Created by Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, who served as the head writers of Steven Universe for its first five seasons, Craig of the Creek is an American animated television series created for Cartoon Network. The series follows the adventures of the ever imaginative Craig and his two best friends Kelsey and J.P., as they explore the woods outside their small town of Herkleston and interact with a myriad of eccentric characters: from paintball players that use near-lethal ammunition to a tribe of kids that hoard lost toys in the sewers.
The pilot for the show was released on the Cartoon Network App/VOD in December 2017, while the series proper similarly premiered on these services on February 19, 2018; the show made its television debut on March 30, 2018.
A spinoff series called Jessica's Big Little World, starring Craig's little sister, is currently in development for Cartoon Network's upcoming Cartoonito preschool block.
Craig of the Creek provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: There's an entire society of kids hanging out in the sewers.
- Animesque: Anime references and elements tend to be spotted throughout the show. Especially when the Elders, the Ninja Kids or Sparkle Cadet are around.
- Beyond the Impossible: After getting fed up by the rules of the "PAY UP" board game, Jessica starts placing game piece houses around the house to claim them as her own. Nicole comments that she managed to put a house piece inside a bottle of orange juice without breaking the seal.
- Casting Gag: The Horse Girls are all voiced by members of the improv group "Wild Horses".
- Continuity Creep: Beginning with the episodes "Under the Overpass" and "Jessica Trail," the show has been developing an overarching plot concerning the looming conflict with The Other Side of the Creek.
- Covers Always Lie: In "Dog Decider," Craig recalls when he was chosen to choose a movie for movie night with his grandparents on a weekend. He chose the movie "Burning Justice" over "Rhino Racers" because the first sounded and looked better (it had a dismembered, melting face showing the skull). As it turned out, it was a boring courtroom movie.
- Bernard: You have ruined this weekend and tamales.
- Creator Cameo: Kid Caricatures of the crew (called Creeksonas) are sometimes seen as background characters
- Creator Provincialism: The town of Herkleston lies just off one of the auxiliary routes of Maryland's Interstate 295.
- Crossover: The promotional picture for the Steven Universe episode "Reunited" features Kelsey and JP mocking Steven for tempting fate.
- Dope Slap: In "Big Pinchy", when J.P. meets a group of sapling trees and tells Kelsey she must be so tall to chill, she punches J.P. in the chest.
- Driving Question: In Season 2 "Ancients of the Creek", the Stump Trio discovers the first kids who played in the creek before them played a game of Capture the Flag that escalated into a war across the creek that would drive them to become indoor kids. The Trio is trying to figure out what happened back then so it won't repeat again.
- Free-Range Children: The sheer number of kids able to explore the creek without adult supervision. The adults are aware that the creek is the playground that kids go to, and the kids are well aware that any problem that happens must be solved by themselves, because letting adults know about what they do would get them banned.
- Fun with Acronyms: In "The Kid From 3030", Craig asks Deltron if the future has anything like the Creek:Craig: I can't imagine life without the Creek. It's a beautiful place where we all can do what we want to do.
Deltron: Hm, I see. After searching my database, it seems like the closest we have to that in the future are what we call Post-Apocalyptic Recreation Centers: "P.A.R.C."s for short.
- Heh Heh, You Said "X": In "The Invitation", when J.P. and Boris are playing croquet:J.P.: Sorry for getting pushy with your tushy!
J.P.: You said the word that I said.
- Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: The kids use backyards as a unit of measuring distance, which doesn't make sense because backyards are different sizes and have different lengths and widths.
- How Is That Even Possible?:
- In "The Takeout Mission", the trio can't turn the stove to boil brown rice because they've been told not to. The stove suddenly turns on by itself. Only JP is disturbed by this event.
- Jessica starts placing "Pay Up!" house pieces around the house to claim them as her own. Nicole is amazed that she put one inside a bottle of orange juice without breaking the freshness seal.
- Inner Thoughts, Outsider Puzzlement: Kelsey is prone to doing Inner Monologues and striking heroic poses while doing so. In at least one case, it was shown that this isn't just in her mind and people observe her actions with bemusement.
- Lethal Joke Character: Squeakers the Infected Rat is this in Bring Out Your Beast. The card deals -3 damage to its owner at the end of every turn, and who wants to use a character that only hurts you? Someone playing against a Beast Snare, tricking the opponent into snaring Squeakers and then the opponent faces the -3 damage penalty.
- Local Hangout: The titular creek.
- Malicious Misnaming: In "The Other Side of the Creek: the Tournament", Maya consistently call the Honeysuckle Rangers, the "Honey-suckers".
- Mr. Imagination: Craig, Kelsey, and JP, but especially Craig. Really, all the kids of the creek fit, but they usually stick to their own cliques for what they imagine.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Playing in a creek is made into a huge deal for the kids who do. Some of the kids and events that happen suggest that not everything is grounded in reality. Wildernessa's dog, Cheesesticks, can roar loud enough to physically push Craig, Kelsey, and JP from the middle of a thick algae pond onto the shore, and blowing their souls out of their bodies in the process.
