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This article contains spoilers for both seasons of Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls.
Whether you lived it up at camp, lounged out by the pool, or had the time of your life at a Dirty Dancing retreat, your summer will never measure up to the one Mabel and Dipper Pines spent in Gravity Falls, Oregon.
Living with their great uncle (“Grunkle”) Stan at the Mystery Shack, the twins encounter enough adventure for a lifetime as they slowly piece together the sleepy tourist town’s more mysterious side. From pie at Lazy Susan’s cafe to sleepovers with Grenda and Candy, nothing is ever straightforward in Gravity Falls, and the fortuitous find of a handbook pulls the twins—especially Dipper—in deeper than they could’ve dreamed.
On the surface, the Disney series gives kids a goofy storyline about obnoxious rivals like Lil Gideon, weird stuff like Multi-Bear, and sibling shenanigans. For adults, the show goes much, much further, with codes and clues laced throughout, references to pop culture, and a voice acting cast to die for. Here are some of the show’s hidden secrets that its cryptograms didn’t already share.
12 magical facts about Disney’s Gravity Falls
1) Creator Alex Hirsch has a twin, just like Dipper
Alex and Ariel Hirsch were born in Piedmont, California, which gets a sly mention on Dipper’s duffel bag in the opening credits. Ariel Hirsch apparently always wanted a pet pig growing up, which is why Alex Hirsch decided to give Mabel a pig in the series. But small hat tips aside, the Hirsches’ relationship laid fundamental groundwork for the Pines twins’ loving dynamic.
Although many people assume that siblings in a show will stereotypically get on each other’s nerves, Hirsch never intended Dipper and Mabel to act that way.
He even said he came up with a “10 commandments” of their relationship, which, even though it turned out to be more like six guiding principles, he ultimately shared in a Reddit AMA session. Making sure the team was on the same page about the twins’ motivations, jealousies, and goals (e.g., “Dipper wants to grow up too fast. Mabel doesn’t.”) was critical to informing the writing on the show.
2) The show is chock-full of Twin Peaks references
There’s another popular show about a sleepy Pacific Northwest town and the mysteries that surround it, but you certainly won’t find its reruns on the Disney Channel: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Hirsch explained in an interview with Comics Alliance that he’s a big fan of Twin Peaks, but he didn’t expect his audience to pick up on the nods. Just take a look at the Club in Gravity Falls and see if you notice any similarities to Twin Peaks’ Red Room.
“I thought it would be funny to… not even parody it, but acknowledge with some design choices that influence,” Hirsch said. “I’ve been very surprised and pleased that people have picked up on it and embraced it.”
3) The show wasn’t actually intended for adults
“When we wrote these episodes, we didn’t know if anybody over the age of seven would be watching them, and man, is it rewarded,” Hirsch explained in an interview with Comics Alliance.
Of course, there’s a longstanding tradition of some more adult humor tucked away beneath the surface of some of Disney’s biggest movies, so hiding an extra layer of meaning in a Disney TV show isn’t completely unexpected.
4) Kristen Schaal was always the first choice for Mabel
A great premise and talented animators are all well and good, but it’s hard to imagine Gravity Falls without the vocal talents of Kristen Schaal bringing Mabel to life. And, in fact, Alex Hirsch couldn’t.
“I knew from the get-go that it’s got to be Kristen Schaal or there’s no show,” he told the A.V. Club in 2012. “I would’ve just stopped working. If we hadn’t gotten her, I would have probably quit.” He’d later admit there were other actors on his wish list (like Jon Stewart, who would later appear as Judge Kitty Kitty Meow Meow Face-Shwartstein, because of course), but for Mabel, it was Schaal or bust.
But after two seasons of working together, it seems Schaal had grown even more attached to the character than Hirsch could’ve hoped. Here’s her reaction to reading the last line of the series:
5) Gravity Falls shares more than a few Easter eggs with Rick and Morty
Twin Peaks isn’t the only show that gets a tip of the cap from Gravity Falls. Rick and Morty has provided some ample animation cross-pollination over the years too. Most notably, props that disappeared in Gravity Falls keep finding their way into Rick and Morty scenes, including Grunkle Stan’s notepad and coffee mug, and maybe even one of the journals, all of which snuck into Rick and Morty’s season 3 premiere. Is there something going on here fans should know about? Nah. It turns out Hirsch and Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland are just buddies sharing a laugh.
“The truth is just that we’ve been friends since before we had TV shows, and enjoy messing with people,” Hirsch told the Mary Sue. That much is apparent: Hirsch voiced Toby Matthews in a 2015 Rick and Morty episode, and Hirsch even got to be one of the few to try McDonald’s Szechuan sauce after the company mailed a batch to Roiland.
But is that it? “Although if we WERE planning something big we’d definitely deny it—so I guess you’ll never know!”
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6) There’s really a Bill the Cipher statue
Bill the Cipher is the creepiest villain in Gravity Falls, so it’s only fitting that he got a spooky resurrection IRL. Hirsch sent fans on a scavenger hunt from Russia to Oregon to track down this real-world show tribute.
