An Animated Dissection: Is Glossaryck of Terms the ‘Dr Manhattan’ of “Star vs the Forces of Evil,” and other observations about the little blue man
Oh good! You survived that freaky image of Glossaryck of Terms’ diamond-shaped eyes, staring into your soul.
Now that the second season of the animated series Star vs the Forces of Evil has come to an end, it’s time to let loose with some thoughts of my own, regarding what I’ve observed.
I often find my animation-addled brain, teeming with thoughts and anecdotes, that most of the time, tend to fly over the heads of most of the show’s fans (who, if social media is any indication, are addicted to ranting and raving over which of their fanships will win out in the end).
I rather enjoy being one of the more mature viewers in the fandom: watching the series, and searching for story/plot/character threads, that most of the young’uns, may not quite comprehend.
I got a whole mess of stuff to discuss about what the last 22 episodes have wrought, but first, I thought I’d compare one little blue man from the show, and how he reminded me of a (rather) big blue man, from a graphic novel I once read.
*Note: This article is written with the knowledge that the reader, is familiar with the first two seasons of the show, “Star vs the Forces of Evil.” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please turn back now.*
In the first few episodes of season 1 of Star vs the Forces of Evil, viewers were treated to the image of a strange, floating little blue man, who appeared without acknowledgement.
It wasn’t until the 6th episode’s segment, titled Mewberty, that we were formally introduced to Glossaryck of Terms (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor), whom Marco Diaz attempted to seek advice from, as Star Butterfly began to go through…mewberty!
Glossaryck revealed that he was a fixture of Star’s magic instruction book, which contained spells that she could use with her family’s wand. At first refusing to help, Glossaryck changed his tune, when Marco fulfilled his request to get him some pudding.
This led to Marco feeding the little man, who seemed to just give out riddles about how to help Star, with no concrete answers…or so it seemed.
Many things that Glossaryck has done over the course of the last two seasons, seem incredibly ridiculous, and oftentimes, make no sense whatsoever.
Most of the time, despite the way he acts, Glossaryck seems to know what to do, but the big question is…how?
And then, in remembering a scene from the graphic novel Watchmen, I came upon my theory: What if Glossaryck is like Jon Osterman, aka Dr Manhattan, in Watchmen?
In the Alan Moore-written graphic novel, Osterman is a scientist, who is seemingly disintegrated, when he ends up locked in a test chamber, and has his “intrinsic field” removed.
However, Jon is far from dead.
A number of strange things are seen around the labs over the next few months as Jon’s consciousness attempts to re-form him., One day, Jon is successful, and materializes before a stunned crowd of his peers. However, his appearance is different from his original form.
Though taking on a humanoid form, Osterman’s skin is blue, and more attuned to that of a perfect male physique.
As time goes on, Jon becomes less and less human, and soon takes up the moniker of Dr Manhattan. He is able to manipulate matter, and seems to be able to see through time and space.
This ability to see and know all however, leaves him incredibly disconnected from humanity, frustrating several persons he attempted to have relationships with. His pupil-less eyes, often seem encased in a face, whose expressions seem placidly calm most of the time.
One could almost see the same in regards to Glossaryck at times.
Of course, there’s been no proof that Glossaryck of Terms was once a normal ‘Mewman’ who became a magically-enhanced little blue man, but several of the things I recalled from the Watchmen graphic novel, popped into my head when thinking of him.
Much like Dr Manhattan, Glossaryck at times, can be frustratingly vague, as if he knows something is going to happen, but never tells just what will happen.
A prime example is in the segment titled By the Book, wherein he refuses to come out of a box of donuts, and is almost crushed by a garbage truck! However, in the end, he does several things that end up saving the day, and getting Star to perform a specific spell.
The first time I saw this story, and ran what Glossaryck said through my brain a few times, it made zero sense. However, as Season 2 carried onward, I revisited By the Book, and was surprised how it seemed a little less ridiculous!
Another notable comparison from Watchmen, is how Dr Manhattan would wear a rather placid, almost expressionless look on his face, even when something should strike a person as emotional, or shocking. Because of his ability to see the universe as it is (pre-determined, with little chance of alteration), Manhattan often appeared apathetic.
We see Glossaryck wear such an expression, in the story, Raid the Cave.
Using the all-seeing eye spell (from Queen Eclipsa’s forbidden chapter about Dark Magic!), Star is able to find Glossaryck and the book of spells, but strangely enough, he is not at all downtrodden over being captured, nor gives her clear remarks on just where he is (“I’m in a cave. On the ground!”)
He does make a few allusions to the spying spell she’s using, and is only slightly surprised, when Star somehow, manages to alter it, and is able to reach through it! The spell is only meant to allow one to see things, but somehow, with her own magic, Star manages to break through, and reach out to Glossaryck…who shows no propensity to do the same! He even claims that he and the book, are now Ludo’s property!
“Glossaryck, don’t you want to come with me?” pleads Star. “I thought we were, friends.”
“…friends?” he quizzically asks. “Now that’s such a simple concept.”
This admission seems to ‘hurt’ Star emotionally, and the connection begins to collapse!
Star tries a few more times to get Glossaryck to come with her, but he refuses to budge.
“But, I need you!” she cries.
“Maybe, ‘this’ is what you need,” he says, as the portal closes!
The results of what happened, finally allows Star to do something she has feared to do: tell her parents that she lost the book, and Glossaryck! Thinking they are going to yell at her for messing up, Star is surprised when instead, they tell her how they will keep her secret safe, and to “sit tight.”
However, in the wake of this, Star actually does something proactive. Taking a notebook, she begins to make her own spellbook, cataloging the magic spells that she’s made up on her own.
This is a reaction that seems a bit ‘deeper’ than what we experienced in the story, By the Book. When one looks at the end result of Glossaryck not coming back with Star, it feels that he has set things in motion, that may not be comprehensible to Star and her parents at this time.
Unlike some shows that will just give a character a backstory via memory-dump, it seems the Star vs the Forces of Evil writers are wont to make information about Glossaryck so readily available. Instead, it becomes a scavenger hunt, and if one were to go back over Season 2, you can find all sorts of little story hints, sometimes buried deep within a story.
Notable is in the segment Page Turner, where Glossaryck is forcibly pulled away from Star, who is examining a forbidden chapter, on Queen Eclipsa.
This ordeal seems to be one of the few times that we really see Glossaryck being annoyed in a rather primadonna fashion. At first, it’s in regards to the ridiculous security measures he has to go through to reach the Magic High Commission, but then his irritation transfers to Star’s mother, who has called the meeting, to request Glossaryck speed up Star’s magical training.
He then explains that this seems to be common in almost every single Queen he’s trained: sooner or later, they can’t just leave him alone, and make demands on how he should train future successors to the throne.
Of all the Princesses and Queens he’s trained, Glossaryck claims that Queen Eclipsa, was the only one who just left him alone. Of course, this just builds on more questions as to what Eclipsa’s reign on Mewni was like. It seems she is the black sheep of the royal line, and there may be something associated with her past, that could come to light next season.
Of course, some beings in the show’s multiverse, are pretty irked at the little blue man. While we have had Star’s father River give his opinion (“Little guy always creeped me out!”), one who has shown some malice towards Glossaryck, is a member of the Magic High Commission, named Rhombulus.
This was followed up in discussion he had with Star Butterfly, in the segment, Crystal Clear.
Rhombulus explained that some of his frustrations, came from being unable to win an argument with Glossaryck, along with him seeming to be “an all-knowing jerk.”
