Movies

Disney’s Encanto is a Phenomenal Family Story

Co-written by P. A. Wilson and Ashley Ostrowski

We watched Encanto together over Scener this January. Disney movies haven’t been great lately, but this one had great reviews, so we decided to check it out. I’m so glad that we did. Encanto has stunning animation, a great soundtrack, well developed and likable characters, and portrays Columbian culture with accuracy. The movie also isn’t afraid to dive into serious issues like the effect of generational trauma on families. Encanto is available to watch on Disney+.

The story of the Madrigal family began when Abuela Alma and Abuelo Pedro were forced to leave their homes due to violence in their area. The conflict depicted in the film is likely based on the Thousand Days War in Columbia. Pedro sacrifices his life to save Alma and their triplets. A miracle manifested in a magical candle that builds them a gorgeous house and all their children and grandchildren–except Mirabel–are given magical powers. Their powers provide for the town around them and Alma puts pressure on the kids to use their powers to take care of everyone.

Generational Trauma

When Alma was young, she met Pedro on the Day of the Little Candles, a Columbian public holiday that occurs on the eve of the Immaculate Conception. The festival was first celebrated when Pope Pius IX announced that the Immaculate Conception was a part of Catholic dogma. People lit candles that night and the tradition has continued. In Columbia, Candles are lit on December 7th every year. Abuela lost her husband to violence in Columbia. and then a magic candle granted her family magical powers. They don’t know how the candle became magic, but they do know their powers can provide for the entire town. The town flourishes with Luisa’s strength, Pepa’s weather-controlling abilities, Julieta’s healing, Dolores’ hearing, and Isabela’s beautiful flowers that decorate the town. Their powers provide safety and security to their community. Alma believes that through hard work and determination, they can keep this town flourishing. Because the children’s abilities help everyone survive, Alma values her children’s and grandchildren’s powers more than the kids. She has high expectations because she is afraid of losing everything. The miracle is unknown and she desperately wants to keep the miracle going. Alma insists on perfection and is hard on Mirabel in particular, who didn’t receive magical powers. Alma repeats that her children and grandchildren must “Make your family proud,” but treats their efforts as unsatisfactory no matter how hard they try–especially with Mirabel.

Music

The music from Encanto is fantastic and it is topping the charts. The movie’s songs were composed by Germaine Franco and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Franco said that she read Columbian history, music, and literature to prepare to get inspiration. Both writers are of Latin American descent, and so are all the actors playing the characters. In addition, the songs “Colombia, Mi Encanto” and “Dos Oroguitas” were sung by two of Colombia’s current biggest artists, Carlos Vives and Sebastian Yatra.

We Don’t Talk About Bruno

We Don’t Talk About Bruno was #1 on the music charts, Remember when Let it Go was all the rage and felt super popular? Encanto‘s music tops Frozen, and for a good reason. The song begins with Pepa and Felix singing and then the song flashes to Dolores and then Camilo. The story of Bruno’s disappearance is told through the perspective of the Madrigal family and also the townspeople. People are also talking about Bruno when they say they don’t talk about him. The irony! Then the family gets ready for Mariano to come.

Dolores’ part makes Bruno sound mysterious, and we learn that she does hear Bruno. She says, “I always hear him muttering and mumbling, I associate him with the sound of falling sand.” Dolores clearly knows where Bruno is and can hear him, but the family doesn’t listen. It is also worth noting that sounds like footsteps are louder in Dolores’ part, emphasizing her hearing power.

Bruno is seen through the eyes of the family, and he’s basically a myth to the kids. “Seven foot frame, rats along his back, when he calls your name it all fades to black. Yeah he sees your dreams and feasts on your screams” is obviously exaggeration. The song is a hit, it makes you want to listen again. It also builds mystery about Bruno. The more we hear about Bruno, the more the myth builds and the suspense grows as Mirabel starts to regret bringing him up in the first place.

