Imagine if Twin Peaks and The X-Files were made for little kids. Well, this sort of light-hearted foray into the paranormal and inexplicable is the basis for Gravity Falls, a new cartoon from Disney.

Young siblings Dipper Pines (Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines (Kristen Schall) have been sent to spend their summer in the town of Gravity Falls, located in the Pacific Northwest. They're staying with their great uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch), who runs the Mystery Shack. "Grunkle Stan" is a boorish guy, obsessed with money and his hokey, very fake "mysteries" he peddles to tourists. Dipper isn't happy to be there, but Mabel -- a hyperactive "girly girl" -- is thrilled.

But there's more to the sleepy town than meets the eye. Dipper finds a mysterious book with descriptions of the unexplained creatures and supernatural phenomena of the town -- along with the warning "Trust no one." So it's up to Dipper (scared) and Mabel (hyper) to uncover the truth in a town filled with sea monsters, kid psychics, a haunted convenience store, the beheading of a wax figure, and more.

The best cartoons appeal to both adults and children, and while Gravity Falls definitely skews towards little kids, there are quite a few jokes and references tossed in for the grown ups watching. Apart from the standard supernatural references, there are odd sayings ("Sweet! Beaver with a chainsaw!"), surprise appearances (the wax museum has such scary figures as Genghis Khan and Jack the Ripper -- plus Larry King and Coolio), and unexpected cultural references (the kid psychic looks and talks like a televangelist; when Mabel's weird boyfriend says he has a secret to tell her, she thinks, "Please be a vampire! Please be a vampire!").

Gravity Falls is far too cute to scare little kids, and this cute factor may sometimes be a little much for any adutls who watch it. But the show is fun (not to mention the only place you can see a magic gnome barfing up a rainbow), Kristen Schall is a delight as the hyperactive little girl, and even if the show never explains all the mysteries of the town, it has enough twisted fun ("Well, back to my death ray!") to keep audiences entertained.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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