Someone did point out a rather intriguing thing, in the episode, Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, which might back this up.
Glossaryck ends up going along with Star and Janna to Bon Bon’s seance. During the course of the evening, we see a number of rats scurrying about the cemetery.
As the evening gets colder, Glossaryck nonchalantly asks Star if she intends to use a spell in the book, that has a “little drawing of a rat.”
Star doesn’t care about the page, and in a rather surprising move, Glossaryck sets it aflame, and warms himself!
It is possible, that Glossaryck was anticipating Ludo taking him and the book that evening, and knowing of Ludo’s rat minions, probably felt the spell on that page, might be dangerous later on (it’s never made clear just what the spell would do).
Of course, this is largely speculation, but given the amount of rats we see, it could be possible.
One of the last segments in Season 2, to feature Glossaryck as part of a main storyline, is titled The Hard Way.
Ludo has instructed his bird and spider minions to try and break Glossaryck’s spirit, but in a surprising move, Glossaryck claims he is willing to help Ludo reach his “full potential.”
Unlike Star who possesses an imagination (the “Narwhal Blast” she uses, is a spell of her own invention), Ludo seems devoid of any creativity. This leads to Glossaryck showing him a simple levitation spell from the book, and through positive reinforcement, Ludo seemed excited that he had learned how to gain some control over his wand.
After a positive first day of learning, Glossaryck (much to his annoyance), puts Ludo to bed, but is later awakened when Ludo claims ‘his wand’ mentioned that Glossaryck had shown a certain spell to Star.
At the little bird-creature’s insistence, Glossaryck opens the forbidden chapter, and Ludo is blasted into the air, suspended in the center of a swirling vortex!
Suddenly, Ludo’s eyes go green, and from his mouth, issues forth the voice of Toffee, a lizard-creature, that was supposed to have been destroyed at the end of Season 1!
“Give it up, old man,” says Toffee. “You’ll never get him (aka Ludo) on your side.”
“But I don’t have, a side,” counters Glossaryck.
“You don’t, do you?” asks Toffee, before smiling fiendishly. “…perfect.”
That conversation, was the last we’ve seen of Glossaryck of Terms this season.
When Moon Butterfly and the Magic High Commission infiltrated Ludo’s castle and confronted him, he mentioned that Glossaryck was gone, and he had no idea where he was.
The MHC’s High Chancellor named Lekmet, also thought he had found the spellbook, only to find it was blank, leading the council to believe that what they found, was a fake.
So, that beg’s the question…where are Glossaryck and the book of spells?
My opinion is…they’re now inside the wand that Ludo/Toffee wields!
An earlier Season 2 segment titled Into the Wand, had Glossaryck explaining to Star, that things could be stored within the wand, which is an extension of the wielder’s memories.
Much like Toffee’s finger that was found hidden inside Star’s wand, I am of the persuasion, that Glossaryck and the book, have suffered the same fate, under Ludo/Toffee’s wielding of the wand, and are trapped for the time being!
Of course, there also is the question, of what happens to Ludo when Toffee takes over.
By the end of Season 2, it looks like Toffee may be in total control of Ludo’s body, leading me to assume that Ludo’s soul, is also trapped within the wand.
If that is the case, and Ludo and Glossaryck are stuck in the wand, I could see their story arcs for Season 3, maybe showing the two working through some personal issues Ludo has.
We’ve seen this season, that Ludo is actually little more than a child, the ‘runt’ son of Lord and Lady Avarius (as seen in the episode, Face the Music). The family was extra-hard on Ludo, hoping to toughen him up…which led to him taking over the family castle with a gang of monsters, and changing the locks (which explains Ludo’s castle and minions, that we saw in Season 1!).
As annoying and childish as Ludo can be, I can see Glossaryck trying to help turn him ‘good,’ or clear up his anger issues with his family. It may be a key element to Ludo regaining control of his body from Toffee, let alone possibly destroying the disembodied lizard-creature, who seems to somehow be linked to the magical energy in the universe!
Of course, if the inside of Star’s wand creates a world based around the mind of it’s user…one wonders what horrors are inside Ludo/Toffee’s wand. The big question is, will we see inside it next Season?
This was one of those blog articles, that just struck like lightning!
Oftentimes, it can be the more enigmatic characters in a show or film, that cause the wheels in my head to turn.
A prime example, is my analysis of the character No Face (aka Kaonashi), from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. That analysis, is one of my most-viewed dissections, and is still going strong after almost 5 years!
I will confess that I have been sitting on a dissection of the character Toffee since the end of Season 1, but given how much more enigmatic Glossaryck of Terms has been this season, my brain seemed to just expel all of these thoughts in a matter of hours!
As we close out this little Animated Dissection, I thought I’d make one more reference to Watchmen.
The following quotes happen, after Laurie Juspeczyk is told by Dr Manhattan, that even though he knows what will happen, he still gives the expected responses, as they are meant to be played out. I can’t help but feel that it could very well speak to how Glossaryck fits, into the world of Star vs the Forces of Evil:
Laurie Juspeczyk: “The most powerful thing in the universe, and you’re just a puppet following a script?”
Dr Manhattan: “We’re all puppets, Laurie. I’m just the puppet who can see the strings.”
An Animated Dissection: Thoughts on Marco Diaz and Jackie Lynn Thomas, from “Star vs the Forces of Evil”
The month of November for the year 2016, brought a bloody mess on social media. People cursing, ripping at their hair, threatening death on any that would impugn on what in their eyes, was “perfection.”
No, it’s not our current political climate. It’s overreacting fanshippers who have taken up arms at what has currently happened on the DisneyXD series, Star vs the Forces of Evil.
In episode 14 of Season 2, titled Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, Marco Diaz finally got to go on a date with his childhood crush, Jackie Lynn Thomas. However, one who seemed a little caught off-guard by this, was Marco’s friend (and inter-dimensional Princess), Star Butterfly.
Since Season 1, Marco Diaz has made note of his crush on schoolmate Jackie, and with a few episodes this season, we’ve seen that subplot rise to the surface, and quickly become a major story point in Season 2.
With the series now on hiatus through the winter months, and with many still wailing and gnashing their teeth about this, I decided to devote an Animated Dissection to this.
*Note: This Animated Dissection is written with the knowledge that the reader either knows about the storyline to “Star vs the Forces of Evil,” or is in no way afraid of being spoiled by certain revelations. Just saying…you’ve been warned.
Marco Diaz, and Jackie Lynn Thomas
Though appearing for a split-second in the opening credits, Jackie gained our attention in the season 1 segment titled Match Maker. Star considers trying to hook some of the students up at Echo Creek Academy, but upon seeing Marco become tongue-tied as Jackie skateboards by, she thinks she needs to help him out.
Near the end of the segment, Star’s supposedly getting rid of their teacher, has the entire class crowding around her, including Jackie. In that moment, Star takes the opportunity to push Marco into the limelight, claiming that he deserves “all the credit.” Jackie happily exchanges a few words to a tongue-tied Marco, making it the first time she’s ever talked to him.
The next time Marco had a major encounter with Jackie, was on a party bus for Brittney Wong’s birthday party. However, it was the worst place to try and socialize with Jackie, given Marco was suffering from a severe case of carsickness. In the end, Jackie ended up somewhat impressed by Marco, as he and Star helped save the bus from being overtaken by Ludo and his monsters (even if the end result was Marco projectile-vomiting into a trash-can, alongside Ludo).