Though he was normally animated, just like the rest of the show, his concrete statue form first appeared in some grainy footage in the show’s series finale. Desperate for just one more mystery to solve, fans were elated when Hirsch announced the hunt was on with a cryptic tweet before San Diego Comic Con 2016.
Dipper and Mabel's journey is over but what about yours? Go out and explore, have an adventure, and stay weird. pic.twitter.com/hl65KUEsFI
— GravityFallsCipher (@TheMysteryofGF) February 16, 2016
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) July 20, 2016
Fans all across the globe quickly deciphered the clues and followed along as the scavenger hunt took them from Russia to Japan to Atlanta to Rhode Island. Less than two weeks later, fans located the statue itself outside of Reedsport, Oregon. But it wasn’t just the statue that awaited adventurers as a reward: Hirsch had included a pile of other loot, including “a smaller version of Bill’s statue, fake money, a drawing of the Pines family, Bill’s statue (it read “Trust No One” under UV light), and a couple of messages congratulating the treasure seekers.”
Hirsch was proud of his fans for jumping through all of the hunt’s various hoops, including a puzzle, international cooperation, and, of course, code-cracking.
7) Not all of the show’s random numbers are codes
It seems like everywhere you look, there’s another hidden code or message in Dipper and Mabel’s universe. Just a quick peek into the journals has so many, jammed onto a single page. But it would have been a Herculean effort to ensure every scrawl had a secret meaning behind it.
Hirsch says he hid the number 618 liberally throughout the show, especially when he needed a little filler, since he and his sister were born on June 18. But some fans noticed it was everywhere and read a little too much into it. They wound up finding not only all the intentionally hidden references to 618—the address of the Mystery Shack, Gideon’s school ID, the cash register balance—but also digging up what they thought were more 618s that were just random items that had that familiar shape.
“They started finding hidden 618s that are imaginary, like, the shape of boats from a distance looks like a six and a pillar looks like a one and the letter b, uppercase and upside down looks like an eight. That kind of stuff,” Hirsch told the A.V. Club. “I think it’s been really encouraging. The more the fans love it, the more I want to do it.”
There’s at least one other series of numbers and letters with no exciting meaning behind them: In the season 1 episode “Headhunters,” the number G/F#103 BCT126 appears in the corner of the screen, but this is likely just a production label that got left behind.
8) The end-credits cryptograms can all be cracked
Diligent fans have deciphered each and every end-credits code, because of course they have. In early episodes, the code-breaking relied on simple substitution ciphers like the Caesar and Atbash ciphers, but after Hirsch and his team realized fans were quickly breaking all their codes, they upped the degree of difficulty.
If you haven’t taken the time to crack them all, you should. The secret lies in listening to the opening credits song in reverse, so you can hear the whispered instructions that tell you which cipher to use.
But if you’re feeling lazy, the Gravity Falls wiki includes an episode-by-episode guide to the cryptograms and their solutions. Many are silly throwaway lines, like the loquacious “whatevs” at the end of “Sock Opera.” But every now and then, they offer real clues about the plot, like “Stan is not what he seems,” which appears at the end of “Soos and the Real Girl.”
9) Gravity Falls merch is a grassroots effort
For some reason, Disney hasn’t decided to shell out for merchandise for Gravity Falls fans—no DVDs, no plushies, nothing. But Hirsch and the global community in love with all things Dipper and Mabel aren’t going to settle for that without a fight.
The Mystery of Gravity Falls is a small operation aimed at getting Gravity Falls fans the merch they so long for. There’s a letter-writing campaign for a DVD box set, and a small batch of Grunkle Stan bobble heads was also released into the wild. “That guy is like my guardian angel,” Hirsch told the Mary Sue. “He’s some kind of brilliant, crazed super-fan who understands the show better than Disney ever did.”
10) Disney censored out a same-sex couple
Early storyboards of the scene in “The Love God” in which a bunch of diner patrons fall in love with one another featured two little old ladies coupling up. “It was sweet and casual and I knew INSTANTLY that it was going to turn into a huge fight with Disney. So naturally I left it in,” Hirsch explained to the Mary Sue. But this led to half a dozen conversations with Disney’s censorship team. “They basically admitted that there was no good reason why I should change it, but that they get complaints about this stuff from various homophobic parents and would rather avoid the headache, and couldn’t I just drop it?”
Disney finally aired its first animated same-sex kiss in Star Wars vs. the Forces of Evil in February 2017.
11) Mabel once had to be hospitalized for trying to eat scratch-and-sniff stickers
This delightful piece of trivia brought to you by Alex Hirsch.
12) There was an unaired pilot
Alex Hirsch doesn’t talk about it much—“That thing was a mess!” he said on Reddit—but the entire clip was uploaded after the Cipher Hunt in 2016. You can watch it here with the username “RETURNBACKWARDS” and password “TOTHEPASTAGAINTHREE”—but don’t expect it to look like the Gravity Falls you know and love. Hirsch brought in a new team after the pilot was greenlit.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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