When it comes to Disney and animation, it is not only their films for which they are known. Over the years, they have gained many fans and followers from their numerous animates show for television. Some have been hooked from the adventure and laughs from series like DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. Some are among the devoted fan cult that sprung up from the dark and gripping Gargoyles. Others were hooked through the teen action and thrills of Kim Possible. Certainly, Disney has offered plenty of animated shows that cover a variety of styles and presentations. However, in recent years, they ended up becoming an outlet for a brilliant new series they have released. It is a show that offers some of the sharpest writing I have seen for a Western animated series, yet it is one which seems to be plagued by a non-steady release schedule. Created by Alex Hirsch, this new show is Gravity Falls.
Set over the course of one summer, the show is centered around Dipper and Mabel Pines. One is an intelligent and nerdy boy, the other is a fun-loving and cheerful girl, but both are twin siblings who have been sent by their parents to spend the summer in the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. There, they find themselves under the care of their great-uncle (which they shorten to grunkle) Stan Pines, a schemer and con-man who has turned his home into a tourist trap known as the Mystery Shack. However, what should be a fairly routine summer changes when Dipper discovers a mysterious journal in the woods surrounding the Shack. It depicts a six-fingered hand on its cover with the number 3, and its pages tell of all sorts of monsters and mysteries that seem to be lurking beneath the surface of Gravity Falls. Realizing the impact of this journal, Dipper sets out to reveal the truth of just what exactly is happening around this town and why there seems to be so much weird activity.
This show is an example of superb writing and shows off that strength in a multitude of ways. Firstly, the world of Gravity Falls is well-developed. All of its characters feel fleshed out and lived in, from major characters like Mabel Pines and her big heart mixed with her quirky sense of style to minor folks like the burly lumberjack Manly Dan and the forever put-upon journalist Toby Determined. As a result, the world feels alive as the mystery unravels. Along with that, the humor on the show is top-notch. It comes from all forms, from character-based humor such as the schemes that Stan uses in his pursuit of greed, or ridiculous concepts for monsters or mysteries such as the overly-masculine Manotaur or a love god who dabbles in playing concerts at Coachella-type events. The humor covers a broad range, but none of it ever feels cheap or takes away from the characters. Even Pacifica Northwest, the show’s take on the snooty rich girl archetype, has depth to her even as her dialogue offers up some nice quips. Above it all, however, is the strength of the overarching story.
For most shows, there might be some challenge to trying to pull off a series-long mystery. However, Gravity Falls manages to not only dole out information or reveal surprises and twists at a proper pace, it also manages the pacing of its characters and actions. Continuity is wound tight in this show. Nothing is wasted. For example (to use one that offers no spoilers pertaining the overarching mystery), the first three episodes of the show have a figure in a grey jumpsuit appear in the background to grab a random object. It is not until the ninth episode that you finally meet the character, a time traveler named Blendin Blandin (voiced by Justin Roiland, of Rick and Morty fame). Due to the episode’s events, he ends up having to go back in time to fix a few potential time paradoxes. These moments of him fixing paradoxes, it turns out, are the moments the viewer can see him in the background of the first three episodes. This, along with many other elements ranging from big reveals to even the smallest details, serves to showcase how carefully plotted and planned the series is. Such writing for an animated series is worth rewarding. Alas, the schedule for episodes has been a little lax.
Currently showing on Disney X-D (A secondary channel for Disney aimed towards young teenagers, though with no hyphen in the channel name. That’s just there to stop WordPress from making an emoji.), the airing schedule for Gravity Falls has been wide, sometimes going for weeks or even months at a time without a new episode. This can be frustrating, especially for a show with such great quality to it. Still, this does not have to be disheartening. After all, there are ways to still support the show. For example, I recommend tuning in for the next episode, which airs September 21st. Though, you may want to catch up on earlier episodes, both for your own enjoyment and to catch up on a great show. Maybe if enough folks show their support, Disney might offer some stronger ground to go with the strong support.