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Dipper Pines & Barfing Gnome

Gravity Falls
by yo go re

It's always easy to say cartoons were better back in the day, because while we remember the high points, we forget the rest. He-Man, Transformers and GI Joe are all popular, but no one is clamoring for a reboot of Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. Eek the Cat, Gargoyles, and Rocko's Modern Life were fun, where's the Buzzfeed list of "The 18 Brothers Grunt Moments that Changed Everything Forever"? Invader Zim on one hand, Lloyd in Space on the other. When the 2010s are over, though, Gravity Falls will be one of the ones that stick in people's minds.

Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines see their summer plans ruined when they're sent off to their crusty great-uncle Stan's ("Grunkle Stan") in hum-drum Gravity Falls, Oregon. Yet strangeness lurks in this seemingly run-of-the-mill tourist trap, and the twins quickly realize they must rely on one another if they're to survive a summer filled with all manner of supernatural phenomena from lost time travelers to villainous gnomes to haunted wax sculptures.

Conceived as the tale of one epic summer, Gravity Falls is sort of a cross between Goosebumps and The X-Files (thereby making it an animated equivalent to Eerie, Indiana), and 12-year-old Dipper Pines is its Mulder. He's also an author-insert character for the show's creator Alex Hirsch, but that's neither here nor there.

The show has a very simple, straightforward animation style, eschewing the "model sheets? lol!" art that a lot of cartoons favor - Gravity Falls knows what time it is. Like a lot of old-time cartoon characters, about a third of Dipper's total height is reserved for his massive head, and the toy's smooth sculpting matches the animation well.

And that's particularly surprising because the Gravity Falls figures are made by Jazwares - despite a few surprising bright spots, their output is... well, it's generally terrible. It's so terrible that a (different) cartoon once made fun of its own merchandise while it was in stores. Dipper isn't terrible (he can stand up by himself), but he is exceptionally mediocre. The costume is just as accurate as the shapes, but he only moves at the neck, shoulders and waist. That worked for Simpsons figures because they were thicker and had electronics - Dipper is scrawny and has nothing. The head is a swivel, and it barely turns; they could have at least given him a balljoint there. And speaking of "could have at least given him," how does he not come with the Journal, the book that guides him through the mysterious mysteries?! It's only the most important item in the entire series, so why would Jazwares be expected to include it?

Dipper is not alone, though. The Gravity Falls figures are sold in two-packs (or a " 2 figures pack," as the gramatically weird package calls it), with one "articulated" figure and one solid piece. The pack-in here is Steve the Barfing Gnome. If Gravity Falls had a mascot, this would be it.

My first exposure to Gravity Falls was someone posting a gif of a little gnome vomiting rainbows. I had no idea what it was from, but it was funny, and drawn well. This figure is a single solid piece, a gnome hunched over and, yes, puking up a storm. In the show, he was leaning against a tree for stability, but here he's just got his arms thrown out to the sides. Our only real complaint would be that the rainbow paint isn't vibrant enough - it should look like a fresh box of crayons, while here it's a bit muted. Maybe molding it in white instead of pink would have helped.

The set also includes a scroll, designed to look like a page from the journal, and has a bit of gibberish on the back of the card - every episode ended with a cryptogram in the end credits, so it makes sense to include one here. It's a simple Caesar cipher, reading KLGH WKH JQRPH! DQQRB BRXU IULHQGV!, which is at least related to the set.

Gravity Falls is a cool cartoon, but is limited to merely "cult" status due to being shown on Disney XD, a channel most people don't get. (That's the same place you won't see Star Wars Rebels or any of Marvel's animated shows, because the odds are you don't have a high enough cable tier to get Disney XD.) It definitely deserved better toys than this, but things could always have been worse.

-- 01/17/16

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