Surface Pressure

This song is relatable for many people, especially older siblings and those who feel like they are under a lot of pressure from their family. I love how the donkeys Luisa was carrying are incorporated into the scenes as spectators, dancers, or as part of the weight she has to carry. There are references to Hercules, who fought Cerberus, as well as Atlas, who held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Another familiar reference is one to the Titanic, as she imagines her family not swerving from danger even when they “heard how big the iceberg is.” This sense of impending doom weighs on her a lot. “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless, if I can’t be of service” is a line that hits so hard. People often measure themselves by how much they have accomplished for others, but for Luisa, this amount of service is never enough even if it is constant. I wonder if the donkeys are included because Luisa’s family treats her like some sort of beast of burden–or at least Abuela Alma does. This may not be at the top of the charts like We Don’t Talk About Bruno, but it is still remarkable as an anthem of the stressed.

What Else Can I Do

Isabela is supposed to be the perfect sibling. Abuela adores her and she has a power to grow gorgeous flowers. One youtuber noted that Abuela actually smiles in the portrait of her and Isabela. She is the golden child, so she has to be perfect. Isabela previously thought that she could only create pretty, perfect flowers. But she lives under her grandmother’s expectations and any deviation from that plan is a failure. She’s also suppressing her emotions other than total joy, “I’m so sick of pretty, I want something true, don’t you?” Isabela creates a cactus and carnivorous plants. She isn’t allowed to be angry, but here she can finally express herself. The line “I wonder how far these roots go down” seems to hint at the family trauma. How far do the roots of their problems lie? But just as Isabella talks about roots, she grows a giant palm tree over the roof of the house. It shows her potential, and Mirabel is amazed at first. She is jealous of her sister because her grandmother favors her the most, but really, Isabela feels trapped under the weight of Abuela’s expectations. She realizes that imperfect things are even more beautiful. Her powers are also fun when she doesn’t have to be perfect. Isabela discovers the joy of creating, of using her powers for her and for the first time, she can escape those expectations and truly live in the moment. With her powers growing so much, perhaps she could change the world.

Animation

The animation in this film is colorful. Everything is incredibly detailed and just gorgeous. It brings you into the magical world of the Madrigal family and the audience shares Mirabel’s excitement and wonder.

Psychology and Family Dynamics

The candle’s powers are a mixed blessing. The entire town is reliant on the candle, and therefore Alma starts to love the candle and the children’s powers. It has been an unimaginable blessing, and she desperately longs to keep it, but this comes at the price of her family’s psychological well-being. “But work and dedication will keep the miracle burning and each new generation must keep the miracle burning” Alma sings in the song “The Family Madrigal”. Our first impression of her is that she is someone who values hard work, but hard work isn’t just good, it is necessary for survival. She fears losing the miracle, and relies on her children and grandchildren to keep it going. She doesn’t have any powers herself, but she blames her granddaughter, Mirabel for not getting powers. Mirabel also tries to help on the day of Antonio’s gift ceremony, but Alma tells her it is best to step aside. Alma is being hypocritical here, since she is helping with the ceremony and has no powers herself.

Mirabel is the only child without powers, and Alma constantly reminds her of her disappointment. Mirabel thus decides that she will help everyone else in the family. She wants to help everyone else with their problems. She is running around on the day of Antonio’s ceremony. When she hears Alma’s wish to save the miracle, she decides that she will be the one to save it. She is a caretaker by nature, usually putting herself last. Her personality is very Type A–when met with a problem, she immediately tries to solve it.

Isabela is the oldest daughter in the Madrigal family. Mirabel resents her because she looks perfect all the time and Abuela adores her. But Isabela’s life isn’t as great as Mirabel imagines. Her body language tells us that she doesn’t want to marry Mariano and is only doing it for the family. While Mirabel has been defined by her lack of a gift, Isabela is defined by her ability to make pretty things. But in the name of being pretty, Isabela is discouraged from showing any emotions other than happiness and creating anything that doesn’t look perfect. She is jealous of Mirabel because without powers and she doesn’t have to live up to Abuela’s expectations. In her song, she realizes that she was repressing her powers, and that she is capable of much more than creating coronations. She grows giant palm tress and carnivorous plants. She is also free to express her anger and wear colors other than purples and pinks. She is free to be herself and can finally not try to fit a standard of perfection. When she breaks out of that standard, she is free to create and try and fail. There is also a beauty in imperfection.