A few episodes later, in the segment titled Freeze Day, further information about Marco’s crush came to light. As Freeze Day starts, Marco tells how at 7:56am every schoolday, he’s by his locker as Jackie skateboards by. He nods at her, and she nods back. During the segment, Marco and Star go to the Plains of Time, where an apparatus shows Marco his past. It is here that we see that since grade school, Marco has been doing the same thing: just smiling-and-nodding at Jackie as she passed by him
“Wow…I’ve been nodding for a long time,” notes Marco.
Upon returning to their plane of time, Marco takes his place by his locker, and does his daily nod as Jackie goes by. However, remembering how long he’s been doing this, he suddenly blurts out: “Hey, Jackie!”
This causes her to stop for a moment and verbally address him, before skating off. It’s a small moment, but it shows another step in Marco’s character development. After having seen how much time he had spent not talking to her over the years, he managed to break the chain.
Episode 11 of Season 1 also had Marco sending Jackie cute kitten pics, and even getting her to sit next to him on the school bus during a field trip, after a rather hair-raising alien encounter in the Dimension of Wonders and Amazement.
As Season 2 began, Jackie seemed to disappear from the show, and it made me wonder if all that work to build up Marco’s feelings about her, were going to be thrown aside.
It turned out this wasn’t the case, when Jackie showed up in the segment titled Sleepover, where she attended an overnight party at the Diaz’s, with Star and some of her girl friends. Marco ended up being roped in by Flying Princess Pony Head, who noticed him trying to impress Jackie.
This then led to Pony Head setting up a game called “Truth or Punishment,” which soon asked that age-old question: “Who do you have a crush on?”
When it came to Marco, he finally admitted to Jackie, about his crush on her. However, Jackie took the admittance well, and after the sleepover, remarked to Marco that she’d see him in school, leaving him in a half-eyed daze.
Having admitted his crush to Jackie and her not rejecting him, Marco then attempted to ask her to hang out, in the segment titled Naysaya. However, a curse put on Marco by Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, caused a small head to grow out of his neck, spouting off all of his most embarrassing secrets (many of them involving Jackie!).
Realizing he was unable to control Naysaya, Marco soon found himself confessing almost all of his secrets directly to Jackie, and finally, was able to ask her out. This then led to them going to a movie with some of Jackie’s friends, and leading to Jackie clutching Marco’s arm during a scary sequence!
And then, came Bon Bon the Birthday Clown. Jackie actually ended up asking Marco to a school dance, leading to an unforgettable night.
After finding the dance to be a little boring, Jackie suggested they go out on a date instead. This led to the two hanging out in a nearby park, where Jackie admitted how she admired Marco’s willingness to not give up. This led to them skateboarding on Jackie’s board, before the unthinkable happened: Marco Diaz, received his first kiss!
However, the moment was broken, when it seemed that Star was in trouble. Both Marco and Jackie rushed to the cemetery where Star and Janna were, and the end, the two helped Janna from being attacked by large rats, and Star from being sucked into a black hole.
When it seemed Star was okay, Marco turned his attention back to Jackie, leading to Star showing a very sad look on her face…
Why did the writers have to do this?
That’s the question a number of fan-shippers have been wailing about for awhile now. To me, it’s all very simple: character-building!
It Would have been so easy for Daron Nefcy and the show’s writers to say: Marco’s a boy, Star is a girl…put them together now! However, the show’s writers appear to have some ‘stronger’ ideas on how they intend to build the series.
This second season has seen plenty of changes to the format of episodes. We’ve had whole segments that have nothing to do with Star or Marco, and some that have taken the time to slow down, rather than be off-the-wall with craziness, like we saw in Season 1.
There also is one item in the series so far, that seems to be far from the minds of some of the most die-hard fanshippers: Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz, largely see each other as ‘just friends.’
In the segment Mr Candle Cares, Star even tells the school guidance counselor when he asks about Marco, that she just considers him a ‘roommate,’ and a ‘friend.’
Even when it comes to Marco thinking about Star, it seems he still sees her as a friend as well. Though Star was originally going to go with him to the dance in the Bon Bon episode, it was just ‘as friends,’ as Marco didn’t want to go by himself.
Some may find that rather strange, but trust me: I’ve been to several dances where the ‘just as friends’ card was played.
Some even threw a hissy fit when in the segment titled Naysaya, Marco mentioned how he “never held hands with a girl,” leading to numerous pictures showing Marco holding Star’s hand on quite a few occasions. I actually believe this is Marco considering holding hands in a more ‘romantic’ way, not as in the manner of casual friends.
This all seems…very familiar to me…
In going over the Marco and Jackie bits from the show, I was reminded of some relationship developments in the show Freaks and Geeks, and the Harry Potter series.
In the show Freaks and Geeks, the character of Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), developed a crush on classmate, Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick).
Cindy was a cheerleader and seemed like a really nice girl, though originally, she only saw Sam as a friend. After she broke up with her boyfriend Todd, she dated Sam, only for him to find out she wasn’t as perfect as he thought she was. Eventually, it got to be too much for Sam, and he decided to break up with her.
I often feel that this story resolution came about, after it seemed apparent that Freaks and Geeks was going to be cancelled after its first season. The writers may have worried about not getting Sam hooked up with Cindy, and then dropped these character revelations to take care of Sam’s high school crushing permanently.
Maybe if Freaks had been able to get the go-ahead for another season, they would have continued with Sam still crushing on Cindy. Instead, they allowed that subplot to surface, and then fizzle in the span of two episodes.
In the case of Harry Potter, I found Marco’s infatuation with Jackie, a bit like Harry’s with fellow student, Cho Chang.
Harry developed a crush on Cho in his 4th year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She was on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and Harry first attempted to ask her to the Yule Ball, only to find she was already going with Cedric Diggory.
After Diggory’s death, Cho had a hard time getting over it, and Harry attempted to comfort her. This led to his first kiss with her, as well as a short period of dating, before it seemed that Cho felt that Harry might have feelings for Hermione Granger. Eventually, they broke up.
Of the two relationships I described, I couldn’t help but feel that Marco and Jackie’s so far, reminded me very much of Harry Potter and Cho Chang. This is mainly due to the amount of negativity from the fanbase.
At the time I was really into the Potter books and series, I found very few who seemed at all to like Cho, or even give props to actress Katie Leung for portraying her on-screen. I found it to be rather ridiculous, because it seemed that the reason most hated Cho, was simply because Harry liked her. Of course, they had no problems shipping Harry with Hermione Granger, or Ginny Weasley (whom he eventually ended up with), but Cho was just the ultimate’ship-wrecker’ to most.
I get that same vibe from people who are just incensed with Jackie Lynn Thomas. In truth, Jackie isn’t a bad person. She’s been relatively nice, somewhat laid-back, and, we’ve seen how she’s willing to accept Marco for being a bit of a dork.
Star reveals something she doesn’t realize
The writers actually inserted something rather interesting into the segment Sleepover, that not many picked up on (most notably, Star!).
When the “Truth or Punishment” game attempts to ‘punish’ them, Star claims that sometimes, things are not always black-and-white.
Some of the earlier things that the group claimed as ‘truth’ earlier, had changed given the predicament they were now in.
“You think of everything as black-and-white,” she tells the game, “but you can’t! It’s a bunch of different colors. A rainbow of feelings that’s always changing.”
Of course, the kicker came at the end, when the game (in an unheard moment) revealed that it wasn’t actually Oskar Greason whom Star has a crush on, but Marco!
So, what happens next?
That seems to be on the minds of many.
