This month’s Cartoon Academy, we will be focusing on one of my favorites (besides Steven Universe): The weird, the wonderful, the odd and all too amazing town of Gravity Falls. Since season two has sadly come to an end, as well as the show itself, I wanted to give some of you new and inquisitive fans of Gravity Falls the lowdown on what makes this show and this town as fantastic as it is. I also wanted to give the die hard fans of the show, a few things to think about as we finish another cartoon that was up there with the best of them.
In this first article, I will be giving you a journey through this town, the people inside it and some mysterious goodies along the way. As usual, I promise no spoilers what so ever! Now, let’s get started!
If you’ve never seen Gravity Falls or just need a reason to catch up, you’re in luck. From the creative mind of Alex Hirsch, Gravity Falls graced our television screens on June 29, 2012, and has been causing all kinds of emotions (good, bad, and in-between) ever since. Alex Hirsch first made Gravity Falls as a student film, but was called to pitch it for Disney channel and it was turned into a full show. It’s since become a vital part of the Disney Channel and Disney XD. Sadly, however, it is currently ending its second season and is finished in its entirety. Alex Hirsch has recently penned a letter to fans on Tumblr stating that this second season of Gravity Falls will be its last. This has made many viewers feel quite sad. But fear not! These two seasons of Gravity Falls have been not only well put together, but have provided closure to the stories, adventures, and mysteries in this small town.
Gravity Falls turns its focus on a set of twins named Dipper (voice by the amazing Jason Ritter) and Mabel (voiced by the woman of many talents Kristen Schaal, who you may know from her Bob’s Burger fame as Louise). They are sent away to stay with their Great Uncle Stan Pines or Grunkle Stan (voiced by Alex Hirsch), over the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Grunkle Stan runs The Mystery Shack, which is a pretty lousy place of hoaxes mixed with folklore. While the twins adjust to their new surroundings, something about Gravity Falls itself feels mysterious to them. Dipper finds a book laced with all of Gravity Falls’ weird, horrific, and wonderful little secrets and the rest of history. Not really, but, you know.
Gravity Falls the Town
So, have you ever thought about the inspiration behind the mysterious town of Gravity Falls? Gravity Falls, Oregon is actually based off of two places in the state of Oregon. The first one is a town called Boring, Oregon. Alex Hirsch and his family never went to Boring, Oregon, but they always passed by it and wondered about it. The second one is based off of Oregon Vortex, a roadside attraction in Gold Hill, Oregon where people say they have experienced different paranormal activity. The Oregon Vortex has been mentioned in different paranormal and supernatural television shows, such as X-Files and Supernatural.
Gravity Falls was founded by the 8 1/2 president of the United States, Quentin Trembley. Yes, the 8 1/2 President of the United States discovered the wonderful down of Gravity Falls by falling off a cliff. He was deemed too silly to run the United States, but also too silly to run Gravity Falls. They ended up erasing him from history and gave the founding credit of the town to Nathaniel Northwest. Apparently, there is a UFO underneath the town and it created a valley that formed Gravity Falls. The town is very small, but accommodates a lot of attractions and places, especially local attractions like the Mystery Shack. If you’re watching Gravity Falls and think “this feels pretty familiar,” you’re not so far off. Gravity Falls takes inspiration from another wonderful show called Twin Peaks. Alex Hirsch was such a big fan that he wanted David Lynch to play the villain Bill Cipher, but sadly David turned down the offer and Alex became the voice instead (although it’s a very different knockoff David Lynch voice, it’s still perfect). There are some really significant nods to the show scattered throughout, including a nod to the Red Room in the episode “The Hand That Rocks The Mabel” (S1E4).
Dipper Pines — Voiced by the handsome Jason Ritter of Joan of Arcadia and Parenthood, Dipper Pines is a twelve year old bent on proving his manliness and figuring out the mysteries inside Gravity Falls. Dipper is loosely based off of Alex Hirsch, the creator of Gravity Falls. He’s adventurous, curious, and a very reliable problem solver. If there’s a good way to describe Dipper compared to his twin sister Mabel, it would be the left brain side of a human being. He is both analytical and intelligent, relying on a different way of problem solving while his sister is the complete opposite of this. He is quick witted and sometimes insecure, especially when it comes to impressing Wendy and showing off his manliness and maturity. This has Dipper thinking that he needs to grow up at a fast pace instead of just taking it one age at a time. Dipper is always thinking about himself first, rather than the needs of others, which gets him into trouble with Mabel most of the time. However, he is always thinking and protecting his sister no matter what they go through. Dipper is almost like the Batman of Gravity Falls; he loves the mystery of the town even though it always gets him into trouble.
