Cartoon Series Review: Gravity Falls

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It took me a long time to watch Gravity Falls. Too long, in fact. It was only after seeing posts from it on Tumblr that I decided to investigate the show and finally watched the episode Summerween. I realized just how much I had been missing pretty quickly and became hooked on the show, watching both seasons all the way up to the latest episode Weirdmaggedon in just a few days time.

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About: Gravity Falls is a cartoon series that airs on Disney created by Alex Hirsch. The main characters, Dipper and Mabel Pines, are twins, inspired by the fact that Alex Hirsch and his sister, Ariel are also twins. Dipper and Mabel move to Gravity Falls to stay with their Great Uncle, Grunkle Stanford Pines for the Summer. They realize soon after that there is more about Gravity Falls than meets the eye, as Dipper discovers a mysterious Journal, Journal #3, that delves into peculiarities that the Author found while there. The entries turn out to be true as Dipper and Mabel encounter bizarre creatures like Zombies, Gnomes, etc all while working for their Grunkle to help run his tourist trap, The Mystery Shack. Gravity Falls is not just meant for kids either. The show has received critical acclaim and has been nominated for several awards. It won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in an Animated TV Series and Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production for Children.

Warning! Potential Spoilers Ahead!

The Plot: Without going into too much spoiler territory, I can say that without a doubt, Gravity Falls has an overarching plot that drives the entire show.  More than having a “villain of the week” to the show, Gravity Falls takes the time to build up more mysteries that aren’t solved right away. Their Grunkle acts peculiar and is hiding something, but what? Who is the Author of the journals? Dipper and Mabel also make enemies that carry over into other episodes, such as Gideon and Bill Cipher. Parts of the show also hint toward an Apocalypse! Ciphers and Easter Eggs are riddled throughout the show as well, giving enthusiasts plenty to puzzle about while they wait for the next episode. Gravity Falls also tackles a lot of darker themes that are usually avoided in a children’s show. The most comparable cartoon to Gravity Falls, in my opinion, would be Over the Garden Wall.

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Characters/Character Development: The characters were definitely what ended up drawing me in and making the show stick with me. Dipper is the smart, observant one while his sister Mabel is boy crazy and super energetic. Dipper is jealous of Mabel for her ability to be outgoing and a social butterfly, while Mabel is jealous of her brother for his intelligence. Grunkle Stan appears to just be a con-man who is great at tricking unsuspecting tourists out of their cash. Soos is the fix-it guy. A “man child” no one’s really sure of his age for most of the series. He’s youthful at heart and also super dependable. Other characters include Wendy, a tough-as-nails woman from a family of Lumberjacks; Robbie, a stereotypical emo teen and the town crazy, Old Man McGucket.

These might seem like the ultimate cliches, but the characters are more interesting and complex than they appear to be right away as the story progresses and I think that’s what keeps me ultimately hooked to them. For instance, the twins might fight and bicker but at the end of the day they still love and care for each other, will come to the other’s aid and will band together as a team to get something accomplished. They might be fighting in one scene and in the next be laughing at a shared joke. An example would be that despite Dipper’s huge crush on Wendy and his clear opportunity to finally get ahead in building a relationship with her, he sacrifices this opportunity to ensure that his sister wins a prize pig in the episode ‘The Time Traveler’s Pig’.

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Another example would be in the very first episode, Tourist Trapped, we’re introduced to Old Man McGucket. He seems like the town crazy… The weirdo everyone avoids? But there’s more to McGucket than meets the eye as he’s been shown to have an understanding of mechanics and building elaborate contraptions. The story there unravels later down the road, but is hinted at the entire series until the revelation.

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The Humor: The Humor in Gravity Falls is definitely a major portion of the show just as much as the dark underlying tones. The show uses slapstick humor, potty humor and even adult humor that passes under the radar. One minute you might be seeing a Gnome throwing up a rainbow and the next it’s commenting on societal issues that kids might not catch, but would be humorous enough for adults (for instance, the fact that the Mystery Shack’s letter ‘S’ always falls off, making it look like it says ‘Mystery Hack’). Basically, it gives kids enough to laugh at due to the over the top nature of a lot of scenes, while also slipping in things that adults can appreciate.

The following are all actual quotes from the show:

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The Score/OST: This animated series was nominated and won for Main Title and there is a good reason why. It’s twisty, a little bit dark and catchy that playing it on repeat is addictive… *shifty eyes* N-no I don’t have it on repeat right now, why do you ask? *tugs on collar*. Care is also taken for the rest of the OST to fit in well with the episode, changing for ‘humorous” portions to “scary” or “action packed” when needed utilizing a wide range of instruments to convey the feelings across to its audience. Nothing is as impactful as the main opening, however, and you won’t really realize how much of an influence the track really has on your mood while watching unless you pay attention to it closely as it blends in so perfectly.

The Animation: Take a minute to admire the background art of the show…

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The Scares/Creepy Elements: I’m honestly not quite sure how Gravity Falls gets a lot of its humor across, being a Disney show, other than the fact that it’s so subtle that kids probably won’t notice it. However, the dark elements of the series are so blatant that it’s hard to ignore. Gravity Falls holds back a lot from being over the top on its dark elements, of course, being a kid’s show, but it takes opportunities to make sure you’re reminded that this is a show about the supernatural and can get creepy. I mean, some of it is just nightmare fuel… And I love it! The intro even shows Dipper running into the skeletal remains of a monster. The episode ‘Northwest Mansion Mystery’ shows a blood red substance leaking from the mouths and eyes of the heads of mounted animals, ‘The Inconveniencing’ episode features a ghost haunting where a floating brain, face and veins appears and ‘Into the Bunker’ presents a horrible creature that’s able to shape shift into some creepy stuff.

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Have you seen Gravity Falls yet? If so, what did you think?

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