If you loved Twin Peaks, American Gods or Illuminatus! you'll like this cartoon. If on the other hand, you have a misguided "respect" for "beliefs" that "might, after all, be true" regarding Freemasonry, conspiracy theories, or other  subjects covered by Dan Brown or the X-Files, or are easily upset by the display of (purportedly) occult symbolism, pyramids, goats, owls, cryptozoology, and the like, you will probably run screaming to your email program to petition the Disney Channel to take this piece of dangerous programming off the air.

Which will be a shame, since you'll be missing out on a wickedly funny little series from the people who brought you "The Wonderful Misadventures of Flapjack".

Dipper and Mabel, 12-year-old twins,have been sent to Grand-Uncle ("Grunkle") Stan's in Gravity Falls, Oregon on Summer vacation to "get some time outdoors". Which they'll get…if and when he decides to let them have some free time away from the cash register. You see, he, growing bored and needing a little spare cash, turned the first floor of his A-frame into The Mystery Shack, a roadside attraction and gift shop full of unmysterious mysteries, fake fossils, stuff (including lots of eyes) in jars, and a free-range goat. He carries a walking stick with an 8-ball knob, wears a fez and an eyepatch (which he switches sides on at will), and never seems to get a close shave. Mitigating his efforts to run a tight ship is Zeus (spelled "Soos"), his way-cool handyman, and Wendy, 15 year old Hot Chick. There are the usual middle-school obsessions -- first crushes, Queen Bees, trying to grow up fast while still unsure what that is, differing growth …and then…

Well, there's a whole lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. For one thing, the place is infested, simply crawling, with Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers. And there are gnomes living in the hills. Dipper found a book (labeled "3") full of lore about the town, that mysteriously trails off. And then, let's see…Gideon the Kid Psychic. A haunted convenience store. Mabel's Asian girlfriend, into trans-humanism. Mechanical sea monsters in inland lakes. Strange locals. A butch girl, who might be a lesbian. Vengeful wax figures. Cabalistic cyphers. Nonstop Illuminati references. Psychedelic Swiss candy. Dimensional distortion crystals. Time paradoxes. Doppel-, triple- and decagangers (including a Paper Jam). Alternate American histories. And then, Grunkle isn't quite what he seems…

Conspiracy theorists (you know, the ones that claim Lady Gaga is the Whore of Babylon because she sometimes poses with one eye covered) are in a firestorm of speculation. How can they, how dare they, include this material on a children's show? And…why do they get so much right, and yet…mock the lore that only a few (outside of the Bilderburgs, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Federal Reserve and a whole lot of slightly hysterical websites) would have any business knowing? Are they getting things under the radar, or not-so-subtly pushing a not-so-hidden agenda? Or is it just that they're skeptical enough to mine the rich vein of lore these self-appointed experts love to quote, and, like the Friday the Thirteenth parties where people enter under ladders, dine under a canopy of open umbrellas and freely cavort with black cats, simply don't care that some people consider owls to be a symbol of death, circles inscribed in triangles are symbolic of the New World Order, and that five-pointed stars are a Christian symbol of evil.. a Pagan symbol of good...well, let's say they've gotten so overladen with "mystical" interpretations lately that they might as well be meaningless.

Art style is a little less cute than Flapjack, and not so much American Federalist (but still manages a good Pioneer style now and then). Scarier than most Disney (you're going to hear the word "dead" used a lot…and were those sheep shears going to cut out Dipper's tongue?) but less so than a lot of classic fairy tales. Kids will love learning about cryptography -- there's a secret message in every set of credits. You're going to like this one…if they get to do a second season….

Dipper: Grunkle Stan, whenever I'm in those woods, I feel like I'm being watched.
Stan: Ugh, this again.
Dipper: I'm telling you, something weird is going on in this town. Just today, my mosquito bites spelled out "BEWARE".
Stan:
*Looks at Dipper's arm*
That says BEWARB.
-- Grunkle Stan, being supportive.


Gravity Falls is a bi-monthly animated TV series by Alex Hirsche that is currently on its second season, and it is the only worthwhile thing in the Disney Channel. It's like the quality of the Disney Channel has been slowly drained over the years simply to make up for the amount of awesome this show would bring.

What is Gravity Falls? Aside from beautifully animated, strongly scripted, and possibly the best kids animated show since Avatar the Last Airbender (albeit in a totally different way), Gravity Falls is about a boy named Dipper Pines and his older-by-a-few-minutes twin sister Mabel Pines as they try to uncover the supernatural, preternatural, unnatural, and weirdly-natural secrets held by the titular town, Gravity Falls, where they are staying with their Grunkle (great-uncle) Stanford "Stan" Pines.

