Craig of the Creek follows Craig and his two friends, Kelsey and JP, who explore the creek near the fictional suburban town of Herkelton, Maryland. They face family conflict, snobs, witches, and other challenges along the way.
Craig of the Creek is an animated slice-of-life adventure-comedy series created by Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, who previously worked on Steven Universe. With the pilot debuting in December 2017, the series has run for four seasons and over 140 episodes. The season 4 finale aired on July 15, 2022.
As a warning, this recommendation discusses some spoilers for the first four seasons of Craig of the Creek.
Craig of the Creek centers around the adventures of a 10-year-old Black kid named Craig Williams (Philip Solomon) and his two friends, Kelsey Pokoly (Noël Wells) and John Paul “J.P.” Mercer (Michael Croner). All three are the show’s protagonists. Kelsey’s animal companion, Mortimor, also has an important role.
As the opening theme states, the series is focused on mysteries, danger, and friends who are “always by your side”. The theme asks who will be around to not “let you down” when you go on a “wild ride”. It claims that Craig, the eponymous protagonist, will “save the day”.
Other characters are introduced as the series moves forward. This includes Craig’s family, such as his father, Duane (Terry Crews), mother Nicole (Kimberly Hébert Gregory), his 16-year-old brother, Bernard (Phil LaMarr), and younger sister, Jessica (Lucia Cunningham). Also appearing is his grandfather Earl (Phil Morris) and his grandmother Jojo (Saundra McClain).
There are many more characters that Craig, Kelsey, JP, and Mortimor come across in their adventures through the Creek. Since the series is aimed at children and families, it, predictably, has affirming messages. The family-oriented Common Sense Media described the series as filled with “creativity, joy, adventure, individuality, and self-discovery”.
Unsurprisingly, that focus has garnered Craig of the Creek various award nominations since its premiere in March 2018. This has included an Annie Award, two Daytime Emmy Awards, an NAACP Image Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. In 2018, the entire series won the “Common Sense Seal, an award given by Common Sense Media for the “diversity of its characters and inclusion of minorities”, meaning that the organization recommends the series for “children aged six and above.”
This diversity is reinforced by the show’s writing staff. In August 2021, Jeff Trammell, head writer for the series, stated that the series has a writing room full of people with “different backgrounds and different experiences”. He said the room is open in such a way that “it never feels like you’re the one representative”, especially for people of color.
The series has garnered a broad fanbase since its debut, with hundreds of thousands of people watching each episode. This is reflected in the 120 fan fiction works on Archive of Our Own, 43 fan fiction offerings on FanFiction.Net, and over 15,000 followers of the crew’s Twitter account.
Although the series is for all ages, it also focuses on adult issues, like breakups and pressures on young adults. At the same time, there is a focus on safety, family clashes, and interracial relationships. This includes the romance between Bernard and his girlfriend, Alexis (Karen Fukuhara).
The untamed wilderness, i.e. “Creek”, in this critically acclaimed series is a place where rules of the outside world don’t apply and where children rule over all. However, there are some older kids. Three teenagers who play card games in a cave are known as the “Elders” (Mark, Barry, and David). While the show’s creators voice two of these characters, Zachary Steel voices David.
There are many subgroups in the Creek. This includes the Junior Forest Scouts, the Horse Girls, the 10 Speeds, the Tea Timers, the Witches of the Creek, the Ninja Kids, the Sewer Kids, and the Alliance of Science. There’s also Cardboard City and the Creek’s main market, the Trading Tree. Some kids don’t easily fit into any of the aforementioned groups.
However, these groups are occasionally united together by Craig. He organized the Council of the Creek, based on what his grandmother Jojo does as a local politician. He, and his friends, meet at the Stump, which they have turned into a hideaway.
Unlike other series, the Creek kids are a diverse group. The series has been praised for “broadening the ethnic-racial representations in children’s media” along with Molly of Denali on PBS, Dora the Explorer on Nickelodeon, and Elena of Avalor on Disney. The latter ended in August 2020 when Disney canned the series after three seasons.
