A few years ago, Disney made a gamble on a show that, by all accounts, seems as though it more bears the hallmarks of a Cartoon Network show than a Disney product. Coming from a spirit of curiosity and with a little bit of love for the scary, Gravity Falls is a little show with a big imagination and an even bigger heart that deserves to be seen by children and adults alike. Oh, and it happens to be absolutely hilarious.
You may have already heard of this strange little hit show by now; it is practically an institution that plays to a cult crowd of grown-ups who collect the memorabilia from the show like it’s gold. It is still very much loved, in spite of it being off the air for over a year, and from what I have seen it has only grown larger in popularity and continues to expand its audience with time. Don’t let all of the grown-ups who have a real love for the charm and humor of the show discourage you, however. This is, in my opinion, one of the best shows made for children to come out in the last decade.
The first reason why you will see that it has earned the love of both children and grown-up children alike is that it does not talk down to its audience, but also does not reach for shock value that would destroy the surprisingly gentle underlying theme of family, friendship, and community in it. The second reason would be that the show is built around this sense of wonder and community which thrives, in spite of the scary themes and creepy things included in it.
To name a few of the creatures that show up, the show features kidnapping gnomes, a miniature golf course which is home to nations of little golf ball people who are at a cold war with one another, and an evil one-eyed pyramid named Bill. Those things, however, are far from the only creatures that make an appearance in the show!
The wonderfully memorable and endlessly quotable cast of the show is made up twins Dipper and Mabel Pines, their cheapskate “Grunkle” Stan (he is their Great Uncle), the low-key Wendy Corduroy, the loyal Soos Ramirez, and the rest of the cast is made up of not only the whole town of people who have either grown used to the strangeness of Gravity Falls or who are blissfully ignorant to it, but a whole world of strange and eccentric weirdness.
Admittedly, a part of the cult appeal can be attributed to how close the show is related to cult darling Rick and Morty, even sharing talent that appeared in that show after Gravity Falls aired (such as Patton Oswald and Adventure Time veteran Justin Roiland). I would ask that people who are put off by the antics of Rick and Morty should keep in mind that Gravity Falls is, first of all, a children’s show. It’s one that is perfect for an endlessly curious child who is interested in the weird and is starting to perhaps dip their toes into the scary. It relies much more on near-perfectly timed comedy and weirdness than on anything relying on shock or something disturbing that would be inappropriate for children.
The obvious comparison might be Goosebumps, however, the closest real comparison would be to one of my own childhood favorites, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and it is a more fitting comparison with some of the stranger episodes. One big difference between the two is that where Courage is a pick-up-and-watch type of show, where it does not matter what episode you watch because there IS no real order, Gravity Falls does have an underlying story. Well, as the episodes go on closer to the end of the first season, the great story behind Gravity Falls starts to make itself known, at least. It reminds me in many ways of the miniseries, the spookier Over the Garden Wall, which feels almost like they were meant to be viewed together due to the fact that they originally aired in the same year.
I would also not be giving the show the attention it deserves if I did not mention also that the show is really, truly funny at times, in spite of the instances where I personally rolled my eyes with certain characters’ antics (Soos, Grenda, and Candy could get to be a bit too much for me at times), and it is a beautiful show, taking full advantage of its pacific northwest setting.
What I personally love about the show is how well it (mostly) perfectly executes its story. The show revolves around Dipper and Mable Pines, who have come to spend their summer with their strange “Grunkle” Stan, who owns an eccentric road attraction known as the Mystery Shack in the forest heart of the Pacific Northwest. It is located somewhere near the town of Gravity Falls, where the people are as strange and often lovable as their homeland is. Even the insidious little Gideon Gleeful.
The idea of spending the summer working in Stan’s roadside attraction is interrupted when Dipper and Mabel discover a mysterious journal that had been kept by an unknown writer who detailed strange creatures and going-ons in the town and the surrounding, breath-taking land and forest.
Dipper is instantly attached to the journal, becoming obsessive with discovering the overriding secret behind the strange journal, coming face to face on numerous occasions with odd, hilarious, and oftentimes dangerous things as he searches for what is going on with the town. He is far from alone in his journey, however, as the story often involves or actively follows the antics his twin sister Mabel causes, and he is oftentimes distracted by his growing adoration of the seemingly clueless and unattainable sole cashier of the Mystery Shack, Wendy.
In my opinion, the best time to watch the show would be in the height of summer and through mid fall, when the summer in the show itself takes place.
If you’re wanting to check (most) of the first season out, you can find the show collected in two DVDs, called Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales and Gravity Falls: Even Stranger. The ACPL owns both of these, so there’s no reason why you can’t check the show out. At the moment, these two abridged collections of the episodes is the only way that Disney has given the show a physical release, so even though they contain only certain episodes of the first season, it is the best way to see if the show is something for you, short of streaming it through Hulu.