US animated tv series (2012-2016). Disney Television Animation. Created by Alex Hirsch, also executive producer. Writers include Matt Chapman, Hirsch, Jeff Rowe and Josh Weinstein. Directors include John Aoshima, Matt Braly, Joe Pitt and Aaron Springer. Voice cast includes Hirsch, Jason Ritter, Kristen Schaal and Thurop Van Orman. 40 episodes (usually 23 minutes long, though some are double-length), plus 17 shorts. Colour.
Twelve-year-old twins Dipper Pines (Ritter) and Mabel Pines (Schaal) arrive in Gravity Falls, Oregon, to spend the summer vacation with their Great Uncle ("Grunkle") Stan Pines (Hirsch), fleecer of tourists and owner of the Mystery Shack. He is not the only con artist they will meet. They discover that Gravity Falls is the locus for many weird events, from gnomes to Alien Spaceships. Dipper finds a journal, numbered 3, which records many strange happenings, and he vows to find the author. Mabel joins him in his quest, more for the fun than as a seeker of knowledge (her outlook on life is enthusiastically optimistic, while Dipper tends towards the enthusiastically earnest). They experience Time Travel (and Time Police), Shapeshifters, hauntings, body switching (see Identity Exchange), Dinosaurs, dream invasions (see Dream Hacking), giant Robots, the inhabitants of miniature golf courses and suchlike.
At first the main Villain of the piece appears to be Li'l Gideon (Van Orman), child psychic, who has a journal numbered 1 and plans to take over the Mystery Shack in the belief that another journal is hidden there. Foiled in his attempts, he summons Bill Cipher (Hirsch), a yellow triangle with one eye – calling to mind the image on the dollar bill, though that note lacks Bill's top hat, cane and bow tie. Bill talks with the bullying charm of a confidence trickster, describing his background and aims thus: "For one trillion years I've been trapped in my own decaying Dimension, waiting for a new universe to call my own. Name's Bill! But you can call me your new lord and master for all of eternity." He also mentions that he comes from a "flat world with flat minds and flat ideas", a nod to Edwin A Abbott's novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884). Bill is fought to a standstill near the end of Season One, but makes his bid to conquer Earth in the three-part finale of Season Two, "Weirdmageddon" – which lives up to its name.
Though similar in some ways to The X-Files (1992-2003), Gravity Falls differs in adding Humour and having a satisfactory conclusion. It is not without flaws – such as its handling of Mabel in the last few episodes, with Mystery Shack employee Wendy replacing her as co-lead for part of the finale – but fully deserves its acclaim as one of the best and most influential animated series of recent years, with the likes of Amphibia (2019-current) and The Owl House (2020-current) having followed its lead. [SP]
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