In medieval times, gargoyles were the defenders of humans and their kingdoms. Human-like with monstrous features and massive wings, gargoyles possessed talons capable of slicing through solid stone and could glide on wind currents. While at night they were a force to be reckoned with, by day they turned to stone in order to sleep and heal from any damage. In 994 A.D. Scotland, a particular clan of gargoyles was betrayed by the humans they swore to protect; resulting in all but several members to be smashed as they slept by their enemies. Still trying to do the right thing, the gargoyles went to rescue the princess (Kath Soucie) and were permanently turned to stone for their troubles by The Magus (Jeff Bennett) until the castle rose above the clouds. In 1994, businessman David Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes) bought Castle Wyvern and assembled it brick-by-brick atop his New York City skyscraper, the Eyrie Building, bringing the gargoyles back to life.
Inspired by the deep mythology behind Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Greg Weisman and his development team set out to emulate that formula while avoiding the disrespect the show garnered by being air concurrently with and often mistaken for the saccharinely sweet-by-comparison Care Bears. Weisman took his fascination of stone gargoyle statues and with his team developed a pitch for a show that would be an action comedy with cute, multicolored gargoyle creatures that had a rich medieval backstory. Then-head of Disney Michael Eisner promptly rejected it.
Believing in the project, Weisman consulted with other Disney animators to find out where the pitch went wrong. Tad Stones suggested the creation of one, large gargoyle in the vein of the company’s recent hit movie Beauty and the Beast. Inspired by the suggestion, they took the idea and created the character of Goliath, while reworking the rest of the cast in his image and turning the concept into an action drama close to what the final show would become. Six months after the initial pitch, the project was pitched to Eisner again. And it was promptly rejected. Or, so Weisman thought until Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of the Walt Disney Studio, informed them that Eisner hadn’t passed, he just thought it needed more work. Deciding the show wasn’t the problem, the team focused on their pitch. Realizing that “less is more,” they gave the new pitch to Eisner and he greenlit the series.
The show centered on the survivors of the 994 massacre as they became familiar with their new reality and the perils they would face as a result. In gargoyle custom, none of them had names save for Goliath (Keith David), who was named by the humans they had protected. Initially conceived as “The Gargoyle,” an immortal magic creation of an evil wizard before defying his master and becoming a hero, Goliath was instead remade into the leader of the clan; a noble and wise soul who would embody the spirit of a true hero.
His remaining clansmen took their names from the places around them. Hudson (Ed Asner), the eldest amongst them, was the former leader of the clan and served as Goliath’s advisor. In the original pitch, he was named Ralph Fullmoon and was inspired by Al Bundy but with worse luck; preferring to enjoy the comforts of home, including TV, instead of going out. As the pitch evolved, Hudson’s character became more inspired by that of Lou Grant (Asner’s famous television role) and featured old scars in the form of a damaged eye, but his enjoyment of modern living remained once he discovered TV and recliners, often in the company of Bronx (Frank Welker). Bronx was a dog-like gargoyle who lacked wings, but was fiercely loyal to the clan and always jumped into a fray to help them. Initially, he was planned as a comic relief character who was angst-ridden about being in the future and could only hover a few feet above the ground until they deemed the dog angle was more interesting.
Broadway (Bill Fagerbakke) was developed out of a female character called Isa Dora, and later Coco. He was heavy-set compared to the others and loved food. Brooklyn (Bennett), was initially the leader of the clan named Nick who came up with plans that never worked. He was reworked as Amp and more resembled Lexington before evolving into the hot-headed and brash Brooklyn; the least human-looking of the clan with a large beak. Lexington (Thom Adcox-Hernandez) was intended to be an idiot savant named Lassie who more resembled Brooklyn. Ultimately, he became the most curious and intelligent of the clan with an affinity for technology and discovering how things worked. Lexington was also the smallest member and, unlike the others, had his wings under his arms rather than on his back. Together, the three of them often provided the comic relief for the show.
Their first human ally was a police detective named Elisa Maza (Salli Richardson) from the 23rd Precinct. Elisa’s profession went through numerous changes before settling on a police officer. She was also to be a mother and a descendant of the princess from 994, and named Morgan Reed after architect Julia Morgan. After Richardson was cast, a great deal of her was infused into Elisa from her ethnic heritage to her overall appearance. She was also renamed Elisa and Morgan was used for a recurring police officer character. Potential last names for the character included Chavez (later becoming the name of her captain, Maria Chavez, played by Rachel Ticotin and Elisa Gabrielli in one episode), followed by Bluestone (recycled into the name of her eventual partner Matt Bluestone, played by Thomas F. Wilson) until finally settling on Maza. Elisa was a street-wise cop who lived alone with her cat, Cagney (Welker), and drove an unmarked classic car. Initially being just a friend, a romance developed between her and Goliath that would culminate in the final episode of the series.
