Yet another reason why I love Gravity Falls

Last night, my nine-year-old daughter Jane and I watched an episode of our favorite cartoon together: Gravity Falls. (See Jane's interview with the creator of Gravity Falls, Alex Hirsch, here.)

In the episode, the kids break into a derelict 7-Eleven style convenience store and find out that it's haunted. Inside the store, 12-year-old Mabel discovers a cache of powdered sugar candy called Smile Dip, which has strong psychedelic qualities. While she is drooling and glassy eyed, she goes on an incredible inner journey, as evidenced in the video snippet above.

At the end of the episode, some random-looking text appears on the screen for a second or so: RQZDUGV DRVKLPD! I paused the video and snapped a photo:

Jane reminded me that the beginning of every episode has a weird cartoony occult image that flashes on the screen for a fraction of the second. This image, also, contains random-looking text: VWDQ LV QRW ZKDW KH VHHPV

It's text written in a substitution cipher. Jane and I had cracked that cryptogram a couple of months ago. It says, STAN IS NOT WHAT HE SEEMS (Stan is Dipper and Mabel's great uncle, proprietor of the Mystery Shack occult curio store located in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.)

Jane and I used the same substitution cipher to attempt to decode the text from the episode we saw last night. We came up with: ONWARDS AOSHIMA!

"That doesn't seem right," I told Jane. But Jane said, "No! That's what Mabel says when she's riding the dolphin." She was right!

What does "Onwards Aoshima" mean? Google revealed that a lot of people have already cracked the cryptogram, and that every episode of Gravity Falls has a cryptogram at the end of it. but I haven't come across any explanation of what the term means. Aoshima is an island in Japan, but what does that have to do with Gravity Falls? The mystery deepens!

Gravity Falls is a thoroughly enjoyable cartoon. These little puzzles that are sprinkled throughout each episode take it to another level. I love this show.

Gravity Falls on The Disney Channel


  1. Just takin a stab in the dark with the googles, but could Aoshima be related to Chiho Aoshima  J-Pop artist?   

  2. John Aoshima apparently directs some of the episodes.

    I’m consistently impressed by Gravity Falls and how well it’s thought out, and I’m glad your daughter seems to be as into it as I am!

    1.  I have heard tell that Aoshima’s episode was made after this episode, but aired before this episode. So ‘the future is in the past!’ is a happy coincidence.

  3. I remember a candy like Smile Dip. The high sugar content kind of burned my tongue raw.
    * * *
    Man, I’m glad someone is gathering those cryptograms. My DVR keeps clipping the end of the episodes.

  4. Hunt down the Gravity Falls wiki. They suggest:”Mabel’s halucination dolphin Aoshima is likely named after Gravity Falls director John Aoshima.”

  5. Me and my 7 year old boy love this show… he loves Mabel, and I love that gnomes, when punched in the stomach hurl Rainbow vomit in a constant stream of awesomeness

  6. How does “VWDQ LV QRW ZKDW KH VHHP” decode to “STAN IS NOT WHAT HE SEEMS”?  That is, unless the cipher text is simply missing a V at the end of it.

    1. nevermind… Silly me – I just looked at the graphic and see what you mean.  It is just misspelled in the post.

  7. Another great thing about this episode: in the first Smile Dip hallucination scene, the creature that speaks nonsense to Mabel is actually saying “DON’T TRUST GRUNKLE” played backwards. Eerie!

  8. The little item that blew me away comes from episode #9, “the time traveler’s pig”.  In that episode a time traveler (Blendin Blandin) is sent back in time (after the closing credits by the horrific “Time Baby”) to fix all the time anomalies caused by the twins misadventures in time which includes visiting events in previous episodes.  so, if one managed to record those prior broadcast episodes and go back to check.. great googly moogly… you can just glimpse the time traveler in the background flitting about making those fixes (something we’d all ignore in our first viewing).  now that’s some global consideration in writing.

  9. I also love this show – But what’s with the “French” animation style noses? They are really off-putting, mostly as it puts me in mind of poorly dubbed French shows from my youth. :)

  10. Last week’s episode (“Summerween”) had a fantastic Spirited Away homage, when the Summerween Trickster morphed into a monster made up of cut-rate Halloween candy that was a dead ringer for No-Face.  LOVE.  THIS.  SHOW.

  11. The Pacific Northwest is not the only connection to Twin Peaks…”The owls are not what they seem” is the second message the Giant gives to Agent Cooper.

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