Friday, May 25, 2007

Gargoyles

One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness, it was a world of fear, it was the age of Gargoyles. Stone by day, warriors by night, we were betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect, frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years. Now, here in Manhattan, the spell is broken and we live again! We are defenders of the night, we are Gargoyles!

Did anyone used to watch Gargoyles?

I loved this show when it was on. I’m not a huge follower of fantasy, but this show had me hooked with its nice mix of high technology, ancient magic, Shakespearian themes, gothic imagery, and crime drama.

In 994, a clan of Gargoyles, led by Goliath, has an uneasy kinship with the occupants of Castle Wyvern. They help the humans protect the castle from invaders while the humans protect the Gargoyles while they slept during the day. After a battle with Viking raiders, the Gargoyles were betrayed and cursed so that they would sleep until Castle Wyvern “rises above the clouds.”

Enter millionaire David Xanatos, who in 1994 buys the building and has it shipped and rebuilt brick by brick on top of his Manhattan skyscraper. The Gargoyles tussle with Xanatos and his robots, then move out to an old clock tower on top of the police station where Detective Maza works. It also turns out that Goliath’s mate Demona is alive and well and is pretty much evil after hating humans for the last thousands years.

As the series continued, Demona turns out to be magically linked to MacBeth (as in the king) so they would feel each other’s pain but neither could die. The Gargoyles encounter a host of other characters belonging to the “Third Race” such as Oberon and Puck as well as Native American deities, the Illuminati, an alien, a mad scientist (you always have to have a mad scientist), King Arthur, and even the Loch Ness Monster.

My only quibble with the series is that with the exception of Goliath, none of the Gargoyles start out with names. They all pick them from locations in New York after they awaken in present time so we get Broadway, Hudson, Brooklyn, and Bronx. Despite this, there is a great exchange between old warhorse Hudson and Detective Maza:

Hudson: Must you humans name everything? Nothing's real to you 'til you've named it, given it limits.
Elisa Maza: It's not like that. It's just that, well... uh... things need names.
Hudson: Does the sky need a name? Does the river?
Elisa Maza: The river's called the Hudson.
Hudson: Fine, lass. Then I will be the Hudson as well.

Yes, this was an afternoon cartoon and it was produced by Disney, but this definitely wasn’t Darkwing Duck or the Goof Troop. Creator Greg Weisman put a lot of effort into incorporating a lot of history and mythology into his story arcs. You also get a feeling that the characters grow through the series. They all start with a character trait like the fat one or the old one and then progress from there. There was no reset button after 30 minutes – previous situations affected everyone’s feelings and actions as the storylines continued.

There was also a lot of quality voicework in this series. Character actor Keith David voiced Goliath while Marina Sirtis was Demona, Jonathan Frakes was Xanatos, and Ed Asner was spot on as Hudson. The list continues with names like Michael Bell, Matt Frewer, Brent Spiner, Sally Richardson, John Rhys-Davies, David Warner, Laura San Giacomo, Frank Welker and Tim Curry among many, many others.




Click to embiggen.

There was a third year produced for Saturday morning, but the quality suffered because of staff changes and effectively ended the series. There was rumors floating around about a Gargoyles movie being produced, but I don’t believe that anything is now being developed. Currently, Greg Weisman is writing a series of Gargoyles comic books, so this rich world isn’t completely dead.


12 comments:

Hey there, Skippy said...

What a splendid post. Gargoyles wasn't shown in the UK until a few years ago, and even then, only sporadically, so I never had a chance to get into it properly. Which is a shame cos I'm a total sucker for a well-made cartoon, especially one with a story-arc. That such shows are ostensibly for kids probably ought to be a matter of mild concern to me, but what the hell, I love 'em. I think I might treat myself to the Gargoyles DVDs...

SQT said...

oh oh oh, I love this stuff! I remember when the show came on, but I wasn't able to catch it much. Like Skippy, I think I may need to go find me some DVD's.

pussreboots said...

I saw most of the series except for maybe a few episodes at the end when work and school got in the way. It was pretty good although flawed.

Crunchy Carpets said...

i really liked it too....the art was nice and it had a decent story!

Alex said...

Oh, gawd! I thought that was a picture of the cast of The View. But then I realized I couldn't find the beautiful Ms. Elizabeth anywhere, so it had to be something else.

I never knew Rosie O'Donnel was in Gargoyles. Weird.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The second picture looks like Will Riker in a bad mood.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Bill Riker in a bad mood with a ponytail.

SQT said...

Rosie's the green one on the right, right?

Henchman432 said...

I use to love that series.

cooltopten said...

cool , I never had ther pleasure of watching the series , think I may may to search the net for some videos of it, looks fun.

Alex said...

Oh. My bad!

I thought Rosie was the blue one on all fours. I figured someone spilled some gravy. Or some vaginas.

ShadowFalcon said...

Gargoyles was soooooooooooooo cool!