Friday, June 15, 2012

Defying "Gravity"

Everything is not what it seems...oops, wrong Disney show.
The fictional Gravity Falls, Oregon is filled with mysteries. Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is how it's able to take such an unusual balance and make it work: much like Phineas and Ferb, the show Disney plans to pair it with (as well as the only other watchable show on the network), it somehow manages to be slightly subversive yet still feels like a Disney product at the same time, mixing Ferb's theme of endless exploration of summer vacation with a liberal dose of the reckless insanity of Regular Show. It feels like a Cartoon Network product, yet has a Disney charm- along with a hint of an over-arcing Twin Peaks-style conspiracy storyline that seems like it will run through the comedy, but unlike, say, Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc., never overshadow it.

The preview episode, which aired tonight and is available as a free download from iTunes, sets the scene in the fictional burb and introduces our heroes (as it were), Dipper (voice of Jason Ritter) and Mabel (voice of Kristen Schaal)- who are as different as night and day, with Mabel being your average boy-obsessed teenage girl with a optimism level to the point of quirky airheadedness, and Dipper concerned that something may be hiding in the Mystery Shack, the tourist trap run by their great-uncle (or "grunkle") Stan (voice of Alex Hirsch, who also created the series inspired by his own childhood growing up with his sister and his own experiences in Oregon and the curiosities he imagined a town named Boring that struck him funny might hold that its name was meant to disguise).

Dipper stumbles upon a book telling of the secrets of Gravity Falls which seems to prove him right...even more so when Mabel falls for a mysterious newcomer who seems to fit the book's definition of the walking undead. There's more to him than meets the eye, all right- but it's not what you expect. The revelation of Mabel's crush's true identity is both unexpected and hilarious, calls back to what appears to be a throwaway joke Chekov's Gun-style, and is such a highlight of the first episode that I'm not going to give it away. 

Besides the bizarre comedy that thankfully never gets in the way of the creation of a mystery storyline that will most likely serve as a common thread between the episodes, the highlights as far as characters go are Mabel, who is a perfect match for Schaal's childlike voice and whose optimism in the defiance of pure insanity is in itself comically insane, and Hirsch's two characters, the enigmatic Soos, who serves as sort of a mentor to Dipper's quest to unravel the town's mysteries and seems to be smarter than his dumb-guy persona would lead you to believe, and Grunkle Stan, who seems a cross between the showmanship of P.T. Barnum and the unabashed greed of SpongeBob's Mr. Krabs, bilking tourists out of their money for a chance to see pointless artifacts. In one of the funniest throwaway gags, Stan shows off Rock That Looks Like A Face Rock, only to be greeted with the questions of confused tourists that wonder whether it also looks like a rock and whether or not it actually is a face. (Hirsch, who is not surprisingly a Cartoon Network vet, is no stranger to voice acting- he also voices Clamantha, by far the funniest character on Disney's other current animated series, the subpar Fish Hooks.)

Gravity Falls feels a lot like the sort of series Cartoon Network would air that the fans would gush over but be cancelled before its time. Yet at the same time it still seems to have the "heart" of Disney, if that's possible. Hopefully their marketing clout and their paring of the series with their breakaway hit Phineas and Ferb (which seems like a good companion for it) will make sure that we get to explore the comical mysteries of Gravity Falls for a while to come. With this and future projects such as the feature Wreck-It Ralph, Disney has somehow been able to create revolutionary projects that somehow still feel like they belong in the Disney family. Perhaps how it really happened it yet another mystery for Dipper- and animation fans- to discover. Or maybe it's just another scam by Grunkle Stan. Hard to tell.

Gravity Falls makes its official debut with a rerun of this preview episode plus a new episode on June 29 starting at 9pm Eastern/Pacific on Disney Channel.

GRAVITY FALLS ©2012 Disney. No ownership intended or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment