Gargoyles is an acclaimed American animated series created by Greg Weisman, produced by Greg Weisman and Frank Paur and aired from October 24, 1994 to February 15, 1997. It was at the time hailed as one of the more ambitious Disney animated series in history, targeting an older demographic and taking a darker edge.
The series was known for its complex story arcs and drama, a prime example being the controversial first-season episode "Deadly Force," which addressed the consequences of gun violence, including a graphic depiction of the wounds of a gunshot victim. The show was also notable for its complex characters, and character arcs were heavily employed throughout the series. As the series progressed, it became deeply meshed with medieval history, particularly kings and princes from medieval Scottish history, and worldwide mythologies such as the King Arthur mythos and Norse Mythology among others, as well as the works of William Shakespeare, most notably A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth.
During the second season, a voice-over by series star Keith Davidwas heard over the opening sequence:
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!
A loyal fanbase kept the property alive following its cancellation, resulting in the entire first season and the first half of season two are available on DVD and the Gargoyles storyline currently continuing in a comic book also titled Gargoyles written by Weisman and produced by Slave Labor Graphics. The show continues to air in the form of reruns on the Toon Disney network in the United States as part of the JETIX lineup.
The series features a clan of warrior creatures known as gargoyles that turn to stone during the day. Led by their leader Goliath in the year 994 A.D., they protect Castle Wyvern and its resident humans on the coast of Scotland until betrayal causes a massacre of the clan and a magic spell forces the six survivors into stone sleep, until the castle rises over the clouds. In 1994, a billionaire named David Xanatos purchases the castle and moves it to the top of his Manhattan skyscraper, breaking the spell. Awakening in modern day Manhattan, the gargoyles must adapt to this new world as they vow to protect the citizens of New York.
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A total of 78 half-hour episodes were produced. The first two seasons aired in the Disney Afternoon programming block. The controversial third and final season aired on Disney's One Saturday Morning format on ABC as Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles. Starting with the first episode of the season, "The Journey," these episodes were produced without the involvement of series creator Greg Weisman, and are largely not considered canonical by fans and the later comic series.
In 1995, Disney released a direct-to-video feature film entitled Gargoyles the Movie: The Heroes Awaken, which was in fact the series's five pilot episodes edited together into one feature. It should also be noted that, originally, the 'City Of Stone' 4-parter, as well as the 'Hunter's Moon' 3-parter were in talks to be Direct To Video before they were ultimately aired on Television instead.
In 1995, Marvel released a Gargoyles comic book series outside the main continuity of the series, but referencing specific events that took place within it. Greg Weisman, television series co-creator, did not have any direct involvement in the story development of the comic series, but was consulted on some plot points to be sure it stayed within certain boundaries. The series ran for 11 issues. Weisman was hired to write for the comic after a couple of issues, but Marvel cut ties with Disney before his run could be produced. Weisman still has his unpublished script for the comic which he will use for issue 6 on the current series. The Marvel series was tonally darker than the television series, dealing largely with Xanatos' experiments to create creatures and machines to defeat the Gargoyles. Also to note, Beth Maza (who appeared in a photo in Deadly Force) and Petros Xanatos appeared in the comics before their full debut on the show.
Slave Labor Graphics
On 21 June 2006, Slave Labor Graphics, in association with CreatureComics.com, began producing a new Gargoyles comic written by series co-creator Greg Weisman. The comic continues the storyline of the animated series, picking up after the second season finale, Hunter's Moon Part Three, with the first two issues adapting the first episode of The Goliath Chronicles. The comic diverged as of the third issue. The series had a promising debut with the first issue selling out, as did subsequent issues.
Home video releases
VHS and laserdisc
The first five episodes of the pilot were edited into movie format for Gargoyles the Movie: The Heroes Awaken and released on VHS and laserdisc in February, 1995. The following videos were later released containing the remaining first-season episodes:
- The Hunted (October 1995), containing episodes "The Thrill of the Hunt" and "Temptation"
- The Force Of Macbeth (October 1995), containing episodes "Deadly Force" and "Enter MacBeth"
- Deeds Of Deception (April 1996), containing episodes "The Edge" and "Long Way to Morning"
- Brothers Betrayed (April 1996), containing episodes "Her Brother's Keeper" and "Reawakening"
Episodes 6-13 were left unaltered, except for the removals of the "Previously on Gargoyles..." segment from "Enter MacBeth."
In 2004, the tenth anniversary of its premiere, the first season of the series was released on DVD. The first half of the second season was released in December 2005.
As of June 30, 2006, Weisman announced at the Gargoyles Gathering Convention in Los Angeles, the release of Season 2, Volume 2 is in jeopardy. Weisman has stated simply, "Volume 1 did not sell enough copies." Disney currently has no plans to release the second volume. On June 25th, 2013 Disney finally released season 2 volume 2 but as part of the disney movie club as an exclusive.
The episodes themselves are uncensored, restoring scenes which were removed on Toon Disney and the VHS releases.
In 1995, a video game based on the series was released for the Sega Genesis. A Super Nintendo version was planned as well however, it was never released. The plot involved the Eye of Odin attempting to destroy the world and Goliath (the player) must stop them. The game was a side scrolling action game and had a poor reception.
Planned canonical spinoffs
Weisman and his development team, before the cancellation of Gargoyles, planned several spinoffs featuring tangential characters from the series, as well as continuing the story of the Manhattan Clan. Only one of the projects ever entered active development: the series Gargoyles: Bad Guys, for which a leica reel was produced. Slave Labor Graphics has released three issues of Bad Guys.
- Timedancer -- Brooklyn's journeys through time, as a result of the Phoenix Gate thrown into the timestream by Goliath.
- Pendragon -- A spinoff series about King Arthur and the English gargoyle Griff as they search for Arthur's mentor Merlin.
- Dark Ages -- A prequel that would have dealt with the original Wyvern Clan.
- Bad Guys -- A series featuring the Redemption Squad, a group of former criminals led by the mysterious director. Wizard Magazine has reported that Bad Guys will be getting a spin-off comic from SLG Publishing.
- Gargoyles 2198 -- A spinoff to the gargoyles series set in the year 2198.
- The New Olympians -- Would have dealt with the New Olympians introduced in the Gargoyles episode of the same name.
There was initially intense speculation concerning the intentions of the producers had the series continued, but many have been since debunked by Weisman in the "Ask Greg" forum. Weisman has, however, also revealed some of his own plans for the show, had it continued.
Greg Weisman currently plans to release Bad Guys as a bimonthly black and white six issue limited edition comic book around October 2007. Should the spinoff series prove successful he will continue with the remaining spinoffs, but if not will then try to incorporate some of their elements into the main comic series.
Perhaps more than any other Disney production, the series has inspired an intense fan following. Disney acknowledged this with their selection of Gargoyles as their first animated series released for DVD retail in a season collection format.
The Gathering of the Gargoyles is an annual convention begun in 1997. The Gathering features several special guests including series co-creator Greg Weisman, Keith David (the voice of Goliath) and Thom Adcox (the voice of Lexington). The Gathering has featured several recurring special events such as a radio play where Gathering attendees audition and take part, a masquerade ball where attendees dress up as their favorite character, an art show where the many talented artists within the fandom can display and auction off or sell their artwork, and several mug-a-guest panels where special guests sit around with fans and just talk about whatever comes to mind sometimes going late into the night. Weisman is known to show the leica reel of Bad Guys at Gatherings.