My prediction right now, is that when we come back to the series (which as of this blog post, starts back up in a week!), Marco and Jackie are going to take the next step, and officially become a couple…which might not sit well with Star (or a number of fanshippers).
Personally, I could see this becoming a further study of her emotions. We’ve already had several examples of how they can affect the spells she casts, and that could be a real problem for her going forward.
It is also possible she could use the All-Seeing Eye spell she used in the Bon Bon episode, to ‘spy’ on Marco and Jackie more. Maybe her jealousy could also cause some future dates of theirs to go bad, and Marco soon finds out, and is upset that his best friend would do something like that.
This could lead to a very dramatic row between the two. The writers could really up the emotion, if Star and Marco get into a very serious kind of shouting match, where maybe Star just decides to go back to Mewni, distraught over what has happened. She’s already lost her wand’s spellbook and mentor figure Glossaryck, which may also affect her spell-casting on another emotional level.
I will admit that as much as I love where the show has taken Marco and Jackie, I can’t totally say that it is the ’emotional endgame’ many are calling now. Most are wailing and throwing tantrums online like overly-emotional teenagers (I also speak from experience), but as some of the more cool-headed have noted, there’s been no indication that what we are witnessing, is ‘concrete.’ Heck. so much of the series relies on things not totally being set in stone.
Some have even called out that Marco and Star are ‘joined for eternity,’ given the dance they shared in the Blood Moon Ball segment in season 1 (and that segment was even called back to in the Bon Bon episode). But, it might not be so simple.
In the Naysaya segment, when the miniature head sprouts out of Marco’s neck, Janna pulls out one of her occult books, and reads about the history of the demon curse. According to the texts, “it reveals itself, when the afflicted attempts to woo their true love.”
So, it might not be as simple as black-and-white, night-and-day. On one hand, we got the words of the demons and monsters at the Blood Moon Ball, and on the other hand, the Naysaya appeared when Marco attempted to ask out Jackie.
For me, I’m planning to take the ticket, and ride this ride out, as far as it can go. My one hope, is that the show doesn’t do what some Soap Operas do, and turn a perfectly nice character, into a two-timing, lying, backstabbing little-oops, got off on a tangent there.
Back in December of 2002, I recall going on the messageboards for Animationnation (where a number of industry people hung out), and hearing about a special that had just premiered on The WB television network.
The posts told of a show that had many aghast. Bad animation, horrible dialogue, and this was being touted as a Holiday Classic by the network!
Of course, by the time I heard about it, it had already come and gone, with the network covering up all traces of it’s existence.
A few people like myself wrote about the short, using the scant amount of knowledge we could find. Sources included the poorly-made webpage telling how the Rapsittie Kids were going to become just as endearing as Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang, and a short clip that ended up on Youtube, looking like a middle-school project on learning how motion graphics work.
Then, in September 2015, I was informed that a copy of the special (all 45 minutes of it!), had been obtained by The Lost Media Wiki. And with that information, I soon found myself sitting down to watch Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, made by the creative geniuses at Wolf Tracer Studios (makers of that other hit animated short, Dinosaur Island!).
Rick E (Walter Jones) has a crush on one of the most popular girls in his class, named Nicole (Paige O’Hara). However, Rick E doesn’t have enough money to give her a Christmas gift.
He then decides to give her his teddy bear, which was given to him by his mother. However, Nicole is not impressed by Rick E’s gift ‘from the heart,’ and throws it away.
It is only afterwards does she realize the significance of the teddy bear, and with a few of her friends, attempts to get it back.
So, after watching this Holiday Special, is it truly as bad as those messageboard posts I read back in 2002 made it out to be?
Yes…yes, it is!
The images in this review are no joke: they are actual screen-captures from the ‘finished product!’
Since it’s release, noone from the production has ever stepped forward to give their side of the story, on why the special looks the way it does. Word was that the show was completed in 4 months. And frankly, I can believe it.
Most of the backgrounds look like they were rendered on-the-cheap, and we see a number of clipart images rubber-stamped over-and-over in certain places.
Plus, just look at the fine craftsmanship on the sign outside of Rick E’s school (see right).
Characters also move around like they’ve been pasted onto background plates. Some shots linger too long on nothing, and the faces…their horrible, horrible faces!
Most of the characters look like their eyes are in serious danger of popping out of their sockets, and the computer-generated characters, almost make me wish the creators would have attempted something closer to the flat, 2-D look of South Park. At least if they went in that direction, I assume the characters wouldn’t look quite as grotesque.
Rick E is meant to be our main lead, giving off hip-hop vibes with every other line he says. Once we get to his school, we meet a number of other characters and their subplots…most of which can barely hold our interest.
It also doesn’t help that most of the other kids, are little more than one-dimensional bullies. Even Nicole is quite condescending, putting down her friend Lenee’s talk about Santa Claus, leading to a minuscule subplot of Lenee questioning her beliefs.
Even the adults are largely useless. The kid’s teacher comes across as constantly annoyed, and does nothing to keep order in her class. We see her letting kids throw things at other kids, and even dismissing sexual harassment by students (“that means he likes you,” the teacher tells one girl, who is annoyed at one boy touching her!).
And then, there’s Rick E’s Great Grandma.
It’s crazy enough that we see her wandering around outside without a coat in one scene, but when she starts talking…well…it sounds like Rick E is just trying to ignore that his caretaker might need some medical attention.
Maybe this was some strange way of trying to make Great Grandma reminiscent of the unseen adults talking in the Peanuts specials, but if so, why is it that she is the only adult who sounds like her audio is getting eaten by the tape player?
Speaking of voices, what may make some people do a double-take, are the list of known voice-actors they got for this. Some of the big ones include Mark Hamill, Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, and Nancy Cartwright. My guess is someone just offered them a quick pay-day, they read through their lines in a few hours, and then never had a second thought about what they had done voice-work for.
Paige O’Hara and Jodie Benson each get a chance to sing, but their songs are hindered by bad lyrics and stilted animation. It doesn’t help when most of the songs are largely based on repeating a number of the same words over and over again.
Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, shows that there are plenty of badly-made Holiday specials, that most have never heard of. The story contained here, makes the animated Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer actually look like a Holiday Classic! Heck, the $60 million atrocity known as Food Fight, even looks competent next to this thing!
The production values look like one of my college’s Team Animation groups, trying to stretch out their 3-minute project to feature-length, but without the necessary talent or tools to do so.
The story of Rick E’s bear is a decent jumping off point for a story, but the special’s ‘good intentions’ are quickly buried in a landslide of bad animation, one-dimensional characters, and a production that was mainly interested in making their final product ‘faster,’ and ‘cheaper.’
At the end of Believe in Santa, a cutesy voice tells how the Rapsittie Street Kids would be back, in A Bunny’s Tale. As it stands now, we’re still left wondering just what horrors would have awaited the Easter Bunny, from Wolf Tracer Studios.
Final Grade: D
Even after 15 years, I feel there’s still plenty of things to find in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. At the time of its release, it quickly gained fame for being the first film to unseat James Cameron’s Titanic from the top of the Japanese box-office heap (and it’s held that distinction ever since!).
When I saw the film for the first time, I was mesmerized at all the twists and turns that were presented! This wasn’t a ‘safe’ animated feature, but one where you truly felt that the lead character Chihiro, could very well find herself trapped forever in this other-world.
My observations on the film’s enigmatic No-Face have been one of my most-read blog postings, but it seems that almost every character in the film could be put under the microscope. Today, I decided to look at one of the film’s biggest characters, and how meeting with Chihiro, changed him.
