In what appears to be a concession to the “Family Guy” school of primetime animation, Disney Channel gets just a bit edgier with “Gravity Falls,” a supernatural-caper series that also owes a debt to “Scooby Doo.” The brainchild of twentysomething animator Alex Hirsch, the show has a breezy quality that should play to kids, and tickle some twinges of nostalgia among their parents. A regular 9:30 p.m. slot (after a preview following the movie “Let It Shine”) indicates the goal is clearly to see if “Gravity” can pull in an older cohort.
The show involves twins Dipper (voiced by Jason Ritter) and the more enthusiastic Mabel (Kristin Schaal), who are dispatched to spend the summer with their great uncle Stan (Hirsch) in the Oregon town of Gravity Falls. Their environs, however, are more than a little strange, with “X-Files”-like things that go bump in the night — unless of course it’s all in their overactive imaginations.
Loosely autobiographical in its inspiration (Hirsch, who shares writing credit with creative director Michael Rianda, spent summers with his own twin sister), “Gravity” incorporates amusing bits, like the level-headed Dipper citing the importance of photographically documenting the sea monster they’re pursuing, only to have Mabel and sidekick Soos either lose or destroy most of the disposable cameras he’s brought with them.
Hardly racy or raunchy enough to harbor much interest for young guys, the show nevertheless feels more adventurous in its tone than is customary for Disney Channel fare, while rooted in the highly relatable notion of the trouble kids can get into minus adult supervision. (Their uncle doesn’t provide much, fleecing tourists by selling knickknacks out of the Mystery Shack.)
Will it all be enough to help “Gravity Falls” attract an audience to a channel whose main strength lies with tween girls? That’s one mystery likely to be solved relatively soon.