- Order Versus Chaos: The series develops an ongoing storyline involving Craig's desire to map out the Creek, which becomes a key MacGuffin that the King of the Other Side of the Creek needs in order to expand his empire. The kids of the Creek all form their own cliques and rules for playing, but ultimately get along with each other. The kids from the Other Side of the Creek have to submit to the King's rules. By the end of "The Tournament", The King has taken detailed pictures of Craig's map.
- Otaku: Hang out with the Elders and the Ninja Kids for a while to find out.
- The Elders of the Creek take interest in playing video games and tabletop roleplaying games in their hideout, but embody the typical western geek gamer.
- The Ninja Kids are all about Japanese Manga. Craig manages to entice one of them for a deal by offering a Two Piece blind box.
- Playing Doctor: In "Jextra Perrestrial" JP is convinced he's an alien so the trio resort to this to determine whether or not he is.
- Potty Emergency: The B Plot of "Alone Quest" is Craig needing to poop, though he gets the alert while he's far away from a bathroom and deals with multiple obstacles keeping him from reaching one.
- Reality Ensues: The trio are launched high into the air - high enough that they can see the town - and land feet first into Craig's backyard. Then Kelsey falls over and Craig and JP buckle their knees, with Craig saying they jumped really far.
- Serious Business: The kids treat everything that involves hanging out at the creek this way. Pretty much everything is taken seriously until the dinner alarm at the end of the day snaps everyone back to reality.
- In "You're It", a game of Tag is treated like a curse that has been passed down to the kids in the neighborhood for generations.
- In "The Ground is Lava!", everyone in the creek pretends the ground is, well, lava, though Craig plays it for drama after getting into an argument with Jessica and he wishes to find her before she succumbs to the lava. The thing is, she's not playing the game, so the kids' imagination of her doesn't work...until she's accidentally coaxed into playing it, that is.
- If someone pretends to handcuff you, you have to pretend to be restrained.
- Cardboard apparently has a lot of neat appliances when really going to the extremes.
- Moving away from the creek equals the kid in question is dead to everyone. (At least they arrange a funeral.)
- The kids of the creek are all generally ignorant of the time during sunset that they absolutely need one of them (Beth the Timekeeper) to remind them (and therefore snap them out of their fantasies) loudly to go home for dinner at 6 o'clock.
- Ship Tease:
- A few of these happen between Craig and Kit in "The Shortcut", most notably when Kit's Grandma whispers to Kit that she shouldn't trade Craig anything for her heart, causing Kit to be embarrassed.
- In Wildernessa's debut episode, as she describes the dangers of the creek, her imaginary depiction of Craig is exaggeratedly handsome. "Breaking the Ice" makes it very explicit that she has a crush on him. Cartoon Network even teased them in their social media platform accounts during the 2021 Valentine's Day with "Vote for Your Fav Ship Name", where they called them "Crildernessa", and "Your Relationship Based on Your Sign", where they use couples to represent the Western Zodiac, with Craig and Wildernessa representing Taurus. What's interesting to note is on the latter post, they used Official Couples for each signs (granted, two of the couples broke up and one's with a Companion Cube), so it's ambiguous if they'll go down that route with Craig and Wildernessa.
- Shout-Out: The show is filled with references to popular media. See the page for more details.
- Shown Their Work: In "Itch to Explore", Craig refers to poison ivy by its scientific name Toxicodendron radicans.
- Skintone Sclerae: Seems to be a trait of the Paul family, given both JP and his sister have them.
- Slice of Life: The daily adventures of kids playing in a creek.
- Special Guest:
- The band Bad Moves appear as themselves in "Vulture's Nest".
- Del Tha Funkee Homosapien appears in "The Kid from 3030", as a kid who moved from the city to the suburbs and is pretending to be the titular robot from the future. His character is named Deltron, in a nod to his project with Dan the Automator, Deltron 3030.
- Spiritual Successor: To Recess, a similar show about kids having their own little "world" outside their home lives and taking it very seriously.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Craig gets his bean-like head shape from his grandpa.
- Kelsey inherited her father's thick eyebrows and J.P. has the same skin and hair color like his mom and sister.
- Take That!: In "The Kid from 3030", one of the atrocities parents caused in the future is getting rid of net neutrality.
- Relating to the Shout-Out reference, Barry annoying Craig and JP by bringing up old Cartoon Network shows can be a jab at older fans who only bring up "black and white" cartoons and push it onto younger fans.
- Whole Plot Reference: "The Evolution Of Craig" is one to Pokémon, as it features Craig trying to evolve his frog, much like one would evolve a Pokemon.
- Worthless Treasure Twist: In "Deep Creek Salvage", Craig sees something shiny in the creek, thinking it might be gold, with Craig, Kelsey and J.P. clearing the junk out of the swamp, only to discover that the gold bar is actually an ancient candy bar from a candy factory that went out of business over 50 years ago with an expired sweepstakes wrapper. Nevertheless, the Creek kids learn to appreciate the creek which is now cleared of pollution.
- Would Hit a Girl: Craig almost did this to a girl on the other side of the creek after overhearing a bad comment she made about his map to the Honeysuckle Rangers. JP, however, stops him from beating her up due to not wanting their cover to be blown since they are on a mission to get the map back from the Honeysuckle Rangers undetected.