Our favorite TV shows are crammed with so many tiny details that would ordinarily sail over viewers' heads like so much boat-shaped ephemera. Fortunately for you, we're here to help unearth these hidden gems. This time around, we're looking at some of your favorite cartoons.
On the face of it, Gravity Falls and Rick And Morty are as dissimilar as two shows could be. They both revolve about shenanigan-prone duos, but it's hard to really compare when one is for kids and built on a solid foundation of brother/sister love, and the other is an adult series with the soul of garbage swampland shack on which someone has spray-painted the words "child abuse," "nihilism," and "alcohol poisoning."
That said, there is one thing that the shows share: a love of goofy Easter eggs. Before Alex Hirsch created Gravity Falls and Justin Roiland created Rick And Morty, they worked together on the kids show Fish Hooks. This kick-started not only an endearing friendship, but also a long-running game of "spot the reference."
For instance, in the Rick And Morty Season 3 premiere "The Rickshank Rickdemption," Summer and Morty are escorted past a pair of alternate universe Mortys whose headgear matches that of Dipper and Mabel, the main characters of Gravity Falls.
In "Rest And Ricklaxation," Rick and Morty stumble across the emancipated corpse of a goop monster sporting pool balls for eyes -- a cameo by 8-Ball from Gravity Falls.
In "Morty's Mind Blowers," two memory vials labelled "BILL_C" and "Stanford" can be seen -- which are the names of two recurring characters from Gravity Falls, Stanford Pines and Bill Cipher.
Speaking of Bill Cipher, he makes countless (or at least four) appearances in Rick And Morty, such on this alien marriage counselor's computer screen ...
... among other brief cameos in "The Wirly Dirly Conspiracy," "Morty's Mind Blowers," and "Rickmancing The Stone."
The best Easter egg of all, however, was a direct tie-in to Hirsch's show. In the Gravity Falls episode "Society Of The Blind Eye," three objects -- a notebook, a coffee mug, and a pen -- get sucked into a portal ... which apparently connects to the universe of Rick and Morty, seeing as these same three objects are later ejected from a portal that Rick creates in "Close Encounters Of The Rick Kind."
Considering that The Simpsons has been around for untold millennia (and will continue to be), you'd think that the artists working on the show would put some effort into ironing out its wonkier elements, like the jokes or the writing or the soft racis-
Oh, Jesus Christ. As it turns out, the art style of the show means that none of its characters can look forward, only left or right. Which is a bit of a problem, considering that some scenes require their heads to, well, move. This means that hitting "pause" at the right moment (or wrong time, if you're prone to night terrors) results in your favorite character resembling an anthropomorphic traffic cone having its face squeezed in a vise.
It's such a phenomenon that there's even a blog dedicated to documenting the most horrific examples. Which must be as lighthearted and un-nightmare-inducing a task sometimes as running a website that documents war crimes or keeps a tally of children who drown in backyard swimming pools.
Have you ever noticed that Bobby Hill doesn't much resemble his father? We're not genetic experts or anything, but it's kinda weird that they don't look anything alike. Hank (or "Propane Daddy" as we call him) is tall, capable, and brown-haired, whereas Bobby is short, portly, uncoordinated, and blond.
According to one theory, however, this all makes total sense. Hank isn't Bobby's father. This guy is:
That's Bill Dauterive, Hank's friend, neighbor, and all-around failure at life. A recurring joke in the show is that Hank has a narrow urethra ( a real medical condition, believe it or not), which led to him and Peggy having great trouble making Bobby. The show reveals that getting a puppy relaxed Hank enough for them to conceive, but this theory holds that in truth, Peggy and Bill slyly hooked up and then went their separate ways ... forgetting that they live next door to each other.
It's a persuasive idea, not least because it explains an awful lot about Bill -- from his crush on Peggy, to how he keeps winding up doing typical father-son bonding activities with Bobby, to how he once passed on a super secret family recipe to Bobby. Oh, and the fact that he flat out states that he's jealous of Hank's family, which is a super creepy thing to say about your friends -- try it and see! -- unless there's some prior history there.
Now that we've all calmed down and aren't continually flying into apoplectic rages about cartoon characters, it's time that we dug into the biggest issue with the Minions: Were they Nazis? After all, their movie reveals that they're not just weird science mutants (as Despicable Me implies), but in fact godless creatures from the dawn of time that have been biologically compelled to follow history's vilest monsters.
It seems that the creators of Minions beat us to the punch on this particular question, though, as there's already an in-universe explanation for why they couldn't be Nazis. And no, it's not because they're banana-hued and therefore unsuitable to serve a white supremacist regime. It's because while serving Napoleon, they accidentally shot him with a cannon, and as punishment, they condemned themselves to live in exile in the Arctic until (at least) 1968.
It's a mystery why they didn't simply write the Minions as refusing to serve Hitler rather than leave open the possibility that they would have if they could. But at least now we can look at those memes our moms keep sending without lapsing into a thousand-yard stare and wondering if it's possible for a cartoon character to be tried for war crimes.
Steven Universe is one of the most joyous shows on television. It's beloved for its writing, characters, art style, clever foreshadowing, and music. And we have to give a special shout out to that soundtrack, because it's not just awesome, but also much, much cleverer than you may realize.
Nearly every character in the show has a specific musical instrument assigned to them that represents a facet of their personality. Steven, for instance, is represented in the soundtrack by a ukulele and/or chiptunes. Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are, respectively, accompanied by synth bass, electric drums, and the piano. One clever soul actually went through the entirety of the show and identified each character's instrument -- a list that's definitely worth a read if you like music, symbolism, or both.
This isn't super rare for television, especially kids shows, but what elevates Steven Universe is how thought-out the motifs are. As soon as a character appears onscreen, their assigned instrument is immediately incorporated into the background music for as long as they're present, even if it's just for a second.
Also, if two gem characters fuse into bigger alien beings (it's complicated), their musical motifs merge too. If the uptight Pearl (piano) and sloppy Amethyst (electric drums) fuse, the result is a motif where the previously wild drum beats "become structured and formulaic," while the previously restrained piano "becomes energetic and erratic." The musical shift signifies not only the characters who fused, but also how the fusions create harmony and make the participants better.
This might be hard to wrap your head around if you don't watch the show, so thanks for sticking with us. The only solution we can recommend is that you go and watch the show. All of it. Right now. We don't promise results, but we do promise that you will have watched some quality television.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!
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