Mabel Pines — Fun-loving, energetic, and “childish,” Mabel Pines is the girl with the awesome sweaters and voiced by the fantastic Kristen Schaal of Bob’s Burgers (Louise Belcher), Flight of the Conchords, The Last Man on Earth, and many more. Mabel is the twin sister of Dipper and a (sort of) typical preteen girl. Mabel Pines is based off of Alex Hirsch’s twin sister, Ariel, whose just as adorable as Mabel in pictures. Mabel is a fantastic character who always tries to keep a positive outlook on life. She keeps her head up and is the source of comic relief with her boy-crazy ways and preteen fantasies of romance and fun. If Dipper is the left brain, Mabel is definitely the right brain of this pair. She is creative and imaginative and tries to keep everyone smiling, because happiness is her top priority for herself and other people. Mabel is often put down because of her silly ways by Pacifica Northwest (her rival, voiced by Jackie Buscarino), her brother, and Grunkle Stan, but there wouldn’t be a Mabel without her silliness and adorable self. Mabel is somewhat scared to grow up, whereas her brother is the complete opposite; she doesn’t see the fun in growing up and wants to stay a kid as long as she can. She is also one millimeter taller than Dipper and five minutes older than he is. She also has a best friend in her pet pig, Waddles, which is inspired by Alex’s sister Ariel wanting a pet pig when she was younger. How cute is that?
Stanford “Grunkle Stan” Pines (Alex Hirsch) — Self-made, selfish and an overall con-man and owner of the Mystery Shack, Stan Pines prides himself on making the most amount money he can and not giving a damn who he exploits to get it. Stan is also the Great Uncle of Mabel and Dipper, who know all about their Grunkle Stan’s ways and still love him for it. Once you get past all of Stan’s foul ways, there is a side about him that is amazing and utterly lovable, if not tolerable. He cares so much more about Mabel and Dipper than he truly lets on, as well as his staff, Wendy and Soos. At first, Stan claims to not have any type of connection to or desire to learn about the supernatural happenings in Gravity Falls. He dismisses them and exploits them at the Mystery Shack only to make a good buck, but later there is a much more supernatural side to Stan.
Jesus “Soos” Altamirano Ramirez (Alex Hirsch, yeah he voices a lot of things) — There is no way you can go about watching this show without loving Soos. Soos’ character is borrowed again from Hirsch’s real life. When he went to Cal Arts, he had a friend named Jesus Chambray and that in turn was the inspiration for Soos. This lovable man is not only the heart of Gravity Pines, but he is also the most devoted employee that Stan can have and the most reliable friend that you can ever ask for. Soos is very naive and childish in nature, but very protective and a big part of Dipper and Mabel’s lives in Gravity Falls. Soos looks to his Abuelita and professional wrestler, Terry America (KICKBOSS) as role models. He also looks to Stan as a role model even he sort of takes advantage of Soos and his kindness, but Soos is always happy to help out and keeps a picture of Stan in his break room. He also has a very deep protective nature when it comes to the Twins, stating in the episode “Not What He Seems” (S2E11), “I have a new mission now. Protecting these kids.”
Wendy Corduroy — Part time worker at the Mystery Shack and full time slacker, Wendy Corduroy is the teenage girl we all wanted to be. Wendy is laid back, chill, and very mellow in her attitude both in her personal life and at work. She lets everything roll off her shoulders unless it really starts to bother her deeply, like her ex-boyfriend Robbie Valentino (T.J. Miller) or people fighting. She’s voiced by the one and only Linda Cardellini from such fan as: Freaks and Geeks, Scooby Doo, Mad Men, and so much more. Who else could pull off the wonderful character of Wendy Corduroy? One of the wonderful things about Wendy is her amazing dynamic with everyone she meets. Her and Dipper have a very close friendship to where Dipper starts having a crush on her. She’s very goofy and fun loving with Mabel and Soos, but lacks respect for Stan and often plays pranks on him to get him to open up at least a little bit. Wendy comes from a family of lumberjacks and has a special talent with an axe that no one can beat.
There are so many more interesting characters in Gravity Falls including, Pacifica Northwest (Jackie Buacarino), Mabel’s rival and frenemy, Old Man McGucket (Alex Hirsch), one of the most eccentric patrons of Gravity Falls who everyone thinks is absolutely batty, but overall lovable, and Gideon Gleeful (Thurop Van Orman), the arch nemesis of Stan Pines and self proclaimed psychic kid. Also, Wendy’s ex-boyfriend and Dipper’s arch rival, Robbie Valentino (T. J. Miller), Mabel’s best friends, Candy Chiu (Niki Yang) and Grenda (Carl Faruolo), and of course, you can’t forget Mabel’s pet pig Waddles.
There are so many themes in Gravity Falls, including everything from sibling jealousy and rivalry, to good old fashioned detective work and problem solving. The biggest theme, however, is the overall relationship between Dipper and Mabel. The twins go through a lot over the span of one summer, and I mean a lot, but those problems and situations that they just go through only seem to bring them closer together instead of driving them apart. They have to deal with Gnomes, Gideon, Dinosaurs, and anything that comes at them in Gravity Falls, but one thing that never seems to waver is the love that these two siblings have for each other. They deal with issues of rivalry, because they’re supposed to be exact twins. When Mabel grows one millimeter taller than Dipper, he’s almost hurt by the fact that she’s growing and he’s staying the same. As I said before, Mabel is the right brain; she brings creativity and silliness into their siblingship. Dipper is the left brain; he brings analytical and critical ideals to the table. When you put both of them together, there’s nothing they can’t do. At the end of the day, both Mabel and Dipper have their own separate voices and identities, but their love for each other never waver and it never grows apart. No matter what boy, girl or triangle shaped demon comes between them.