Luisa is the strong one in the family, the one who has difficulty expressing emotion and showing vulnerability. So much pressure is laid on her shoulders, which she keeps all under the surface. The only giveaway is her twitching eye, which Dolores heard and brought to Mirabel’s attention. Luisa feels like she must singlehandedly shoulder the family burdens without accepting help from anyone. It was only a matter of time before she breaks under the pressure, and luckily when the cracks in Luisa’s façade begin to show, Mirabel is there to give her support.

Bruno is the black sheep of the family and the scapegoat. He sees prophesies that tell the family and town about the future. The problem is the that future isn’t often great, it includes a fish’s death for instance, but Bruno only sees the future, he doesn’t control it. Still, Alma wants him to go away because he interferes with her sense of control. Everyone else’s powers allow them to control the environment and create this perfect life for the town. He is a scapegoat–someone to blame for the all the toxic parts of their family–but Bruno leaving, as they discover later, only makes things worse.

Pepa is the emotional one in the family. She has the power to control the weather and often has storm clouds over her head. Abuela often scolds her when the storm clouds rise.

Dolores has a magical sense of hearing and she is the one who can hear Bruno talking through the walls. She tells Mirabel, but she doesn’t listen to her. It must be extremely taxing to hear everything around you all the time.

Why Mirabel Doesn’t Have Powers

Mirabel is the only member of the Madrigal family who didn’t get powers, and it is not a big dramatic moment the way it would be in another story. She cares deeply about her family and wants to help them out even if she doesn’t have a gift. Some fans theorize that she might not have a gift because she will eventually take the place of Abuela Alma as the next family matriarch.

She is the one who takes care of everyone else. She talks to her siblings and empathizes with them when they reveal the stress they feel in their role in the family. She is the one to bring them all together and bring Bruno back. Her power, it appears, is understanding people, which might be the most important gift of all.

Clothing Details

There are representations of the character’s powers on each of their clothes.

Bruno has an hourglass pattern that represents his ability to see the future.

Camilo has chameleons on his clothes that represent his ability to shapeshift.

There are sound waves for Dolores, representing her ability to hear well.

Louisa has barbells representing her strength.

Mirabel has representations of all her family members embroidered on her dress. A chameleon for Camilo, animals for Antonio, flowers for Isabela, weights for Luisa, a sun for Pepa, etc. Butterflies on her dress connect her to the candle and Abuela Alma also has them on her dress. We noticed the butterflies on Alma’s dress and on Alma’s outfit.

Observations

The line “Coffee is for grownups” isn’t accurate. Colombian coffee is super popular, and it is pretty common for kids to drink coffee there. Although the coffee the children drink is weaker, they still frequently drink coffee.

The film was partially inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s book One Hundred Years of Solitude. In that book, a village is secluded from the rest of the world and gradually gets more contact with the outside. The family home sometimes behaves in mysterious ways. The book is about the downfall of a family. These are all aspects that One Hundred Years of Solitude has in common with Encanto. For instance, both use butterflies.

Every time Pepa had storm clouds above her on numerous occasions. Abuela Alma was always telling her that they were there, as if she didn’t know. It’s frustrating, kind of like when someone just says to relax to someone who is chronically stressed–not only is it annoying, it is also ignorant. The first time Pepa had a storm cloud above her head and Abuela did not scold her was at the end.

Pepa and her husband Félix are really cute together. Their relationship is sweet, and this was especially evident during the song We Don’t Talk About Bruno, where Félix played a supporting role to Pepa’s part. Their son Camilo is really nice to Pepa–he brought her a drink and tried to comfort her.

One parallel in the film is how Mirabel holds Antonio’s hand as he approaches his door in the beginning, and Antonio holds her hand to approach her door at the end.

Conclusion

We wholeheartedly recommend this film for all ages.

Movies

Marvel Phase 4’s New Chinese Super Hero Shang-Chi

Movie Review:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Warning! Spoilers below!

