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In anticipation of watching "Outfoxed" anyday now, I'm going to go ahead and post the memo I wrote to Cary Bates, after he turned in his outline for that episode, originally titled, "After the Fox".
Notes on "After the Fox" Outline...
Well, one of the advantages of having you as one of my story editors is that I can be brutally honest. We got some problems here. The main one being that the story doesn't get going in earnest until the last scene of Act Two. We're horribly padded here. Normally, I would give this back to you for a second draft outline, but -- my fault -- I didn't read it in time. So I'll beat it out here.
FOX vs. RENARD
First off, let's make Renard the last name. I know I said it was o.k. to make Renard the first name, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn't want Fox's only connection to the Renard/Fox name to be that it was her father's first name. I don't think she could admit to herself that she was borrowing anything from him. So let's make her given name Janine Renard. He still calls her Janine. She rejects that and has her name legally changed to her nom de guerre: Fox. (Like Cher or Madonna, it's just the one word. Remember, she was a performer.) The "Fox" is the part of herself that she believes in. The irony, of course, is that the name did come from her father.
I don't think Fox consciously hates her father. I don't think she consciously admits to having feelings that could cloud her judgment. There's no vengeance kick here. No line of dialogue where she says she wants to see him suffer or that she only saved his life so she can continue to torture him. That all may be subconsciously true, but if so, she doesn't realize it. Remember, she's Xanatos' perfect mate. Neither her nor her husband get that emotional. They enjoy the game for its own sake. Playing it against her father may give it a special tang, but from her point of view, there's only one reason to do this: Cyberbiotics. She wants it, so she decides to take it. If it wasn't worth having, she wouldn't have bothered.
The investor scenario doesn't work. Just because the investors aren't killed, doesn't mean these five terrorized guys are now gonna invest. The damage is done. The stock price will still fall and Cyberbiotics will still belong to Fox by close of business tomorrow.
The solution, I believe, is to change the location. Renard has just rebuilt the CYBERBIOTICS AIR FORTRESS. He's determined to prove that it's safe and effective. It's a corporate icon, like the Good Year Blimp -- and the public does think it's really cool -- but it's still not the smartest investment. It's hybris. Worse... it's Euro-Disney. Renard's had to invest way too much to rebuild it. If it's destroyed so soon after it's reconstruction, Cyberbiotics will be bankrupt and easy prey for Fox. This'll tie in nicely with Goliath's growing sense that he owes Renard a debt. Goliath helped destroy the first Air Fortress. Now, he must save the second one. And if you save the ship, you save the company from Fox.
INTEGRITY: GARGOYLE vs. HUMAN
For once, this should not be an issue. Renard accuses Goliath of not having as much integrity as humans do. But Renard doesn't believe humans have very much integrity -- that's why he's automated his operations -- so we're arguing the wrong premise. Integrity is not the province of either race. Deep down, Goliath may have a vague prejudice that gargoyles are generally more honest than humans, but in his head he knows that his race does not have a monopoly on integrity. Thanks to the events of our pilot, Renard may have a general mistrust of gargoyles, but that's not the point he should be making. Renard firmly believes that integrity is an absolute. You have it. Or you don't. Cut and Dry. Black and White. He's got it. Most humans don't, including Xanatos and his daughter. Machines can be programmed with absolutes. People can't. So he's populating his world with machines. His assumption is that Goliath is no better than Xanatos and that all of the creature's protestations about being duped are nothing more than whining excuses. Will Goliath take responsibility for his actions or won't he? Let's not distract this important theme, with issues of race.
Though I loved the line: "You're gargoyle enough to admit it."
Who is this guy exactly? Security man? Computer programmer? Born-again? Was he hired on a project basis to complete the automation? Is he helping Fox because he knew Renard was going to fire him? Has Vogel automated all of Renard's operations or just the security? If it's just the security, than what are they securing? Why does he repent? Basically, the character is coming across as very vague and contradictory. We have to clean this up.
Let's also make sure we fit Vogel into our theme. He is corrupted by Fox. Ultimately, Renard will use Vogel as another example of why humans cannot be trusted. But Goliath will point out that the cybots were just as corruptible, while incapable of experiencing a change of heart, as Goliath has had.
"After the Fox"... I don't get it. Am I missing something?
1. Open quietly with FOX at the EYRIE BUILDING. She turns on the evening news. TRAVIS MARSHALL is on the air, reporting from JFK or LaGuardia or wherever. It is the Maiden Voyage of FORTRESS-2, the CYBERBIOTICS airship. Marshall had hoped to get an interview with the reclusive head of Cyberbiotics, HALCYON RENARD, but has to settle for Renard's right-hand man VOGEL. Fox watches all this with some interest.
