It's now been eight months since Gravity Falls wrapped up its three-episode finale. Having ended in February, it fell just weeks outside my "Halloween" window, and note for those new to this website: February is only weeks outside my "Halloween" window.
An episodic, American comedy cartoon with a predetermined ending was pretty much unheard of before Gravity Falls, and it really goes to show what a difference a game plan can make. What seemed like another silly, joke-a-minute fantasy cartoon escalated smoothly into a science fiction fantasy comedy-drama that really felt like an event. People all over the country, kids to adults, watched together as a bad triangle's scheming came to fruition and got his ass handed to him by some old men. It was pretty fun. You should have been there.
So, people have asked all year if I was finally going to review the monsters from this final stretch, since I reviewed favorites from the rest of the series in 2015...and the climax alone features a bigger, weirder selection. I just had to wait until all of it was out...and as I write this, I've also been living for three weeks in the general area where Gravity Falls takes place, so it's now or never to wrap up my thoughts on its creature designs.
The Water Tower
One of the first things brought to life by Bill's "oddpocalypse" is the water tower we've been seeing since the first intro of the first episode. It's a pretty simple "put teeth on a thing" monster, but it looks great, and I don't think I've even seen an animate water tower before.
A Barbeque Grill
A grill outside Soos's house also springs to life, and with its single eye and tongue, it ends up looking almost exactly like the youkai chochin-obake with legs. Look at how much fun that thing is having.
I'm glad that if Cthulhu had to show up in Gravity Falls, it was as a minor background monster far secondary to Bill, and that we don't see him doing much except getting angry and territorial towards a giant, hovering ear. That's definitely something Cthulhu would do.
The Horrifying Sweaty One-Armed Monstrosity
Voiced by and resembling Louis C.K, all this guy can do is drag himself around and try to convince people to climb into his mouth so he can eat them. I say this a lot, but this is one of those times when the absurdity of something only adds to its horror. Sweaty is hilarious, but he's also straight out of a nightmare, and not so ridiculous when he finally gets somebody cornered with that arm.
Stuffed Animal Tree
The second episode of Weirdmageddon focuses on the relationship between Dipper and Mabel, both trapped in a bright, cheerful fantasy world generated from Mabel's imagination. It's also a prison concocted by Bill, and when the colorful facade breaks down, it breaks down beautifully.
I love how that plush dog develops an eye on its nose.
One of Bill's best tricks is the alternate version of Wendy, Dipper's crush throughout the show, who crumbles into a mass of fat, red larvae once the jig is up. Did Hirsch know this was exactly a real thing in nature? The Wendygrubs are even the right color!
Dipper is eventually taken to adorable, stuffed animal court, but when Mabel starts to defy her own fantasy world, the cute residents go haywire and the adorable, giant kitten judge rips open magnificently. I've never seen a yarn monster this terrifying, and trust me, I've seen yarn monsters.
Bill's Flying Eyes
These winged eyeballs are Bill's most common sentries, and fire a beam that causes instant petrification. Simple, but cool, and in the post-ending, we see a flock of them chased out of a barn.
It's a cute gag, but it also indicates that the eyeball bats are relatively harmless without Bill's guidance and many now remain in our world among the other monsters of Gravity Falls. A bunch of flying eyes left over from a cosmic villain's failed apocalypse are definitely one of the cooler additions to the town's mysteries. I could even see them being part of the breadcrumb trail to Bill's inevitable escape. Speaking of which...
Seen before in silhouette, Bill finally introduces us to his "friends," supposedly a band of rogues and villains collected from throughout the multiverse. Basically, anything "crazy" enough to think Bill is a good boss to follow, which explains why there's really only a few of them. They're not quite the "Lovecraftian horrors" fans theorized they would be, but it feels much more appropriate that they resemble such an eclectic collection of objects and symbols to complement Bill himself. They consist of:
Whereas Bill is a triangle with only an eye, Hectorgon is a hexagon with only a mouth and a dapper 'stache. We don't learn much about him otherwise, but he's apparently Alex Hirsch's favorite.
We probably see the most of 8-Ball out of all the "henchmaniacs," so he kinda ends up feeling like Bill's #1 sidekick, even if he isn't supposed to be. His 8-Balls can swivel completely around in their sockets! I mean, like, the "8" can rotate to the inside of his skull, it looks great. I love when monster's eyes spin that way.