Overview

Pros

  • Amazing CGI
  • Likeable characters
  • The fight scenes are fun to watch
  • The movie was amusing at times
  • Interesting music

Cons

  • Predictable plot
  • Not very convincing love story between Wenwu and Li
  • Slattery understanding the hundun with such precision was unrealistic
  • Wenwu sends assassins with orders to try to kill Shang-Chi and Xialing, when he really just wants to capture them

Observations

  • Aren’t they technically bracelets, not rings?

Review

The movie begins with the story of how Wenwu finding the magical Ten Rings and obtaining the powers of a god as well as immortality (which, I must say, does not help him much against soulsuckers. He should have read the fine print.)

Wenwu then founded an organization which he called the Ten Rings, probably because it sounds better than the Ten Bracelets. But I mean really–what would you call a large circular piece of jewelry that fits on your arm–a bracelet, right? But I have to admit, ring does sound cooler. You could even say it has more of a ring to it.

I know, that was bad.

Then we fast forward to 1996, when Wenwu tries to conquer Ta Lo and is stopped by Ying Li, who uses really dramatic and flowy martial arts–in other words, fancy dancing–to turn Wenwu’s own power against him. If their battle scene is 2x slower than most of the movie, then their falling in love was 10x faster. It’s more of a tell don’t show sort of scenario, where we don’t get much evidence of the love they share until the lady is dead.

Wenwu and Ying Li

The music at first I thought was okay, but later in the movie I felt like it fit the vibe more.

Then we go even more forward to modern times, where we meet parking valet “Shaun” and his best friend Katy, who are surprisingly not forced into a romantic relationship by the director despite this movie being both Disney and Marvel.

Katy and Shaun

We get a scene in a bar where Shaun and Katy explain how Katy prevented Shawn from getting beaten up by this big xenophobic dude by singing Hotel California. I love Katy. She is funny and relatable and does what she wants to do without worrying what others will think.

We get to see the main characters rock out in a karaoke night, which in my opinion was a smart move because it says a lot about their personalities. What is more personable than karaoke? It just made them even more likeable.

The bus scene though–that was amazing. Shaun was attacked by several assassins including one with a blade for an arm. I don’t know how he manages to retract and store that inside his arm when he is not using it. And what if it malfunctioned and slid out at the wrong moment? He could accidentally skewer someone.

Shaun using his martial arts ability while working with instead of against the environment of a moving bus was ingenious. The brakes getting cut and the bus breaking in half were a bit out there, but hey, this is Marvel we’re talking about. Katy needed a role and steering the bus without brakes made her pretty damn important.

The MVP of this scene was definitely a civilian (pictured above) who was recording the whole fight and grading it based on his limited experience with martial arts. His complete disregard for his own safety and complete confidence in Shaun did not seem realistic but was funny.

There is a moment when the bus flattens a ton of parked vehicles and all I can think of are dollar signs and a feeling of gratitude that they were empty parked cars because seeing people flattened by a bus would have been nauseating.

The man with the blade for an arm who attacked Shaun on the bus managed to steal the special necklace Shaun had been given by his deceased mother, and that, along with a postcard Shaun received in the mail, makes Shaun think his little sister is in trouble.

As a result, even though Shaun has been remarkably unconcerned with his sister’s whereabouts while he recovered from trauma of his own, he now seeks her out. Probably feeling guilty about promising to return to her years ago. But I don’t blame him much because he had to deal with his trauma, which is significant.

Katy demands to come along, because we need comic relief. I mean, because the martial arts master Shaun obviously needs civilian help. Ok ok, it’s because she is a great friend.

Shaun tells Katy his life story on the plane. She finds it hilarious that he tried to go into hiding by changing his name from Shang-Chi to Shaun–since they both sound very similar. He tells her that when his father sent him to kill the leader of the Iron Gang, the man who had been responsible for Shang-Chi’s mother’s death, he didn’t go through with it. That is a lie; in actuality, he killed the man and then ran away from home.