Xanatos became the primary antagonist of the gargoyles at first. Initially named Xavier, he was to be the descendant of The Magus until changed into a businessman. His name was changed to avoid confusion with the X-Men’s Professor Xavier, inspired by Thanatos, the Greek God of Death, and David in order to contrast Goliath’s name (as in David and Goliath with the roles reversed). Xanatos initially wanted the gargoyles to help contribute to his crooked advancements to his company and wealth, but when they turned against him he came up with an endless series of plots and schemes against the gargoyles; from hiring mercenaries known as The Pack to developing robotic versions of Goliath called The Steel Clan. He also frequently teamed-up with Demona (Marina Sirtis); Goliath’s former lover who survived the massacre and had spent the next thousand years growing increasingly angry at the world to the point she happily turned against the clan to further her own ends. Demona was initially the clan’s planner named Georgette before evolving into the leader named Dakota. Because Xanatos owned Castle Wyvern, the clan was forced to relocate to the clock tower of Elisa’s precinct for a time.
Outside of the main characters, the gargoyle world boasted a rich and populated universe with a great many characters ripped straight out of classic literature and mythology. Amongst them were Macbeth (John Rhys-Davies) and The Weird Sisters (all Soucie); trickster-gods Puck (Brent Spiner) and Anansi (LeVar Burton); avatar of death, Anubis (Tony Jay); Norse all-father Odin (Morgan Sheppard); legendary King Arthur Pendragon (John St. Ryan); and many others. Even minor characters served major roles down the line. Generic yuppie couple, Margot (Sirtis and Tress MacNeille) and Brendan (Pat Fraley), appeared frequently in the background and eventually Margot became a district attorney against the gargoyles. An officer, Morgan Morgan (David), who first appeared in the first episode, would end up becoming a human alternative for Goliath for Elisa’s affections. And then there was Vinnie (Bennet, doing a Vinnie Barbarino impression): a background character who had his motorcycle destroyed by Lexington, was a guard on a destroyed flying fortress, and was fired from his guard job because of the gargoyles, gained some prominence when he had the B-plot of the episode “Vendettas” dedicated to him seeking revenge.
Gargoyles debuted in syndication on October 24th, 1995 as part of The Disney Afternoon 2-hour programming block. After a special week-long run to air the five part introduction story, it moved to its regular spot on Fridays, sharing a timeslot with Aladdin. The series premier began with a cold open and featured the standard intro with music by Carl Johnson at the end. This was done to both establish that the series didn’t take place in just medieval times and to prevent the intro from giving spoilers about the characters and action. The series was considerably darker and more “adult” than the other offerings on The Disney Afternoon at the time, and also the first Disney production to feature a serial storytelling format. Writers included Eric Luke, Michael Reaves, Brynne Chandler Reaves, Steve Perry, Lydia Marano, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Cary Bates, Shari Goodhartz, Adam Gilad, Gary Sperling, Robert Cohen, Diane Duane and Peter Morwood. Animation was handled by Akom Production Company, Animal-ya, Hanho Heung-Up Company, Koko Enterprises Company, Saerom Animation, Sunmin Image Pictures Co., Sunwoo Entertainment, Hong Ying Animation, Toon City Animation and Wang Film Productions Company.
The show took over its timeslot when Aladdin moved earlier, sharing it on Fridays with Timon & Pumbaa for the second season. That season also saw the introduction of additional gargoyle clans around the world, including in London, Japan and the mystical island of Avalon; where it was revealed the princess from 994 escaped the castle with her subjects and the eggs from the gargoyle’s rookery. The season also introduced a new gargoyle to the Manhattan clan: Angela (Brigitte Bako), the biological daughter of Goliath and Demona who was amongst the eggs rescued and who was still a young woman by the time Goliath met her, thanks to the different flow of time on Avalon. For 19 episodes of the season, Goliath, Elisa, Bronx and Angela traveled around the world, sent on a quest by the magic of Avalon to places they “needed to be” that fans had dubbed the “Avalon World Tour.”
