Artist Research: Gravity Falls

2D animation, Animation, design, Final Major Project, Research, U6_U12, U_5

For my final major project, I have chosen to use animation as a medium to create a short 1-2 minute film. I’ve decided to research various artists and studios who focus on animation. Analysing and exploring their style and methods will allow me to take inspiration and understand the animation medium more, helping me when I will eventually get round to developing my short film.

I’ve decided to choose a studio and an animated film or series to research about.

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is an animated television series created by Alex Hirsch that aired on Disney X D from June 15, 2012 to February 15, 2016. The show follows the twins Dipper and Mabel Pines as they go to stay with their Great Uncle Stan Pines (Commonly referred to as Grunkle Stan,) in the fictitious town of Gravity Falls, Roadkill County, Oregon for their summer break. When Dipper Pines thinks that it couldn’t get any more boring, him and his sister discover some hidden secrets which soon begin to unravel the town’s many mysteries.


The main cast shown in the opening credits of the show. Featuring Soos, Dipper Pines, Grunkle Stan, Mabel Pines and Wendy Corduroy.

The series not only has a wonderfully comedic and lively story, but also has some great Disney Television animation to boot. The animation’s art style was crafted by the creator and CalArts alumni Alex Hirsch and is very cartoony and colourful. The character’s big, round eyes and abundance of curvy lines and amusing noodle-like limbs create a soft and charming approach to the art style which can be commonly found in many of today’s cartoon shows such as We Bare Bears, Adventure Time and Over The Garden Wall. With such a simplistic character style, it allows a lot of potential to shape and stretch the form in terms of both appearance and animation. The style carries through consistently among the wide cast of diverse looking characters ranging from differences backgrounds and sizes, making the world and the people in it contrasting and dynamic.

There is a subtle use of 3D animation int the series too, if you look hard enough. Of course, 3D elements are probably cell-shaded or rendered and traced over in 2D. For example, the golf cart in the first episode could have very possible been 3D. The way it moves and the angles shown in it’s animation is incredibly consistent and sort of lacks the rough characteristics of 2D in compensation for smoothness and production efficiency. It’s very well blended with the rest of the environment despite it’s contrastingly smooth motion. The filters and gradients are likely to be added in After Effects in post-production.

Not all shots would have had the golf cart in 3D though. Considering this, they probably used 3D in the more complex shots where the angle of the cart would have been too much too hand-draw. This method of integrating 3D animation into 2D to help aid production has become increasingly popular to Disney as well as many other animation studios out there.


Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation


Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation

The backgrounds all hold a very strong colour palette to really help set the mood and atmosphere of the scene. The lighting and gradients over some of them also really throw the scene together. There’s a variety of locations and a variety of environments throughout the show, all having their own unique personality, making the character’s adventures seem more vast and diverse.

The colour schemes and designs for the characters are all tailored towards their personality and style. For example, Mabel’s turtleneck changes multiple times throughout the series to show to her excitable and imaginative personality. The jumpers sometimes have various lights and added ornaments on them as a humourous point, but still fitting to her bubbly behaviour. In contrast, her twin brother wears nothing but the same clothes throughout most of the series as a way of representing his constant curiosity to everything around him.

The shading in most of the common, full-body shots are mostly flat. However, when it comes to close-ups or dramatic scenes, then cell shading is used to create a more dimensional appearance to the characters and, in some cases when the lighting is harsh or if the time of day is specific, it can add to the mood and expressions of their faces.


Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation


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