After that, the movie is pretty predictable. Shang-Chi fights his sister Xialing in a fight club, which most people would see coming from a mile away. She wins, which is also to be expected because Marvel always wants to establish a strong female figure, at least in their more modern films. That’s a good thing; it’s just predictable that she will win against Shang-Chi because of it.

Finally, after sending assassins to attack his children twice, Wenwu himself shows up. Now since his whole point was to capture his children, I have no idea why he sent assassins who tried to kill his children. I know, he said that he knew the assassins wouldn’t be able to kill them, but why do that rather than try to just capture them in the first place? Other than to create a series of entertaining fight scenes. Overall, he’s not winning any dad points.

When they arrive at their old home, Wenwu tells his children that he has been hearing the voice of his wife asking him to rescue her. Only problem is, she was murdered by the Iron Gang over ten years ago. Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy don’t believe him, and are horrified when they find out that if Wenwu cannot find his wife in her hometown in Ta Lo, he plans on destroying the town and everyone in it.

Because what better way to honor someone’s memory than to deny their death and massacre everyone in their hometown?

Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy are locked up for disbelieving Wenwu, and while in prison they meet Trevor Slattery, the man who impersonated the Mandarin in an Iron Man movie. He admits how ridiculous the whole Mandarin story and impersonation was, which was apparently a way to apologize for the racial stereotypes associated with that character. Since he has no other good reason to show up in the movie, he seems out of place.

Slattery has a companion hundun, a weird creature with no head or mouth, just four wings and plenty of fur. He can understand it perfectly for reasons that are never explained.

Shang-Chi and the gang find it pretty easy to escape the prison, and to reach the forest protecting Ta Lo. When there, they take remarkably precise instructions from the hundun, translated by Slattery. I don’t think they should have made that such a huge plot point, because Slattery understanding the hundun is unexplained and makes no sense in the first place.

Shang-Chi and Xialing meet their Auntie Nan, who has the same abilities as her sister Ying Li and has the potential to stop Wenwu. However, for whatever reason she trains Shang-Chi to do it instead of fighting Wenwu herself.

We learn that the voice Wenwu is hearing is coming from the soulsuckers behind a walled-in portal. Wenwu does not believe that, and despite Shang-Chi’s efforts to stop him, Wenwu opens the portal. He is subsequently killed by a soulsucker, despite being “immortal”.

The CGI in Ta Lo is amazing in general, but the soulsucker and the dragon are probably the best. The dragon awakens from underwater, I guess to provide another beautiful instance of over-the-top CGI.

The major soulsucker tries to suck the soul out of the dragon, and is only stopped by Katy’s well-placed arrow. Despite having only several hours of training, she managed a perfect shot. Unrealistic but impressive. Shang-Chi takes the opportunity to kill the soulsucker, thus ending the battle between good and evil.

Having saved the world, Shang-Chi and Katy go back to the United States and tell their disbelieving friends. In a mid-credits scene, Wong invites them to meet Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, and they find out that the rings are some sort of beacon. Rather than getting a good night’s rest, Wong, Katy, and Shang-Chi spend the night doing karaoke. That has to be one of the greatest parts of the movie.

In a post-credits scene, it is revealed that Xialing has taken over the Ten Rings organization rather than disbanding it like she had told her brother she would.

In conclusion, while this movie was unrealistic at times, it was enjoyable and fun to watch. It was funny at times, serious at the right moments, and altogether interesting. I would recommend it for anyone ages 13 and up.

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Movies

Jungle Cruise: Great Actors, Convoluted Plot

Movie Review (with spoilers):

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Great actors
  • Cool CGI
  • Engaging setting
  • Intriguing side villains
  • Disney’s second gay character
  • Funny at times…and very punny

Cons

  • Convoluted plot
  • One-note main villain

Warning! Spoilers Below!

Review

When I heard that Disney made a movie based off of a theme park attraction, I had low expectations. Despite my expectations, I had hope that Jungle Cruise might be a simple comedy that would generate at least a few laughs. It is more of a fantasy adventure film with some comedic elements. It turned out, however, that my low expectations were unwarranted.

All legends are born in truth.”