Another very important theme of Gravity Falls is the pressure and insecurity of growing up or staying the same age. Dipper and Mabel often worry about the future, as well as worry about the present. Dipper is concerned with how he is perceived by others. He can’t wait to grow up and get things really going with his life. Mabel is concerned about growing up and being left behind. She is very worried about the future, because she is having the best summer of her life right now. She doesn’t want the party to end, even though you’ll have to face the future sometime. The advantages and disadvantages of growing up really take a toll on the twins and lead them to do critical things in order for them to lead to the future or stay in the now.
There’s an abundance of talented voices behind Gravity Falls, especially in the last season. Although we can’t compare the two, Gravity Falls fails to give us the kind of diverse cast where Steven Universe does, but what they lack in diversity, they make up for with big stars in important or small roles to round out their cast. We already know the cast of actors chosen to play our main characters, but Alex Hirsch plays more of the characters than you can imagine. Characters such as: Bill Cipher, Old Man McGucket, The Gnomes, Soos, Grunkle Stan, and other supporting characters. The man of the hour lends his voice more than ever to the show that has captured the hearts of so many. He even enlists his sister to play a small role as one of Pacifica’s best friends (with fuchsia hair).
There are also a number of guest stars who lend their voices to Gravity Falls and you wouldn’t even recognize them. Some of them include recurring characters such as: J.K Simmons who plays someone close to Stan Pines in the second season, and Nathan Fillion who voices Preston Northwest, Pacifica Northwest’s father. Some other celebrities that have visited Gravity Falls are: Coolio, John Oliver, Larry King (Larry and Coolio play Wax Figures of themselves and John Oliver plays Wax Sherlock Holmes in the episode Headhunters), Lance Bass (all the voices of the boyband Sev’ral Times), Nick Offerman (Agent Powers), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Smart Waddles), Tara Strong (Sue, Greeter at Gravity Falls Museum and additional voices), Mark Hamill (Bats Biker and Shapeshifter), John Stewart (Judge Kitty Kitty Meow Meow Face-Shwarstein), and many many more.
Goodbye, Gravity Falls
The Pines, as well as our time in this wonderful Gravity Falls, has sadly come to an end. This year, after the events of Weirdmageddon, Alex Hirsch has officially decided to end Gravity Falls. As bittersweet as this is for current fans of the show, it is also somewhat of a blessing. Alex Hirsch is one of those show runners who knows to stop before things spin out of control. He has said that he’d like Gravity Falls to be the course of one entire summer. This is best and most epic send off for a show that brought us mystery, suspense, drama, and anxiety of what will happen next to these two siblings. It leaves a chance for new fans to dive into this world and for current and previous fans to find something new. Gravity Falls is a show that is riddled in mystery, but the greatest mystery of all is trying to figure out how its so damn good!
That’s all for the Gravity Falls introduction! For all you brand new fans out there, if you’d like to watch Gravity Falls there are a tons of places where you can start to get your fix. iTunes and YouTube are offering the episodes, but obviously nothing comes for free, so most of them you’ll have to pay for. If you have your own devices to stream these episodes, I honestly suggest you do it as soon as possible. There are also some really amazing shorts dealing with the shows focusing on some of the characters individual journeys, such as Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained, Mabel’s Guide to Life, Fixin’ It with Soos, TV Shorts, and Mabel’s Scrapbook. You can view all of them here on YouTube!
If you’d like to read some more about Gravity Falls, there have been some super cute and interesting books about the show, including, Happy Summerween!/The Convenience Store… of Horrors!, Pining Away, Once Upon a Swine (these books are illustrated adaptations of episodes), and Dipper’s and Mabel’s Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun! (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).
There are also two Gravity Falls books that are coming out in 2016, which is super exciting! Dipper and Mabel and the Curse of the Time Pirate’s Treasure!: Select your Own Choose-Venture (take a deep breath before you continue) comes out in September 2016. Another book that will be coming out will be the physical Journal 3 that Dipper Pines owns with notes from Dipper and Mabel themselves. You can pre-order Curse of the Time Pirate’s Treasure! here and Journal 3 here
Thanks for reading an introduction to Gravity Falls! Don’t miss the one hour season finale of Gravity Falls: Weirdmageddon 3 coming to you in early 2016. It’s going to be one for the history books so make sure you catch up and tune in.
Moving Image Columnist + Teacher of Cartoon Academy. Insha is a freelance + comic writer, film nerd and Crystal Gem from NJ. She enjoys cartoons, comics, b-movies and has very strong feelings about Kylo Ren. Stay Weird. ♡