2. Out at the airfield, Marshall, a tough journalist, questions the wisdom and expense of Fortress-2, particularly since FORTRESS-ONE crashed into the river last year. Vogel counters that the cause of that crash was an act of corporate espionage that was only successful thanks to human error on the part of Fortress-One's crew. Fortress-2 is fully automated, run by patented CYBOTS. Human error is not possible. No humans aboard at all? After this test flight, human scientists will occupy it's laboratories to research new wonders, but there is no human crew, except for Vogel and Mr. Renard, himself. Marshall asks if it's true that Renard has invested all of his personal fortune into Fortress-2, and that if it doesn't perform both he and Cyberbiotics will be ruined. Vogel has no comment on that, and heads inside the ship.
3. We follow Vogel, as he heads for the command center. Everything is automated, and there are little Cybots everywhere. All with very specific functions. No waste. At the command center, Vogel contacts Renard in his private office, elsewhere on board. Cut briefly to a shadowed Renard hovering in his ultra-chair, watching Vogel on a vid-screen. Renard gives permission to launch.
4. Fortress-2 launches. Huge turbines and compressors roar. And GOLIATH and ELISA watch from a nearby roof or hilltop. Goliath claims to be here because he is concerned that XANATOS might attempt to attack this ship, just as he tricked Goliath into attacking the first one. But Elisa probably knows that the air fortress is a symbol of Goliath's own guilt -- a guilt that Goliath has yet to come to terms with. Goliath decides to follow the airship, just to be safe.
5. In the air above Manhattan, a cybot alerts Vogel to their pursuer [Goliath]. Vogel informs Renard. Renard says Vogel knows what to do. (It doesn't hurt if we briefly misdirect the audience into thinking that Renard is a villain.)
6. Goliath glides a short distance behind the airship. Suddenly, flying cybots swarm out of a Fortress-2 hold. There're not very big, and they have very simple attack programming. They fire medium strength stun bolts and they miss more often than they hit. Goliath can swat them away easily. Clearly, these cybots don't seem to be on a par with Xanatos' STEEL CLAN. But if results are what counts, they turn out to be superior. There are just too many of the little things. No matter how many Goliath trashes, there are more coming at him. They hover, which Goliath can't do. And eventually, the stun beams add up. Finally, he gets hit with a barrage of them and passes out. Two larger cybots are waiting to catch him and bring him into the airship. (Let's consistently depict the cybots as mono-functional. Each model capable of doing only one thing.)
7. Inside the airship, Goliath regains consciousness in the brig. The bars on the cell might be bendable for Goliath, but he is forced back by Cybot guards with built-in cattle prods. Vogel is there, and a large metal pneumatic door slides open to finally reveal Halcyon Renard. He floats in on his hover chair. He has silver hair and a very sharp mind -- but he is definitely not "robust and vital".
Renard hovers around Goliath, sizing him up. "So this is what the boys at Gen-U-Tech have been up to. Xanatos must be very proud." Goliath responds that he is neither Gen-U-Tech's creation nor Xanatos'. Renard laughs. Goliath demands to know why he is being held prisoner. "Because if you're my prisoner, than I know you can't destroy Fortress-2 for your master." Goliath: "I have no master." "No? Then why did you do this?" Renard flicks a remote button on his chair, and the walls slide back to reveal a large screen. Another button, and video clips from "Awakening, Parts IV and V" show Goliath's participation in the destruction of Fortress-One. Chastened, Goliath tries to explain that he had been duped by Xanatos: "It wasn't my fault." But Renard doesn't let up: "It's not my fault. It's not my fault. You sound like all my human employees. My former human employees. Crush them all together and you couldn't squeeze an ounce of personal integrity from the lot of them. Don't make excuses, creature! Take responsibility for your actions! Stop whining!"
"I DO NOT WHINE," says Goliath, as he rips the bars off his cell and uses them to smash his cybot guards. But Renard doesn't even flinch. "You don't whine, but you also don't hesitate to destroy more of my personal property." He presses another button, and two stun cannons on his chair blast at Goliath until he is knocked out again.
Vogel apologizes. "All my fault, sir. I'll make sure he can't get out of the next cell." We see that Renard respects Vogel for taking the blame. A cybot informs Vogel that he has an incoming personal call. Renard exits, not wanting to impose on Vogel's privacy.
As Cybots drag the unconscious Goliath away, Vogel turns to a vid-screen and activates it. Reveal Fox on the other end. Is it safe to talk? Mr. Renard always respects my privacy. Is Vogel ready to sabotage Fortress-2? He is if the money's been deposited in his Swiss Bank Account. All taken care of. Vogel: "Then we're ready. And the good news is..." He looks at Goliath. "We've got a perfect candidate to take the blame."
