Gravity Falls is a Disney cartoon that ran from ’12 to ’16 with two series and forty episodes. At its time, it got a lot of attention and a lot of adults were praising it as being an example of what a kid’s cartoon should be. Which I kind of ignored because I’ve heard the same thing about a lot of other cartoons, some of which have been utter bollocks. So, I’ll be watching through it for the first time for this review. Shh, don’t spoil it.
We follow twins, Dipper & Mabel Pines, as they stay with their Great Uncle Stan at his Mystery Shack tourist spot in the small town of Gravity Falls Oregon. While exploring in the woods, Dipper finds a mysterious journal that talks about the strange supernatural phenomena happening in the town. Following up on the things mentioned therein will lead to the two having one unforgettable summer filled with adventures & mystery.
I honestly can’t think of any major narrative problems with this series. It’s stories are pretty straight forward & very optimistic, both of which are fine. It can be predictable, for an adult, but it’s intended for children. So, I don’t see any problem there either. If anything, a show for children should be a bit predictable for adults. Since we have a lot more experience with media and, with it, trope knowledge.
In stark contrast, I have to give the series a lot of credit. The strange world of Gravity Falls is highly inventive and it does some subversive stuff. Like having highly cheerful gravediggers or bringing unicorns into the equation only to have them take the piss. Going along that vein, this series is really bloody funny. There aren’t many things that get me bursting out in uproarious laughter. I usually end up having more a quiet chuckle when I find something funny. This got me laughing my arse off quite a few times. Sometimes with jokes that are kind of old, but they just executed very well. To give an example, there’s a line from Grunkle Stan about how “he can’t find the remote and he refuses to stand up” that really got to me. It’s a joke I’ve seen many times and that normally wouldn’t get anything out of me, but the combination of the jape with the channel he’s got on, the distance he actually is from the telly & the delivery makes it really funny. I also appreciate that some of the lessons they bring up are important ones that I haven’t seen in a lot of cartoons. Like the fact that an absent parent doesn’t really care about you and you may as well forget about them and appreciate the people who do care about you.
Then, we have the finale. This one is full of twists and turns. It has a lot of strong triumphant moments and some more melancholy bitter-sweet ones. It has some really sweet scenes, and I’m not using “sweet” in a slang sense. It also has some epic bits that I don’t want to spoil. One thing worth noting is that the theme tune actually changes for the finale episodes. Yes, this series makes the theme tune an important reflection of the state of things happening in the series. Which is a nice tough that you don’t see in many things. The ending is absolutely amazing is what I’m saying.
About the worst I can say about this aspect is that some of the mystical creatures they encounter lack individuality. The Manotaurs are pretty much interchangeable, as are the gnomes, as are the unicorns. Which I can’t fault them for too much, especially since the creatures tend to show up as a major part of one episode and then kind of go to the background. Overall, though, I really like the characters. The major characters have just the right level of complexity and development. The side characters may be largely defined by their quirks, but they’re an endearing lot. I freaking love the happy funeral directing couple, for example. They have the best morbid jokes.
The art uses a relatively simplistic style, but it uses it to great effect. The surreal and bizarre scenes are really well done. The character designs are memorable. I don’t even care that some characters have those weird, huge muppet noses. The scenes flow nicely too. There’s real effort put into making the series look nice and it pays off.
Here’s an area where I have some issues. Dipper sounds too old. He’s supposed to be twelve, but his voice sounds like someone who’s gone completely through puberty and possibly started University. Then we have Grenda. One of the big “jokes” surrounding Grenda is that she has a super husky voice. Which is used in an actual humorous way all of once. Other than that, it just comes across as bad acting. I don’t have any real issues with the rest of the cast. They can be exaggerated at times, but there’s always a reason for it. The music is good. I especially like the theme tune, which is evocative of the whole surreal aesthetic except when it changes for the ending stretch. In which case it’s evocative of the situation they’ve found themselves in.
I honestly didn’t expect to like Gravity Falls as much as I did. Especially given my history with cartoons that are lauded as “amazing” & “perfect for adults too.” But it more than won me over with its ceaseless charm, endearing characters, creative scenarios, strong sense of humour & virtually everything else. Ultimately, compared to everything I liked about the series, my few complaints are pretty mild. This is one I’ll probably re-watch at some point. My final rating is going to stand at a well deserved 9/10.