Shows with a strong scientific backbone are awesome, right? It opens up a world of extended possibilities, from aliens, supernatural creatures, and mutations to cool inventions, suspicious concoctions, and those horrific-but-mesmerizing lab experiment scenes. But there’s one thing I’ve noticed that seems to separate a good show from the rest and make it great, particularly in animation: portals.
Let’s take a look at three such portals that became an important element in their respective cartoons.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 series)
The main portals we see in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are those that lead between the Earth, where the turtles reside, and Dimension X, home of the Kraang aliens. There are small portable portals, which can be activated and used to travel across several different dimensions (although these are susceptible to being shut off from the other side). However, the main one is the Trans-Dimensional Portal, a mega-portal that the Kraang built on the top floor of the T.C.R.I. building.
This portal requires the Power Cell, which the turtles get from Leatherhead but then lose it back to the Kraang, who use it to open up their portal in “TCRI” and bring across Traag, a stone monster who spews lava. The turtles cannot destroy Traag or the portal in time, but Leatherhead pulls the monster back through the portal into Dimension X to save his friends. Later, in “Showdown,” the turtles do their best to destroy the portal again, but they are too late and the gigantic Technodrome gets through, which they must now defeat before the Kraang can begin their plans to mutate the planet.
The portal in Gravity Falls is introduced at the very end of the first season as a secret project Stan Pines has been working on in the Mystery Shack’s basement, and becomes a subtle yet key element of the show until eleven episodes into season two, when we learn Stan’s big secret: he has a twin brother, Ford, who comes out of the portal after 30 years of traveling through dimensions on the other side of it (after first being accidentally knocked into it by his brother). It’s arguably one of, if not the biggest moment of the show, and it gives reasoning to everything Stan has done in the past three decades, including opening up the Mystery Shack to pay off the bills while he works on the machine at night.
But the portal’s significance doesn’t stop there. After Ford is revealed, he tells Dipper why it was so risky that Stan activated the portal again, and why Ford dismantled it: the instability of the machine created an inter-dimensional rift too dangerous for the world it feeds into. Later on, we find out exactly how dangerous it would be when Bill Cipher sets his sights on the contained rift. Eventually he tricks Mabel and gets the rift, crushing it to pieces so he can enter their dimension and bring about Weirdmageddon, despite the portal being destroyed.
Ghost portals are so crucial in Danny Phantom that they’re even featured in the theme song. There are both natural portals (like those found with the Infi-Map) and man-made ones, most prominently the Fenton Portal. Jack and Maddie Fenton built this portal in the hopes of opening up a gateway to a dimension known as the Ghost Zone, but it didn’t work. But when their son, Danny, goes into the portal to show his friends, he accidentally activates it and gets electrocuted, becoming half-ghost, half-human and gaining superpowers to become Danny Phantom. (Note: Vlad Masters, Danny’s arch-nemesis, gains his ghost powers in a similar way with the much smaller proto-portal.) Without the portal, there would be no basis for the show.
Beyond Danny’s initial lab accident, however, the portal allows Danny and his friends to travel between the human realm and the Ghost Zone, where they encounter a variety of spectral friends and foes that they must help or fight off. More often than not, however, it’s the ghosts who are coming through the portal and wreaking havoc on Amity Park, creating compelling storylines in which Danny must defend his hometown and send the ghosts back to their own dimension.
All of these portals are so important to their shows. They literally open up more worlds for characters to explore, and can be fickle but crucial pieces to the story, making them a staple of science fiction and a promising element for fans to be excited about.