Stan runs the Mystery Shack, a tourist trap "museum" and gift shop along the same lines as the Mystery Spot and those towns that bank on haunted houses and other purportedly supernatural attractions. Stan himself claims not to believe in the supernatural, despite the odd things that undeniably happen in Gravity Falls, and all of the displays in his shop are fakes that he either made himself or (once Dipper and Mabel show up), has Dipper make. However, like everyone else in the town, Stan has his fair share of secrets...

Helping him with the Shack is Wendy, the cynical, easy-going, teenage daughter of the local lumberjack, Manly Dan, and the girl whom Dipper has a crush on, and Soos, the dim but kind and good-natured fix-it guy who believes in the supernatural and is always glad to help the twins on their supernatural hunts.

The first episode opens up with Dipper finding a mysterious Book that documents many of the strange phenomena in Gravity falls, and it becomes a running story arc through the series that Dipper is desperately trying to find the author and get some answers. Mabel starts the summer off hoping to have a romantic fling with somebody, but while she ultimately isn't as interested in the weird goings on as Dipper, she devotes her summer to helping him uncover Gravity Falls' secrets.

One of the best things about the show (aside from the all of it) is the relationship between the characters. The most obvious one is Dipper and Mabel; those two love each other, but furthermore (and more rarely), they actually like eachother.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: there is a main character-- usually a boy, but sometimes a girl-- and they either have an annoying younger sibling who isn't in the show much, but when they are, it's just because they need to be saved, or they are getting the main character into trouble. Or, alternatively, the other sibling is an older one who either picks on or neglects the main character. The stereotypical teenage sister who is on the phone a lot and ignores the sibling, or the older brother who picks on them. Yes, there will be occasional episodes circled around the two where it is revealed that, "oh look, they do love each other," but for the most part, other siblings in TV shows are just meant to be foils rather than characters.

This is NOT the case with Gravity Falls.

Mabel, though sillier than her intellectual brother, is just as much a main character as Dipper. The two get along. The two look out for each other. Keep track: every time there's some danger, the two grab onto each other. Every time one of them makes a run for it, they always grab onto the other's hand and take them along. Any time one learns something, they immediately share it with the other. Any time one gets into a zany scheme, the other is there to back them up. Yes, they occasionally get into arguments, or get frustrated with one another, but at the end of the day, they are still a team.

Do you know how rare it is to find a sibling duo-- much less a brother-sister duo-- who actually like each other all the time, instead of just in Very Special Episodes?

The relationships they have with other characters are great as well. Wendy plays the cool big sister in Mabel's eyes, and Soos genuinely cares about both kids and is the surrogate big brother. Stan occasionally comes off harsh, but it's clear that he loves having the two around, and in fact one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series is when he thinks he cannot take care of them anymore and calls their parents, saying he's gonna send them home.

Also good are the villains. There are a couple minor ones, (such as the bully Pacifica Northwest whose family owns half the town, and the punk kid who's trying to date Wendy), but mostly the episodic plots don't really have "villains" so much as they have "problems." The exceptions for that would be Li'l Gideon, pint-sized psychic styled in the way of those faith healers in tents and white suits who has a crush on Mabel and an unending seething hatred for Dipper and Stan.

The other exception is Bill Cipher, who is literally a demon. A fast talking, trans-dimensional energy demon with the power to manipulate minds and reality. He has some of the best lines. I won't say too much about these two, because I want you all to watch the show and be surprised as to how it turns out.

This show is also great about continuity. No resident of Gravity falls is a write off character, and the traits they have carry over. Hell, there is a time travel episode that involves going back through several previous episodes, and you know what? If you watch the episodes in which they are traveling, YOU SEE THEM. They put in the time traveler character months before the actual time travel episode. It's like an easter egg!

Also of note are the cryptograms on every episode. Every episode has coded messages during the beginning and end, as well as some background messages on the walls or whatnot in the episode itself. The specific ciphers and messages change around sometimes, like from Caesar to Abtash and whatnot. The codes aren't necessary, but they are enjoyable, and sometimes they hint as to what the next episode has to offer.

There are also numerous online series of shorts that aired during the Great Hiatus that can be found on youtube. These include "Dipper's Guide to the Unexplained," "Mabel's Guide to Life," "Fixin' it with Soos," and "Mabel's Scrapbook."

As I said before, the show is currently on its second season. There aren't any straight season DVDs available yet-- the DVDs instead are in that random "six episodes per DVD" order like the Twilight Zone DvDs did. It is annoying, but hopefully they will release REAL DVDs eventually. The first season was done in the typical new-episode-a-week fashion, but from what I've heard, in a rare twist Disney realized what a goldmine they had on their hands, and kept it on hiatus for a year. Instead of doing that because they hated the show and wanted it gone, they did this so that the next batch of episodes would be even better, and they've switched over to a once-every-two-weeks schedule instead of a once-a-week schedule supposedly to give developers more time. Take it with a grain of salt, but the popular word is that Gravity Falls is here to stay.

Here is a link to all the cryptograms for those like me who can't be arsed to learn code.

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