“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.”
Gargoyles for me was one of the first more mature shows I’ve seen. Featuring complex story-telling, character arcs and growth, Shakespearian themes (and sometimes characters), all set against a backdrop of dark tones.
The story of Gargoyles follows Goliath, and the remnants of his clan in modern Manhattan. A millennia ago, they were betrayed by the humans of their shared castle that they swore to protect. Gargoyles are flesh by night and stone by day. One day the invading forces came, smashing many of the stones, killing most of the clan. A magical curse was placed on the rest, keeping them trapped in stone form until the castle “rises above the clouds.” Billionaire David Xanatos (because that doesn’t sound like a bad guy name), had the castle placed atop his skyscraper, awakening the gargoyles. From there, many interesting tales were weaved. Gargoyles was the perfect example of a show with expertly crafted opening credits, explaining the premise and allowing for viewers to watch at any time.
Many characters share the same names and in some cases, personalities, as some of Shakespeare’s. Othello, Iago, and even Macbeth. The latter character was an interesting one as he was eternally linked to the gargoyle Demona. Demona betrayed her kind and became a constant thorn in their side. Both her and Macbeth were magically connected by the weird sisters (modelled after the three witches from Macbeth – Double, double, toil and trouble”). Neither Demona or Macbeth could die unless they simultaneously killed each other. There’s a lot of backstory here.
There were many, many characters over the shows 78 episode run that I couldn’t possible begin to mention here. One in particular however, bears mentioning as he was central to a major plot; Arthur Pendragon, King Arthur. A series of episodes set Goliath, Bronx (dog-gargoyle), and Elisa (human friend), on a magical quest finding different items like the Phoenix Orb or Eye of Odin needed to awaken the sleeping king from Avalon. I don’t care who you are, this is some cool stuff.
The show was created by Greg Weisman of Young Justice fame and lasted 3 seasons airing from 1994 – 97. The third season saw major staff and writer changes. Weisman wrote the premier episode, but considers the rest of the series non-canonical. He was able to finish his story years later in comic book form. Disney saw the show not living up to standards against competition like Batman: The Animated Series, and cancelled it.
Most of the voice cast was a veteran of Star Trek, with Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes (respectively, Deanna Troi and William Riker on Next Generation) voicing Demona and Xanatos, respectively. With the exception Capt Picard himself (Patrick Stewart), every series regular on Next Generation had a roll on Gargoyles.
I wasn’t able to see every episode of the show as it aired, but have since made my way through half of the series. Much of the show still holds up today, with the exception of a few episodes like “Legion” where they fight a computer virus. I’m a sucker for complex character arcs and Shakespeare; I still hold this show in high regard. I feel much of children’s programming today talks down their audience, avoiding complex themes and ideas communicating mostly through flatulence. Many shows in the 90’s had huge success from doing the opposite. This needs to be rectified, but I digress.
Gargoyles is a great show for kids and adults alike to enjoy. I know I’ll be watching it with my kids once I will them into existence.
Who was your favorite Gargoyle? What shows from Disney Afternoon do you miss? Comment below, on Facebook, or tweet! If you enjoyed this post, please share!
“We are GARGOYLES!”