The second season also brought about several changes and character revelations. Xanatos and Fox (Laura San-Giacomo), a former member of The Pack, were married and had a son named Alexander. It was soon revealed that Fox was the daughter of Xanatos’ rival, Halcyon Renard (Robert Culp), and that her mother, Anastasia, was actually Titania (Kate Mulgrew), the mystical queen of the magical Third Race. Xanatos’ right-hand man, Owen Burnett (Bennett), was actually Puck who took on the role after learning about Titania’s secret identity. Puck offered Xanatos a choice between immortality and his eternal servitude, and Xanatos, believing he’d achieve immortality on his own, chose the latter. Owen’s form was modeled after Renard’s assistant Preston Vogel (Peter Scolari). It also came to light that Macbeth and Demona had become mystically linked by The Weird Sisters, keeping them alive eternally and feeling each other’s pain in close proximity until they killed each other.
|Goliath, Elisa, Bronx and Angela on their quest.|
The reason for all the new characters and developments introduced this season was because Gargoyles was meant to be the springboard for a shared Disney action universe; with any one of those concepts available to be spun-off into their own series. Eisner had discussed the concept with Weisman after a meeting where Disney considered buying Marvel Comics (which wouldn’t happen until 2009), wanting something similar to what they and rival DC Comics did with their properties. However, the action universe was never to be and Gargoyles’ days were numbered. Sparked by the sudden death of Disney president and CEO Frank Wells, Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg found themselves in constant conflict until Katzenberg left to found DreamWorks. With him also went several bosses who loved Gargoyles, and the new management began to view the show as a holdover from the old regime. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Disney was disappointed that only 31 of their desired 52 episodes were delivered by the fall of 1995, despite Weisman telling them it was impossible. Then there was the fact that because the show was syndicated, it was constantly preempted for the OJ Simpson trial as the stations that carried it made significantly more money airing the local news. Finally, while the show was #1 in its timeslot during the first season, but fell to #2 when up against Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. All of these factors led Disney to cancel the show.
But then Disney bought ABC, and the network found itself needing a boy’s action show. So, Gargoyles was revived for their Saturday morning line-up. To separate it from the afternoon show, it was renamed Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles and had a monologue by Goliath at the beginning and end of each episode. The primary foes were The Quarrymen; an anti-Gargoyle group that used technologically-enhanced sledgehammers. They were started by John Castaway (formerly Jon Canmore, named for Weisman’s younger brother and voiced by Scott Cleverdon and Alan Cumming) who was originally a Hunter, a fanatical group that hunted gargoyles after Demona slashed and scarred their founder a thousand years ago.
Because of the different standards a network show was held to over a syndicated one—especially with a Standards and Practices board as notoriously strict as ABC’s—a lot of the freedom the Gargoyles crew experienced was suddenly gone and the working environment a lot more restrictive. The entire production staff was completely replaced after they finished the first episode of the season. The new crew, many of whom worked on FOX’s X-Men: The Animated Series, had very little time to familiarize themselves with the series before beginning production. As a result, a lot of continuity and characterizations were off, and the animation and writing quality had suffered significantly. Many of Weisman’s story ideas were used as springboards for episodes of the season, but taken in completely different directions than Weisman intended. Weisman, who received his first and only credit on the series during that season due to his former status as a Disney executive, left the show and waived his contractual consultant credit as he felt he didn’t really add much to the season as opposed to making sure a lot of things managed to stay off the air. Weisman wrote the first episode and Gilad, Marano and Bates remained, joined by Jan Strnad, Julia Lewald, Mark Edward Edens, Brooks Wachtel, Len Uhley, Len Wein and Steve Cuden. Animation was also moved over to Nelvana, after Disney briefly considered hiring DiC Entertainment.
The Goliath Chronicles premiered on September 7th, 1996 to negative fan reaction, leading to the series’ ultimate cancellation after its 13 episodes finished airing. However, despite the bittersweet ending of the series, the show had left its mark. Beginning in 1997, fans gathered together to create The Gathering of the Gargoyles; an annual convention that featured several regular guests close to the show including Weisman, David and Adcox-Hernandez. The show featured a radio play event where attendees could audition for speaking roles, a masquerade ball where they dressed as their favorite characters, and an art show where artistic fans could show off or sell their work. The Gathering ran for 13 years until 2009, taking place in various cities around America and one time in Canada. Footage from the 2004 show was included as a special feature of the season 1 DVD. Also, in 1997 Weisman started an online forum called “Ask Greg” where he would answer various questions about the show’s production, its future and his other work.
