The second factor of this show that takes precedent in "Songs of the Dark Lantern" as well is the singing. This is really close to somehow being a musical and I'm not really bothered by that. (Though my sister did recently question why I can like "Nightmare Before Christmas" so much yet claim to dislike "Frozen" because of too much singing)
"Schooltown Follies" is about Beatrice (the talking blue bird) telling Wirt he is too serious all the time and is a pushover, always doing what he's told. The two end up wandering into a school which has a human teacher but a class full of animals. Wirt gets put in the dunce box for most of the episode, while Greg plays outside with other animals who don't go to school. When Greg finally does stumble into the schoolhouse a ruckus ensues as he gets the music hopping and the molasses and potatoes song isn't stopping.
It is revealed that the teacher's father might have to sell all the musical instruments to pay his debt from starting a school for animals (No, seriously, I want to know more about *that* dude's story) but when Greg says "Let's steal his instruments!" I knew I was in love with this series. So the kids put on a show to help raise money for the school and it is a success so the boys go on their way with a talking bird.
The fourth episode, "Songs of the Dark Lantern", is perhaps the most revealing of all of the episodes thus far. As our trio ends up in a tavern more than a few questions are answered and some of them are resolved via song. This episode has a heavy "Betty Boop" influence, but the overall show still does have that vibe... it just comes out most here. There are also more songs here than ever before though this show isn't afraid to break into song at any given time. (It's the randomness of Greg I'd say)
After Beatrice is kicked out of the tavern for being a bird (and the owner insists she will bring bad luck) Wirt is questioned as to who he is. The others state their names and occupations, so they wonder what Wirt is. He says he is on the search for a woman's name and they mistake him for a lover, which has a big song and dance number, but then they realize he is looking for a place and thus they dub him The Pilgrim. I kind of like that idea, that he's the hero on his journey and telling his tales along the way. The pointing out of this sort of helps to define Wirt better even if it is within the animated world only.
When Wirt is telling his stories he says he met the old man (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) and then people in the tavern tell him that he holds the lantern and that old man is actually the monster they were warned about. Wirt ends up riding a horse to help save Beatrice and the old man (who probably has a name but I just like to think of him as "the old man") is there with the lantern, sending the trio off as if they think he is the monster he warned them about.
The old man then says something to a shadowy figure in the woods- obviously the real monster- and it is revealed that the old man's daughter is trapped inside the lantern, in a flame, and though the old man seems bound to the monster by this he still tells the monster to leave those kids alone.
Wow. These two parts were simply fantastic and as many questions as were answered in some ways it seems like just as many surfaced. This could be wrapped up over the next three days, but I'd prefer to see it span the course of years. My hope right now is that this actually doesn't all end nice and neatly by Friday night and instead we are left with future adventures where Wirt, Greg and Beatrice end up revisiting these wonderful worlds within the Forrest of the Unknown.