SDCC: ‘Gravity Falls’ Dominates Disney Television Animation Panel

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Moderated by Eric Coleman, Senior Vice President of Original Series, Disney Television Animation brought the creative teams and talent from popular series ‘Fish Hooks’ and the upcoming ‘Wander Over Yonder’ to its panel at San Diego Comic-Con, but it was newcomer ‘Gravity Falls’ that quickly dominated the show, as evidenced by the roar of the attending audience at its mere mention, let alone the number of fans dressed as characters from the cartoon.

During the presentation, series creator Alex Hirsch spoke at length behind the inspiration behind some of the show’s main characters: Mabel Pines, inspired by his real-life twin sister; Grunkle Stan, inspired by his Grandfather Stan; and Soos, inspired by friend he knew from college. Also representing the series were Jason Ritter, voice of Dipper Pines and Michael Rianda, the show’s creative director.

On the genesis of the show, Hirsch stated, ‘I have a twin sister, who I grew up with and we had a lot of summers together where we would stay with a relative out in the woods and we would be bored out of our minds and I always thought, you know, on long fishing trips or camping trips wouldn’t it be cool if instead of doing nothing, we were going on awesome adventures. So that’s sort of where the nexus of the show came from. I kind of combined my childhood memories and then fantasy stuff into one kind of stew of ideas and so-forth.. and so on.’

Mabel allows Hirsch to ‘vicariously help his sister live her dreams through’ the show. In an upcoming episode, from which a clip was shown, Mabel wins a pig at a ‘crummy fair’ operated by Grunkle Stan. This was directly inspired by his sister’s childhood obsession with pigs, explaining she would even continue to hang expired calendars featuring the animal. Since he couldn’t give her one in real life, he decided Mabel should have one on the show, although he notes that ‘certain time anomaly events’ will put the pig’s fate into question. It was also because of his sister that an upcoming episode will guest star Lance Bass of ‘N Sync fan. Growing up, Ariel Hirsch was obsessed with all boy bands, according to Hirsch, but Bass was her favorite. So much so that when she learned the show had been picked up, she suggested him as a celebrity guest star. Hirsch joked that now that he was able to allow his sister to meet her childhood idol, she would have to introduce him to Pikachu to even it out, since that was who he was into at the time.

Hirsch also talked about the sweater behind all of Mabel’s sweaters seen on the show. Explaining that the sweater used to be too large on Ariel, it now fit her and so she wore it to the series’ premiere party. The lime-green sweater that began it all features a troll doll, complete with ‘shedding’ hair and a jewel in its stomach.

Grunkle Stan is loosely based on Hirsch’s own Grandpa Stan. Hirsch recalled that as a child, his mother brought him to a hotel to visit his grandfather. Grandpa Stan proceeded to remove a silver spoon from his pocket and handed it to young Alex, explaining it was the Hirsch family silver and had been passed down throughout generations and was now being given to to Alex. Hirsch was so excited to receive the family heirloom, he ran downstairs to show his mother who pointed out the symbol embossed on the spoon, showing it was nothing more than silverware from the hotel. Thinking his grandfather would be the worst possible caretaker for a summer, he was put into the show.

Soos, who Hirsch cites as being his favorite character from the show, was explained as someone he had first met in school. ‘Soos is inspired by a guy I went to college with,’ Hirsch explained. ‘He’s one of those guys who graduated school and then was always still there, just hanging out in the computer lab like “Dude, need any help with your essay?” “No, I’m good.” “Need help with the printer? I could help you out with the printer.” “No, I’m fine.” “I’ll just sit here and spot you in case you need anything.” He’s just like the sweetest man alive. I hope he comes to Comic-Con sometime because he resembles the character that he’s based on a fair amount — it’s pretty amazing. I think you guys would love to meet the real Soos someday.”

Jason Ritter identified himself with his alter-ego, Dipper Pines. ‘I was pretty much completely like Dipper. I had lots of crushes on older ladies who probably would never date me — and never did,’ he explained. Ritter also said that as a child, he was very excitable and always looking for adventure and that ‘Gravity Falls’ is ‘almost what his dream would be’ as a child. He shared an anecdote on how he and his friends would manufacture their own treasure maps, using tea to ‘age’ them, then pretend to stumble across them and discover the hidden treasure, though he couldn’t recall actually doing any digging, lest he and his friends got in trouble.

Rianda said the key to the show’s success is in keeping it grounded. It’s easy to make everything insane and crazy, he said, but they prefer to keep it grounded by constantly asking what the real Soos would do in a situation, or noting which pop groups Ariel would listen to. He also said a lot of time is spent talking about shipping characters (the fanfic term for relationships) ‘We’re shipping all the characters like UPS,’ he joked.

When the panel turned over to audience Q&A it was only natural that many of the questions had to do with the mysteries and quirks embedded into the series. Responding to a question about ‘Lil Gideon’s book which appears identical to Dipper’s, save for the number on the front, Hirsch responded with, ‘the show’s got some mystery to it, it’s got some overarching themes and secrets. It’s a very good question and will probably get an answer.’

In response to questions regarding Goggle Man, aka Mystery Man, Hirsch was even more coy: ‘Goggle man I’ve never seen before, I’ve never noticed that character. I’ve heard rumors about him but I think it’s just an urban legend or something. I would say that if you’re curious about those kind of things, your curiosity will be rewarded — you have to keep paying attention and you got to freeze frame — that’s all I’m allowed to say on the subject.’

Audience members also longed for a soundtrack from the show, a request Hirsch said he has heard of before. The show’s music is by Brad Breeck, whom Hirsch describes as, a ‘young dude who’s insanely talented.’ In lieu of the soundtrack, it was suggested that fans of the show’s music check out Breeck’s bands, The Mae Shi and Skull Tape.

In addition to the ‘crummy fair’ episode, fans can look forward to an episode dedicated to the Gravity Falls tradition of Summerween, in which Dipper and Mabel are forced to trick or treat, literally for their lives. Another episode, which Hirsch seems particularly excited for, is described as being video game inspired and features guest animation by Paul Robertson.

Below is a small gallery of photos from the panel. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger version:

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