to show how kids and teens that are not able-bodied traverse through the creek. An adventure shouldn’t be limited to ability. There are a few more episodes left in CRAIG OF THE CREEK’s debut season. So far, it’s pushing boundaries, upending how we see the world, and showing how everyone of all backgrounds can have magical adventures by their own rules. As a kid at heart, that’s the type of show I like to see.

2 Comments

  1. Yoel (@YoelinoAzar)

    June 17, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Awful article. This show is bland, stiff, visually unappealing and mediocre. Stop saying that”s pushing boundaries, when i’ve seen cartoons with black characters even in the 90s. At no point you give any mention to the bad writing, witless comedy or the bland animation, which are all the most important part of a cartoon. Stop giving so much importance to half hearted representation, and start being more professional. Dickriding at its finest.

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  2. Yoel (@YoelinoAzar)

    June 17, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    This article is bullshit. This show is as bland, unexiting and mediocre as a cartoon can get. It’s amazing how people like you will call a show good, just on account that it has some black characters. A cartoon needs more than some representation to be good. What about the writing, character designs or animation ? No wonder you never went into that subject, since they’re all weak.

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