8. A short time later, Goliath awakens shackled to a wall in a new cell, with MUCH thicker bars, and even more cybot guards. Renard is there in his hover chair, brooding. If only Goliath could make him understand that Xanatos is to blame. But Renard: "Oh, I have no doubt of that. You aren't the first poor soul Xanatos has corrupted. Owen Burnett. Anton Sevarius. They both were Cyberbiotics employees... and they're the least of what that viper has stolen from me. I've no doubt he was behind the attack and no reason to doubt that he tricked you into participating." But if that's so, than why does Renard hold Goliath responsible? "Someone has to. And you obviously don't." It doesn't matter to Renard whose idea it was. It doesn't matter whether Goliath believed he was doing the right thing. Now he knows the truth. What's he going to do about it? Goliath grimly rattles his chains, then says, "I think a better question might be, what are you going to do about it."
9. Xanatos and Fox are working on their Kung Fu at the Eyrie Building. Make a point of showing that they are evenly matched. While they fight, they talk casually. Xanatos: "Weren't you mounting a hostile take-over of Cyberbiotics today? Your not having second thoughts about taking it from old man Renard?" Before she can answer, OWEN enters to alert Fox of a phone call from her physician. When Xanatos looks concern, she misinterprets and tells him not to worry: Cyberbiotics will be hers before morning. And as she says hello into the phone, we cut...
10. In the command center, Vogel instructs a random cybot to shut down for repairs. When it does, he opens it up and installs a chip into it's programming matrix. Then he reactivates the cybot, but when it turns on, an arc of electricity flashes around it, briefly. Vogel taps it on the head. Off you go.
11. Goliath and Renard are still talking practical philosophy. Renard has been brooding over the question of what to do with Goliath. He's trying to decide what the honorable thing would be. He'll probably just turn him over to the authorities. Goliath is aghast. "Look at me, human. Is that an equitable punishment? Was my crime against you heinous enough to justify turning me into a laboratory specimen?" Renard smiles. "Well, we're making progress. You've finally acknowledged that you committed a crime."
12. Elsewhere on the ship, the first cybot that Vogel infected passes another cybot. The same arc of electricity shoots out of the second 'bot. Then both 'bots move off and infect two more...and so on... and so on... and so on...
On Vogel's read-out screen, the percentage of cybots infected keeps rising. 13%... 27%... 32%...
13. Goliath eyes Renard. Almost despite himself, Goliath is beginning to regard the man with a grudging respect. "All right. I've admitted I was wrong. No more excuses. Now what?" But Renard doesn't have any easy answers for him. "Integrity is not easy. It is a daily struggle. A costly struggle. If you only knew what it cost me. My Anastasia. My Janine." Goliath lowers his head, "...my angel..." Renard looks at him closely. "So you do know." Goliath speaks slowly: "I know I owe you a great debt for what I did a year ago. And a greater debt for the education I received tonight. If the text was not new to me, it was at least... worth revisiting."
Now during this entire conversation, a cybot enters and approaches a guard cybot by the door. The guard cybot is infected, and approaches the other cybot by the door and infects it. Neither Goliath nor Renard notice until the cybots flanking Goliath's cell are infected and the arcing electricity catches the attention of both.
14. On Vogel's screen the percentage goes up from 99% to 100%, and "Right on cue" he gets a vid-call from Renard. He affects panic. Somehow that creature in the brig has infected every cybot on board with a computer virus. Renard says, "Nonsense. I've been sitting here talking with him the whole time." Vogel doesn't know how Goliath did it. But the Cybots are not responding to commands. They've set Fortress-2 on a collision course with the CYBERBIOTICS TOWER. They must abandon ship and activate the emergency self-destruct mechanism or both installations will be destroyed, and Cyberbiotics will be history. Renard is beside himself: If Fortress-2 is destroyed than Cyberbiotics is ruined anyway. Vogel shakes his head, flips a switch and a 10 minute time counter appears on the vid-screen. "I'm sorry, sir. You can place the blame on me if you must, but now we have no choice. At our present rate of speed we will hit the tower in ten minutes. You have nine minutes to meet me at the escape pod. After that I will jettison, and use my access code to destroy Fortress-2."
15. Goliath offers to help Renard try to save the ship. Renard is so furious, he's half ready to believe that Goliath was responsible. But Goliath knows that Renard doesn't really believe that. Goliath helped destroy Fortress-One. "Let me help to save Fortress-2." Renard agrees and presses a button on his chair which releases Goliath. The Cybot guards interpret this as an escape attempt. Renard cannot override them. But between Goliath and Renard's hover-chair, they manage to destroy the cybot guards. They leave the brig. The seconds tick away.
16. Vogel monitors them from the comfortable escape pod. He can't believe the old fool is going to try to save the ship. Why doesn't he just admit defeat and head for the escape pod? Vogel's made sure that route is clear of cybots. He'll just have to discourage anymore heroics. He orders all the cybots to kill the creature and drive Renard toward the pod. (Note: he does NOT want to kill Renard.)
