*WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
As the series Gravity Falls continued to chronicle the story of Dipper and Mabel Pines’ weird and wild summer in a strange Oregon town, a number of symbols began to boggle the minds of the viewers.
In the Season 1 episode Dreamscaperers, Gideon Glee officially let loose onto the series: Bill Cypher. A triangular-shaped, top-hat wearing being from another dimension, Bill was found making life difficult for the Pines family, and it soon seemed he had a connection to them from some years before!
Throughout each of his appearances, Bill could often be heard telling how he “couldn’t be stopped,” and that “big things were coming.”
At the end of Episode 17 of the second season (Dipper and Mabel vs The Future), Bill managed to find a way to trick Mabel Pines into making a deal. In exchange for giving into her wish that the summer wouldn’t end, Mabel handed over a key item, that opened the dimensional rift Bill needed, to finally cross over from his two-dimensional world, into our three-dimensional world!
As this episode begins, Bill takes over Gravity Falls, letting loose his friends from the other dimension, and plunging the entire town into chaos, calling his reign: Weirdmageddon!
Stanford Pines claims to know a way to stop Bill, but his and Dipper’s attempts to stop him are foiled, when he’s captured by Bill, and the journals are taken away!
With his Great Uncle and the journals gone, Dipper soon ends up teaming up with Wendy and Soos, in an attempt to find Mabel, and try to somehow defeat Bill…of course, nothing ever comes easy in a world gone topsy-turvy.
Given the symbolism the show has had, and Bill’s talk of “big plans,” it seemed a given that we would eventually get him back in a big way.
Plunging the town into Weirdmageddon, the results are a visual array of creatures, fire, and things that definitely don’t make one think of ‘pure Disney fun.’
One image that is hard to get out of my head, is Bill growing musculature and sinew across his body, as he takes on three-dimensional form. Yes, the image below is definitely not something one would expect from a Y7-rated show (but then again, Falls has pushed the envelope many times).
Much like in the Season 1 finale (Gideon Rises), Dipper is thrust into a situation where many of his support items are taken. Stanford isn’t there, the journals are gone, Mabel is cut off from him. In that sense, he becomes the focal point of the episode, as he has to press on, and find a way to survive.
Things really take a turn for the interesting, when Dipper finds Wendy, who shows she has what it takes to survive in an end-of-the-world situation. I think if anyone comes away remembering certain character moments, Wendy’s may stand out moreso than Dipper’s.
A notable scene, is when they are discussing where they were, “when it happened.” This may go over some of the younger viewer’s heads, but it adds a certain, real-world gravitas to the show. This kind of discussion has been had by many people over the years (myself included), relating to certain life-altering events in our own world, and to see it used here, was quite a shock!
Teaming up with Wendy, also leads to a brief-yet-exciting vehicle chase, involving some fun easter eggs, and some nice camera-work and 3D modeling (then again, I’d expect nothing less from the animation studio Rough Draft Korea, who also worked on Futurama!).
Like most first-parters, this episode also has the thankless task of laying out the ‘ground rules.’ This can often be a precarious tight-rope to walk, but the show manages to inform, while not getting too dry.
Even though it gives us plenty of areas to focus on, Part 1 also feels like a few subplots it introduces, are glossed over pretty quickly.
One subplot involving Gideon Glee, is shoehorned in a little too quickly, and another showing the little-used Time Police squad from the future, goes by so fast, I almost didn’t comprehend what their presence meant the first time!
Maybe if the shows had an extra 5-10 minutes, these bits wouldn’t have felt so brief, but then again, the show also has to move us forward, to keep the main focus on Dipper.
What does help the episode at times, is how the writers have managed to work in little jokes here and there (even having Bill and his minions, take over the opening credits to the show!), that manage to lighten up the dark areas of the story. It’s often hard to balance light and dark like in what is going on here, but surprisingly, the episode manages to keep itself together, as we charge on into Part 2.
