SDCC: ‘Gravity Falls’ Makes Triumphant Return

Alex Hirsch with Grunkle StanTwo years ago, ‘Gravity Falls’ made its San Diego Comic-Con debut. Then a fledgling animated series with just a few episodes aired, the series was intended to be spotlighted along with a few other Disney Television Animation (DTVA) shows in the panel held in a relatively small room. Much to everyone’s surprise — especially the series’ creator, Alex Hirsch, however, it was already a breakout hit with the fans and Stitch Kingdom is pleased to be able to say we were there (you can read the full report here). Fast forward to 2014 and ‘Gravity Falls’ was featured in its own panel, easily playing to a much larger, standing room only crowd.

The panel opened with a live read of an exclusive, ‘non-canon’ 3-minute scene written by Hirsch in which the Pines family visits Lil Gideon inside his jail cell, as performed by panelists Hirsch (Grunkle Stan), Jason Ritter (Dipper Pines), Kristen Schaal (Mabel Pines) and Thurop Van Orman (Lil Gideon). This was followed up by Hirsch sharing a first look at the upcoming ‘Gravity Falls’ merchandise.

Hirsch also shared the ‘news’ that he had been approached by Disney Interactive and the ‘Disney Infinity’ team to incorporate elements of the series into ‘Disney Infinity 2.0′ and played an exclusive trailer highlighting all the items, ending in Stitch firing off a few rounds of kitten fists. Although we would later learn that there are also at least two ‘Gravity Falls’ power discs in addition to all the toy box objects, Hirsch explicitly noted there will be no playable figures coming. Later on, during the panel Q&A, Hirsch would also reveal that a stand-alone ‘Gravity Falls’ video game is in the works, but couldn’t talk about it beyond the fact that there will be co-op play with Dipper and Mabel — but he was really holding out for a free-for-all battle game. Jason Ritter offered that there also online games on the Disney websites to help bide the time, to which Hirsch added that there are even more of those on the way as well.

Attendees were then shown a teaser of the upcoming season, but between the lights dimming and the trailer playing, Bill Cipher appeared on the panel and led the audience into a rather lengthy oath promising they wouldn’t share any of the secrets about to be shown. Further delays ensued as the teaser trailer appeared to get stuck ‘buffering,’ so Soos stepped in by creating his own trailer, which turned out to be very funny, but probably not accurate. Highlights of the pseudo-trailer included lovingly mocking the Tumblr community’s fan art and shipping tendencies (‘Will Wendy and Robbie get back together? I ship them WenRobally,’ as one of several examples) and the introduction of a new character — a walking, talking cell phone named Full Bars. Just when you were beyond certain that Hirsch had pulled a fast one, the real teaser trailer finished ‘buffering’ and played.

The panel then opened to Q&A but not before Hirsch warned that any questions pertaining to spoilers would result in having them re-directed to a puppet version of Old Man McGucket, who — spoiler alert — ended making a couple of appearances during the panel. McGucket first responded to a question about the teaser hinting about ‘Carpe Diem’ and theories surrounding Grunkle Stan and later responded to a question about ‘The Inconveniencing’ in which Dipper sees skeletons as everyone’s reflection on a glass door, but Robbie’s mirror image appears to not be reversed.

As for the questions Hirsch could answer, most had to do with characters (and objects) returning to season two, which begins August 1. The most popular variant of the question seemed to revolve around villains, which Hirsch was quick to note that — with exception to the ‘Summerween Trickster’ (whom Hirsch conceded could return if candy monsters have ghosts) — the villains don’t die on the series, but instead swear revenge on the Pines twins. He also promised that season two may see some ‘crazy battles.’

Parents were also of concern to the panel’s attendees. Will we see more of Lil Gideons’ parents? Yes, according to Hirsch. Lil Gideon lives a very dysfunctional life and not only will we see the return of his parents, but we will see more of Gideon’s home life and the ‘behind-the-scenes’ mechanics of how the family operates. What about Dipper and Mabel’s parents? Hirsch appeared to have some difficulty respond to this one, noting that the series was designed to be about summer and the summer camp aesthetic and that meant being away from parents, so despite Schaal interjecting that she was wondering about the parents herself, it doesn’t appear likely that they will be making an appearance any time soon.

On other will-returns: Sev’ral Timez? quick cameos; President Trembley? ‘When America needs him most;’ Shmebulock? Yes; Dipper clones 3 & 4? Hirsch imagined they are currently lost in the woods and there will be more to it, but declined to explain further at this time; Mabel’s grappling hook? Hirsch said she now carries it with her all the time, so if you don’t see it on screen, it’s because it’s hidden under her sweater, to which Schaal quipped ‘I wish I would have known that — it would have affected my performance.’

Ariel and Alex HirschOther questions were more general about the show itself. Perhaps the highlight of these was on the origins of the series. While it’s no secret that Dipper and Mabel are autobiographically based on Hirsch and his twin sister Ariel, it turned out Ariel was in the audience and Hirsch invited her to join the panel on stage where she proudly modeled the infamous ‘Treasure Trolls’ sweater from seventh grade, audibly beaming that it still fit.

For the casting of the series, Hirsch said he had found Schaal on HBO’s ‘Flight of the Conchords’ and felt she embodied the spirit of Mabel, so they went after her and she agreed to take the part. Dipper was more difficult in that they auditioned many people for the role, but Jason Ritter had that puberty-induced voice crack and Hirsch added that Ritter is Dipper. On Lil Gideon’s voice, Hirsch said he had already been working with Van Orman (who had already created ‘The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack’) and would often hear his voice of ‘indeterminable’ age and gender out in the halls.

The panel was also asked when they first realized the success of ‘Gravity Falls,’ to which Hirsch referred to the first Comic-Con panel in 2012. He then proposed the question to Ariel who said her moment was when she had a Tumblr account with 30 followers that then skyrocketed to 3,000 when it was discovered by fans. Schaal’s revelation came when someone had watched her standup on YouTube and commented ‘Mabel would never say that.’

Asked the inevitable question on ‘how many seasons will there be?’ Hirsch appeared to have some difficulty answering, understandably, but also gave a very earnest answer. Right now, he explained, they’re just so involved with making the show today, that there hasn’t been time to think about much else, but he concedes that the show revolves around a single season of the year and that overall, a full story arc has already been developed, complete with start, middle and end. ‘What he meant to say is 10 seasons,’ Schaal added (half-)jokingly.

Hirsch was also asked about how much of a role he plays in the decision making on whether there will be a full season release of ‘Gravity Falls’ on Blu-ray. Hirsch said he was deeply involved if that referred to how much he bugs Disney in doing just that, but that’s the extent of it. He added he would love to see a full season release on Blu-ray, complete with bonus features, but the way to make that happen was through demonstration of demand from the consumers. He also said that if it ends up looking like the full season Blu-ray isn’t going to happen, he was not adverse to the idea of recording his own episode commentaries and releasing them on YouTube.

The panel also included sneak peeks at ‘Star vs the Forces of Evil’ and ‘Penn Zero: Part Time Hero’ which will be premiering in 2015. The former was effectively a montage of a teaser set to music (which was written by Brad Breeck) while ‘Penn Zero’ was a clip from one of the episodes in which Penn was over-anticipating a visit to a super hero dimension — although most of its intended audience probably wouldn’t know what this means, it gave me a very heavy Ed Grimley (Martin Short) vibe — a comment that co-creator Sam Levine didn’t seem to mind in the least.

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