Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall in Love with Gravity Falls

It's no secret that I love cartoons. I can't help but adore them and they can often tell much better stories than the run of the mill thrillers and dramas on network TV. If you want interesting story telling and fascinating characters, you're going to want to watch some cartoons.

Not all cartoons are created equal. Some are nothing more than pandering dreck trying to cash in on hot trends and action figures. That's what makes the good cartoons all the more special. They are a pure diamond in a field of cubic zirconia. They're to be treasured, shared and obsessed over. It's cause for celebration when you find a good one.

Friends, I have found a cartoon that's better than any cartoon ever. It's perfect in every single way and currently has my complete and undying devotion. That cartoon is Gravity Falls.

Gravity Falls premiered on Disney XD on June 29, 2012 and began to gather a small but devoted following. It's an excessively intelligent show. The best way to describe it is that it's like a mix of HP Lovecraft, Twin Peaks and Portlandia all filtered through a child's point of view. There are tons of conspiracies, hidden messages in each episode and monsters that would give even old Lovecraft pause. It's BRILLIANT.

Created by Alex Hirsch, who also does some of the voices, Gravity Falls takes place in a small forest town in Oregon. The main protagonists, twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines, are sent there by their parents to get some fresh air with their Great Uncle ("Grunkle") Stan, who runs a local tourist attraction called The Mystery Shop. Dipper discovers a mystery journal in the forest one day that details all the weird stuff that happens in the town and we're suddenly plunged into adventures featuring lovesick gnomes, zombies, dinosaurs, six-headed bears, time travel and lake monsters.

The show is animated beautifully. It's full of bright colors and interesting characters. Dipper and Mabel are the core of the show and they're nothing short of amazing. Dipper is analytical and logical to a fault while Mabel is hilariously random and completely thrilled with all the weird stuff they encounter. Grunkle Stan is one of my favorite characters, though. He's a deadpan, money-hungry grifter who uses his terrible attractions to bilk idiot tourists out of money. He also cares very much for his great niece and nephew. He has some of the best quotes in the entire show as well as some MASSIVE secrets that have only begun to be uncovered. The major cast rounds out with Wendy, a cool girl who works in the shop and Dipper's crush, and Soos, a delightfully optimistic handyman.

While the main cast is outstanding, it's the secondary characters who really elevate the show. Gideon Gleeful is the main antagonist of the first season and he's amazing. Gideon is a pint sized psychic obsessed with stealing the Mystery Shack from Stan. The townspeople are just as bizarre as you'd expect from a small mountain town. There's a crazy old kook (Old Man McGucket), a spineless newspaper editor, a gaggle of teenage miscreants and a two man police force that is hilariously bad at their job.

The show is also exceptionally well written. The characters, even the most minor townsperson, is fully fleshed out. Gravity Falls doesn't rely on the usual worn out cartoon stereotypes. No one is what they seem in Gravity Falls. Each episode stands alone but also gently feeds into a larger narrative that pays off in spades to observant viewers. The show is genuinely funny and sometimes rather heartfelt. While running from dinosaurs or a villainous magical triangle named Bill, the characters learn important things about themselves and about the power of family and knowledge. It sort of reminds me of Welcome to Night Vale in that way. Crazy things happen but the core of the show is the bonds between the cast.

One of the coolest parts of Gravity Falls are all the conspiracy theories. Everything in the show is a hint to a greater plot. The team behind the show inserts cryptic, coded messages into random frames and offer tantalizing hints to a greater mystery in such random places as Stan's weird tattoo and the way the Mystery Shack's windows are shaped. Even the credits end with a coded message and many websites and Tumblrs are dedicated to figuring out the mystery. I know so much more about cryptology now because of this show.

Gravity Falls is one of the best shows on TV right now. It's intelligent, very well plotted and incredibly well written. You need to go visit Gravity Falls as soon as possible!
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