Final episode grade: B+ (Final Thoughts: The beginnings of Weirdmageddon, bring forth one of the darkest visions to ever come to the series. Bill Cypher’s reign over the small Oregon town, has started us down a path that makes one wonder just how our main characters will prevail. While focusing moreso on Dipper Pines, it also brings several of the friends he has encountered in the town to light, and gives them a chance to shine . The episode falters with a few minor subplots, and some characters we are left to wonder about, as we make our way into the next part of the Season 2 Finale)
*WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
In the realms of Disney‘s cable channels (The Disney Channel and DisneyXD), a number of entertaining and fun animated shows have come to light, since the company started making its own animated programming for cable.
The 2000’s brought such animated shows as Kim Possible, The Proud Family, and Phineas and Ferb, that delighted young and old, and garnered a small fan-following.
In 2011, Alex Hirsch brought a new show/concept to the Disney Channel, that soon became a hit for its combination of comedy, adventure, drama, and scariness!
When Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to stay with their Great Uncle Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon, it looks like it’s going to be a boring summer…that is, until they encounter gnomes, demons, lake monsters, and so much more!
Hirsch’s show managed to almost feel like a throwback to shows and films of the 1980’s, where you’d have humor, mixed in with a few possible bits of ‘nightmare fuel’ for kids (and the show does seem to stretch its Y7 rating pretty far!).
Of all the characters the kids and their family came across, one that was often wondered about online, was a strange triangle-shaped figure known as Bill Cypher. Bill was soon revealed to be an other-dimensional demon, who would often try to make underhanded deals with a number of figures, but his attempts usually ended with him promising that “big things were coming,” that nobody could stop.
At the end of the episode Dipper and Mabel vs The Future, Bill’s words seemed to finally come true! Gaining three dimensional form, he opened a dimensional rift over Gravity Falls, and plunged it into a dark and chaotic realm, the likes of which Disney Television Animation had probably never seen before (and makes the Negaverse in the Darkwing Duck series look like Sioux City, IA)!
Summoning his other-dimensional friends to help him take over, Bill declared himself Lord and Master of the town, and proclaimed the twisted state of his surroundings, to be called: Weirdmageddon!
In the last two parts of Weirdmageddon, Dipper Pines found himself teaming up with his friends Wendy and Soos, and attempting to break Mabel out of a fantasyland, that placated her feelings about not wanting to grow up.
Though Dipper was tempted, the strength of his convictions managed to make Mabel see past the candy-coated disguise of Bill’s tricks (think like what the Other Mother in Coraline used to trick that film’s title character), and escape back to the nightmare that Gravity Falls had become.
Retreating to The Mystery Shack, the group found Stan(ley) Pines huddled up with several of the last townspeople and otherworldly creatures from the surrounding woods, not captured by Bill and his minions.
Though Stanley wishes just to hide in the shack, Dipper, Mabel, and the others decide to storm Bill’s fortress, to try and free Stanford Pines (Stanley’s twin brother), who may hold the key to finishing off Bill once and for all!
However, Bill has found out that while Weirdmageddon has overtaken Gravity Falls, he can’t spread it beyond the town’s borders!…but he knows someone, who might be able to help him…
Ever since he was first introduced, Bill Cypher was an animated character that operated outside dimensional laws, in a way that was almost like that of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s Discord. Both tended to have their own twisted machinations on how they would spread chaos and darkness, but of the two, Bill seemed the more evil, and threatening (and this was from a show on The Disney Channel!).
Being a fan of the weird and sometimes disturbing, the concept of Bill’s Nightmare Realm works pretty well, at times reminding me a bit of the unease I experienced, seeing the wizard Merlock transform Scrooge’s money bin into a hideous fortress in 1990’s Ducktales The Movie.
We’ve see the show get dark at times, but in this three-parter (and particularly this episode), they really up the ante for a Y7-rated production, with some scenes that made my eyes grow wide with shock!
Along with Bill, it is fun and exciting to see a number of supporting characters, come to the aid of the Pines Family. Some who have seen My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, may be reminded of that show’s 100th episode, Slice of Life. However, unlike that episode that felt like a glorified fan shout-out, most of the characters used here, actually feel like they work in the proper mechanism of the episode.