Once the film’s focus shifts to the Spirit World, Chihiro’s journey surely reminded many Western minds of similar journeys, such as Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, or Dorothy’s to the land of Oz.
One of the more shocking moments in Spirited, comes when Chihiro and Yubaba get into a shouting match as Chihiro demands she have a job. Suddenly, the room is shaken, before a loud cry is heard. Following this, we see a door splinter, as a giant infant’s foot pushes through it! Yubaba rushes to the shattered doorway, and unseen by us, tells someone to be quiet, raising her voice in a ‘sweet’ tone to whomever she’s talking to.
A few days later, Chihiro finds herself in the other room, which is a giant nursery for Yubaba’s baby, Bou. Though he is a human-sized infant, Bou can reason and speak.
After Chihiro hides from Yubaba under some pillows, Bou grabs her arm, demanding she stay in the nursery and play with him. Bou explains that his Mother says that there are germs and things outside of the nursery that will make him sick, which is countered by Chihiro, claiming that staying where he is and doing nothing will make him sick as well.
She attempts to leave, but Bou threatens to break her arm, and alert his Mother if she doesn’t play with him. Chihiro manages to scare him, showing some blood on her hands.
After throwing a noisy tantrum, Bou follows Chihiro out into the main room, where he once again demands that she play with him, or he’ll start crying. As he starts working up some tears, a little paper ‘bird’ that had followed Chihiro, emerges from behind her. It addresses Bou, telling him to be quiet, and calling him a rather ‘rotund-like’ name.
As everyone watches, a transparent figure emerges from the paper bird, resembling Yubaba (and even Bou calls it by his Mother’s name). The figure then chastises Bou for confusing it with his Mother, before sending a wisp of magic at him, shrinking Bou down into the shape of a portly mouse. It also changes the other denizens of Yubaba’s office around, turning her Yu-bird into a little crow-fly, and her three hopping heads, into a recreation of Bou.
Shortly afterwards, the three heads take advantage of their new body, and start trying to squash the mouse-sized Bou. Luckily, he and the Yu-bird manage to get away, clambering onto Chihiro’s shoulder for safety.
The moment takes a shocking turn when Chihiro, Haku, and the two little creatures fall down a pit that Yubaba’s three heads had been trying to push Haku down mere moments ago! In the descent, the Yu-bird attempts to keep Bou aloft, before Chihiro cradles them in her hand, as the descent quickly becomes a wild ride!
The journey ends when the group crashes into the bathhouse’s boiler room, where Chihiro manages to purge a strange black slug from deep within Haku. In a rather gross moment, she ends up squashing the creature under her foot, leaving a black smudge on the boiler room floor. She freaks out at what she’s done, before the boiler room’s caretaker Kamaji, demands she put her thumbs and forefingers together, and ‘breaking’ them with his hand, declaring the bad luck she has received from killing the slug, is now lifted.
As Chihiro and Kamaji tend to Haku, Bou and the Yu-bird have been watching the little Soot Sprites gathering around the blackened footprint where the slug once was. Bou goes over, and wandering into the center of the group, re-enacts what Chihiro did. After the ‘cleansing’ move (with one of the soot-sprites acting as Kamaji), Bou raises his paws in the air in triumph, and the little creatures cheer!
The little Sprites delight in the game, but when Chihiro calls them to help her, they quickly abandon Bou, who seems a little sad that his pretend-fame was fleeting.
When next Bou figures into the story, is when Yubaba confronts Chihiro, to take care of No Face. However, the conversation is interrupted when the little Yu-bird lifts Bou before her face, with him giving a little ‘Chu!’ sound, and wiggling his ears.
Obviously, Bou is greeting his Mother in his mouse form, but she just wonders why Chihiro has this ‘ugly mouse’ with her. Chihiro is surprised that Yubaba doesn’t recognize her son in this form, and even Bou is hurt by this, first appearing sad, and then scowling at his Mother.
It’s rather low-key compared to the main story regarding Chihiro, but since his introduction, Bou has slowly been developing as a character. He’s a lot more mobile than before, and he has obviously gotten over his fear of germs, shown by his stepping in the remains of the slug. Though that was pretend-heroism, he gets a chance to shine when it looks like No Face may try to take, and consume Chihiro.
Just when it looks like No Face is going to envelop her head with his outstretched hand, Bou jumps forward, chomping into it! This causes No Face to stop, and attempt to swat the pesky rodent, before the Yu-bird picks up Bou, and returns him to Chihiro’s shoulder. It is Bou’s chance to be a hero on his own merits (albeit small ones), and not requesting glory for it.
Soon after, Bou and the Yu-bird make their way outside of the bathhouse, following Chihiro. We see Bou grow curious at a little bug that clings to the side of a train platform, as well as see his attention being drawn out the window of the train-car, as Chihiro and her companions head to Swamp Bottom, where Yubaba’s twin-sister Zeniiba resides. This is all new to him: the immensity of the Spirit World, must surely pale in comparison to the confining nursery he’s largely known throughout his life. Plus, the immensity of the world at his smaller size, must make his journey an even bigger event in his young mind.
Bou soon after shows another example of selflessness (following his ‘saving’ Chihiro from being consumed by No-Face some time ago). When the group finally gets to Swamp Bottom, the little Yu-bird finally begins to tire of carrying the little mouse around.
After landing on the ground, Bou thinks for a moment, and then begins to walk on his own, carrying the tired little creature without any prompting. Chihiro even offers to put him on her shoulder again, but Bou refuses the offer.
Once the group finally gets to Zeniiba’s place, Chihiro asks her to change Bou and the Yu-bird back to their original forms. Zeniiba informs the two that the spell they were put under can be undone if the changed persons wish to change back. However, both Bou and the Yu-bird refuse (for the moment).
From here on in, Bou takes advantage of his little size, getting some exercise (and spinning thread) on Zeniiba’s spinning wheel, as well as snacking on the cookies she has put out for her guests.
After this, Bou is even seen learning how to knit, as Zeniiba coaches him and No Face. In fact, some of his new-found skills went into the new headband that Zeniiba presents to Chihiro, with the old woman claiming it is a gift made possible through her new friends.
When it is finally time for everyone to leave, Zeniiba addresses Bou and the Yu-bird, happily requesting they visit her again. Bou actually makes contact with his Aunt, kissing her on the nose (“Chu!”), and waving as the Yu-bird carries him away.
Upon returning to the bathhouse, Bou returns to his previous form. Yubaba is surprised that her child is able to stand on his own, but grows even more surprised when Bou chastises her plans to test Chihiro.
Bou speaks positively of his journey, claiming he had fun. Even though Yubaba tells Bou that the test is part of how their world works, he shocks her when he says he won’t like her anymore, if she makes Sen cry.
His being vocal towards his mother regarding caring about another’s feelings, is a great example of showing how much Bou has matured.
One has to wonder if after this, his baby-ish ways we saw in the beginning of the film, are now a thing of the past. Though he does have a baby’s body, surely what he has been through, may very well shape him into not becoming greedy or arrogant like his mother.
It should also be noted that on a smaller level, the Yu-bird does not change back to its previous form. Maybe like Bou, it too has grown to understand a few things, and may no longer be a spy and lackey to the bathhouse owner.
And thus, another Animated Dissection regarding Spirited Away has come to a close. Though like I explained earlier, there are still other characters and themes to examine. I wonder what I’ll cover next?
