Not all of us were lucky enough to watch Disney Cartoons on TV back in the 90s. I mean, there were afternoon shows, Saturday and Sunday morning shows; these were not just cartoons, but something that children of the 90s loved and cherished.
After all these years, we have Netflix and Disney Plus, but easy access to something tends to reduce its importance, right? Nevertheless, back in the day, Disney brought out a dark and rather violent show named Gargoyles, a show that fit well in its culture shock tale and mythology.
In the very first episode, we meet NYPD Detective Elisa Maza, who happens to meet the titular creatures under strange circumstances. She learns that the Gargoyles are an ancient race of warrior creatures who served as protectors and guardians of the land they lived in. Led by Goliath, the Gargoyles carried on for centuries, until they were betrayed by one of their human friends. But to make things worse, they were turned into stone statues for a thousand years.
They awoke to find themselves in a strange land called New York, which was much different from Scotland, where they had been put to sleep. However, the Gargoyles were not a race that gave up and thus they began their quest to understand their new world and adapt to it.
The show was essentially a fine blend of horror and science fiction genres, but it contained heavy doses of Shakespearean imagery, fantasy, and complex study of subjects such as morality, racism, and xenophobia. I believe it is time we began our exploration of the original Gargoyles storyline and dived into their very awakening, as was seen in the cartoons. Let’s get this thrill ride started already, shall we?
What The Gargoyles (1994) Cartoon Television Series Is All About
In the year 994 AD, a Scottish castle finds itself under siege from Vikings, as they hurl giant boulders at the Castle, it seems that the defenses won’t hold for long. However, the head of the Castle’s guard urges his men to hold up the Castle’s defenses for a bit longer until the sun goes down. He looks up at the stone statues of Gargoyles and chuckles in glee; it seems that the Captain has a plan after all. Meanwhile, the Viking soldiers are apprehensive about attacking a castle that is said to house Gargoyles, but their leader, Hakon, is determined to attack.
“I say those gargoyles are naught but chiseled stone, and even if they’re not, it’s worth the risk for the plunder within.” Hakon soon orders his men to launch the attack, and the Viking soldiers run towards the Castle, swords blazing and all. However, the sun soon set, and the Gargoyles came to life after breaking out of their stony slumber. Hakon looks at the Gargoyles in a state of absolute horror and shock.
The leader of the Gargoyles, Goliath, thunders in rage as his house, his Castle, is being ambushed. A fierce battle ensues between the Gargoyles and the Vikings, but the Gargoyles easily overwhelm the intruders. Hakon and the remaining soldiers flee with their lives, but Hakon promises to return another day. After the battle is done, the Captain of the Castle’s guards invites Goliath and his love, Demona, to the royal celebratory dinner.
However, the Princess becomes furious because of their presence and appearance. The Princess and her advisor, Magus, believe that the Gargoyles are nothing but unnatural creatures, and no good can come with an alliance between them and the humans. Goliath understands the gravity of the situation and calms Demona down, before leaving the celebratory dinner.
The following day, the Gargoyles once again find themselves turned to stone, but reawaken as night falls. You did not assume ancient warrior creatures and humans to live together without any scuffle, did you? Well, the Gargoyles named Brooklyn, Lexington, and Broadway try to scare a mother for her rude nature when Goliath comes in and stops them. And as would be expected of him, the righteous Goliath imprisons them in the rookery.
Meanwhile, the Captain tells the Goliath that Vikings don’t make idle threats, and if Hakon promised to return, it was only a matter of time before he actually did. Naturally, Goliath decides to leave the Castle in search of Hakon and his army, while Demona remains back to guard the Castle. Goliath and his most experienced comrade, Hudson, leave the Castle in search of the Vikings but realize pretty late that they have been tricked.
