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Is "Gravity Falls" Grunkle Stan "Not What He Seems" ? Disney XD episode answers big questions tonight

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Is "Gravity Falls" Grunkle Stan "Not What He Seems" ? Disney XD episode answers big questions tonight

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It's a question that has been nagging at "Gravity Falls" viewers ever since this Emmy Award-winning series first debuted on the Disney Channel back in June of 2012: What is the deal with Grunkle Stan?

I mean, sure. There's a lot that fans of this Emmy Award-winning animated series already know about Stan Pines. That he loves fleecing the rubes ... I mean "customers" who come by the Mystery Shack, that tumbledown roadside attraction which Pines runs. And while he may not be the greatest role model for his grand-nephew & niece, Stan does seem to genuinely care about the twins Dipper & Mabel.

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And yet, from the very first episode of "Gravity Falls," "Tourist Trapped,"  there were signs that Grunkle Stan really shouldn't be trusted. From that SPOILER ALERT secret passageway which is hidden behind a vending machine in the Mystery Shack's gift shop to that enormous whatever-it-is deep down in Pines' underground lab which Stan uses information from Dipper's journal to fire up in the last episode of Season One, "Gideon Rises" ... There are aspects of Stan Pines that are genuinely disturbing.

And as Season Two of this Disney XD series unspooled, there were "Gravity Falls" fans who were desperate to learn more about what Grunkle Stan was up to. Which is why they decoded each & every secret message that had been stashed in the show's credits. Not to mention repeatedly watch every episode of "Gravity Falls" and then freeze-framing particular moments. All with the hope that something which was hidden in the background might then hold the key to uncovering the central mystery that seems to be driving this show's overall storyline.

And you know who's thrilled about all these viewers who hop on Twitter & Facebook immediately after each episode of "Gravity Falls" airs so that they can then immediately share their thoughts about the latest plot twists? Series creator Alex Hirsch.

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"When a new episode of "Gravity Falls' airs, the 24 hours that follow are -- for me, anyway -- some sort of weird combination of Christmas morning and getting your report card. Immediately there are innumerable crazy and fun tributes online, great pieces of fan art, things that show how engaged people are with what we've been doing with 'Gravity Falls,' " Hirsch explained. "Mind you, I'm a 'The customer is always right' kind of guy. If some guy says 'That episode wasn't so hot,' I don't say 'Get out of my life.' I say 'Yeah, no, you're probably right. There's a lesson to be learned here.' I've very much engaged in seeing what the fan response to the show is. Trying to discover what provokes passion among our audience and what provokes 'Meh.' "

And given how well the first season of "Gravity Falls" was received ... Well, Alex was ready to really step up his storytelling with Season Two of this Disney Television Animation production.

"And it wasn't just me. The artists who work on 'Gravity Falls' -- now that they knew that people were really enjoying the sort of season-long storytelling we were trying to do here -- they wanted to step up their game as well," Hirsch continued. "That's why -- just before we officially started working on Season Two -- me and all the artists who work on this show took a road trip together. It was like 11 art nerds in a van driving the California coast up to the tip of Oregon and back down. We stopped at every single roadside tourist trap that we could find and then took a million pictures."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And that was all because they wanted to get the world that Stan Pines lives in and works in right. A world that's sure to change when "Not What He Seems," airs tonight on Disney XD at 8:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. Central.

"We know that we're taking a big chance when we do something like this. We know that we could possibly turn off viewers. 'Gravity Falls' fans might say 'This isn't what I signed up for,' " Alex stated. "But as I and the great team of artists I work with were blocking out Season Two, we kept asking ourselves 'What would we want to watch? and What would be fun to write?' I mean, if you have a character who -- every time they appear onscreen -- you can sort of suspect what they're going to do next ... Well, that character then becomes one note. Repetitious. And we're not interested in repeating ourselves on 'Gravity Falls.' "

And not repeating themselves has clearly been paying off. Given that -- just last month -- Alex and the "Gravity Falls" production team were honored at a 2015 Annie Award for the Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For a Childrens Audience.

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But that was last month. Whereas tonight, some very big questions will be answered on this Disney Television Animation production. In fact, as SPOILER ALERT government agents take Stan into custody, Dipper & Mabel then begin question how much they really know about their Grunkle Stan.

"When I first pitched this show to the Disney Channel, I shared my 'Gravity Falls' mission statement. The road map -- if you will -- for where this show is headed. Because what we're really trying to do here is honestly experimental for a kid's animated television show," Alex said. "Combining half hour stories with season-long arcs like this, it's kind of uncharted territory. The people writing on this show have certainly never done it before. So we're all kind of learning as we go."

"But 'Gravity Falls' -- as I imagine it, anyway -- definitely does have a beginning, a middle and an end. I mean, it's all about this one insane summer that these 12 or 13 year-old twins have just before they become teenagers. And so far, we feel very fortunate that what we hoped people would feel while they're watching this show is mostly tracking. What people feel while they're watching, you can never fully predict an audience's response. But so far with 'Gravity Falls,' I could not ask for a better audience response," Hirsch concluded.

"Gravity Falls" fans finally learn what the deal really is with Grunkle Stan when "Not What He Seems" airs on Disney XD tonight. 

This story was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on March 9, 2015

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