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The "second" episode of Max Steel, "Sacrifices", should air this Saturday morning on the WB (check local listings).
For those hopeless few attempting to keep track continuity-wise, this one was designed to fit between the two you've already seen, i.e. after the pilot episode (set in Berlin) and before the origin/flashback episode (set largely in Paris).
Another episode by episode ramble. Feedback encouraged.
So here's where all that great continuity got us in major trouble.
The episodes were all designed to play in a certain order. But I didn't tell my bosses that in advance. I know it sounds sneaky, but it wasn't really. We wrote the darn things and sent them off in order. It never occured to me they wouldn't be able to come back and air in order. I mean, how could a newer episode get the jump on an older one? How could an older episode not be ready before a newer one? Then the footage came back on "Enter Macbeth".
This was the first episode not animated in Japan. And immediately we knew we were in trouble. I'm not talking about the version you all have seen. The one that aired. I'm talking about stuff you never saw. Much of the original footage we got was unusable. This wasn't about just calling retakes. This wasn't about us bitching how "Thrill" wasn't as well animated as "Awakening". This was a major disaster. So my bosses said: "Air the next one." And I responded, "We can't."
And not just because they were all designed to air in order. It was a horrible coincidence, but this episode, this episode that was unairable, was a tentpole. Yeah, if Thrill or Temptation had been reordered it would have been sad. Same with "The Edge" and "Long Way To Morning". But big deal, right? Better to get a new episode out and not make the audience deal with repeats this early in the season. (Remember, we had aired our first five episodes in one week. This was only week five. In those days, week five was considered way too early in the year for reruns.)
But this was the follow-up to Elisa's injury. It was important to us that we continue our policy of "repercussions". We put her on crutches to show that a gunshot wasn't something that was solved in twenty-two minutes. This was an ongoing recovery. If you pulled the crutches out by airing Edge next, you blew out the sense of repercussions.
But that wasn't the clincher. Of course, the clincher was the Clock Tower. This was the episode where the Gargs were "banished" from the castle and moved to the Clock Tower. That was a major shift. If we cut straight to Edge, the audience would be lost. Fortunately, Gary was convinced. In a way, I was lucky that our first crisis of order came on such a pivotal "tentpole" episode. We couldn't reorder these. So we went with reruns. But it was a lesson learned. And it would effect the way we approached the second season.
But meanwhile, we had the problem at hand. We couldn't reanimate the entire show. So we picked shots to redo judiciously. There are still some awful looking scenes. When Goliath says, "How Dare You?!" to Elisa, he looks like an Animaniacs parody of Goliath. And that sarcophogus/iron maiden thing that Goliath follows Macbeth through looks like a prop out of CHIP N DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS. (Another perfectly good series, but with a slightly different art style, if you know what I mean.) Or how about the GIANT remote that Macbeth pulls from his duster in order to summon his ship? "Enter Macbeth" is still, as aired, the worst looking episode of the first season. And that really killed Frank and I, because we both really loved this story. We were sure that the bad animation would kill any interest in Macbeth. The fact that generally, the character did catch hold of fandom's collective imagination is a true testament to the work of Steve Perry, Michael Reaves, John Rhys-Davies and Jamie Thomason. And, oh, yes... William Shakespeare.
The weak picture forced us to use a lot of little tricks to get a final cut. One thing we did, which I regret, is reuse dialogue. Elisa says "You aren't safe here" like three times. And it isn't three different takes. It's just the exact same take reprinted and reused. Lex & Brooklyn also reuse lines to get Bronx to find Goliath. That sort of thing drives me nuts.
There is one really nice moment in the animation. When Macbeth chooses his sword off the wall, the reflection effect is quite sweet. And I also like the down shot of Bronx running right down the middle of Broadway (the street not the gargoyle). I also love how Goliath makes no attempt to hide. That really spoke to the Gargoyles attitude about living among humans. They wouldn't hold press conferences, but they would not cower.
Anyway, we ran reruns. Awakenings. And obviously all five episodes on five consecutive weeks. That might have been a good thing for people who had heard about the show by word of mouth in week two or later and needed to catch up. But for anyone who had been following the show from its premiere, it was a long time to wait for new episodes. By the time we came back, so much time had passed since "Deadly Force" that we felt the need to put a "Previously on Gargoyles" at the head of the episode. Another trick I cribbed from HILL STREET BLUES. Cartoons rarely did that sort of thing. Sure multi-parters had to. But single episodes... For some reason, it made me feel very grown up. (Which only proves how immature I really am.) The "Previously" also allowed us to cut 30 more seconds of bad looking footage out of the episode. That little bonus was something I'd remember for season two as well.
As we pushed guns in the previous episode, this one is laced with the imagery and language of home. What is it? What makes it? What price is one willing to pay to keep or secure it? There are four homes depicted. Well, really five. The Gargoyles' castle. Xanatos' prison. Macbeth's mansion. The Clock Tower. And the Castle again, once it is reclaimed by Xanatos and thus becomes a very, very different place.
I tried to make sure, as much as possible, that every episode had that kind of underlying theme. (I recently tried with very limited success to do the same thing in MAX STEEL. Someone asked me once, why the one-word S-Titles for all the Max Steel episodes. They were my attempt to make me and the writers focus on the theme of each story.)