It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, I was into my third quarter as an animation major, and had just begun working at a local movie theater’s box-office (a step up from my previous year spent studying graphic design in Iowa, and working box-office at my hometown theater).
The Summer of 2001 was marked by a plethora of films that I had pegged as ‘must sees.’ Along with Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Walt Disney Pictures’ Atlantis: The Lost Empire, there was another film that was on the minds of many, due to its previews and marketing campaign.
One of the most talked-about films of the summer, was Dreamworks SKG’s animated feature, Shrek. Based on the story by William Steig, Dreamworks’ version saw a re-imagining of the book’s disgusting ogre, as a grumpy ogre who is sent on a quest to rescue a Princess, along with a talking donkey.
The film would become one of the most talked-about features of the year, long after it had left movie theaters. Its release on VHS and DVD that fall would also garner big numbers, and at the next Academy Awards ceremony, the film would claim a triumph over Disney, when it ended up winning the first Best Animated Feature award given out in the newly-created awards category.
Thinking back on the film, I thought I’d create another “thoughts” column, this on probably one of the 21st century’s most influential computer-generated feature film.
Of Fairy Tales and Twists
Unlike William Steig’s book, the film’s take on Shrek became a riff on fairy tale cliches.
- Unlike a handsome prince going off to rescue a Princess, the vain and egotistical Lord Farquaad sends Shrek off to complete the task.
- Unlike the stereotypical Princess who lets others do everything for her, Princess Fiona also has some skills of her own (though where she learned “the art of bullet-time,” we’re never told).
- Unlike an ugy beast who turns into a Prince, it is a beautiful Princess who becomes the ugly beast (or so we assume)
The third item was something that I thought was a clever twist from the filmmakers, with Fiona feeling self-conscious about the spell that was placed on her, giving the film its Beauty and the Beast style twist, but in a more unconventional way, than just having an Ogre like Shrek, fall in love with a beautiful Princess.
What was very surprising in 2001, was that even though many saw Shrek, I never saw many persons or news outlets just immediately giving away the film’s secret regarding Fiona. It reminded me of the quietness that surrounded the twist ending to The Sixth Sense, 2 years before.
Beating Fairy Tale cliches senseless
I recall numerous articles about Shrek at the time, just ignoring anything about the story, and largely going on and on about how the film was Jeffrey Katzenberg’s “revenge” on The Walt Disney Company, whom he had left in 1994.
Though in truth, much of the stuff regarding the fairy tale creatures, is more secondary, as the story is largely Shrek and Donkey’s quest. But then again, the news media rarely looks for the good, and tries to focus on “the juicy.”
We see quite a bit of outside-the-box attitudes. Gepetto turns in Pinocchio to claim 5 shillings, the Gingerbread Man has his legs removed, and is dunked in milk, forced to talk (of course to the MPAA, such torture methods are okay, since Gingy’s a cookie, and not a human being).
What some viewers don’t realize, is there is a rather ‘ghastly’ fate regarding Mama Bear of the Three Bears. When we see the Fairy Tale creatures having set up residence near Shrek’s place, we see Papa Bear sadly comforting Baby Bear.
We don’t know just what happened to her, until we get a slow pan-shot across Lord Farquaad’s bed chambers later on:
Yep…that’s pretty messed up right there.
The film also played with the ‘Princess as a friend to forest creatures’ cliche, when Fiona’s singing accidentally makes a bluebird explode. The next thing we see is the camera focusing on the bluebird’s eggs, which elicited some emotional sounds from the audience:
Though with the scene that followed, there were audible gasps, and chuckling:
Pretty resourceful, that Fiona…and of course, one assumes she doesn’t tell Shrek or Donkey just where she got the eggs from.
Perfection requested from the Imperfect
Lord Farquaad is the ruler of the film’s kingdom of Duloc, though sees the fairy tale creatures in his kingdom as inferiors, and as such, rounds them up to be removed.
However, it should be noted that Farquaad’s call for perfection, is done so from someone who is imperfect. As is made clear in an early joke, the Lord is not of average height.
This often seems to be a given of many who have a dictatorial streak that they feel ‘perfection must be achieved,’ and if you look in some fictional works and history, you can see it.
Another fictional example is Lord Voldemort, who goes on about excising Muggle and mixed-blooded witches and wizards from the world…even though Voldemort himself, is the product of a Witch mother and a Muggle father.
Dreamworks Identity Change
With Shrek becoming one of 2001’s most profitable films, one would assume its parent company would make some changes given its success, and pretty soon, the writing was on the wall.
Doing things differently had seemed to be Dreamworks Animation’s mantra when they first made Prince of Egypt back in 1998. But now, it seemed almost every other film had to be passed through the pop-culture machine.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released in 2002, and pretty much made it out intact (with the exception of Bryan Adams’ music, and Matt Damon voicing Spirit’s “thoughts”), but the films going forward, seemed to try and really be ‘hip and edgy,’ and it seemed to be how the viewing audience would define a Dreamworks Animation experience. In 2004, the animation division was given its own logo, and an overlay of Harry Gregson-Williams’ Shrek theme was incorporated over it.
A Game-changer, both inside and outside Dreamworks
Dreamworks Animation was all about doing things differently than their crosstown rival, and it didn’t take long before the first film’s success spawned talk of a sequel, which when it came to feature film releases, was rare (Disney had gotten into the habit of making direct-to-video sequels in the 1990’s, the majority of them made overseas).
Shrek 2 was released 3 years later, and pulled in bigger numbers than its predecessor. This would lead to a new business plan for the studio: the development of feature-animated franchises, with the expectation that if the company made enough popular new animation properties, sequels could guarantee a big return investment from sequels, and repeat viewers.
Shrek also seemed to wheedle its way into the minds of other studios, notably in films that were ‘a story you think you know…but with a pop-cultural twist.’ And usually, they ended in a big raucous song-and-dance number at the end, to something pop-cultural.
The most shocking thing to me and many others, was that soon after, even Disney followed Shrek’s example! Following the shutdown of Disney’s hand-drawn animation division following the 2004 film, Home on the Range, The Disney Studios proudly proclaimed they were going full-on computer-generated in the realms of animation. Their inaugural start? The 2005 film Chicken Little, which tried shamefully to ape Shrek’s formula, but crashed-and-burned in a number of ways.
15 years later, Shrek is mostly a memory to many of us. I will admit that I haven’t watched the film in a long time, and when it came to the sequels, I only found myself purchasing the second one.
After 4 feature films, a theme park experience, several holiday specials, and a stage musical adaptation, there’s been no additional attempts to revive the ogre…for now.
Though the film gave the studio one of its most iconic figures and seemed to cement Dreamworks Animation in the minds of many, in the last 5 years, the outlook has not been a rosy one for the studio.
Jeffrey Katzenberg’s thought that sequels and 2-3 films a year being released from the studio, would appease the public and their shareholders, put the company in a shaky position. In 2014, amid box-office takes falling short of production and marketing costs, massive layoffs were announced, and the company was forced to sell off its animation campus in Glendale, California (though they would still house most of its staff there).
One of the biggest blows, was that the company’s restructuring, would also mean the closure of PDI/Dreamworks, formerly Pacific Data Images…which is where Shrek’s production took place, all those years ago.
In the last month, it was announced that Dreamworks Animation had been purchased by NBC/Comcast to the tune of $3.8 billion, and it sounds like the new parent company may surely find some way to re-spin the company’s properties.
