‘Gravity Falls’ Creator Reveals Language Disney Tried to Edit – The Hollywood Reporter
Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch has revealed a number of the notes he said he received from Disney regarding the age-appropriateness of the show’s pitched content.
As part of a series of threads celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the animated series, which ran from 2012 to 2016 on Disney Channel, the Gravity Falls creator — who in 2018 publicly made the jump from Disney to Netflix with a multi-year overall deal to produce both kids and adult animation — tweeted a four-minute narrated video detailing requests to remove or edit specific jokes, sequences and character interactions.
Hirsch said the notes were provided to him and the Gravity Falls team by the studio’s Standards and Practices department, which at a TV network is responsible for ensuring programming adheres to the moral, ethical and legal standards of the station it airs on.
The video begins with the message: “The following are real emails from the Disney TV standards and practices department.” It then rolls right into the requested edits, featuring exact page numbers and dates going back to September 2011, which Hirsch refused to make or challenged. That includes one about the use of the word “poop face” and the word “hoo-ha.”
“Please revise poop face as it comes across as a replacement for ‘shitface.’ Prior use of Mabel saying ‘poop, poop and butts’ in the episode ‘Fight Fighters’ came across as more childlike and not as offensive,” the narrated S&P note says, before another states, “It has come to our attention that ‘hoo-ha’ is a slang term for vagina. Please revise.”
Hirsch responded to the initial edit by dismissing that any child watching would find the term “poop face” offensive. As for “hoo-ha,” he wrote, “It is a proper word meaning excitement or hullabaloo and that is clearly its meaning here. The context is an owl-themed restaurant called Hoo-Ha’s Jamboree. Not changing.”
One last treat. Ever curious about the fights I had with the censors on Gravity Falls? I probably shouldn’t share this buttttt here are some REAL NOTES from DISNEY S&P and my REAL REPLIES. You are not prepared #10YearsOfGravityFalls pic.twitter.com/EioKU8gIJJ
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 16, 2022
The video features a number of notes related to adult understandings of terms or concepts applied within the context of a children’s show. That includes the use of crud for having an “inappropriate slang definition” and “chub,” which appeared on a character’s “chub pup” t-shirt. According to the request, “chub has a sexual connotation” — an edit for which Hirsch did offer suggested alternatives after pointing out it was referencing a dog’s stature. There’s even a note about a character dressing as a teddy bear being potentially problematic as “it may call to mind the people who dress up as stuffed animals as a ‘furry’ fetish.”
Content flags weren’t just about potential sexual innuendos a younger audience might not understand either. They also touched on cultural offensiveness or the representation of the show’s gay couple, which Hirsh has previously on several occasions publicly discussed having to fight to show. (Notably, in 2021, he criticized Disney on social media for selling Pride-related products while censoring LGBTQ representation in its shows.)
When it came to the duo, Sheriff Daryl Blubs and Deputy Durland, the Gravity Falls team was asked to “Please revise the action of Blubs putting his arm around Durland. As noted in previous concerns, their affectionate relationship should remain comical versus flirtatious.”
It also asked Hirsch and the show’s writing team to edit or remove the use of Lucifer and Holy Christmas on the grounds they may be religiously offensive, the former of which produced a rather lengthy response from the animation creative, who currently executive produces Inside Job at Netflix. He then ended it with a single question: “Why should we be held hostage to any imaginary knee-jerk career complainer who could conceivably go out of their way to pretend to be offended by this?”
In a follow-up tweet to the video, Hirsch responds to one person by declaring that the contents of the video are only the “tip” of the iceberg, before revealing how even the show’s use of that word was reviewed. “Brother this is the TIP of the iceberg,” he writes. “(Note, ‘tip’ sometimes refers to the tip of a penis. This has inappropriate connotations. Please revise).”
Hirsh is not the first animation creative to discuss the sometimes strange requests and censoring that can come out of a network’s S&P department. In response to a 2021 Twitter thread of industry workers pointing out the baffling and even comical things S&P departments had flagged within projects they worked on, OK K.O. Let’s Be Heroes creator Ian Jones-Quartey pointed out how one of his series’ characters was allowed to appear on the hood of a moving car of the Cartoon Network series as long as he was wearing a seatbelt.
The Annie and BAFTA award-winning Gravity Falls debuted on the Disney Channel on June 15, 2012, before ending its run in 2016. It would also air on DisneyXD beginning in 2014. The show followed twins Dipper and Mabel Pines, who — after being sent to spend the summer with their great-uncle Stan in the Oregon town known as Gravity Falls running his tourist trap The Mystery Shack — begin to investigate the town’s various local mysteries involving paranormal incidents and supernatural creatures.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Disney for comment.