THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FROM THE GARGOYLES TV SERIES!!!
It’s no secret of mine that I was born during the early 90’s. And as a Portuguese lad, I was raised among the morning cartoons that were broadcast during the weekends (mostly), and most of them had the iconic Disney brand, which gave birth to several properties that I have fond memories of. One of such cartoons was Gargoyles, which was broadcast since 1994 and lasted three seasons. With Disney+ finally available in Portugal, I took the opportunity to revisit this cult classic series, now with the mindset of an adult near his 30’s.
If you’re unaware of what the series is all about, here’s a quick summary:
The series centers on a clan of gargoyles, led by Goliath, who, after being betrayed by the humans they swore to protect, end up cursed to sleep in stone until the castle reaches beyond the clouds. 1000 later, thanks to a multi-millionaire, the curse is broken, and so Goliath and his clan wake up in New York City in 1994, now viewing the whole city as their protectorate.
If you thought that was too much information in one sitting, you might check out the video below:
(Ahhhh, much better, isn’t it?)
Saying that Gargoyles was a massive undertaking at the time would be a major understatement. It wasn’t based on any preexisting IP, meaning it would be an original show (and therefore, a tougher nut to crack), but it would also be drastically different shows Disney was offering at the time. Suffice to say, there were plenty of reasons for it to fail. Miserably, no less.
And somehow, it worked wonderfully! Of course having Greg Weisman as the show’s mastermind doesn’t exactly hurt much (as he has plentiful of experience in the small screen, such as DC‘s Young Justice animated series), but Gargoyles was both accessible to younger audiences and mature enough to dwelve into more sensitive themes.
Having gargoyles, a race of mystical creatures that only come to life during the night and trying to find their place in an unforgiving society, as the leads of this story gives a nice subtext about racism and prejudice. Surprising, considering those themes remain as hot topics everytime we turn on the news. But Gargoyles doesn’t center on those themes entirely. There’s an episode that centers on the question of gun control or another that explains the importance of literature in our society.
The dark aesthetic and somber tones notwithstanding, Gargoyles also features a stellar character work. The main focus are on the gargoyles themselves, and by the time the series wraps up, they come out as fully fleshed out characters. And there’s no better example than of Goliath himself who, despite his more animalistic form, as all the human traits that most of us should aspire to (it also doesn’t hurt that Keith David himself voices the iconic character). The human faces of the show also get their time to shine, with Elisa Maza being a standout, not only for being one of the few women of colour on animated TV, but also being of the very few stronger females characters of that time.
That same “olive branch” is also extended to the gargoyles’ rogues gallery, with different effects. There’s the case of David Xanatos, who functions as the “shady businessman” that can be both an ally and an enemy to the gargoyles (as long as it suits his needs), or even the personification of King Macbeth himself (from the Shakespeare tale, no less). However, it is Demona who stands out of these three. She’s a gargoyle (and Goliath’s former love interest) who, after centuries of betrayal, begins to hate mankind and tries everything to make Goliath see from her point of view. There’s more to her than this, of course, but I’ll let you be the judges on that.
And let’s not forget the world-building. Having a mystic side to it, Gargoyles takes a bite or two to a few legends of old. It may start exclusively with Scottish tales of old, but by the time the second season comes around, not only do we get a few glimpses to Irish and British legends, but there’s also a lengthy arc that sees a small group travelling around the globe and meeting new cultures and legends of their own.
That being said, Gargoyles was truly one-of-a-kind, and had the potential to be a flagship series for Disney, probably capable of standing up to “giants” such as DC or even Marvel at some point (the second season did tease a larger world, ripe for exploration). So, what went wrong?
I threw myself to research that were available as of now (mainly YouTube videos and some interviews from the cast and crew of the series), and let’s just say that I wasn’t entirely surprised, but it also made sad. Gargoyles had the potential, but not much faith. That was seen with production problems, problematic deadlines, the works that plague many shows, even to this day. Everything led to a third season that Weisman himself doesn’t accept as canon!
I am sad, really. Gargoyles was that one animated show from the 90’s that was clearly ahead of its time, and had everything at its disposal to become One of the most iconic Disney properties. Unfortunately, it quickly fell into oblivion, with very few people familiar with this concept. But, at the same time, i can only thank Disney+ the chance to revisit this classic series with new eyes and mindset. And I know I’m not the only one who hopes for a reboot or a remake of the property. Even if it takes a 1000 years to get there. (Okay, okay, I’m kidding here, and making a reference to the series).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall watch the intro again. On loop (It’s THAT good!)