NBC/Comcast also holds the keys to the animation company, Illumination Entertainment, who has churned out the Despicable Me film series, to widespread acclaim and box-office returns. Word is that the head of Illumination, has also been installed as the head of Dreamworks Animation, though just what this may mean for the future of the company, is hard to say.
….though I’m sure a few out there, are envisioning the following scenario happening:
Throughout the numerous seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, we’ve been introduced to all sorts of different creatures, outside of the standard pony-type.
One of the most prominently seen has been griffons, but another has often caused many to wonder, and that is in regards to dragons.
We’ve seen a number of dragons in several episodes, but even though they are a part of this world, the pony-folk have little knowledge about them, as explained in the Season 2 episode, Dragon Quest.
Since the early seasons, Spike has been a window into the ways of “nature vs nurture” regarding dragons. Raised by Twilight Sparkle since he was little, his primary function has been to be her assistant, a trait that has slowed in recent seasons, as Twilight has gone from a student of Princess Celestia’s to an important figure in her own right. Though he has some dragon-like traits, he is rather unique in regards to his viewpoints.
When it came to archetypes, I often thought of Spike like an adopted little brother, but one whose big sister was fine with letting him hang out with her and her friends.
Online, there are some that find him quite annoying, and others that wondered if we’d see him move beyond being a comedic doormat, as most of the show’s writers seemed to have made him into in the last few seasons.
After his whole body starts glowing, Spike is summoned to the Dragon Kingdom, where he and a number of other dragons are expected to compete to try and become the new Dragon Lord.
Spike runs into the teenage dragon Garble whom he encountered in the episode Dragon Quest, as well as the current Dragon Lord’s daughter, named Ember. Both seem to want to prove themselves for different reasons, but soon, circumstances push Spike to also enter the dangerous tournament.
From the first few minutes of the episode, it becomes pretty obvious we’re in for one that bucks the standard.
This is a world-building episode almost on par with The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone from Season 5. However, the map in Twilight’s castle doesn’t figure into this story, as it is largely a problem that has to be solved regarding Spike.
We get quite a few callbacks to the Season 2 episode Dragon Quest (including Twilight and Rarity in multiple disguises). In fact, this episode feels like a direct descendant of Quest.
Probably the most prominent dragon callback, is the teenage dragon named Garble, who hasn’t changed at all from the last time we saw him (and seems to harbor a deeper grudge towards our ponies). Garble once again, serves as the “Diamond Tiara” to Spike, belittling him for his compassion, and associating with ponies.
Character-wise, the episode’s introduction of Dragon Lord Torch and Princess Ember, are two of the big stand-outs so far this season.
The immense and grandiose Dragon Lord Torch, delivers his lines with the kind of bombastic tone one would find from the likes of Brian Blessed, or Gerard Butler. Though he doesn’t get a lot of screen-time, his overall design is still rather impressive, and he had a few lines that gave me a chuckle.
Torch’s daughter Ember, becomes our head-strong Princess figure for the episode (though fortunately, she never reaches the stubborn levels of Merida in Brave). Probably one of her greatest strengths as a character here, is how she is willing to be open-minded, and at times, consider different opinions or ideas, even if she does try to lay on some attitude.
For all the world-building the episode attempts to do, it also feels like it gets too flimsy at times in trying to have its cake, and eat it too.
Torch’s test for the dragons gives us plenty of visual standouts (notably in regards to a few new creature designs and environments), but the structure of the episode oftentimes feels like we’re so quickly shuffled onto a new set piece, that we’re left wanting to know more about the last one.
In a way, this episode feels like it could have just been Spike off on his own, though it might have made some question why a show called My Little Pony, had an episode that was largely without ponies.
Speaking of ponies, Twilight Sparkle and Rarity return to their old ways of camouflaging themselves around other dragons, as Spike makes his way through the gauntlet.
Fortunately, Twilight and Rarity don’t pull any “cheats” and help Spike as he goes on his quest, but the plot thread revolving around them being in the Dragon Kingdom, feels as flimsy as the sub-story in The Gift of the Maud Pie. In that episode, Rarity’s journey to Manehattan to find a new boutique location, is pushed way to the back of the overall storyline, feeling like a time-filling afterthought.
Twilight also grows excited in getting to study dragon culture, and while it mainly just holds to a few lines of dialogue in the overall story, one almost hopes that we may get even more information on the world of these creatures in the future.
Gauntlet of Fire also acts as the second episode this season, where Rarity seems to have picked up the comedic torch in both her actions, as well as what voice-actress Tabitha St Germain brings to the mic.
The writing duo of Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco return for their fourth go-round of episode writing, after handling three episodes in Season 5. One of their most entertaining was Season 5’s Rarity Investigates, and this episode seems to show they love having some fun with her character (though in one scene, Rarity seems rather unfazed to be caked in dirt and mud…but then again, maybe she’s matured from her more prissy Season 1 days?).
Overall, definitely one of the more entertaining Spike episodes, but just needed a little extra “oomph” to have propelled it to greatness.
Final Grade: B- (Final Thoughts: “Gauntlet of Fire” gives Spike the Dragon a starring role, that brings out his better qualities, without turning him into a joke like on some previous occasions. More information on the Dragon Kingdom, as well as its rulers and inhabitants, helps in opening the world of Equestria up to new story possibilities down the line. Bringing back the bullying Garble the dragon feels a little flimsy, and the subplot of Twilight Sparkle and Rarity tagging along with Spike to keep an eye on him, could have been excised to make a dragons-only episode of the show.)
*WARNING: This list delves into spoilers, and assumes that the reader has already seen Season 2 of “Gravity Falls.” You have been warned…*
Following the events of Season 1, it was hard to gauge just where Gravity Falls was going.
Mabel and Dipper Pines had encountered quite a bit in that first season, and it definitely made fans hunger for more.
In Season 2, they definitely upped the ante…and then, the series ended.
Fortunately, finishing off the series was the wish of series creator, Alex Hirsch, who felt the show had said all it needed to say, with its 40 episodes that spanned two seasons (and over 4 years, given Disney’s distribution methods on cable TV).
With the show having ended in mid-February, I began looking over the 20 episodes the season had encompassed. Some played off events that had been started in Season 1, and others brought to light new revelations, that both entranced us, and made us ask even more questions!
With that in mind, I finally present my Top 10 favorite episodes from the second season of Gravity Falls.
__________In Season 1, Falls had an episode called Bottomless Pit, in which several of the main characters shared 3 smaller stories during a journey. Gift Shop borrows the same formula, though unlike it being a collection from several people, it has Stanley Pines trying to get the unseen viewer, to buy something, by spinning crazy stories about the items he has on display.
Maybe it’s because I watched The Simpsons growing up, and have a soft-spot for their Treehouse of Horrors Halloween specials, but this 3-segmented episode gave me plenty of laughs. From Stan losing his hands to a hand-witch, to Mabel fighting her fear of stop-motion puppets, it seemed like there was plenty to enjoy!
Sometimes it’s fun when a series can take a short break from some of its heavier subject matter, and just catch its breath.
When Soos’ grandmother requests that he find a date for his cousin’s wedding, Mabel and Dipper try to help Soos with his people skills. They soon stumble onto a dating game that Soos decides to try, but find out that the girl on it named GIFfany, may be a little more than what she seems.
The episode brings back some memories of the season one episode, Fight Fighters, in how its seemingly regular video game character, becomes something more…though GIFfany is definitely a more unsettling digital creation, than Rumble McSkirmish.