Though the showrunners do their darnedest to give everyone a chance to shine, some may be a little perturbed by the backpedaling done on the supporting character, named Pacifica Northwest. Many had hopes for her character after her major appearance in the episode Northwest Mansion Mystery, in which she stood up to her rich, socialite parents. However, here it feels like she regressed back a bit, into being the typical whiny, stuck-up rich girl.
When it comes to the group in The Mystery Shack fighting back, the story, animation, and music all come together to help give us an energizing, strike back at Bill and his friends.
The showrunners also had some fun including little jabs at popular culture here, and we get a few that made me a little giddy (I think they’re the first animated show to do a parody of Pacific Rim!).
Another 11th hour character development “sneak,” actually falls onto Stanley. He has been relatively absent for the first two parts, but once he’s on screen for part 3, he’s got some issues with his brother Stanford, that he’s not quick to let go of.
This to me is the one area, where the writers tripped up in making this a wholly-enjoyable episode. The fact that in the midst of so much world-destruction and all going on around them, Stanley’s digging in of his heels regarding Stanford, just feels like it was thrown into the mix a little too late. Though we have known that the two brothers have not been on good terms since Stanford’s return (in the episode, A Tale of Two Stans), it just breaks up the flow.
And then there’s…the end.
When it comes to the final moments of the show, some things you may have predicted will come to pass, but just as well, some other things will shock you.
Much like the character bits with Stanley and Stanford, the showrunners throw a small wrench into a moment, that could have sent some people’s “waterworks” into a full-blown waterfall…but sadly, they pull something akin to a PIXAR film that I won’t name here (if you see the scene, you’ll know which one I’m referring to).
Even with the few nitpicks above, the show still manages to rise head-and-shoulders above many animated series’ finales (some animated series I watched as a kid, never even HAD a proper finale!).
Though I watched the show not as fervently as most of its diehard fans, I trusted its creators enough to follow them down whatever path they steered their characters. Most animated series start out like infants, toddling around until they find their footing, and know what they’re about. When it came to Gravity Falls, the show seemed to know what it was from the beginning, and surprisingly, never wavered from that decided path!
Many fans and viewers will probably beg and plead for another visit to Gravity Falls, but even if someone at Disney decides to take us back…it just won’t be the same.
Creator Alex Hirsch said the show was meant to be about an incredible Summer Vacation, and that’s what we got. Personally, I felt since summer vacation lasts about 3 months (at least it did in my day), they could have done 3 seasons…but still, to end it after 2 seasons on such a high note (and with 40 episodes), I’m not one to complain.
Many of us have seen other shows out there (The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Fairly Oddparents, etc), that have soldiered on well past their prime, their animated ‘corpses’ still making noise, but seldom making us laugh like they once did…with many fans wishing someone would help these poor souls, to be put out of their misery.
The summer that Dipper and Mabel Pines spent in this strange little Pacific Northwestern mountain town, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that can never be replicated. It was a journey that resulted in new friendships, learning about relationships (both familial and romantic), encountering the strange and unusual, and even getting the chance to save the world.
You know…something like that could make for an awesome TV show!
Final episode grade: A- (Final Thoughts: The last episode of “Gravity Falls,” shows its creator managing to go all-out in bringing us a show-stopping ending, the likes of which many could have never fathomed…and manages to make it balance pretty well between chaos and comedy! We get to see both sets of Pines twins (Dipper and Mabel, Stanford and Stanley), work together in ways that shows just how strong their family unit can be. Bill Cypher may not come across as dark and powerful as the most fervent imagination wants, but he still manages to leave a lasting impression long after the show is over. Even the mixture of past characters and invention/devices, works surprisingly well, feeling as if they were somehow meant to fit into their respective places from the very beginning. Though the writers take the bite out of a few characters and scenes, the overall product still finishes in the best of fashion…and the last 5 minutes will make the most ardent fan, a little nostalgic for the journey they were taken on)
In going over several episodes of Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete, I was soon enamored with how entertaining a lot of them could be. Sure, some dealt with stories that defied logic, but oftentimes, there was something tangible to keep many of the stories, grounded.
While some of the Pete’s adventures outside of the school would be some of their more entertaining episodes, there were a few entertaining nuggets within the youthful prison known as “public school.”