The fantasy part of the movie comes from a legend of the tears of the moon, blossoms from a tree that can heal any ailment. Don Aguirre and a band of conquistadors try to find the tree in 1556 to heal Aguirre’s sick daughter. The Puka Michuna tribe took in and healed the struggling, ill conquistadors as they struggled with their quest. When the Puka Michuna tribe refused to give the location of the tree, Aguirre and most of the other conquistadors turned on them and killed their chief. The dying chief cast a curse on the conquistadors, making them immortal (which most people wouldn’t consider a curse) and unable to be far from the river without being pulled back to it by the jungle.

As far as flashbacks go, this was a helpful one and interesting as well. The curse is somewhat unique because it is tied to the river water.

Fast forward to 1916 when Dr. Lily Houghton is stealing a precious artifact while her brother MacGregor is presenting her work to the Royal Society, who reject it because they are biased against women and also do not believe in the legend.

We meet Joachim, the one-note villain who wants the blossoms for the war effort in Germany. The two notable things about him are his temper and strong accent, both of which are made fun of in the movie. Like I mentioned in the cons, he does not have much depth to him.

Frank is a worthy addition to the sister-brother team, a river skipper with more experience than anyone could have anticipated. The chemistry between Frank and Lily is fun to watch even though it is a more awkward romance. But Skippy x Pants (Frank x Lily) is sweet and amusing.

Know this about the jungle—everything you see wants to kill you—and can.”

Frank

The jungle is a fascinating place filled with dangers. The director went to a lot of trouble to make the sights and sounds of the jungle come to life, from river dolphins to piranhas.

Franks loves puns and jokes, so those are peppered throughout, just like they are on the theme park attraction.

Additional villains get introduced including Aguirre, who was trapped where the jungle couldn’t bring him back to the water. They have been trapped there so long that they have become part of the jungle. This is where some of the best CGI comes in.

The bee man is probably the coolest design.

When Aguirre catches up with Frank, Lily, and MacGregor, Frank gets stabbed through the heart and left for dead. I have to say I was not even remotely surprised he survived. I was a little more surprised that he was an immortal named Francisco who had been alive for hundreds of years. He was one of the conquistadors, the adopted brother of Aguirre.

Except the other conquistadors hate him because he took the side of the tribe rather than siding with them. He was the one who later trapped them away from the river where the jungle could not take them back, cursing them with the current forms.

The whole conquistador story is interesting, and they are formidable foes. It’s hard to really feel sorry for them because they are kind of jerks regardless of whether their initial goal was kindhearted.

Someone who is kindhearted is MacGregor. Some people have said he is a bundle of gay stereotypes, and he is. But he is very likeable, especially when he goes with the flow. He is heavily implied to be gay, his interests lay “elsewhere” than women. I think for Disney this is a small step in the right direction, but they could have done better.

The ending was predictable but not bad. I enjoyed it overall. I don’t plan on spoiling that in case you still haven’t watched it and want to.

I would recommend it for anyone who likes adventure movies, ages 13 plus. Not a masterpiece but an enjoyable ride, much like its theme park attraction counterpart.

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Shows

Gravity Falls Gets Even Weirder

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Gravity Falls Season 2

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When my sister wanted me to watch Gravity Falls, I was skeptical about whether I would like it. It looked like an uninteresting kids show or like it would have a style of humor I wouldn’t be a fan of. However, it has become one of my favorite shows.

Background

Gravity Falls Season 2 was released in 2014-2016. It stars the voice talent of Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

Summary

Season 2 focuses on the search for the author of the journals, Gruncle Stan’s past, and the struggle against Bill Cipher.

Pros

  • Loveable characters
  • Unique villains
  • Interesting supernatural beings
  • Touching character dynamics between the twins
  • Entertaining setting
  • Clever and amusing dialogue
  • Fun animation
  • References to other shows and pop culture
  • Continuity between episodes unlike in some cartoons
  • Enjoyable for adults and children alike
  • Original catchy music

Cons

  • Gets darker in a way that is a bit much (though this is a minor con)

Observations

  • The whispers at the end of the intro song of each episode are hints to solve the cryptogram at the end of each episode
  • Alex Hirsch is the voice actor for Gruncle Stan, Soos, Old Man McGucket, and Bill Cipher.
  • Dipper’s hat was originally supposed to be red, but the creators feared that he would look too much like Ash Ketchum

Review

Characters

My Favorite Pic of the Whole Gang

Mabel Pines, the girl in the pink sweater and braces, is a quirky and boy-crazy girl. She wears a different sweater almost every episode and is very spontaneous.