17. Now every cybot on the ship is against Goliath and Renard. The little flying ones that knocked Goliath out in the first place. The big ones that carried him inside. More cattle-prod guard 'bots. Zippy little messenger 'bots. Maintenance 'bots. All of them. The good news is that in the airship's small corridors, there are only so many that can go at our heroes at once. But the situation is intolerable. They can't destroy the 'bots one at a time. They need to cut off power to all the cybots at once. And it's possible. There's a power station at the center of the ship that transmits power to all the cybots. But if they destroy that then they destroy the cybots that pilot the ship. There won't be time to get to the power station, shut it off and then go to the bridge. They have to split up. And time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
18. Intercut between Goliath fighting his way to the power station; Renard fighting his way to the bridge, and Vogel getting very nervous in the escape pod. [Turns out that even Vogel didn't know how much the old guy had grown on him. Destroying his empire is one thing. But Vogel is no killer. He doesn't want Renard's death on his conscience. And/or he had explicit instructions from Fox that Renard not be killed.] And time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
19. Goliath gets to the power station and destroys it. All the 'bots shut down. But time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
20. With the cybots down, Renard is able to zoom the rest of the way to the bridge quickly. He puts Fortress-2 on manual override, but time has passed the nine minute mark. The tower looms right in front of him and navigation and the helm are located on two different consoles. At the last second, Vogel appears and between the two of them, they are able to turn the ship away from the tower and save it.
21. Aftermath between Renard and Goliath. At first, Renard is bitter. Vogel has confessed his betrayal. Further proof that the human species is devoid of integrity. But Goliath disagrees. Vogel's example hardly proves the wisdom of putting one's trust in single-minded automatons. Automatons are tools. They know nothing of honor or betrayal. They do what they are programmed to do. But a living being knows nothing of programming. A living being must choose. And, ultimately, Vogel chose honor.
Renard lets all that sink in. He's got a lot to think about, but one thing he knows is that Goliath has paid his debt. A ship for a ship. Renard: "We are even." But Goliath: "No... We are friends."
22. Goliath soars off into the night. And he doesn't notice a small hang-glider land on the now defenseless airship behind him. The newcomer abandons the glider and tosses a cloudy ball against the metal hull. The ball shatters and a corrosive substance is released that quickly burns a hole in the hull. The stranger enters the airship, and as she does, we finally get a look at her. It is Fox.
23. Back in Renard's office. He sits in his chair. Quietly. Fox enters behind him, and for a moment we think she's there as an assassin. But he seems to be expecting her. "Hello, Janine," he says. "Hello, Daddy," she replies. "I almost got you that time." "Yes, but why? I built this company for you. I'd have given it to you by now if you hadn't married that villain Xanatos. I'd still probably give it to you if you just stood up and asked me for it honestly." "Oh, Daddy. You and your integrity. Asking for it wouldn't be any fun at all." Renard: "And fun is more important to you than honor. I can't understand that." Fox: "Well, maybe you'll have better luck with the next generation." Renard: "What?" Fox: "That's right, Daddy. You're going to be a grandfather."
Late 1994. Writer Lydia Marano and Story Editor Brynne Chandler Reaves had turned in an outline entitled "Thieves in the Night". This memo and beat outline was my response to their work.
And before you ask... I have no memory of "the Zompanos". Perhaps a pre-cursor to the Sopranos? :)
Notes on "Thieves in the Night" Outline...
The main problem for me here is the first act. From a plotting standpoint, everything with the Zompanos is largely immaterial to what follows. As with the outline for "The Mirror", the action of this story only begins at the end of Act One, when Mac and Demona stage their first attempt to steal stuff. We have to move that event up to the beginning of the act.
FOCUS ON COLDSTONE
Let's fool the audience into thinking he is the focus of the whole thing. It's a Coldstone story that turns out to be the set-up for something more dangerous. (Avalon.) To accomplish this, let's misdirect even more than we are.
I've basically cut Matt out of this story. I didn't like doing it, because I thought you gave him and Elisa a lot of nice character stuff. I even added some stuff to what you had done -- stuff that I also wound up cutting. The story was just too crowded and unwieldy with him there. (And thematically, the Elisa/Matt arc was just slightly off point.) Every time I worked on a scene, Matt got in the way. I wouldn't mind revealing just a little to him here, but there didn't seem to be any way to reveal "just a little". (Matt's not the type to just let things go or to settle for a partial explanation. And he's certainly shown a willingness to stick close to Elisa even when she's made it clear he's not welcome.)
I also would not be opposed to revealing the whole truth to Matt, but this story seemed to be too complicated to reveal just the simple truth about Goliath and company. We'd also have to tell him about Macbeth, Coldstone and maybe even Demona. It was just too much. But don't lose track of these ideas for Matt. We'll get to them all eventually.
