Since I plan to blog about the next installment of “The Dresden Files” next week, I figured I’d take this week to talk about my favorite cartoon of recent memory, (more so than “Adventure Time”) “Gravity Falls.” The show returned this past Monday after a brief hiatus (and is about to have another one sadly) and will be continuing its second season. I can’t honestly remember the last time a Disney cartoon, let alone any cartoon, has hooked me this much from the very start.
For the uninitiated, “Gravity Falls” is a series by Disney that follows twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines as they spend their summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, with their great-uncle (“Grunkle”) Stan. Stan, along with his employees Wendy and Soos, runs the Mystery Shack, a museum that promotes fake attractions to bring in tourists. Dipper and Mabel very quickly discover that strange things DO exist in Gravity Falls, and there’s an underlying mystery to the town and the supernatural-filled journal they discover there.
My reasons for loving this show are varied, but the biggest one has got to be the writing. Since the very first episode, the writing has hit the right comedic punches as well as creating some poignant serious moments. I haven’t found any episode to be outright bad or even extremely weak. This show throws in everything from 80s/90s references to memorable but sometimes insane characters, and the writing hits the right notes nearly every single time. Speaking of characters, there are a ton of supporting ones, but the main cast are what really capture the show’s diversity. Dipper is very much the straight man despite being awkward and downright sarcastic at times. Mabel is very outgoing and a bit crazy most of the time, though she is capable of being serious on the rare occasion. Stan is a pure cynic and kind of a jerk, though he’s clearly secretive. And Soos and Wendy, while often used as comic relief, have both gotten boosts in character thanks to some background reveals. Even these brief descriptions don’t do the characters justice, as their personalities really do shine through the writing itself.
Another reason I love this show is the atmosphere. While it can be fun and…well, cartoon-y, the tone can just as easily shift into one that’s more mysterious and even very dark. The overarching mystery to the town is brought up on occasion to keep you invested outside of an episode’s main plot. Take this week’s episode, “Northwest Mansion Mystery,” for example. There’s a ghostly mystery plot that carries the episode on its own, but there’s also a scene to tie into the overarching mystery that’s been building since the end of Season 1. It’s those little touches that make me want to know more week after week. I’m also a sucker for anything supernatural (so long as it catches my attention), so the use of it in this show is very much appreciated. At times it’s even easy to forget that it’s a Disney cartoon aimed towards a younger audience, due to how many nightmarish things tend to pop up in it.
That brings me to my final reason for loving this show: the animation. The show has been topping itself since Season 1 in terms of how good it looks, but it’s the little things that I especially love. The lighting and shading effects never seem out of place, the colors can be bright and vibrant one second and dark and gloomy the next if the scene calls for it, and the facial expressions are great at conveying a big range of emotions. Each episode runs smoothly and you can tell a lot of thought and care has been put into them. The improvements on all of those things have been noticeable in Season 2, and despite not being educated in animation, I have to wonder if it’s even possible for them to top themselves in Season 3.
I really can’t stress enough how much I love “Gravity Falls.” It’s easily one of the best written shows I’ve seen recently, period. There’s the right balance here of humor, mystery and serious themes for both kids and adults to enjoy. I really hope this show gets a few more seasons under its belt, because in a medium filled with mediocre/mind-numbing cartoons, this is the kind of quality entertainment that kids should be exposed to.