What is it that makes 8-Balls seem so ominous? Is it the black? The organic symmetry of the number 8? Their importance in pool? Why ARE they important in pool? I don't really know anything about pool and I know I could google it but I'm going to assume the 8-ball is the bad one, the renegade, the most evil ball of all.
I almost thought Keyhole was one of the least interesting of the bunch, until I stopped to appreciate the intro shot of him frantically running off with a big box of keys. What a greedy little pervert.
I think Teeth might actually be my favorite. There's just something perfect about a character who's nothing but teeth and gums. That's it, really. There's not much more to Teeth and there doesn't need to be.
Pacifire is basically just a giant demon baby, except his nipples are also eyes and his pacifier plugs the firebreathing, mangled mouth in his stomach, which I completely missed the first time through these episodes. Not bad!
There's also something about giant babies that's almost automatically terrifying. Maybe it's just that we already know that a baby will test both the fragility and edibility of almost anything in front of them and simply cannot be reasoned with on any comprehensible level.
The closest to Bill visually, though Kryptos is formed from a ruler and a compass, and you know, it occurs to me that basing monsters like this on man-made (or so we think?) icons and objects is a lot freakier and more cryptic than fully organic designs.
You look at a tentacled polyp from space, and you can pretty much deduce that it just evolved under alien conditions. A rhombus made of paperclips comes at you and you're going to have a lot of questions about the nature of the universe as a whole.
I'm afraid this is the one dip in quality we're going to see here. Don't get me wrong, I like Pyronica in and of herself, especially the "Real Monsters" vibe of her oversized, big-mouthed cyclops head, but it's a glaring cliche for there to be just one lady in a given group of characters and an even bigger cliche for the one lady to have a super hot bod, which I realize also makes a nicely terrible pun here, so points for that, but it still sticks out like a sore thumb both by the standards of this series and the inventive strangeness of every other monster in her posse.
I suppose I'm also disappointed that Pyronica was almost going to compensate (a little) with the most grotesque imagery the bunch, a head of uncomfortably if subtly yonic nematodes pouring from her head. They are admittedly a bit much when she also has hair, flames, horns and a cape going on, but that's why you scrap some of those elements first. Yonic nematodes should take precedence over any and all other character details in all contexts. Don't they teach that exact thing in art school, day one??? They would in mine.
The Lava Lamp With a Hat
Bottom left. This is the only minion never named or introduced, with no speaking roles, no close-ups, basically no scenes whatsoever. Why?
Could it be Lava Lamp With a Hat is simply too terrifying, too vulgar, too monstrous for audiences to handle in more than brief, background cameos? I think we all know the answer has to be a resounding "yes."
The Amorphous Shape
In other words, "shapeless shape." Cute! Introduced to us, but almost never seen after that and never seen alone, which is a shame, because amorphous might be one of the most intriguing of the gang, really looking like I'd imagine an entity from an alien reality. Maybe it would have just been too frustrating to animate.
Xanthar, The Thing Whose Name Must Never be Said
Just that full title immediately following Xanthar's name is one of my favorite jokes in the show. Xanthar is also one of the coolest looking of the minions. In earlier conceptual designs, it had a whole "island" or "mountain" on its back, including a dilapidated house, which might have been a little more interesting, but I can still appreciate a big, moldy bread-loaf looking ape with a party hat.
Only seen momentarily, 88 Faces isn't one of "the gang" but they at least like it enough to hang out with it in their lair. We can only see around sixteen faces from this angle though, so there has to be at least 72 crammed on the other side. I'm sure they're all just as precious.
I don't have a lot to say, except that we can thank Gravity Falls for bringing the line "I have some children I have to turn into corpses" to the Disney Channel. That was your plan from day one, wasn't it, Alex?
This actually happens at the beginning of the apocalypse, but Bill Cipher "swapping all the functions" of a guy's facial orifices is possibly the scariest and funniest moment in the series.
...And that's it. The end. The end of the monsters and the end of the show.
I think about other cartoons I've loved that aren't made anymore, almost all because the network simply pulled the plug or everyone involved ran out of ideas and passion to work on the same show. I think about those lucky few who came back from this sort of "death" in some form or another - Comedy Central's Futurama seasons, Invader Zim's comic series - and I realize that there's pretty much nothing better for a series than to end "just when it's really getting good."
Gravity Falls made a bold decision to do that on purpose, unlike any other successful animated comedy, and I just wonder if it's ever going to happen again or this quirky experiment will remain something unique and special.