We just recently finished watching the most recent episode of Gravity Falls (which, as of this writing, is episode 2.18 “Weirdmageddon, Part 1” (leading into the season finale)). I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but this show totally deserves an article here on Past Go, and to be quite blunt: if you’re not waching Gravity Falls regularly, you’re missing out on one of the funniest, most intelligent, and most compelling animated shows on television.
The premise: twin kid-siblings Mabel and Dipper Pines (expertly voiced by Kristen Schaal and Jason Ritter) are sent to spend the summer in the mountain town of Gravity Falls, living with their shady-sheister great-uncle Stan (voiced by animator and show creator Alex Hirsch) in his tourist trap cabin in the woods, the Mystery Shack. The whole thing wreaks of my wife and my trip to the oh-so (or perhaps not-so) mysterious Mystery Spot and about a hundred other middle-of-nowhere American legends). At first, the local weirdness that the kids encounter are generally explained away in classic, Scooby-Doo, monster-of-the-week format, if a little more fantastical. But with successive episodes, the weirdness gets weirder, the mysteriousness gets mysteriouser, and before too long you’re hooked into a rich, over-arching and supernatural plotline that rivals, well… Supernatural.
“Robbie almost got away [from a cataclysmic event caused by a dimensional rift], but he had to stop and take a selfie.”
The next minute, come commercial break, you’re surprised to notice just how clenched your butt-cheeks are over a mere cartoon. And it’s back-and-forth like this nearly every episode these days. I don’t know how they can take you to such polarized emotional extremes so rapidly and so smoothly. Meanwhile, the references to geek culture are as endless and fresh as every episode of the Simpsons (or Futurama, both of which also excel in the cartoon world). Here are 3 of my favorite episodes so far:
- 1.7: “Double Dipper.” The first time I started to notice the show’s profundity. Dipper uses an enchanted photocopy machine to make a clone of himself, leading inexorably to the unwanted proliferation of clones. Funny? Yes. But most impressive was the employment of all the classic tropes of “clone-fiction,” if you will, even to the inclusion of the “defective clone”—the one that has been somehow retarded or is too many generations down the lineage as to become stupid. Reminiscing with my wife about “Paper Jam Dipper” still gets us cracking up, and I find myself reminded simultaneously of Duncan Idaho on the one end of the spectrum; Doug Kinney (Steve) on the other.
- 2.13: “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons.” Dipper discovers all
boreglory that is role-play gaming when he stumbles upon an old copy of this D&D spoof. Not only was this a strong call-back to many of my own lost weekends, but my seven-year old son literally gathered enough of the premise that, later that week, and without any additional training, he GMed a basic, pencil-and-paper dungeon-crawler of his own design for his younger brother and me to play. I could hardly believe how good it was.
- 1.10: “Fight Fighters.” A character from a combat video game à la Street Fighter takes corporeal form in Gravity Falls, with no shortage of satire on the combat video game genre. To this day, my son and I still spout off one-liners from this episode.
So what I’m saying is, you should be watching Gravity Falls. If you’re behind the times, you can catch up on Amazon. It’s one of the smartest cartoons to ever hit the airwaves; it’s compelling for both kids and parents, and it’s arguably the best thing running on the Disney Channel right now. (In fact, I’d say it’s completely unchallenged, now that both Phineas and Ferb and Tron: Uprising have run their courses).
Which animated series have surprised you in their depth and/or production quality? Which cartoons do you think “broke the mold” or challenged the idea that cartoons are strictly for kids? (And don’t reference anything from Japan! That’s cheating!) Leave a reply below and let me know what you think.