They have been following horses, which were a decoy to lead them as far away from the Castle as possible. On the other hand, Hakon launched an attack on the Castle at daybreak, and unfortunately for Goliath and the other Gargoyles, they had turned to stone once again. It turns out that the Captain had sided with Hakon, and allowed the Vikings entry into the Castle. Hakon then smashes all the Gargoyle statues, effectively killing them, while the Captain remains mute at the sight of what he has done.
Soon, Hudson and Goliath return to the Castle, only to find it engulfed in flames and the crumbled remains of his kind. As Goliath picks up his dead girlfriend’s brittle remains, he thunders in anguish. As Brooklyn, Lexington, Broadway, and Bronx come out, they find themselves consumed with grief. The realization that they are the only Gargoyles left on Earth crumbles the mighty warriors. But Goliath is not one to give up; he swears to find Hakon and have his revenge.
It is revealed that Hakon and the Captain had taken the Princess and Magus prisoners. As Magus, the magician threatened Hakon with his book of spells, the Viking overlord tore one of the pages from the book and burned it. The spirits of the other prisoners were running low, but the tide turned when the Gargoyles arrived at the encampment. Goliath followed the Princess and her captors, while the other Gargoyles fought or frightened the Viking soldiers.
However, Magus assumed the worst and believed that the Princess was dead, and clearly, he blamed the Gargoyles for her death. In a fit of rage, he opened his book of spells and cursed all but Goliath to remain stones until the palace reached above the clouds. Meanwhile, at the precipice overlooking the vast sea, Goliath stops Hakon from killing the Princess. The Captain and Hakon find themselves blaming each other to save themselves from the wrath of Goliath.
One thing led to another, and Hakon and the Captain fell from the cliff to their deaths. As Goliath returned to the camp with the Princess, he was astonished to discover that all the Gargoyles were turned to stone. The Magus revealed how he had cursed the Gargoyles, and also said that the curse could not be undone because the page with the incantation had been burned by Hakon.
In the end, Goliath asks the Magus to chant his spells one last time to send put him to sleep like the rest of his kind. Clearly, Goliath didn’t want to be alone in the world. He had not only lost the love of his life, his people, but also the last of his comrades. Furthermore, he was hurt by the only human he ever trusted, the Captain.
A thousand years later, a man named David Xanatos comes to the Castle, which is now in ruins. He reaches the top of the Castle and lays his eyes on Goliath’s statue in bewilderment and awe. We learn that Xanatos plans to take the Gargoyles to his base in New York, and he seems to be a man of weak conscience. I mean, when his assistant Owen Burnett tells him that the locals would not be willing to work at the Castle, Xanatos replies “You know the answer to that, Owen. Pay a man enough, and he’ll walk barefoot into Hell.”
It’s not before long that the multimillionaire Xanatos had assembled a large crew of workers, choppers, etc. He was sending the Gargoyle statues and large parts of the Castle to his New York City skyscraper. Once the transportation was completed, we found Xanatos on his terrace with Goliath’s statues. He waits for the sun to set, and things happen exactly as he had intended them. [Goliath comes to life once again] “You are the one called Goliath,” he asks. “Yes…” Goliath answers. Xanatos smiles, “Excellent.”
All the Gargoyles find themselves whole again after a thousand years, but they have much else to learn. Xanatos takes the Gargoyles to his study and explains how he learned about the warrior beings. Once upon a time, Xanatos came across a book written by the Magus who had cursed Goliath and the others. In the book, he detailed the entire episode of the Viking attack and its aftermath, including the curse.
That’s how Xanatos knew that the curse would be lifted if he brought the stone Gargoyles to his skyscraper, which rose above the clouds. However, the building gets attacked by a few armed men, who seemed to have come to steal something. Initially, the Gargoyles do not trust Xanatos and watch the events unfold from the shadows. However, they soon realize that they were in their Castle and protecting it was their immediate responsibility. A fierce battle ensues between the Gargoyles and the armed men.
They quickly learn that these humans are far fiercer than the Vikings, and have weapons that resemble nothing less than sorcery. Xanatos also joins the fray and helps the Gargoyles against the armed intruders. One of Xanatos’s laser guns misses its target and levels one of the castle walls, sending the debris down on the street, where Detective Elisa Maza finds a massive boulder with claw marks and wonders what creature was strong enough to leave claw marks on such a strong object. In the end, the Gargoyles emerge victorious, but Goliath makes it clear to Xanatos that he will not be trusting humans again. However, Detective Maza is hot on the trail and will do anything to find out what went on the roof of the skyscraper.
She arrives to meet with Owen but doesn’t get a satisfactory answer from him. Naturally, he asks to meet the big guy, Xanatos, who tells her that he and his men managed to repel an invasion from a rival firm. After their meeting, Owen shows Elisa to the lift, but the determined detective wouldn’t back down so easily. She stops the lift midway and investigates. She takes the stairs and reaches the Castle’s rampart, only to be ambushed by the Gargoyle dog Bronx. She pulls out her gun but is stopped from shooting by Goliath.
The poor detective was so scared that she fell off of the building, and Goliath plunged after her to save her. Goliath tells Maza everything there is to know about Gargoyles and how they had been sleeping for the past thousand years. Although he doesn’t trust any human, there seems to be something about Maza that seems trustworthy. In fact, she implores him to learn more about the world he has found himself in because that is the only way he would be able to defend the Castle better.
Sometime later, Goliath is called to see Xanatos, who asks him for help in retrieving three electronic chips that were stolen from Xanatos. The chips had been kept secure in three locations– an island in the bay, an underground research center, and a flying air fortress. The following night, Goliath meets Elisa to look around the city and learn more about how this new world worked.
The two of them first save a couple from three thugs and then take a walk in a nearby park. Elisa claims that they were probably the only couple who didn’t fear mugs. But that statement soon turned out to be false when they got attacked by the same armed men who had attacked Xanatos’s Castle. Goliath gets hit by a tranquilizer dart and almost loses consciousness.
However, Goliath manages to pick up Maza and flee the scene but doesn’t reach very far. Maza then discovers a trainsmitter on Goliath’s body, and they both wonder who managed to tag Goliath with it. The smart detective uses her skills and places the transmitter on a stray dog so that she can throw the armed men off their trail. The two of them begin walking, but dawn is almost up, and Goliath sighs saying that it is too late.
And the mighty Goliath turns into stone once again. However, Maza knows that in the stone state, Goliath is quite vulnerable and decides to help him at all costs. She follows their attackers and tricks and incapacitates them one by one. In the end, she comes back to her stone friend at dusk. Back at the Castle, Xanatos introduces Goliath to someone he had never expected to see, his love, his life, and his precious, Demona! “With you alive, I can start to live again as well,” Goliath says. Demona agrees and says, “As you said, Goliath, you and I are one.”
Goliath and Demona embrace each other and express their love for each other, something that they hadn’t done in a thousand years. When Goliath asks how she was able to survive, she tells him that she had run away from the Castle to look for Goliath when he went on the Viking hunt but lost her way at dawn.
Later, she returned to the Castle to find it in ruins and reached Magus to ask him to repeat the incantation so that she could wake up with her kind, whenever that was. At this point, Xanatos tells Goliath that he had Demona for more than a year and figured that bringing her up to the Castle would have the same impact on her as it did on the other Gargoyles. Demona requests Goliath to help Xanatos as a favor for bringing them together once again and also for bringing them to life. Goliath agrees with her and pledges to help Xanatos recover the electronic chips. “with you by my side, I can do anything.”
Goliath divided the team into three groups, while the others went to the island in the bay and the underground research facility, he and Demona went to the air fortress. The other two teams retrieved the disks, and the Captain of the airship received a message detailing the breaching of the other two sites. They easily retrieved their part of the disk, but Demona sabotaged the airship by pulling out the power cable from the ship’s console. Goliath looked in horror at what Demona had done.
She clearly had lost all sympathy, and although she was all flesh and bones, her heart was still made of stone. Nevertheless, the Gargoyle couple flew out of the burning airship, which ultimately crashed into the Hudson. Coincidentally, Elisa Maza reached the place and witnessed Goliath and Demona fleeing from the scene towards the Castle. Back at the Castle, Xanatos is given all the three disks, and he takes their leave.
Goliath tells Demona and the others that he is going to meet a friend, but Demona protests and claims that all humans are their enemies, something that Goliath should have learned a thousand years ago when he was betrayed by a human. However, he claims that he can not launch a war against an entire world and the humans and that the ones who wronged them had been dead for a millennium. However, Demona claims that if those people were dead, their descendants should pay the price.
“Then their descendants shall pay, I will have blood for blood!” But Goliath doesn’t pay heed to any of this and leaves to meet Elisa, where she tells him that Xanatos had been behind the attack on them because he wanted Goliath to believe that the disks were actually stolen from the Castle the other night. However, the truth was that Xanatos had tricked the Gargoyles into stealing the disks from a rival company. After learning the truth, Goliath frowns in anger, but Elisa calms him and offers him friendship.
In the Castle, Xanatos is standing beside five shrouded figures. “I’m afraid the gargoyles have outlived their usefulness,” he says. He can’t count on their loyalty anymore. However, with the data on the disks, he can bring their replacements online. Owen checks his watch and says that they only need wait three hours until dawn when they sleep. Demona steps out of the shadows.
“No,” she says, “You need to test these replacements, do you not?” She strokes one of the shrouded figures with her claws and smiles at Xanatos, who returns her smirk. Back at the Castle, Xanatos uses the information on the stolen disks to bring to life The Steel Clan robots, which resemble the Gargoyles but are made of steel instead of flesh and can fly in the air instead of just gliding.
He orders his robots to attack the Gargoyles, and the battle is almost lost when Goliath swoops in with his combat expertise. However, Demona joins the battle and overwhelms Goliath with one of Xanatos’s weapons. : “I have a name, too, Goliath. The humans gave it to me long ago. You should know it before you die. I am ‘Demona’.” But just before she can take Goliah down, Elisa surprises Demona and knocks her down. But the misfired weapon destroys much of the Castle, and Demona and Elisa go into free fall. Although Goliath manages to save Elisa, he can’t save Demona, who presumably falls to her death.
While we all know how uber-cool the show was, not many people are aware that the Gargoyles cast consisted of many Star Trek alumni. We’ll begin with James Avery, who played a passing role in the Star Trek franchise, and likewise, he made a single appearance as Shaman in the episode titled Walkabout. Interestingly, Avery also voiced the famous TMNT villain Shredder.
Next in line has to be the very beautiful Salli Richardson, who also had a small role in the Star Trek Franchise, but played an important part in Gargoyles as the NYPD Detective Elisa Maza. However, Miss Richardson also voiced the character of Eureka later in the show. Kate Mulgrew, who played Lady Titania, the Queen of Avalon in Star Trek, played crucial roles in Gargoyles as well.
Marina Sirtis played the prolific villain Demona in the Gargoyles, a character whose evil side was only matched by the righteousness and power of Keith David’s Goliath. Interestingly enough, Jonathan Frakes played David Xanatos, the rich playboy billionaire who survived on his money and technology to carry out his nefarious plans. Some may say that he was the villainous version of what Tony Stark later became in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After the three-season show ended, Marvel Comics picked up the Gargoyles storyline and released an 11-issue series which served as the sequel to the show. Although the comics took reference from the show’s first season, the continuity was changed in the Marvel comics. Naturally, Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman doesn’t consider the comic canon. However, the comics were darker and dealt with horrible experiments undertaken by Xanatos.
In the comics, the New Yorkers learn about the existence of Gargoyles, and naturally, an anti-Gargoyle group called the Quarrymen came into existence. The warrior beasts are then hunted by the police and Quarrymen alike. In fact, even Elisa Maza becomes a target. The comics turn Xanatos into an absolutely cunning villain who can go to any extent to take down the Gargoyles. It was a shame that the comics didn’t gain as much love as they deserved, and we strongly recommend that you give it a go if you have any love for the show.
What Went Wrong with The Cartoon
So, Gargoyles came to the screen as a Sunday morning cartoon on ABC. And as was the case with most Disney cartoons back in the day, Gargoyles appeared on the syndicated station. Now, these channels don’t earn the bulk of their earnings from animated shows for children but from local news. At this time, OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife and her friend.
Every eye in the United States was glued to the screen to find out whatever happened with Simpson. Naturally, this meant that the show was being preempted to the extent that people lost the habit of watching Gargoyles. This can never be good for any show. Furthermore, Gargoyles had certain issues with its writing. I mean, you can only have so many loose ends in the plot, right? Many sub-plots and story arcs in the Gargoyles show were left unattended and open-ended, with no closure whatsoever. It gave a sense that not enough thought was given to make the story a comprehensive one.
Best episodes not to miss
Without a doubt, we can say that the best episodes of the show were the five-part opening called Awakening, much of which we explained in the earlier entry. However, there were many other exhilarating and exciting episodes in the show. I do not assume that you’d like it if we spoiled them for you, so we’ll just introduce you to the names and seasons of these fine episodes.
City of Stones Season 2, Episode 9
Future Tense Season: 2, Episode Number: 43
The Mirror, Season 2, Episode 5
Reawakening Season 1, Episode 13,
Furthermore, you just can not miss all the parts with story arcs titled Avalon, Hunter’s Moon, and The Gathering.
Although Greg Weisman doesn’t get a creator credit, he was the creator of the show. But where did the inspiration come from? Well, the school teacher and part-time writer of DC Comics took the inspiration for his magnificent warrior beasts from cartoons such as The Simpsons and Gummy Bears, from TV shows such as Hill Street Blues, and also from writers such as Shakespeare and Faulkner.
However, the most prominent inspiration behind the outlook of the Gargoyles came from the Celtic Mythology. The show was dark in various senses, but its most unique aspect was the grey area in which its villains lived. I mean, David Xanatos was portrayed as the big bad guy of the show, who is always after the Gargoyles. However, Xanatos goes through a psychological makeover after Goliath saves his newborn son. Not many are aware of this, but the Gargoyles have strange physiology.
Their daytime sleep not only rejuvenates their bodies, but they absorb energy from the sun, which increases their strength at night. Furthermore, the female Gargoyle can lay one egg every twenty years, and although the pregnancy lasts for just half a year, the eggs take almost a decade to hatch. Moreover, the Gargoyles are divided into various clans; for instance, Goliath’s clan is called the Manhattan Clan. You can think of this as the Yautja clans from the Predator universe. Also, there are several clans with robotic and cybernetic origins.
Future of Gargoyles
Well, the Gargoyles animated show was left unattended for quite a while, but a few years back, it was released on Disney. While the creators hope that the show’s release on the popular OTT platform will bring it the popularity it deserves, it seems rather unlikely that Disney is going to look into Gargoyles anytime soon. I mean, they already have a lot of superhero and Star Wars stuff down their pipeline.
Interestingly enough, it was rumored that Jordan Peele himself asked Disney to convert Gargoyles into a live-action film, but even that seems rather unlikely. Having said that, the two thousand twenties is proving to be a decade of reboots, so nothing can be said, really.
So, you see, the show had several tropes that made it worthy of being an absolute favorite during the time it aired on television. However, the show didn’t gain as much popularity in the days that followed. Having said that, we thought it was high time that Gargoyles was reintroduced to you.