Dipper Pines, the boy in the blue hat, is adventurous, practical, and cautious. He is eager to find out what supernatural forces are at work in Gravity Falls.

The twins do a lot of growing in their understanding of themselves and the world around them during Season 2. They have to realize what is most important and worth protecting.

Wendy Corduroy is the redheaded teenager. She is tomboyish, strong, assertive, clever, and funny. Wendy is my favorite character.

Gruncle Stan, the old man, is the main characters’ Great Uncle. Get it? Gruncle? He is miserly, bossy, and occasionally engages in criminal activities. Nonetheless, he is one of the most loveable characters.

Soos is the handyman in the green shirt. He is laidback, has a big heart, and is very close to the Pines family. He acts kind of like a big brother to Dipper and Mabel.

I can’t imagine the show without any one of these characters. They are all essential and add so much to the story.

There is only one character of note who debuted in the second season, but his existence is so integral to the plot that I cannot reveal who it is without major spoilers.

Bill Cipher is the iconic villain of Gravity Falls, and the main threat of Season 2. He’s just so weird….some of his scenes from Season 1 involve deer teeth and possession. It’s all quite odd, and that’s what makes him so unique. He is sadistic and thoughtless and enjoys making deals. Season 2 gets even weirder with his greater involvement.

Relationships

The relationship between the twins is so sweet and authentic. It is clear that they genuinely do care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Gravity Falls avoids common tropes used in shows for twins–such as twins that are identical or very similar in personality, or the twin that is always right vs. the one that is always wrong, single-minded twins, etc.

Season 2 delves into this relationship more by revealing more of the twins’ pasts and creating conflict between them.

Setting

The show is set in Gravity Falls, Oregon. A lot of time is spent at the Mystery Shack in particular, which is a tourist trap filled with gimmicks and odd artifacts.

Dialogue

Pain is hilarious! And two eyes? This thing is deluxe!”

Bill Cipher, referring to humans

Romance is like gum. When it loses its flavor, you just shove another one in.”

Mabel Pines

A TV show that has big mystery elements and jokes that go over kid’s head’s”

Gruncle Stan, referring to Ducktective in a metajoke also referring to Gravity Falls itself

Animation

The goofy and sometimes postcard-worthy animation of Gravity Falls is attractive and fits the theme of the show.

Allusions

  • When Soos says “Shining, shimmering, splendid,” he is referencing the song “A Whole New World”
  • Smez is a spoof of the brand Pez
  • “We Built This Township on Rock and Roll” is a reference to “We Built This City” by Starship
  • “The Golf War” title of an episode alludes to the actual Gulf War
  • One episode has several allusions to the Muppets
  • At one time the Eye of Sauron can be seen in the Mystery Shack
  • There are so many more!

Continuity

The show is dependent on the episodes that come before for a lot of the development and for most of it to make sense. That makes it different from many TV shows where the episodes can be watched in any order.

Audience

The audience for this show is varied. When I was looking at who had left ratings on IMDb, there was a large age range from teens to people in their mid-20s or mid-30s–even people older than that such as in their 50s. In addition, it was made for children, so it fits all of these audiences well. There are a lot of jokes that adults will appreciate that kids may barely notice. The darker themes at times in the show makes it appealing to adults as well.

Music

The theme song is so catchy my sister and dad both made it their ringtone. I love it. It’s one of those iconic songs that will always bring back good memories for me.

Conclusion

I recommend this show for all ages except for very young children due to dark elements. Admittedly this season is darker, so parental guidance may be best. Things such as a person turning into cockroaches and a couch made of petrified humans might be uncomfortable for very young audiences, as well as the darker overall atmosphere.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

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