Only a few school episodes made their way into the 8-episode first season, and one of them, I felt would be good for a recap.
As the episode begins, (big) Pete quickly relates to us how he is largely against the use of power tools…mainly for the fact that they can easily mutilate you.
However, he soon has to come face-to-face with this fear, when he receives his latest school schedule in the mail, with one word that he dreads the most: Shop.
Several of Pete’s friends have also made it into the class. Out of all of them, Ellen is the only one eager to get her hands dirty. Pete meanwhile, has just one goal in mind: to blend into the class, and get out of it with a ‘C’ (and with all of his appendages intact).
Of course, some schools have kids that never seem to go beyond a certain grade level, and this class has one of them, in the form of “Endless Mike” Hellstrom, a Shop Class “lifer.”
Mike’s taken shop enough times, that he knows the ins-and outs of the class. As well, he hints that if the instructor likes what you’re doing, he may assign you to work on his “special project.”
The class’ instructor, Mr Slurm, is definitely a notable presence, for the fact that he is missing his left hand, and has replaced it with a metal claw (that also has multiple attachments). Just like what his special project could be, most of the kids speculate on how Slurm lost his hand…well, all of the kids, except for Pete.
The class also becomes a lucrative business opportunity for (little) Pete, who shows up after the first class, to sell insurance to those who value their lives (“Our motto is: ‘When you least expect it…expect it!'”).
(big) Pete tries to slack off on paying attention during class, but is called out by Slurm during a discussion about different kinds of wood, meaning he may need to rethink his plans to coast through the class.
He attempts to find some sympathy in Ellen, but she soon abandons Pete, growing ever more fascinated with crafting an interesting project using metals and wood.
When it comes time for MidTerm projects, Pete takes the easiest route possible: taking a piece of wood, sticking a nail in it, and topping it off with a candle.
“It’s Danish-modern,” he insists to his friends.
While Slurm goes from person-to-person dispensing grades, he stops at Pete’s project, declaring it to have “real poetry,” and calls for the rest of the class to see what he’s done.
Slurm then surprises Pete and the rest of the class, when he tells that Pete will also be helping out on his, “special project.”
As Pete is put to work on it, he is only given cryptic instructions on what to do (usually aided by Endless Mike). All his efforts result in little information, with the work he’s done, padlocked in a green metal cabinet.
The more he works on the project, the more convinced Pete is that he’s working on something dangerous. Ellen suggests that he ask Mike about it, but Hellstrom refuses to divulge anything.
One day, thanks to some of his friends and (little) Pete, (big) Pete manages to have both Slurm and Mike distracted, giving him a little time to take a look at the blueprints for the project. However, before he can fully make sense of them, Slurm returns, and informs Pete that his work on the project is now finished.
Even so, concern eats away at Pete’s mind. Breaking into school after hours before the final day of class, he attempts to look for proof, but is caught by Slurm, and taken to his office.
Pete demands to know what he has been an accessory to, and that is when Slurm reveals the secret: Pete was helping to build an air conditioner, for Slurm’s office (with three settings!).
Scrabbling for something to say about this secret project being little more than a way to cool off the office he’s in, Pete blurts out, “But, that’s not fair!”
“Fair?” asks Slurm, the jovial sound of his voice becoming serious. “You have no idea what ‘fair’ is, Mister Wrigley. What’s fair is when someone thinks it’s worthless to take Shop, and so he makes worthless things because he has no respect for the wood, or what he can do with it. What’s fair is for that worthless student, to get an ‘F!’
“Now, what’s not fair,” continues Slurm, holding up his metal claw, “is when something’s taken away from you at a very young age, before you have the chance to discover its power.”
Slurm then goes on to tell Pete that every year, he has a student just like him: they expect to do little work, and get out of the class with a ‘C.’
With the Final day of class just hours away, Slurm assures Pete that he’ll get his ‘C,’ but that there’s no need for him to come in, since he doesn’t want to be there.
“Besides,” mutters Slurm. “You couldn’t make a chopping block if you tried.”
This sends Pete to start retrieving some wood, telling Slurm that he will have something to show the next day. Slurm just lets him to it, and Pete gets to work (unsupervised, and even using the power tools).