THEME: HIGH NOON
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing." Or put another way, "You can't crawl into a hole, no matter how nice the hole is, while others suffer." Obviously, this is Othello's arc to a tee.
I'm also giving it to Elisa. And since this is a lesson that Elisa really has already internalized 100%, I'm putting her through the wringer, so that in her exhaustion, she can have a moment of weakness, a crisis point where she can consciously reaffirm her belief. It's high noon, she tells herself. Is she gonna fight the good fight or not?
To a lesser extent, Goliath and the gargoyles reaffirm this belief every time they knowingly walk into a trap. Because the only alternative -- to do nothing -- is unacceptable to them.
We can't destroy the clock tower or even "all but destroy" it without attracting considerable attention from the precinct full of cops downstairs. A thunderstorm can cover a lot of noise, I suppose, but not extensive damage or explosions that might shake the building.
I don't want to count on the fact that our audience will have seen either "City of Stone, Part Four", "Legion" or "The Mirror". I don't want to be ham-fisted in our exposition, but I do want to make sure that we find a way to reveal that when we last saw Demona and Macbeth, they were in the custody of the Weird Sisters. Also that Coldstone has three personalities due to the fact that he was created from pieces of three separate gargoyles. And finally, that thanks to Puck's spell, Demona is now human during the day -- a situation which pissed her off at first, until she discovered the benefits of it.
The "tentacle vines" and the "vortex" were all the result of the computer virus. I think we can assume by this time that the virus has wiped out all programming, including itself. All that is left inside is the personality of the three gargoyles and whatever fantasy they create inside their mutual mind.
Don't forget that Macbeth and Demona feel each other's pain. And also, as you had it in the outline, that they each share the opinion that the other is a royal pain.
1. Prologue: Coldstone's Mind. Othello and Desdemona enjoy an idyllic life in a virtual reality fantasy world that they've created. Electricity water-falls. A circuit-shaped moon. Whatever. They know it's not real, but it's close enough. They are together.
They are also aware of Iago's presence hovering darkly on the outskirts of their paradise, but he no longer has the power to come between them. They are content to let him hover.
2. Clock Tower -- Shortly before Dawn. Elisa has just ended a long night's shift and is stopping upstairs (via the broom closet) to see Goliath & co. before she heads home for some much needed sleep. Brooklyn is helping Hudson and Broadway with their reading lessons. Lexington is off in a corner working on Coldstone. Lex has opened up a metal plate on Coldstone, to get access to the circuits inside. He's hooked his laptop up to it and is checking things out. Goliath asks: is there any real hope of bringing him (her, them) back? As far as Lex can figure, the computer virus that attacked Coldstone has wiped its programming clean. Nothing's functioning, but nothing's broken. It's a blank slate. Even the virus is gone. After it finished attacking Coldstone's programming, it devoured itself. But none of that should have affected the souls of the three gargoyles that were used to create Coldstone. They were put there by magic, not programming. They've got to be in there somewhere. If Lex could devise a simple operating program, they might wake up. Well, he'll work on it some more tomorrow night. The gargoyles take their places. Sun rises. They get stoned.
3. Police Precinct -- Minutes later. Elisa's heading out the door, saying good-bye to Officer Morgan, who's also heading home. Coming in, is a uniformed female cop with red hair, pushing a felon who's got his cap pulled low over his eyes and his hands handcuffed in front of him. [Obviously, this is the human Demona and Macbeth.] Elisa pauses, and watches them head into the building and out of view. They both looked vaguely familiar, but she can't place either of them. Does Morgan know them? No, but the cop is obviously a rookie. Why else would she have cuffed the guy with his hands in front of him? Especially a guy that big.
Yeah, someone should tell her. Elisa heads back in. She spots them heading up the stairs. Sees them going around a corner. Always a step behind. Finally she sees them head into the broom closet. Horrified by what that might mean, she draws her gun, and follows them up into the clock tower.
4. Despite her precautions, she is ultimately jumped by the "felon" and the "cop". There's a struggle. And Elisa recognizes Macbeth, just before she is stunned into unconsciousness by Macbeth's lightning gun. Sweet dreams, he says. And the screen goes black.
5. Inside Macbeth's Airship - Twenty minutes later. Macbeth and the "cop" are flying along. The "cop" is angry that Macbeth wouldn't let her kill the gargoyles and especially Elisa, once and for all. Macbeth won't apologize for having a code of honor. But he's in a good mood. Their stolen cargo is safely stowed away in back, plus they got away without anybody else spotting them. "So lighten up... Demona!"
6. Clock Tower - Several hours later. Elisa comes to. She feels lousy, but she's basically all right. How long was she out? She checks her watch. Wow, most of the day. She looks around. Coldstone is gone!! Obviously taken by Macbeth and that woman. But how did they get him out of here in broad daylight? They couldn't just walk him out the door or even fly Macbeth's airship in to pick them all up without somebody noticing. Still, how they succeeded in doing it isn't as important as the fact that they did. She slumps into Hudson's recliner. "Might as well stop talking to myself and wait. It'll be sunset soon."
7. Macbeth's Mansion - Just before sundown. Human Demona is waiting for the sun to go down. Macbeth's a bit impatient. He thinks that despite her appearance, Demona's still thinking like a gargoyle. Why wait for night? Put the disk in now. She refuses. Coldstone doesn't know Macbeth, and wouldn't recognize her in her present form.
The sun goes down. Demona changes from a human into a gargoyle. The process is not without some pain. As she catches her breath, she wryly observes that despite an initial distaste for the human form, she's come to appreciate Puck's gift, although the fact that he made the transformation painful was probably his way of keeping her from appreciating it too much.
But, to work. They insert the operating program disk into Coldstone. And we push in hard and fast on Coldstone's eyes!!
8. Inside Coldstone's mind -- Same time. A tunnel of electric light appears before Othello and Desdemona. Des wonders if they should investigate, but before Othello can answer, Iago pushes them aside and glides down the tunnel out of sight. Now Desdemona is convinced they should stop or at least follow him. But Othello talks her out of it. Let him go. We are here and happy and together. What else matters?
9. Macbeth's Mansion -- Right then. Coldstone awakens and Iago is in control. He recognizes his rookery sister. (It doesn't really matter if Demona knows about Coldstone's multiple personality disorder.) She asks him how he feels. He quietly responds: vengeful. Demona and Macbeth smile at each other. They've found a friend.
10. Clock Tower -- About the same time. The gargoyles woke up and got the gist of Elisa's story while we were at commercial. But everyone has questions. Goliath left Macbeth with the Weird Sisters, how did he escape them? And how did Macbeth know about the clock tower? And who was the human woman with him? Did Elisa recognize her? She seemed really familiar, but Elisa can't quite place her. Well, there's one thing they do know: Macbeth stole Coldstone. They have to get him back. So it's off to Macbeth's mansion. Elisa'd like to go with, but she's supposed to report to work in thirty minutes. Goliath assures her the six of them can handle it. She has an entire city to protect. She's not happy about being left out, but she can see his logic. She heads downstairs, talking to herself again. (Good thing I got that long enforced nap.)
11. Macbeth's Mansion -- A short while later. The place is very quiet. The gargoyles split up to search for Coldstone. Lex with Goliath. Brooklyn and Bronx. Broadway and Hudson.
12. Macbeth's Control Room. -- A bit later. Lex and Goliath break in, prepared to battle Macbeth. He's not there. Lex hits the control panel and soon he's found Coldstone on one of the screens. And what's more, he's found the creature awake and straining against chains that bind him to the floor of the dungeon. It must be a trap, but Lex can't figure out what the trap is. Goliath's all for heading straight down to the dungeon to free Coldstone, but first Lex reminds Goliath of some hard truths. Somehow, Macbeth got Coldstone operational again. That's the good news. But there'll be no way of knowing which of Coldstone's three personalities will be in control. One of the three hates Goliath's guts. Goliath has to be careful.
13. Another area in the mansion -- about the same time. Demona attacks Brooklyn and Bronx. They weren't expecting her at all, and it looks like she's got the upper hand.
14. Another area in the mansion -- about the same time. Broadway and Hudson find Macbeth. This is exactly who they expected to find and they're ready. It's a tough battle, but the good guys win.
15. Same as Scene 13. -- exactly the same time. When Macbeth is taken out by Broadway and Hudson, Demona doubles over in pain. She recovers quickly, but she's lost the upper hand, and Brooklyn is not about to let her get it back. He and Bronx defeat Demona.
16. Dungeon -- a few minutes later. Goliath and Lex approach Coldstone. Coldstone yells a warning: It's a trap!! But from another door, Broadway's voice calls out: "Not anymore!" He and Hudson enter, toting an unconscious Macbeth. But Coldstone still warns them away. Demona is still out there. And from a third door come Brooklyn and Bronx with the unconscious Demona as well. Goliath is surprised. Demona and Macbeth obviously escaped the Weird Sisters together, but who could have predicted they'd team up? They hate each other. But he can't worry about that now. He turns to Lex. Coldstone's warnings would seem to indicate that the right rookery brother is in control. Lex: "It's probably o.k. Just stay on your guard." So Goliath and Broadway help Coldstone break his chains. He greets them all warmly. Then approaches the fallen Macbeth and Demona. He effortlessly lifts them up by their shirt fronts, in a very threatening manner. But then his rocket jets turn on and he hovers a foot above the floor. Before the gargoyles have time to react, he says, "Now." Macbeth, who, like Demona, was only faking, has a small one-button remote control hidden in the palm of his hand. He presses it. The entire floor of the dungeon electrifies and all six gargoyles are knocked out.