And how do all these homes turn out? Macbeth is so obsessed that he loses his home to a fire. Xanatos finally gets out of prison. (Not on Halloween by the way, or that would make the dates depicted in Double Jeopardy innacurate. Obviously, Halloween was circled on his calendar because the guy just loves Halloween. And after all, Owen specifically says in a LATER scene that Xanatos has one week left before he gets out. The wall calendar had shown only a few days.) The Gargoyles lose the castle, gain the clock tower, but realize that home is literally where the heart is. And Xanatos... well all other concerns of Grimorum and gargoyle of destruction and competition pale next to the simple pleasure of being back home.
And how many of you were suprised that the Gargoyles lost the castle? That was supposed to be another pretty shocking development. I mean, sure, Batman might lose the Batcave for an episode, but for 56 episodes? When Goliath said "We'll be back to claim that which is ours" at the end, did most of you think he'd be back next week? Next month? By the time, the gang finally did return in chapter 65, did anyone still remember Goliath's vow?
I've discussed this before, but Macbeth's origins (at least in terms of our series) were (ironically) an early attempt to play the notion of THE HUNTER. I was looking for someone human who could physically take on the Gargoyles as prey. Someone smart, with an agenda. We actually started with the notion of trying to create our own KRAVEN THE HUNTER type character. But it quickly moved in its own direction. Frankly, away from Kraven and more toward BATMAN. In those days, we were constantly being told that we would be accused of ripping off Batman. So Frank, Michael and I decided to create a villain who, at least in M.O. would be our Batman.
I had a semi-separate idea to add a human to the cast who was from Goliath's time. Thus creating a good thematic nemesis or opposite for him. (The key to creating a good villain, in my opinion.) But this villain would have lived through the centuries. So that he was familiar with the very latest in technology. This dove-tailed with our anti-Batman, and was also exactly how we viewed Demona. So it soon became clear to Michael and I that the two characters must be connected in some way. That suggested that he shouldn't merely be 1000 years old. He should be Scottish as well. All that was left was a name. And given my love of Shakespeare, I'm surprised it took me so long to figure it out. Our nemesis was Macbeth himself. An immortal Scottish King. What Scottish King was more immortal than Macbeth? More mortal too for that matter.
This was the beginning of countless Shakespearian references that I would either slide (or force) into the show, or that the writers would stick in knowing I was a sucker for them. And I love the little exchange between Lex & Brooklyn...
LEX: "Wasn't "Macbeth" the name of that play by that new writer Shakespeare that Goliath was talking about?"
BROOKLYN: "Have you read it?"
LEX: "No. Have you?"
BROOKLYN: "No. But maybe we should."
This was my little way of trying to encourage our viewers to read or at least learn about the play. If they wanted to know who Macbeth was, it wouldn't hurt to go to the primary source.
And at the time, Shakespeare was my primary source for Macbeth. This was long before Tuppence Macintyre and Monique Beatty did all their research for me for "City of Stone". Back then, the only Macbeth I knew about was Shakespeare's.
We gave him a sense of honor, but a twisted one. And we gave him a very interesting motivation. I didn't yet know the particulars, but this guy was after Demona in a major way. He had stained glass windows in his home depicting the two of them. He was the man who named her. It was all pretty intriguing stuff to me. I love the exchange between him and Goliath. Goliath is a pawn. Mac wants the queen and believes that endangering Goliath is the surest way to ensnare Demona. And how does Goliath respond? By gum, if he doesn't laugh -- MANIACALLY!! And watch how the tables turn. Macbeth is not infallible and suddenly Goliath has him on the defensive. Goliath even uses a MACE!! Great stuff.
Incidentally, we had in the script described Macbeth as wearing a thin layer of exo-armor. And Goliath was supposed to dig his claws into it. Macbeth would escape by detaching from the armor. Instead, the artists did the bit with the duster coat. But I remembered the claws in armor thing and eventually found a place for it... in HUNTER'S MOON, PART THREE.
Finally, watching the episode tonight, my five year old daughter said she spotted the Mona Lisa on Macbeth's wall. I didn't see it. But I believe her. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was the original. Too bad about that fire.
Another ramble as I review the entire series. Comments welcome.
"Deadly Force". I have to admit. I never liked the title. It always sounded too generic to me. Michael Reaves pointed out how appropriate it was, but "Temptation" had already given me a taste for one word titles. I came to prefer those, unless I was given a damn good reason not to.
The third episode of our trio tryptich. Broadway. Broadway and Goliath. Broadway, Elisa and Goliath. But this episode represents so much more.
If you were watching the series in '94 during it's original run, and you didn't already think, "Hey, this is different." Then by the end of Act One of "Deadly Force" you knew. I don't know if there's ever been a cartoon like "Deadly Force". A mainstream media production. We had had up to that point a few fairly shocking cliffhangers, a few fairly shocking events, but what equals Broadway pulling that trigger, the suddenly "empty" kitchen and Elisa lying in a pool of her own blood as we fade to black and cut to a commercial?
Where do I start? With pride, I guess. I am extremely proud of this one.
Guns. My personal stance on gun control isn't an issue. Not in this episode. This is about something that I think every even vaguely intelligent person can agree on. Guns aren't toys. Guns aren't "cool", no matter how they're depicted in the media. Guns demand respect. Elisa is at fault. Broadway's massively at fault. Because neither held enough respect for the weapon. (Now one might argue that Elisa lived -- nominally -- alone. It didn't occur to her that she needed to be more careful with her weapon. But it should have. She's a cop. She should know better.) As I write this, as I watched the episode tonight, my head is of course filled with thoughts of the six year old boy who yesterday took his uncle's gun to school and shot a six year old girl, killing her. And I don't want to sound arrogant. But I am angry. And I feel like this episode could really help people. That parents should HAVE to watch this with their kids. Required viewing. And the fact that Toon Disney won't even air it...! I'm furious. Simply furious.
Guns are the least of it. We wanted to send a message about repercussions. Real world repercussions. I wanted our series to be ABOUT repercussions. Demona and the Captain betray Wyvern. There are repercussions. You can't fix things. You can't go back and change it. That's why time travel in the Gargoyles' Universe has such STRICT laws. Without those laws, you remove the dramatic law of repercussions. The real world law that actions have repercussions. This episode was our ode to repercussions. The guns were just our means to an end.
Still, guns would be our medium and the episode is laced with them. With gun imagery. With gun language (e.g. Chavez referring to Dracon's alibi: "He's bulletproof.", etc.). I don't think the episode is too pedantic. I hope it's honest. Probably the most dishonest thing in the story was that Elisa DIDN'T die. Forgive me for that. But I couldn't let her go just then. Still, I think we gave our audience a bigger scare in this one then in most of the other episodes combined. Maybe she would die. There's a sense of scary (again real world) vulnerability in this. And we tried to make her injuries and suffering as realistic as possible. We weren't doing E.R. (or St. Elsewhere, since E.R. didn't exist back then), but we did try to make the medical stuff play true.
All this makes me proud. Proud of what's on the screen.
But there's a whole other side to the making of this show that makes me proud. For what isn't visible on screen. For teamwork. This is a story that seemed to need to be told. Most of the springboards for the 66 chapters came from me, but this one was waiting for us. My bosses Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston were behind the story from the start. Michael Reaves wrote an amazing script, and my God the thing is beautifully made. No one balked. Not our S&P executive. Not our bosses. No one. Think about how amazing that is? We had one of our young heroes pick up a very REAL gun and shoot our female lead in her own kitchen. That's pretty intense.
And fairly rewarding. Even our publicity department saw the value in this one. They got advance copies and sent them out. We had (always had) phenomenally good reviews. But this episode brought us praise from the kind of parents groups that most action cartoon shows usually fear. People got it. They got it. Dr. Madeline Levine wrote a book called "Viewing Violence". It's a fairly sobering study of the effect of modern media on impressionable minds. Disabused me of a few notions, I'll tell you. But she praises GARGOYLES, specifically this episode, in her book. People got it. But not TOON DISNEY people, I guess. They show a huge lack of respect for everyone who worked on that show. Everyone who did or might benefit from it.
(Re: The pool of blood. When it first came back from Japan, the pool of blood was much larger. We pulled it back by calling a retake. This wasn't cowardice on anyone's part. This was us trying to get our message across. We didn't want kids goofing on the pool of blood. Interested in the pool for the pool's sake, so to speak. We wanted enough blood there to make it real. To scare everyone. But we didn't want the pool to be distracting. And also we didn't want to imply that Elisa had already bled out.)
Broadway - First and foremost, this was still designed to showcase Broadway. All our nobler aspirations wouldn't matter if you walked out of this episode still thinking of the big guy as an eating machine and nothing else. So let's start by praising Bill Faggerbakke and voice director Jamie Thomason. Bill's performance is wonderfully poignant without falling into bathos.
And man, who is the scariest gargoyle when angered? Goliath? Demona? How about a vote for old Broadway? Guilt and anger tear him apart, and no one's safe. He PALMS Glasses for God's sake. He's young but maturing fast. I only had vague notions of Angela at this time. And I sure didn't know they were destined for each other. But I can see it here. The child who's done something so bad he's afraid to go home, ultimately taking responsibility for actions too horrible for most of us to face. Amazing strength of character.
Elisa - A secondary purpose (tertiary?) was to demonstrate that Elisa was a real human being, with real connections. A real life. She has a boss (introducing Maria Chavez), an apartment (introducing the loft), a cat (introducing Cagney). And she wasn't born a twenty-something police detective. She has a family. A father (introducing Sgt. Peter Maza), a mother (introducing Diane Maza), a brother (introducing Derek Maza) and a sister who's away at college (we even get a photo peak at Beth Maza). This wasn't some cypher who existed only to facilitate things for the Gargoyles. This was a woman whose life extended beyond their reach. A woman who now lived in TWO worlds. With two sets of hospital visitors.
Elisa's ethnic/racial make-up parallels actress Salli Richardson's, who has both African American and Native American ancestry. This is where serendipidy played a roll. We'd later get stories out of her multi-racial background. And it paralleled the inter-species romance we were preparing to build slowly. Sometimes, everything just goes your way.
Goliath - He says he'll find the man who shot Elisa and "Make him Pay". We didn't have to say "kill" there. Again, because this early in the series, we could all easily believe that Goliath could kill. And in fact, when Broadway tells Goliath that he "can't" kill Dracon, Goliath's response is: "You think not?" All the gargoyles had an edge of danger. We may have lost some of that along the way. It's natural. You get to know characters, you stop feeling tense around them. But here, both Goliath and Broadway go a little berserk. And we don't know how they'll act.
And Goliath already loves Elisa. It's so clear to me. The way he touches her hair. The way he reacts to her being shot. He loves her. He doesn't know it yet. But it is SO there. That moment when Goliath tells Broadway that they should go see Elisa, and Broadway is thrilled because he thinks that means that Elisa survived. And then Goliath stops. Because he realizes he isn't sure if Elisa is still alive. It slays me.
And meanwhile, Goliath is adapting fairly fast to the modern world. He clearly got his head around the idea that Xanatos was put away for possessing "stolen property", so he leaves the busted gun in Dracon's lap to make sure Dracon goes away too. He says as much. Not bad for a medieval gargoyle.
And this whole episode is a character-fest. Besides the above mentioned Family Maza, etc. We bring back Bruno, head of Xanatos' security. This was intentional. Establishing that the commandos from episode 2 were just Xanatos' security team being given an unusual assignment.
There's Dracon (pre-stripe) with Glasses and even Pal Joey. Rocky Caroll really brought Glasses to life. I like him. And Dracon, well, I just love his old-fashioned "noive". Calling Elisa "Honey" and "Sugar". Sending Glasses off to sell guns right in front of her. He's pretty fun in this episode.
Owen is incredibly cool. You can really see the Mr. Smithers influence in this one. Times ten. He fights, he negotiates. He manipulates. He's a phenomenal proxy for Xanatos. A true trickster with a low burning flame.
We also introduced Doctor Sato. I always planned on using him more. We just never found the story. Too bad. I liked him a lot.
And we cameo Matt. Originally, Chavez's driver was going to be Morgan. But we had already started work on "The Edge". We knew Matt was coming. So we decided to preview him here. Just a nice little touch for anyone paying attention.
I'd love to know a little bit more about the movie "Showdown", a black and white western that was premiering in 1994. A score by Ennio Morricone (channeled through Carl Johnson -- a guy who doesn't get enough praise for the stunning work he did on the show). And the movie seemed to be a hit. Go figure.
And what about that movie theater. The balcony is closed. But they're storing bags of pre-popped popcorn. How old was that stuff?
Finally, Owen is very specific about the 37 missing weapons. Early on, I tried to keep count. To allow Broadway to eventually account for every one of those guns. But that was one detail that got away from me.
[More rambles on individual episodes. As usual, I encourage you to post your responses here.]
Part two of our trio tryptich. Brooklyn looks pretty cool in this one. I have to admit, I didn't realize what a break-out star Brooklyn was back then. I mean I liked him, but I didn't yet realize how much he would really capture a huge chunk of fandom's imagination. (Of course, back then the show hadn't aired yet, so there wasn't any fandom.) But seeing this episode in hindsight, you can sure see how cool this guy was. Good-looking with the hair and the muscles and everything. Even the snout adds to the look.
And he's so sympathetic too. Yes, he gets "turned" by Demona. But he immediately realizes that what she's doing is wrong. He admits his mistake and tries to correct it. He's such a good guy. Later, of course, I'd recognize the star power and attempt to give him his own series: TIMEDANCER.
Back then, of course, I had really modeled the ensemble nature of the show on HILL STREET BLUES. Goliath was my Frank Furillo. Everyone would get their own stories, but Goliath carried the weight. So, although the tryptich was designed to deepen the characters of the trio, you can see that each episode also prominently features Goliath. THRILL: Lex & Goliath. TEMPTATION: Brooklyn & Goliath. DEADLY FORCE: Broadway & Goliath. (And later, LONG WAY TO MORNING: Hudson & Goliath.) Don't get me wrong, I don't regret this at all. I think those are all great stories, and without Goliath they would not have worked as written. But I think the design of them betrays a bit of insecurity. We weren't sure if the other characters could carry their own episodes alone. The nice thing about the tryptich (and LONG WAY) was that it proved to us what a strong ensemble of characters we had built.
Lex has some real attitude here: "You rode a horse once, does that mean you could build one from scratch."
The motorcycle is interesting. It was one of three toy driven elements we consciously put into the show. (The others were in "Her Brother's Keeper" and "Eye of the Storm".) It was a rare moment of Kenner and Disney being in semi-synch. And the toy actually looks like the motorcycle. But of course, what the hell were we going to do with a motorcycle? How could we make that an on-going element in the show. Sure Batman has a batmobile, but the garg-cycle just sounds silly. So we put it in, but Michael, Brynne, Frank and I are so subversive that we blow the thing up before the end of Act One. Kenner never said anything. I'm not sure if they ever saw the episode. (But we weren't being very good partners.) But what goes around comes around. I'll tell the flip side of this when I ramble on Keeper and Storm.
S&P required that Brooklyn wear a helmet when riding. That was fine with me, but I wanted to make an effort to make it organic. Brooklyn puts it on because it's "All part of the look." Helmets make it cooler. Thus helmets are cool. Thus kids will wear their helmets. Aren't we sneaky?
Also, Brooklyn loses yet another pair of sunglasses.
Morgan's back. But he litters. That always bugged me. Talk about setting a bad example.
And is that Margot Yale's actress sister on the television sitcom saying, "Who do you think you are... Elvis?" [Add laugh track here.]
"Kindred Spirits" - Brooklyn quotes Lex from Thrill and attempts to make the same kind of connection with the bikers that Lex attempted with the Pack. With similar results. Later, Demona refers to Lex's little adventure with the Pack. This was the moment when Michael Reaves and I decided to attempt to treat the series as episodic but sequential. The order of the episodes would matter. Yes, you should be able to enjoy any individual story... but viewing is enhanced when you see the shows in order. This was not an obvious decision. Most shows REQUIRE that episodes are airable in ANY ORDER. We had that requirement too, up to a point. But we wanted to add something more. To play with continuity. With evolving lives. This wasn't an issue in the pilot five parter. Of course, that had to air in order. And then there was Thrill. Just the first one we made after Awakening. That aired next. But we didn't think about it. But here, we had to decide. So we opted for an episodic but sequential series. (My favorite kind.) We referred to previous conversations. (Elisa's still pestering Goliath about the Xanatos-ticking clock.) And we laid pipe for future episodes, by having Demona rip a few spells out of the Grimorum. (At the time, I didn't even know what those spells were for. But I knew she had them. I knew we'd use them.) We had Demona admit she had lied about how she had survived to the present. Etc. Anyway, all this continuity would later bite us on the ass a bit. (I'll talk more about this when we get to "ENTER MACBETH", which forced us to slightly change our M.O. for season two.) But again, I have no regrets; I think it's one of the things that makes the show special.
Meanwhile, how did Demona know about the Pack & Lex? Although the pact with Xanatos clearly hasn't been broken yet (not till CITY OF STONE, obviously), she also doesn't exactly have free run of the castle. She has Brooklyn steal the book. Of course, she wants Brooklyn complicit. And it's hard to sneak around the castle, when the Gargoyles (at least think that they) are the proprieters. I just always wondered whether Demona might not have been following Lex & Goliath around throughout that entire Pack battle. Or whether, Xanatos just phoned her and told her. Obviously, the former is much more interesting.
Another great looking episode that we didn't fully appreciate at the time. Lots of great little touches. I love when Demona casts her spell, and then closes the Grimorum with one last flash of magic. So cool. And, as I said, Brooklyn really looks great throughout.
But there are a couple things...
The bikers approach Brooklyn. They get very close, and he's not in shadow. But they don't notice he's a "monster" until he takes off his helmet. What?! The snout didn't give it away?! That scene continues to drive me nuts. I just hate how it was staged.
And when Elisa's lecturing Goliath she is wagging her index finger in his face. That's annoying enough. But worse, the finger seems to get longer (like Pinocchio's nose) the more she wags (or nags). It's sorta mesmerizing. In that scene, I can't see anything else.
I love how Marina Sirtis' voice bristles when Brooklyn mentions Elisa to Demona. Demona/Marina forces herself to say that the Detective may be "The exception [to human evil] that proves the rule." It seems sincere, but I really hear the hatred underneath.
Elisa tries to talk Goliath into leaving again. This time, she's got an idea where he can go. (So although that seems to be a repeat of their conversation from THRILL, we actually advanced that plot too. Weren't we smart?)
[And yes, I realize that all these rambles sound incredibly arrogant and immodest. I'm sitting here praising me and my team's own work. But what can I tell you? I do really like it. And I figure you guys might still be interested in my -- totally biased -- observations.]
Anyway, I love how what Elisa's saying to a very close-minded Goliath plays right into what Brooklyn heard from Demona. Brooklyn tries to argue Elisa's point. Putting Elisa and Demona, ironically, on the same side. Kudos to Brynne and Michael. It's a great little scene. Of course it ends with Brooklyn and Goliath turning to stone mid-argument. Just like Lex & Goliath did in the previous episode. Frank came to me and warned me not to do that again. Twice in two episodes was enough. At least for a while.
I also love Goliath's lines about "half-truths that [Demona] has thoroughly embraced."
Goliath just loves saying "Joy-Ride". It seems so pleasant.
Lex's double take reactions to finding out the motorcycle was blown up.
Elisa's "Thanks, I think." reaction to Brooklyn saying that he knew that she at least was a worthwhile member of the human race. Brooklyn still isn't quite free of prejudice. A work in progress.
The DEAD BODY. I held my breath on that one. We've got a chalk outline. And a corpse in a body bag. I was sure S&P would balk. But Adrienne was great. She saw that it was important to the story. And since we didn't dwell on it or explain it, she figured little kids wouldn't get it and/or be traumatized. As you can see we had a great working relationship with S&P. I mean, a DEAD BODY! It still shocks me.
Did Demona pay that family to perform their little scene for Brooklyn? I didn't think so at the time. But now I'm suspicious.
Brooklyn has a perfectly innocent line about the Cloisters being a place like the "world we came from" or something like that. Meaning of course, the medieval time that they came from. Once this aired, I immediately start seeing e-mails claiming this as evidence that Gargoyles are from another planet. This misapprehension may be one of the reasons I so quickly got involved with fandom.
Did we cheat? Elisa solves Goliath's slave-spell problem by using the spell to unhex him. I love that little bit. But Michael Reaves and I had a long back & forth discussion where we debated whether we were cheating the audience. (I seem to recall that at different times he and I both came down on both sides of the argument.) We finally decided to go for it. And again, no regrets. I do think it worked. And we sort of both promised each other that we wouldn't pull that kind of thing again. (Airwalker, I think there's a mention of this in the City of Stone memo I sent you.)
Last Friday and Saturday, the Max Steel pilot, episode #1: "Strangers" aired on the WB... twice.
Unfortunately, the rest won't be airing in order. For a change, this isn't being caused by some bizarre scheduling perversion. The truth is that episode #2 isn't ready yet. Almost. But not quite.
So instead, this coming Saturday (March 4) the WB will present episode #3: "Shadows", written by Lydia Marano.
As the writer of episode #1, I do want to point out that I do know that the Berlin Wall was torn down over a decade ago. After Max says, "I can see the Berlin Wall from here." He was supposed to listen to 'Berto and say, "Oh, right. Some other wall then." I haven't been participating in the post-production on this series, so I'm not entirely sure why the second line was cut. And normally, I wouldn't mention it. But I think it makes me look like an idiot. So I'm gonna be petty and set the record straight.
I will say that the "Developed by" credit I get on the opening titles is without a doubt the COOLEST-LOOKING credit I've ever had.
More musings on individual GARGOYLES EPISODES. As usual I welcome reactions and responses posted here based on both your original impressions from when you first saw the episode and later thoughts from repeated or recent viewings.
After the semi-epic "Awakening" multi-parter, Michael Reaves and I consciously set about creating a tryptich to develop each member of the Trio. Lex up first.
In hindsight, we probably didn't do enough Lex episodes. (I think this is Thom Adcox's favorite. He said "Leader of the Pack" at the pro-chat the other day, but the more I think about it, the more I think he was describing "Thrill".) We tried to give each member of the Trio equal coverage, but down the road, Lex might have been cheated a bit. But not here.
I love the fact that Lex is RIGHT. Sure, he's wrong about the Pack, but he was so right about taking chances on people. And I love that as stubborn as Goliath is, he's capable of admitting his mistakes, giving Lex full credit for, uh, rightness. Practically quoting back to Lex everything Lex had said to him.
You may notice that starting with this episode and running through the end of the first season, the writer's got their credit at the beginning with the title of the episode. This was a function of the Disney Afternoon. Michael Reaves rightly objected to the "gang credits" at the end of the two hour block. It had never been an issue before, because annually each new series, i.e. the one with original episodes, had always aired last with its credits immediately following. But in Gargoyles' first season, we aired on Fridays at 4pm, a half-hour before the last show. That meant that the writers' credits didn't appear until a half hour after the show ended. Gary Krisel agreed to make an exception and display writer's credits at the head of the episode for that one season. I wish I had fought to make that rule permanent. I didn't. Mea culpa.
I think Thrill is important right off because it established a few things which today we take for granted, but which I think were, at the time, fairly unusual for a cartoon series.
--Xanatos was still in prison. He hadn't just "somehow" gotten sprung between the end of Episode 5 and the beginning of 6.
--The Gargoyles won the Awakening war. And the castle still wasn't theirs to keep. At every turn, Michael and I just tried to make things play in a slow, steady logical progression. I wasn't trying to change the world in every episode. Not because I'm against world changing, but because each new situation was fascinating to explore. But we wouldn't let the world stand still either.
Early on, you can still see signs that to the creators, the audience AND the other characters, the Gargoyles themselves were still a wonderfully alien species. (And I don't mean that literally. Geez.) We tried to maintain the perspective of creatures out of their time. Goliath is stubborn, even dense and condescending toward Elisa, when she tries to convince him to leave the castle. But I think from his POV, his responses were perfectly natural. Xanatos was banished. The castle was theirs. The concept of ownership was sketchy for the Gargoyles at best, but if they did understand it, they understood it in the "Possession = Ownership" sense. The notion that Xanatos could still "own" the castle after an embarrassing defeat was completely ALIEN to Goliath.
Likewise, look at Fox's actions at the end of the episode. Can you imagine Fox in any later episode crudely taking a hostage? It seems like she checked her brain at the door. But it works for me because at that time, she (and we) didn't truly know what an angry gargoyle was capable of. Maybe Goliath would dismember her. Our boys got so borderline cuddly as the series progressed that I had to remind everyone just how dangerous they could be in HUNTER'S MOON. But Hunter's Moon wouldn't have worked back in Season One. Because in Season One, no one would have been shocked by Goliath's desire for Demonaesque vengeance. Maintaining that edge was always very important.
But if Fox wasn't acting her brightest here, I think Wolf was. That scene with Susie and Billy, where he pretends the Gargoyles were monsters sent by the evil ninjas, is about as smart a move as we ever see Wolf make. When you think about it, it's pretty darn clever. For him anyway. In later episodes, I think I got too big a kick out of making him dumb. I could justify it after UPGRADE. But if I got back, I think I'd give him a bit more of a mental edge.
And speaking of Wolf and Fox, how about that Pack? Their first appearance. The thing I was most struck by in viewing it here is how great they were cast. Clancy Brown, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer, Cree Summer and Jim Cummings. Man, what a great ensemble. Hats off to casting and voice director Jamie Thomason. Time and again, he assembled great, great people for us.
There are a lot of little touches that make me smile. Jim Cummings "narration" during the appearance at Madison Square Gardens is priceless. We were consciously trying to do a professional wrestling meets (the hated) Power Rangers thing, and it amuses me to no end. There's that very anime shot of the Pack standing absolutely still (a held cell) while spotlights pass over them. It's very cool.
I even like that we got the notion of the Daily Tattler into the episode. That was something I wanted to expand on more. The Gargoyles never made any real attempt to keep themselves very hidden. Oh sure, they weren't holding New Olympian style press conferences, but they didn't sweat it if they were spotted. But we figured that the more of an urban myth they became, the less the majority of the population would believe in them. And once stories about Gargoyles started regularly appearing in the Tattler, people would be sure the whole thing was faked. I'm not sure we mentioned the Tattler again until Hunter's Moon, which is too bad. Though it does show how consciously Michael and I were echoing first season concerns and contrasts in that final mini-series.
Fox and Lex. Their relationship is established in that one moment when she strokes him under his chin. Even I didn't know that down the road they'd become flat-out allies thanks to Alex. Hell, back then I didn't know Alex was on the way. Didn't even know that Fox and David were an item. The characters were just beginning to teach me who they were and what they wanted.
Action-wise this thing is taut. The Pack just keeps coming and coming. The Gargs never have a chance to catch their breath. And, then, suddenly, they do. And the tables turn fiercely. And the Point of View, as well. We are ALWAYS on the side of the hunted. When it's Goliath and Lex, we get very little of the Pack. Just snatches of them attacking. The gargs struggling to stay alive. But up on that roof, we abruptly switch POV. Suddenly, we're following the Pack. Even, dare I say, sympathising with them. Not that we want them to win. But we begin to identify with them as they battle these strange creatures. I love that.
It's hard to believe, but when Frank Paur and I first saw the animation on this episode we were crushed. I look at it now and think its gorgeous. But we were so spoiled by the Awakening animation, we thought this was a debacle. Later we'd get some truly mediocre animation and learn to appreciate the good stuff more. But back then... we were idiots.
Those tv lines were my idea. I love television. I mean I really, really love it. And I hate when people attack it. I think on a percentile basis, there's more good work being done in television than any other medium. Doesn't mean there isn't a lot of crap being done. But that's true in everything. But still it's fun to poke fun. To bite the hand that's feeding you every once in awhile. One of the trio says: "The Pack is just like us. They fight evil. And they do it on television." (I just saw the episode half an hour ago, and I can't be sure who said it. That's pathetic.) Of course, whoever said that didn't mean to say that the Gargoyles were also on television. That was an afterthought. But it's a bit of an in-joke for us and our audience, because the Gargoyles are just like the Pack. I just like to think they had a better show.
But my favorite is Hudson's line: "Maybe we shouldn't believe everything we see on the television..." A lesson we all should live by.
And finally, "Thrill" contained the first of what would soon be a Gargoyles Trademark. The Xanatos Tag. Our favorite manipulator snatching partial victory from seemingly overwhelming defeat. Again, something vaguely revolutionary for a cartoon. You gotta love the guy.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
I have just completed the last of the 1999 ASK GREG backlog. <Woooh!>
I'll start on January, 2000 very soon. And hopefully, we'll soon get to a point where I'm answering questions within a week or so of when they're being asked.
Get a real dialogue going...
Elizabeth Izzo wrote:
> Hey Greg,
> I was just wondering what you think I should do. I
> came to a part in my report where I was mentioning the
> cancelation of gargs and the attempt at TGC. I wrote
> up some stuff, but I felt that this was a touchy
> topic. I wanted to write it truthfully, and I know
> that meny ppl like to chalk it up to, "they trashed
> our show and then did a bad re-make". I know that a
> lot of things happened, ppl left, new ppl came in,
> mistakes were made here and there, and some things
> just couldnt be helped, ratings this and that. So I
> wanted to know how you think I should say this. The
> first part would be something like, "Sadly Gargs got
> cancelled for..(fill in various reasons) or should I
> just say It was canceled and leave it at that? To
> me..that seems to breif. Like I should explain what
> happened to the best of my ability. How do you think I
> should explain it?
> The other part would be something like, "and then soon
> after TGC arrived but.." Should I say that ABC just
> didnt have the same ppl, funding? Gargoyles just was
> lucky in that it had a bunch of wonderful ppl with a
> lot of the same ideas and TGC just didnt have that?
> Should I mention that you would have stayed but didnt
> like how they 'demoted' you? *shrugs* this to me is
> just..a touchy subject. I want to write it as
> truthfully as I can. I know I KNOW this is in Ask
> Greg!! I just wanted to know the best way (you think)
> to explain this.
Saying GARGOYLES was cancelled and then GOLIATH CHRONICLES came after isn't accurate. GOLIATH CHRONICLES was made as the third season of GARGOYLES. It was just going to be on ABC instead of in syndication. Like how the show JAG switched from NBC to CBS (or was it the other way around?). We didn't even know they were changing the title until way into the process.
So you should start by saying that changes took place between the second and third season. (Changes also took place between the first and second season and during all seasons, but obviously there was a real sea change after season two.) Then enumerate in as much detail as you please. Obviously, you should try to be as accurate as possible. Try to check your facts. And keep in mind that largely, I'm not giving you facts, but rather my take on things. If you're being honest, you should try to interview other people and get their takes. At the very least, you should attribute information provided by me TO ME, so that your reader (i.e. your teacher) knows that YOU understand that this is one man's perspective.
Seth asked for more words from Benny. He's napping, but my five year old daughter Erin wanted a chance to communicate directly with all of you. Here she is...
"My best friend likes the gargoyles. In fact, I like them too. My name is Erin Weisman."
That's all she had to say right now. Maybe more later.
More tidbits and observations...
The first appearance of the Steel Clan. It's a silly little thing, but at the time I was ridiculously pleased by the name "The Steel Clan". It just seemed so right. Cool sounding, tough. And yet original and appropriate to the series. It was one of those early moments that made me feel like I was really tapping into the Gargoyles Universe.
Also the first appearance of the Eyrie Building Lobby Security Guard. The one that Oberon will later do his Obi-wan number on. I never forget a minor character.
