Greetings fellow readers and seekers of the unknown, welcome to Gravity Falls! In the heart of Oregon lies a small town where everything is not as it seems and mysteries lie around every corner. The first of what I hope are many successful animated shows created by Alex Hirsch, Gravity Falls takes place over the course of one very eventful summer following the adventures of characters that have gone on to become some of my all-time favorites and some of the best writing I’ve seen on tv in ages, let alone from the Disney Channel. I can’t guarantee these reviews all happening in such a short amount of time as the Pines’ journey into the unknown (especially how there’s only one month of summer left) but the release schedule for each episode I’ll be looking at will be most assuredly better than the one for the show itself. I’m not exaggerating, months would go by between each new airing, a frustrating mixture of bad scheduling by the network (“Meh, that animated fluff those basement dwellers seem to love can wait, but God forbid the kids miss any chance to watch Dog With a Blog!!”) and the insane amount of time it makes to create an episode (it took a year to the day to get it from script completion to air time). Lucky you, you won’t have to wait as long like most of us fans did. They’ll be out every couple of weeks, once a month at the most. Also, while I’ve enjoyed individual episodes from time to time after the series finale, this will be my first time watching the entire show from start to finish in one go, so forgive me if I fangasm a bit at some points. Then again, seeing as how this beat out some classic British sci-fi, technicolor ponies, singing knights, and Harry Freaking Potter among others, it’s easy to see that I’m not alone in feeling this way. But enough of my overly long introduction, let’s get started with Gravity Falls’ first episode, “Tourist Trapped”.
We open on a happy summer scene of families having a barbecue and playing in the great outdoors…and then a golf cart driven by two screaming children crashes through a billboard while pursued by some huge unseen creature.
Right off the bat we’re shown that this isn’t going to be your average animated Disney show. It’s a perfect intro to what we’re about to dive into.
…until the actual intro starts. Everybody whistle along!
By the way, if you’re wondering why the animation on Dipper and Mabel seem so fluid, it’s not just the budget going towards the intro like so many cartoons in the 80’s did. They were animated here by legendary Disney animator (and Adventure Time horse) James Baxter.
No, seriously, James Baxter also animated and voiced that horse from Adventure Time that shares his namesake. Weird semi-related fact for you.
After that, we rewind a bit to where it all began – meet Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schall respectively), 12 year-old twin siblings who get sent by their forever-unseen parents to Gravity Falls, Oregon to spend their summer with their great-uncle, “Grunkle” Stan (Alex Hirsch). Stan runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack, where he tricks the local rubes and unwary vacationers into handing over their cash with cheap displays of fake creatures and cheesy jokes that even the Jungle Cruise skippers wish they thought of. He also employs the kids to help him run the gift shop (ask Stan if he knows anything about child labor laws and he’ll find some way to either distract or bribe you, that’s the kind of boss he is). Also working at the Mystery Shack are Soos, the handyman (also Alex Hirsch) and cool as ice teenager Wendy Corduroy (Linda Cardellini). I’ll get more into them as the series progresses and why they’re great characters, but this episode does a decent job setting them up with what little screentime they’re given.
Mabel, the more outgoing of the twins, has no trouble finding something fun to do, whether it’s rolling in the grass or making friends with the goat who lives in their attic bedroom. Dipper on the other hand is less thrilled being stuck in the middle of nowhere for three months. The town seems to be hiding something, he frequently falls victim to Grunkle Stan’s pranks and he’s always the one who’s picked to do the hard jobs around the Shack. Speaking of, one particular evening Stan sends him to put up some Mystery Shack ads in the woods. Dipper is understandably reluctant, as not only are those woods creepy but his mosquito bites seem to be giving him a warning…
While out in the forest, Dipper tries to hammer a nail into a tree only to find that it’s made of metal and hollow. He discovers a hatch with some switches inside and after playing around with them, a hole pops open in the ground to reveal a dusty old book with the image of a six-fingered hand marked with a 3 on its cover.
Dipper reads the book, a journal with the owner’s name ripped out. Inside are countless notes and illustrations on the strange occurrences and creatures within the boundaries of Gravity Falls. As he reaches the journal’s last entries, the writings become more frantic and messy, ending with the author’s fears that he (or she) is being watched and one last warning that in Gravity Falls, there is no one you can trust. From there the Journal is completely blank…