17. Coldstone's Brain -- right then. Othello and Desdemona hear the deafening sound of Coldstone's laughter.
18. Coldstone's Brain, in front of the electric tunnel -- a few seconds later. Obviously, Iago's up to no good. But Othello's being stubborn. Let someone else take up the cause. We have earned this peace.
19. Clock Tower -- Several hours later, just before sunrise. An exhausted Elisa is there (wearing at the very least, a different colored t-shirt, one would hope). She anxiously awaits the return of the Gargoyles. She tells herself that if they're not back by sunrise, she doesn't know what she's going to do. But before she can figure it out, she sees a winged silhouette approaching. She's initially relieved, until seconds later when Demona comes in for a landing. Elisa isn't exactly terrified. After all, the sun's coming up right now: Demona's about to turn to stone. But Demona merely laughs. And then transforms into the human woman that Elisa had seen 24 hours ago. As Demona grimaces from the pain of transformation, Elisa, despite her shock, draws her gun. If Demona's human, then she's subject to human law and under arrest.
But even unarmed, Demona has the upper hand. She, Macbeth and Coldstone have the gargoyles. If Demona doesn't return, the gargoyles won't either. She tells Elisa why she came. Before she kills Goliath, she wants to prove to him once and for all what humans are really like. So she's inviting Elisa to a high noon rendezvous at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. She warns Elisa that her only chance of surviving the encounter is to avoid it. Either Elisa dies or Goliath sees what human loyalty is really worth: either way, it works out fine for Demona, who then calmly takes her leave via the trapdoor. After a defeated beat, Elisa follows.
20. Ext. Precinct house. Elisa gets outside in time to see the Human Demona hail and get into a yellow cab. The cab pulls away, and for a second Elisa starts to follow, but then she says to herself, what's the point. I know where she's going. Officer Morgan exits the building, again on his way home. "We gotta stop meeting like this, Detective," he jokes. She's a bit dazed and just says, "I'm sorry, what?" He looks at her with concern. "You're looking a bit frayed around the edges."
Elisa: "Maybe that's because I haven't gotten any real sleep in the last 40 hours. I'm tired, hungry and, yes, afraid. I could just go home now and go to bed. When I woke up, it would be over for me. The world would suddenly be normal again. No more monsters -- good or bad. Just normal life."
Morgan: "Normal life would be nice."
Elisa: "But it isn't nice enough, Morgan. My life could never be nice enough or normal enough to make up for letting them down now. I can't crawl into a hole by myself and pretend that no one else matters."
Morgan, thinking he's finally getting it: "That's why you put on the badge."
Elisa: "Yeah, that's exactly why. Thanks, Morgan. You've been a big help." And she takes off.
Morgan, still a bit confused: "Sure, detective, anytime."
21. Belvedere Castle -- a few minutes before noon. The gargoyles are there in stone and in chains. Coldstone/Iago, Human Demona and Macbeth are there as well. Coldstone can't get over seeing the sun. He doesn't understand why he didn't turn to stone. Demona explains that he is no longer a gargoyle: day or night, he is Coldstone. Fine. But that doesn't explain how come no one in the park seems to notice their presence. Macbeth answers: "It's enough that they don't. Don't concern yourself with it." The answer satisfies Coldstone for the time being. He's in too good a mood to argue.
22. Inside Coldstone's Brain -- same time. Desdemona isn't sure that she and Othello are doing the right thing. Is this the gargoyle way? Othello tells her they are no longer really gargoyles. But he turns away, when he says it. He can't look her in the eye, cause he knows he's doing the wrong thing. But when he looks at her again, instead of seeing one Desdemona, he sees three. One with Blonde hair, one with Silver hair and one with Black hair. The Weird Sisters doing their thing.
23. Belvedere Castle -- Noon. Elisa arrives. Demona is surprised, but not upset. She lifts her plasma cannon. But Elisa says she's unarmed. Demona doesn't care, but Macbeth gets the message. This doesn't sit well, with his own strange code of honor. What's wrong, Demona? Afraid to face her on an even playing field? Thus Human Demona is goaded into a hand-to-hand match against Elisa. Demona's had a thousand years of warrior training. But not as a human. So it's pretty evenly matched.
24. Coldstone's mind -- Same time. The three Desdemona Weird Sisters confront Othello. Would he really be happy here in this false paradise knowing that he could have stopped all the damage that Iago is doing in the real world. Othello finally admits that he couldn't. The three Desdemona's merge together, leaving the real one there, a bit woozy, but still determined to help Othello fight Iago. They head down the electric tunnel together.
