Gravity Falls Season 1 – television series review

Poster for "Gravity Falls" television series.
Dipper and Mabel in Disney Channel’s new paranormal cartoon “Gravity Falls”.
Gravity Falls Season 1 follows twelve year old fraternal twins Dipper and Mabel, whose parents ship them out to spend the summer with their great uncle Stan in the little town of Gravity Falls, Oregon.  Stan has transformed his house into a tourist trap called The Mystery Shack that showcases blatantly fake paranormal oddities. 

The twins fear a boring summer awaits them, until Dipper finds a mysterious handwritten journal in the woods that reveals Gravity Falls as a real paranormal hotspot.  With the guidance of the journal, Dipper sets out to explore the darker side of the town, and uses it to elude the various paranormal beasts he and his sister encounter each week.

The Disney Channel is obviously trying something different by putting Gravity Falls Season 1 in a 9:30pm time slot.  It’s evident why, with a script that boasts more mature subtleties, quick wit, and obscure geek and pop culture references than most of its cartoon peers. It ought to appeal more to older teens and adults who can appreciate such humor.  In fact, aside from the occasional glimpse of a cell phone, Gravity Falls could easily be set in the late eighties, particularly with Brad Breeck’s awesome retro synthesized pop score.

At first, Gravity Falls Season 1 seems stereotypically episodic, but creator Alex Hirsch has twisted a captivating ongoing plot that surfaces occasionally and keeps the audience hungry for more.  The creators also encourage the fandom by way of an encrypted clue at the end of each episode, and in so doing, have given rise to amateur code breaking and theory discussion.  The mystery will hopefully live up to its potential later in the series, but for a cartoon, it has a surprising amount of substance.

Equally rich is the warmth of the hand drawn cell animation.  Although it’s still television animation, it certainly rises to the surface of the sea of choppy Flash animation currently prevalent.  The characters have a distinct and whimsical design, and the backgrounds of the Oregon forest are enchanting enough to suggest each tree has a story.  Likewise, from the first episode, the show’s writing has clearly maintained its own quirky and eccentric voice.  That, along with the natural character development present in every episode, helps it stand up to multiple viewings.

Another highlight of this already good show is the voice cast, and although all the actors possess impeccable comedic ability, series creator Alex Hirsch is the most versatile, as he voices two main characters and a number of recurring characters.  But it’s Kristen Schaal who’s truly stolen the show. Schaal, who won an Annie Award for her adorable portrayal of Mabel, has helped create one of the most unique and likable female animated characters on television today.

The show’s charms, spread by word of mouth to those who typically avoid The Disney Channel, facilitated its quick rise in popularity among all age groups.  In fact, the only down side to watching Gravity Falls Season 1 is being obliged to watch it among advertising for other Disney shows whose palpable lack of quality is a insult to this surprise new hit.

Original Air Dates: June 15, 2012 to August 3, 2013 (USA)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-Y
Network: The Disney Channel

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 95%

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief comedic hallucinogenic reaction to some old candy)
Language: 0
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (some cartoon violence, paranormal monsters that might scare younger kids)

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