We're living in what could easily be called a golden age of animated television. Adult Swim is getting most of the credit for this with shows like The Venture Brothers and Metalocalypse, but more and more cartoons are hitting the airwaves that are, on the surface, made for children but have become just as popular in college dorms. Since June, The Disney Channel has aired what just may come to be known as the best of this new wave of quality in televised animation: Gravity Falls.
Gravity Falls is about the adventures of twins Dipper and Mabel (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal, respectively), who are spending the summer with their "Grunkle" (Great-Uncle) Stan (series creator Alex Hirsch) and working in his tourist trap store The Mystery Shack in the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. Rounding out the main cast are Dipper and Mabel's coworkers: the dim but lovable Soos (also Hirsch), and the super cool Wendy (Linda Cardellini). Not is all as it seems in Gravity Falls though, as Dipper and Mabel soon come to find that the town is filled with its share of ghosts, monsters, and myriad other paranormal activity. Hijinx ensue, as is their wont.
The ingredients are all there for a big bawdy comedy with hints of the supernatural but Gravity Falls rarely forgets one tiny little thing that sets it apart from its competitors: the human element. The relationships in Gravity Falls are more believable than on almost any other animated show we can think of. Dipper and Mabel have one of the best sibling rapports in recent television; they'll sometimes butt heads and consistently tease each other, but they truly do love each other and prove it not through obligatory end of episode hugs, but through a friendship that forms the backbone of the show. Dipper's crush on the older Wendy is at turns amusing and melancholy. And Mabel's relationship with her pet pig Waddles is...adorable. It certainly helps that all of this great stuff is realized through some of the most sumptuous animation on television, which is itself one heckuva accomplishment with programs like Young Justice on the airwaves.
Writers and directors of animation like Brad Bird have long railed against "cartoon" being used as a pejorative or an excuse to demand less from entertainment with a family friendly bent. That status quo is unlikely to change. But when something like Gravity Falls comes along it becomes all the more clear why it's so important to demand so much from our entertainment, no matter who it's aimed for.
Have you seen Gravity Falls? What do you think of it?