One reason some of the editing is different between the video version and the tv episodic version has to do with when the two separate products were due. (I'm not referring to the TV movie version that's been appearing recently. I have no idea who edited that one. Or when. Or why.) As I've mentioned before, the video version was not originally created for video. It was created for our world premiere on two big screens at the movie theater multiplex on Pleasure Island at Walt Disneyworld. That premiere was in September of 1994. But the series premiere was almost a full month later. While I was supervising the editing of the movie version, Frank was (relatively speaking) taking his time on the five episodes. In my editing bay, we didn't have the luxury of waiting for all the retakes to come back before we had to complete OUR edit and lock picture for sound design. In fact, sometimes we were editing to pencil test animation. That's animated pencils without background paintings or ink or paint. It can sometimes be very hard to read at all. But we had to make decisions based not soley on "ART" but also on what we likely thought we'd get back in time to get the two prints made for the Florida premiere. Sometimes we cut little pieces that wound up turning out fine and making it into the episode.
Generally, I think the animation in this episode is just stunning. A few examples.
--Hudson lifting Bronx off that train.
--The whole scene with Xanatos, Demona and Owen standing beside the Steel Clan robots while they are covered with sheets. Some incredible shadow work. And the character stuff is so sweet.
--Some gorgeous battle stuff with those robots.
--The castle tower blowing up, crashing and falling apart.
This and more can still take my breath away.
I love all the Demona-Goliath-Elisa triangle stuff. It's all spelled out in the confrontation when Goliath wants to go keep his appointment with Elisa, and Demona's trying to stop him. If Demona hadn't been so bloodthirsty aboard FORTRESS-1, would Goliath have even remembered his appointment with Elisa? Or would he be off cuddling with his long-lost love?
Anyway, that whole conversation is just full of delicious irony -- all working against Demona. Goliath says, "I cannot make war on an entire world," completely unaware that that's exactly what Demona wants to do. He says, "Doesn't Xanatos prove that some humans can be trusted?" But of course, Demona knows that Xanatos absolutely cannot be trusted. Every statement Goliath makes pushes Demona toward further extremism. And he isn't even trying. Finally, after Demona reminds him of the Wyvern betrayal and Massacre, he says that the ones responsible for that "have been dead for 1000 years." Now putting aside that the Captain and Hakon aren't quite as dead-dead as Goliath thinks, this has got to push Demona over the edge. Deep down she knows her own responsibility. Again Goliath is wrong, because the traitor is standing right in front of him. My hats off to Michael Reaves. What a great scene! "So be it." she says. Goliath won't know it until VOWS. But they are DONE. Right there.
Cultural Differences 101: Elisa is trying to convince Goliath not to trust Xanatos. I don't remember the exact line, but she says something with the word "three" in it. (Maybe refering to the three disks or the three Cyberbiotics installations...?) Anyway, to indicate three she holds up her index finger, her middle finger and ... her thumb. It still looks totally goofy to me. I don't know anyone who wouldn't use their ring finger with the other two, using the thumb to hold the pinky down. Does anyone know if in Japan the thumb is preferred?
When Demona's destroying FORTRESS-1, Goliath is standing around stunned. She tries to get him to leave, but he refuses. Finally, she pulls him out. What was supposed to happen was that the tilting ship was supposed to dump him out the hatch at the same time Demona was pulling. So that he was more unwilling to abandon the crew of the ship. But it never animated with the tilt going the right way.
In our original development we planned on making a lot bigger deal of all the various Xanatos Enterprises sub-divisions. You got a taste of that with PackMedia Studios and Gen-U-Tech (a.k.a. Gen-U-Tech Systems or G.U.T.S.). But we were also going to make a bigger deal of his robotics division, which was going to be called the Scarab Corporation. (Thus the scarab design that appears on the transmitter.) But Xanatos wound up being even more hands-on then I anticipated. Less Lex Luthor. More his own glorious self. So Scarab never got much of a spotlight because Xanatos handled those kinds of adventures himself and/or the robots handled things themselves (cf. Coyote in Leader of the Pack). For those of you who have been to one of the Gatherings and seen the original Gargoyles Pitch, you might recall a giant chrome cockroach climbing up the side of a building to attack Goliath. That was going to be a Scarab Corp. creation.
Isn't Xanatos just too cool:
"Let's let them play out there little drama, shall we?" He's so amused. He can't resist watching the confrontation. And for once I don't feel like it's cause he's a villain stupidly giving the hero time to turn the tables. He's sincerely entertained by the show.
"Without me you'd still be gathering moss." Nuff said.
There's another great little dialogue editing moment. Real subtle. When Demona says: "The plan was perfect." Goliath whispers "Plan?" She says something else and then he completes his thought "What Plan?" That little overlap wasn't scripted. It was another product of me having the luxury to really nurse those dialogue edits on those early scripts.
There is good and evil in all of us. Human and Gargoyle alike. Hey, Lexy, there's another major theme of the series. No one group has a monopoly on either attribute.
One thing that never quite worked for me, was the reveal of Demona's name. She makes such a big deal of it. But the name (at this point in the series) just doesn't have enough resonance for me yet. Later, sure. "Demona". We all sit up and take notice. But there. "Demona". Yeah, so? Did that moment play for you guys?
Goliath is about to toss Xanatos off the building. Elisa begs him not to. That'll make you just like Demona she says. Then Hudson pipes in and says, "She's right, lad. Is that what you want?" I intentionally instructed our voice director Jamie Thomason to direct Ed Asner to read that line with ambiguity. Hudson DOESN'T care whether Goliath tosses David or not. He simply wants Goliath to make an informed choice.
And yeah, yeah, David & Goliath. Perfect opposites.
Elisa: "Maybe, we'll catch a Giants' game."
Were any of you surprised when a Giant Oberon attacked the castle?
As usual, I encourage responses posted here, on either your original feelings when seeing the episode for the first time and/or newer more recent observations from repeat or recent viewings.