It’s fun to see Mabel trying to apply her matchmaking skills to helping Soos, as well as his uneasiness communicating with women. The episode also serves as one of those reminders about getting out of the house and actually experiencing life, even if it may not be as safe as playing a game is.
There’s also a smaller side-story about Stan trying to find some way to get more money to the Mystery Shack, which is good for a few laughs, notably in the form of a terrifying metal figure he finds endearing.
__________The beginning of the end fell upon Gravity Falls, as Bill Cipher was able to take 3-dimensional form, and take control over the small town, turning it into a fiery-tinged nightmare!
The first part of the 3-parter balances out the humor and drama, as Dipper finds himself on his own, separated from his family, and trying to find some way to stop Bill.
Dipper quickly takes center stage for the episode, as we see him cut off from all of his main resources, and quickly has to figure out what to do next.
Part 1 of Weirdmageddon plays out a bit like any trilogy, in that it starts to set up the pieces on the board, as well as what is at stake for the larger story. Even so, there’s plenty to like here.
We get that balance of comedy and slightly-horrific drama, as we find out what the stakes are under Bill’s reign.
__________Following the events of Part 1, we follow Dipper, Wendy, and Soos into a bubble that Bill Cipher has used to trap Mabel. Inside, we find Mabel presiding over a garishly-bright paradise that she is willing to share with her friends and brother.
The episode functions as a good dual setup, in that it gives us our last major blast of epic Mabel-craziness, as well as shows how Dipper has to keep his wits about him, and try to convince his sister that they can’t stay in this illusive world.
The whole thing feels like a breather before we have to face our fears in the final episode, and it is a nice callback to show the kind of connection that twins in the Pines family have. We saw a bit of this in the episode A Tale of Two Stans, and it seems that even a generation later, the smart/crazy pairing of twin siblings still is a strong bond that holds together.
__________When a number of ghostly apparitions begin to haunt the Northwest Family Mansion around the time of their annual invite-only party, the family hires Dipper to try and get rid of the apparitions.
Following the events of the episode Golf War, some were eager to see if this episode brought Pacifica Northwest back into the realms of character development. Much like that episode, Pacifica’s character continued to take baby steps, attemping to pull away from her family’s snobbish ways.
The episode also builds up more history regarding the Northwest family, with emphasis on how they short-changed a number of workers back in the past, and how that ghostly rage has manifested itself into something with ghastly consequences.
There is also a minor subplot with Mabel and her friends getting to come to the party, and attempting to woo a handsome young man.
Like many of my favorite episodes, this one definitely gets into realms of dark and comedic at times, but it goes the extra mile to eek out a little more stuff in regards to Pacifica’s personality.
__________After the Pines family goes to the local mini-golf course, the group runs into Pacifica Northwest, who Mabel soon ends up challenging to an after-dark mini-golf game. It is here that the group finds that numerous golfball-headed denizens, ‘control the balls’ on the course.
The episode pretty quickly makes its point about rivalries (such as those between Mabel and Pacifica, and the numerous denizens of each of the course’s many holes), and has a little fun with it.
We also get the chance to see Pacifica’s snarky personality, cracking a bit under Mabel’s open personality, and willing to not be as negative towards others.
I also have a soft spot for mini-golf, and it was fun to see the show’s writers try to explain those holes on the course, where you’re not sure just how the ball comes out which hole on the other side of the course!
The Liliputtians are definitely some of the more fun (yet strange) character groups in the show, and it’s fun to hear voice actors like Patton Oswalt and Jim Cummings give them life.
…and I’m sure when it’s all said and done, we musn’t forget…Big Henry.
One of the first big adventure episodes of Season 2, sends Dipper, Wendy, Mabel, and Soos into the woods, looking for further clues to the author of the Journals. The episode also dealt with the on-again/off-again topic of Dipper’s feelings towards Wendy.
The episode plays out like a Goonies-meets-Lost adventure, deep beneath Gravity Falls. Exploring a hidden underground bunker, soon becomes both an endurance test of wits and skill, and a test in which Mabel keeps trying to get Dipper to confess how he feels about Wendy…even though Dipper claims he is over her.
We also get plenty of scares here and there, including a few that one swears were inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The episode is a nice and exciting way to close the door on the Wendy/Dipper subplot, and keeps the scenario from dragging out too long.
__________When the portal beneath The Mystery Shack finally activates, it returns Stanley’s twin brother (and author of the journals!), Stanford Pines, to our dimension.
This episode opened up more on the backstory regarding the older Pines family twins, showing that they contrasted in a way that was similar to Dipper and Mabel. While Stanley was more of a free-spirit at times, it was Stanford who used his brains a bit more.
The backstory into the brothers’ on-again/off-again friendship, also played like an easter egg hunt, as certain things we are told, soon came to light.
The episode also acted as a primer for how a cleave in the twins’ lives led to a rift between them, much like what was proposed in the episode, Dipper and Mabel vs The Future, in which Mabel fears being separated from Dipper, who wants to study under Stanford.
It’s fun at times to see some of Stanley’s failed schemes as he tried to stay afloat, but also gets emotional in how it seems that a rift had developed between them since high school, that was almost hard to fully heal, let alone how he came to be the proprietor of the Mystery Shack.
__________Mabel has another crush, this time on a guy named Gabe Benson, who is really into puppets. Mabel’s attempts to put on a puppet show to impress him, ends up getting in the way of Dipper solving a new mystery…leading him to make a deal with the worst thing possible: Bill Cipher!
This episode really has fun with its puppet theme, as well as Dipper speaking through a sock puppet, and Bill possessing Dipper’s body (which led to reams of fanart online, sometimes for ‘the wrong reasons’).
Mabel’s puppet show is incredibly enjoyable, and there’s plenty of little references to The Muppets all over the place. The episode also deals with how often Dipper would help Mabel out, but she never seemed to return the favor, which I’m sure many viewers noted from several Season 1 episodes.
It also has plenty of funny little quotes from Stan (“Whoa…children fighting! I can SELL this!”).
__________I feel a little predictable, in putting the season’s final episode as number 1, but in the end, it comes down to an emotionally-charged episode, with so much culminating in this major event in the history of the Pines family, as well as the town of Gravity Falls!
The episode also amps up the emotions and action, as those who haven’t been captured by Bill Cipher and his “Henchmaniacs,” stage a final stand to take back the falls, in a spectacular battle and showdown!
Stuff happens here that made my eyes go wide, things were said that made them go even wider, and it all culminated in an ending that managed to be a satisfying conclusion to the Pine twins’ summer vacation/adventure.
That also is a plus regarding the episode. In a world where most animated shows just peter out or get cancelled and leave a lot of things hanging, Gravity Falls was given the luxury of actually coming to an end, and going out on a high note!
Like any Top 10 list, please be advised that these are just my preferences, and opinions.
What was most amazing about the series, was how different it was from most animated series I’ve watched.
Most start out wandering in the dark, trying to figure out just what they’re about, and usually after a few episodes, or into a second season, they get there.
Gravity Falls, was that rare animated oddity that knew what it was going to be from birth, and never faltered as its story went on.
Of course now that the series is over, many out there (myself included) would love to see all the episodes collected into a DVD set with audio commentaries, and other goodies that would make the fans eager to see/know more. Sadly, The Walt Disney Company isn’t in the business these days of giving us as many Special Features, since the future of the industry is largely just in streaming episodes rather than allowing people to ‘own’ them.
Still, creator Alex Hirsch has said that there will be more info this summer, when a hardcover version of Stanford Pines’ third journal is released. Just what we’ll find inside…is still a mystery.