The Daily Stream: Gravity Falls Is A Dang-Near Perfect Cartoon

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "Gravity Falls"

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+, Hulu Plus

The Pitch: Created by Alex Hirsch for Disney, "Gravity Falls" is, like its subject matter, an oddity. The animated series follows the misadventures of twin siblings Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel (Kristen Schaal) Pines, who experience a myriad of mysterious phenomena in the unassuming, rural logging town of Gravity Falls. From zombies, to wizards, to shapeshifting horror shows, the series does not shy away from spectacular, imaginative foes for the town to grapple with — often pushing the envelope of what you could depict on a kid's (let alone a Disney!) cartoon. 

Twins Dipper and Mabel are two 12-year-old, good-natured kiddos spending the summer with their Great-Uncle (or "Grunkle") Stan Pines (Hirsch), who runs the local tourist trap, "The Mystery Shack." The business is a bit like a less-credible Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum, filled with attractions like jars of eyeballs and weird taxidermy creations. The central irony of the series is that scammer Grunkle's blatantly fake museum is at the heart of the real-life phenomena happening in Gravity Falls. Shortly after arriving in the town, Dipper discovers a journal by an unknown author that is filled with information about the strange creatures and unexplained events; armed with the information provided by the journal, the twins — along with friends like Soos (Hirsch), Wendy Corduroy (Linda Cardellini), and Waddles the pig (Dee Bradley Baker) — are able to tackle the many paranormal threats, saving the town (and possibly, the world) on a regular basis.     

Why it's essential viewing

The animated series was inspired largely by Hirsch's childhood — including his love of "The Simpsons" (via The A.V. Club). And like Matt Groening's seminal cartoon, "Gravity Falls" did not shy away from naughty jokes — although these were largely delivered in innuendo. The show is kid-friendly, if a bit scary, but there are many, many jokes included for the grown-ups watching. Embracing the unorthodox, the characters resist typical protagonist archetypes, instead celebrating various body and personality types. It's relatable, even in the wackiest scenarios, and surprisingly sweet. "Gravity Falls" was smartly written, daring, and often hilarious. It's an absolute joy to watch — the perfect salve to soothe the anxiety that comes from living in our current, depressing times.

"Gravity Falls" was a huge hit for Disney, and for good reason. The content was endlessly charming; the small-town setting is perfect for introducing a revolving cast of supporting players, gradually building upon a central — and addictive — overarching story. The animation itself is top-tier, boasting vivid colors, interesting designs, and lush textures. The ratings were strong, and the series finale broke viewership records

Despite all that success, however, "Gravity Falls" only aired for two seasons — famously because the creator wanted to end the show, not because it was canceled. One can't help but wonder if the ridiculous notes Disney gave Hirsch had something to do with the series ending so quickly. Although it's unlikely the show will ever get another season, it's still worth watching — and revisiting, over and over again.