Diverse characters in Craig of the Creek include Cannonball (Trammell), a member of the Ten Speeds, a group of kids who love riding mountain bikes. Then there’s Carter Brown (Zeno Robinson), a kid obsessed with building cardboard contraptions. My favorites include Wren (Ashleigh Crystal Hairston), a nerdy girl who conducts wild experiments, and Kitherine “Kit” (Davis) who runs the Trading Tree.
This racial diversity is no accident. Black storyboarders and writers make sure the show “strikes the right cords”. Characters like Craig’s father were composites of Trammell and Tiffany Ford’s fathers. Lamar Abrams created Craig’s grandmother.
Levin and Burnett said that they wanted to have a “positive impact” with a show that is fun for kids and reflects diversity from the actual world. They argued that the show combines the experiences of the show’s crew.
The show taps into, as some critics described it, the “adventurous side of Cartoon Network’s viewers”. Plots are a combination of the character’s real-life experiences and their vivid imaginations.
LGBTQ+ representation shines through in Craig of the Creek. The Insider database of LGBTQ cartoon characters lists 13 characters for the series. Some of these characters only appear occasionally. Others are more prominent.
This representation is genuine. For instance, Angel José, a 10-year-old that runs the Creek Daycare, is non-binary, agender, and uses they/them pronouns. For much of the series, non-binary storyboarder and writer Angel Lorenzana voices them.
In the show’s fourth season, Ben J. Pierce, a non-binary actor, voices Angel. Laura Mercer, the older sister of JP, is a lesbian and in a relationship with another girl, Kat. Fortune Feimster, a lesbian comedian, voices her.
There are other lesbian characters in the series. Tabitha and Courtney masquerade as “witches of the creek”. In the episode “The Haunted Dollhouse” they kiss. In others, they hold hands or hang out together.
Craig of the Creek also has implied queer characters. This includes Jasmine Williams (Tawny Newsome), daughter of Darnell and Kim, and Craig’s cousin. In the episode “Cousin of the Creek”, she tells her cousin that she is texting her girlfriend.
It is implied that Pullstring and Merkid are non-binary. Some reviewers compared the number of non-binary characters in the series to Steven Universe, where every Gem is non-binary.
In the episode “Silver Fist Returns”, Ben (Cole Escola), the “Secret Kid”, keeper of Creek kids’ secrets, reveals his crush on George (M. Michael Croner), a member of the Tea Timers. George reciprocates Ben’s romantic feelings. Ben is also gender non-conforming.
Kelsey is a queer series protagonist. In the episode “Fire and Ice”, she confesses her love for Isabella “Stacks” Alvarado (Montse Hernandez), a Latine bibliophile who hangs out in the library. While it was implied that both had feelings before that episode, they become a couple in the episode after Stacks admits her feelings for Kelsey during a secret book club.
Kelsey seems to have a crush on Vanessa “Wildernessa” (Izabella Alvarez), a girl who roams across the Creek on a huge Tibetan Mastiff named Cheesesticks. However, Vanessa does not have the same feelings toward Kelsey. Instead, she has a crush on Craig.
Queer show writers such as Kate Leth and voice actors like Stephanie Allynne (voiced Marie) buttress this representation. The Creek is a place you can be free to be yourself, as a recent Cartoon Network tweet stated. Lorenzana’s art accompanied the message.
Craig of the Creek goes further, with a clash between good and evil. King Xavier (Charles DeWayne) rules the other side of the Creek, known as Herkleston Mills, with an iron fist. He inherited the title from his older sister Cheyenne (Najja Porter). Previously, Kenneth (Lamar Abrams) ruled over Herkleston Mills as the first king, after a highway overpass divided the Creek.
Xavier’s right-hand woman is Maya (Sydney Mikayla). She helps preserve Xavier’s hierarchy. Others assist the King as well. This includes a fast-runner, Keun Sup /”The Blur” (SungWon Cho), Jackie / “The Arm” who is deaf and uses ASL, and Aggie / “The Squashinator” (Zahra Fazal).
Some are disaffected by Xavier’s rule. This includes Raj (Parvesh Cheena) and Shawn (Croner) who are the Honeysuckle Rangers. Both are from a nearby neighborhood and have feelings for each other. Cheena is also a gay actor.
Raj and Cheena become allies of Craig. The Green Poncho, otherwise known as Omar (Robinson), becomes Craig’s ally. He tries to protect Craig’s side of the Creek from Xavier, and his domination, by standing guard at the overpass.
This all changes after Xavier takes photographs of Craig’s map. He plots to take over Craig’s side of the Creek. The final five episodes of Craig of the Creek‘s third season are a showdown between the King, his lackeys, and other Creek Kids.
At first, Xavier engineers a crisis to take control of Craig’s side of the Creek. He takes over the Trading Tree, bans games, destroys skate ramps, and tempts kids to support him with candy.
It seems he has won, at first. He even screws with the magical girl-esque Sparkle Cadet (Kamali Minter). He even manipulates a situation that forces Craig to leave the Creek and return home. But, this is short-lived.
A high-stakes winner-take-all game of Capture the Flag begins. At the last second, Craig is victorious. Xavier loses his power. Craig declares that the Creek belongs to everyone. He says there is no need for a King and states that there is a whole other side of the Creek to explore.
This clash reminds me of the final four episodes of Steven Universe, which concluded that series. Considering that Steven Universe writers created the series and easter eggs to that show are present throughout Craig of the Creek, this may not be a coincidence.
The show’s fourth season picks up where the third season left off. Craig, and his friends deal with the aftermath of Xavier’s defeat. It somewhat echoes Steven Universe Future, where Steven dealt with the consequences of his victory over the Diamond Authority.
Omar, formerly the Green Poncho, becomes one of the stump kids. Craig tries to find his place in the Creek. Those from the “other side” of the Creek have more opportunities available to them as they are not hemmed in by Xavier.
These changes accompany continued diverse stories and characters. This includes a focus on the Filipino family of Sewer Queen, Latine mythologies told by Stacks in the library or Raj’s Indian family.
In one episode, a Black woman, Maya, reconnects with Craig. She gives him advice, telling him that he should be himself, and not agree with what anyone else believes. In another, Craig bonds again with Sparkle Cadet.
Craig of the Creek continues to have institutional support from Cartoon Network executives. The series has been renewed for a fifth season and an original movie. In February 2021, Jessica’s Big World, a preschool spinoff series for Cartoonito, began production. While it is not known when the spinoff will premiere, the fifth season of Craig of the Creek will begin in 2023.
This means that this show will continue. This is a positive. It will be a boon for cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, and inclusion in animation. It joins other series such as the Proud Family revival series, Amphibia, and The Owl House, all with similar themes.
While the music of the series is nice, as are rap beats by MC Deltron (Teren Delvon Jones). I stayed with the series thanks to its voice actors, animation, and story, more than anything else. The often fourth-wall breaks also made the series enjoyable.
I recognized some of the voice actors from elsewhere. This includes Gunnar Sizemore, Kari Wahlgren, Michaela Dietz, and Deedee Magno.
However, the number of episodes (145) and seasons is a major stumbling block. It is a huge time commitment, which wears you down by the end, even if watched over a long period of time. It is not a series that is easy to binge over one weekend. So, prepare yourself.
The series felt strange to me because it mainly appeals to kids. From early on in the series, I realized that I wasn’t the intended audience. A series where the characters are young adults would be more my speed than this series.
For those interested, Craig of the Creek is currently airing on Cartoon Network and streaming on HBO Max. It is also available on Amazon Prime and other platforms.
Author: Burkely Hermann
Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.
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