Think of every element associated with Disney. The beautiful, spunky princess, the goofy animal sidekicks, the Alan Menken songs, Etc. Write them all down, fold the paper and throw it away. That is just what writer/animator Alex Hirsch did when he created Gravity Falls, the most Anti-Disney cartoon from Disney since Gargoyles. From the moment the eerie, indie theme song plays, it’s clear that you are in for one trippy adventure.
Dipper Pines (Jason Ritter; Parenthood) is a precocious pre-teen with a love for solving mysteries (and disco music). Mabel (Kristin Schaal; Bob’s Burgers) is his wool-sweater loving, optimistic scatterbrained twin sister. As the show begins, they are forced to spend the summer working in their great uncle “Grunkle” Stan’s (Hirsch) Mystery Shack in the country town of Gravity Falls. Working at an emporium of mysterious artifacts should be fun, right? Not when the owner is a greedy Grinch out to scam gullible tourists with knockoff artifacts (the Sascrotch) and overpriced merchandise (“We put the fun in no refunds”). It seems like a long and boring summer for Dipper and Mabel.
That is until Dipper finds a mysterious book detailing the history of Gravity Falls. Soon, he and Mabel find themselves surrounded by one supernatural being after another. Even as the show begins, they crash a golf cart through a billboard while being chased by a giant monster.
The show works on two levels. The first being if JJ Abrams created a Disney cartoon. The show contains supernatural beings of all kinds, from Poltergeists to Clones. As with Fringe, the show takes such beings and provides a unique twist. Except this time it’s for comedic purposes. Minotaurs? Make them so macho that their nipples are fists. Clones? Make them a boy band. Even a bear gets many heads (and is voiced by Alfred Molina).
Like Abrams’ other show Lost, the show has a mythology that leaves fans searching for clues and gathering theories. The theme song alone ends with a mysterious whisper played backwards. There is many questions about the mythology of the show, especially who wrote the book and why does it have a three on it? The end credits contain a secret code for major fans to solve.
The second element is the Simpsons-like comic style. The jokes come in all variety from bad rap lyrics (“Homework’s wack/ and so is School/Tucking in your shirt’s for fools”) to parodies of daytime talk shows (“Why you so Cray-Cray?”). And they are almost always hilarious. Even the title is a clever pun. The jokes come one after the other while still keeping the story going.
And like the Simpsons, it has an assortment of hilarious characters. Stan is sidesplitting in his surly greediness as he charges exit fees. Mabel is adorably perky whether she’s trying to pick up a date (with literally any guy she meets) or running the Shack with an 80’s guide book and shoulder pads. Then there are the Shack’s employees: Dim bulb human teddy bear Sues (Hirsch again) and the laidback-to the point of lazy teen Wendy (Linda Cardellini; Freaks and Geeks). Go further into town and there’s an assortment of oddball characters. There’s the lazy Sheriff Blubs (Kevin Michael Richardson; Lilo and Stitch), who’s relationship with his Deputy (Keith Ferguson; Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) has some homosexual undertones. There’s Mabel’s spoiled arch-rival Pacifica Northwest (Jackie Buscarino;). There’s Lil’ Gideon (Thurop Van Orman, creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack), an adorable rap scallion with a sinister obsession with Mabel, just to name a few.
Put ‘em together and what have you got? Bippity Boppity Boo. A fun, oddball adventure that brings back the joyous memories of Ducktales and Animaniacs. This could be a second wind for modern cartoons.