An interesting occurrence during production was that the series employed many alums of the Star Trek franchise. After casting both Frakes and Sirtis, who both starred in The Next Generation, the producers began to think about what other Trek stars they could cast in roles. From the original Star Trek and its related movies were Nichelle Nichols, W. Morgan Sheppard, David Warner, and Paul Winfield. Also from The Next Generation were Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Colm Meaney, Clancy Brown, Matt Frewer, Michael Bell, Gerrit Graham, Diedrich Bader, Clyde Kusatsu and Tony Jay. Avery Brooks from Deep Space Nine and Kate Mulgrew from Voyager also had roles, and series regulars Richardson and Welker both guested in Trek productions. Patrick Stewart was considered for a role, but the production couldn’t meet his regular fees and thus he never appeared.
Gargoyles received the full gamut of merchandising. In 1994, Parker Brothers produced 70-piece metallic puzzle and a collectible card game called Gargoyles Stone Warriors Battle Card Game, while Skybox produced two sets of traditional trading cards for the series in 1995 and 1996. Milton Bradley, however, would produce an actual board game based on the show. Another puzzle of the castle was released as part of Wrebbit’s Puzz-3D line. In 1995, Kenner made a line of three waves of action figures, two vehicles and a playset for the series while Buena Vista Interactive released a video game exclusively for the Sega Genesis system in the United States only. Applause produced a line of 3” PVC figurines as well as vinyl figures slightly larger than standard action figure size and character mugs. Goliath was turned into a talking bank by Thinkway Toys and a costume by Disguise Inc. Cross promotional merchandising included ice pops by Nestle, playing cards by The United States Playing Card Company, a Creepy Crawlers mold pak by Toymax and a set of five Burger King Kids’ Club toys.
Fun Works and Golden Look-Look Books each published an adaptation of the first and part of the second episode in 1993 as Defenders of the Night and 1995 as simply Gargoyles, and Golden also released an adaptation of the episode “The Edge” in 1996 called Deadly Doubles and a coloring book. Parachute Press and Scholastic released a novelization of “Awakening” in 1995 called Stone Warriors Rule! and “Long Way to Morning” as Demona’s Revenge. Publications Internationa, Ltd. released a 20-page look-and-find book which tasked readers to find various characters and objects amongst two-page spread drawn by Jamie Diaz Studios. The Rubber Stamp Factory made a set of stamps with the gargoyles’ images on it.
Marvel Comics produced a series of comics spinning out of the first season. Published between February and December 1995, it ran for 11 issues and, while referencing events from the show, didn’t adhere to the continuity of it. The comic was notable for introducing the characters of Beth Maza, Elisa’s mother, and Petros Xanatos, Xanatos’ father, before their actual on-screen appearances in the series. Weisman had no involvement in the production of the book, but did write an issue of it. However, it wasn’t published before the series was cancelled due to Marvel’s bankruptcy. Weisman did write the entirety of the 2006 series published by Slave Labor Graphics (SLG), picking up the narrative from the end of season two and completely negating The Goliath Chronicles (which he deemed as non-canon). He also used his unpublished Marvel script for the sixth issue of the series. After eight issues and a mini-series entitled Bad Guys, SLG lost the Disney license due to rising costs. Trades collecting their books were released, but Clan Building Volume Two featured the unpublished issues #9-12, with #10 featuring art by series character designer Greg Guler. Disney Adventures magazine published 11 comics based on the series, as well as several articles about the show. The story “Stone Cold” from the December, 1994 and January, 1995 issues inspired the episode “The Price” and the August, 1996 story “The Expert” served as a promotion for Disney’s then-new movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In September of 1994, Disney wanted to preview the series at Walt Disney World. Weisman worked with a different set of editors and sound mixers to compile and compress the finished material of the first five episodes into an 80-minute movie. Because the episodes weren’t complete, some parts were altered or left out from the broadcast airing (although a few Weisman left out intentionally to hide key plot points). Much to Weisman’s chagrin, Buena Vista Home Entertainment later released the movie edit on VHS and Laserdisc in 1995 as Gargoyles the Movie: The Heroes Awaken. Later that year and in 1996, four more VHS collections were released containing the remaining episodes of season one. In 2004 on the series’ 10th anniversary, Buena Vista released Gargoyles: the Complete First Season on DVD with the episodes restoring edits removed when the show was rebroadcast on Toon Disney. A year later, Gargoyles: Season Two, Volume One was released. It wouldn’t be until 2013 when Volume Two would be released by Disney Movie Club and the online Disney Store. In 2015, Volume Two was released to all stores. In 2019, it became one of the launch titles for the streaming service Disney+.