The next day, Pete is there with his finished product: a spice rack.
Slurm tests Pete’s knowledge of certain techniques, and Pete responds appropriately. Slurm is also impressed with how Pete was able to get such a nicely-crafted product, by only using the power saw to cut the base. For his efforts, Slurm gives Pete a ‘B+.’
As Slurm walks away, Pete recaps his Shop Class journey, with a closing monologue:
“Okay, so maybe I didn’t exactly, ‘slay’ him, but at least I proved to him that I could do it. And I guess, that’s what Mr Slurm wanted me to learn, all along. He just had his own way of teaching me, and even though I still think that tools are loud, sharp, and can kill you, when make something you’re proud of…sometimes, it’s worth the risk.”
Unlike Pete, I wasn’t required to take Shop Class in high school. In my time in the mid-1990’s, it was a class you could choose to take.
However, in Middle School, it was one of three required courses we were to take, though randomly decided for you if you’d take it in in your 6th, 7th, or 8th grade year. We worked with wood, cut metal, though it was largely about precision, and following directions. In the end, even though I was interested in art, the three-dimensional aspect and use of power tools, made me not as eager to really learn, and like Pete, I pretty much treated the class as something I wanted to get out of quickly.
In some ways, my IT teacher does remind me a bit of Slurm. I recall him being a man serious about the craft, though not having a missing hand.
Though when it comes to Slurm on the episode, one would assume with a name like his, and his missing hand, the writers would have made him a more comically-dangerous Shop Class teacher…but instead, the writers and actor Jude Ciccolella, bring a surprising, emotional seriousness to this man.
One notable scene lasts just a few seconds. As Pete scans the bookshelf behind Slurm’s desk, it shows a button that says “I love Voc(ational)-Tech,” and a Birthday card from Slurm’s wife. It’s often not thought of by some students, that there is more to a teacher’s life, than what goes on for those hours during the school day, and maybe, Pete begins to understand a little more about Slurm.
While it doesn’t feel to me like Slurm is a die-hard Shop teacher, there is believability that he feels a seriousness to what he is teaching.
His speech to Pete regarding ‘what’s fair,’ is one of my favorite moments in the episode. So far, Pete’s really done nothing but exude a “I don’t want to be here” attitude over every aspect of the class, and in this private moment, Slurm gets to tell him, “you think you’re special? Well, you’re not… there have been students before that were just as hard-headed as you.”
Slurm is a teacher that obviously doesn’t hate Pete, but he is most likely disappointed that he is not applying himself. Of course, the comment when he pretty much seems to refer to Pete as a ‘worthless student’ would probably not fly in today’s day-and-age (it’d be viral on Twitter pretty quickly, and Slurm would be out on the streets). However, it provides motivation for Pete to prove that he can do something, and have some worth.
A notable bit is when Slurm gives Pete some praise for the work he put into his spice rack, giving him a small smile, before he goes back to a more serious expression.
The episode is also notable for the introduction of “Endless Mike” Hellstrom, who would become a thorn in Pete’s side as the seasons went on.
Another notable item, is that in this episode, (little) Pete largely takes a backseat to the events. His only appearance is in two scenes, largely dealing with him selling insurance to several of the Shop students. It’s a little humorous to see (little) Pete in a suit, but it won’t be the last time he dresses up.
What’s funny that I never noticed as a kid, was some minor continuity. When Slurm tells how one kid got his hair caught in a machine…and that hair pulled that kid into the machine to his death, one who takes notice is Teddy Forzman. If you watch Teddy for the rest of the episode, he’s wearing a hairnet, most likely very concerned based on Slurm’s speech.
Though in the end, it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see Mr Slurm. Some teachers end up working multiple roles in a school, and in Season 3, Slurm would return as (big) Pete’s Drivers Ed teacher…though played by a different actor, and used more for comedic than dramatic purposes this time. As well, that episode (titled Road Warrior) ret-conned a lot of what had been established between Pete and Slurm in this episode. Even the good will the character showed towards Ellen in Shop suffered from the new character direction, as well.