25. Belvedere - Right then. Coldstone/Iago suddenly cries out that he's under attack, then freezes up.
26. Inside Electric Tunnel - Right then. Iago blocks Othello and Desdemona's path. They fight. Desdemona will hold Iago at bay so that Othello can take control of Coldstone and try to repair the damage that Iago has done in the real world. With a last look back, Othello heads toward the light at the end of the tunnel.
27. Belvedere - That second. Coldstone/Othello awakens. Macbeth asks if he is all right. Coldstone simply asks for a moment to access his memory banks. He does. And then he attacks Macbeth. This catches both Macbeth and Demona off-guard and helps give Elisa the upper hand in her battle against Demona. Ultimately, Macbeth is forced to grab Demona and flee. (Maybe he summons his airship?) Coldstone starts to pursue, but Elisa needs him to help her get the chains off the guys, besides there's been enough fighting for one day. Coldstone uses his wrist cannon to snap the hold on all six. When they wake up at sunset, they should be able to shrug the chains off. Elisa asks him to stay. She knows that's what Goliath wants too. But Coldstone knows that Desdemona and Iago are still at war inside of him. The other gargoyles aren't safe from "Coldstone" until that battle is decided. He promises, that if he can, he will return someday. Then he rockets off into the sky. A few seconds later, a jogger jogs by. "Hey, where did those statues come from." Elisa heaves a big sigh. She sits down and leans back against Goliath. "Don't ask me. I'm just taking a nap."
28. Macbeth's Mansion - That night. Macbeth and Gargoyle/Demona are summing up. Demona's pissed that they failed to kill Elisa and the gargoyles, but that wasn't the primary objective. Plus they lost Coldstone, but that was always just a blind anyway. They've got the Grimorum, the Eye and the Portal-to-Avalon-Talisman. They stole all three when they took Coldstone. (They even used a spell from the Grimorum to hide their escape from the clock tower and to keep their fight in the park private.) If they had left Coldstone in the tower and only stolen the magic items, Goliath wouldn't have rested until he got them back. This way, it will be weeks before he notices that they're even gone.
But then they start to question they're own motivations: why did they want these items so badly? How did they know their secret location in the clock tower? For that matter, how did they know that the gargoyles lived at the clock tower at all? And why the heck are they working together when they hate each other's guts?
Just when they're about to murdilize each other, the Weird Sisters step in and put them both into a trance. They just made it under the wire. The "geas" spell on Demona and Macbeth was about to wear off. And of course they had no spell on Coldstone, which was why they wanted him separated from the other two. Besides they don't need Coldstone. Each of the three Sisters picks up one of the magical items. These will do quite nicely in the coming battle.
ONE LAST QUESTION: Given the above changes, does the title still work for you? I'm kind of mixed on it now.
Following fast on the heels of City of Stone, here's my ramble on High Noon...
The recap is interesting here. It's all Coldstone oriented. Demona, Macbeth and the Weird Sisters aren't mentioned. Nothing from City of Stone, despite this being a direct sequel to those events. The reason is that the recaps got early criticism on a Disney Afternoon mailing list for giving too much away. We'd show a villain who didn't appear until the end of Act One, thus cueing our audience to expect that villain all along. A valid criticism. So we tried to adjust here. Coldstone's participation wasn't a secret. The episode opens in his "internal cyber-world" and he's shown dormant in the Clock Tower in the very next scene. But when Demona and Macbeth first walk past Elisa and Morgan, we're not supposed to know who they are. So I intentionally kept them out of the recap to preserve that reveal.
The heather Othello gathers has no scent. Why not? Everything in that world, except for the souls of the three gargs was simply a mental construct. Sight, sound, touch. So why not smell? No chemical senses, you might argue. But why no chemical senses? Why touch and not taste? I think that the lack of smell was an unconscious or subconscious boundary that Desdemona did not want to cross. Something to remind her that this world is not real. For all we know, Othello and Iago could smell whatever they imagined they could smell.
I like seeing Hudson and Broadway learning to read. We cheated a bit. I'm not sure they could have progressed as fast as they did in the short time since "Lighthouse". But we took that liberty to show that they had been working assiduously at it.
I have mixed feelings about Hudson's "Why would she want to 'hit a sack'?" line. On the one hand, I'm not sure we ever did enough of this. Playing with the contrasts in language and expression between their world and ours. On the other hand, it just seemed a bit late in the game for Hudson not to have heard this one already. (And for that matter, I have no idea when that particular phrase originated. For all I know they've been hitting the sack since the Middle Ages.)
Elisa makes a point of saying that she's "no hero". Just a gal doing a job. But of course, we know that's not true. It's simply how she'd prefer to view herself -- particularly when she's so tired. I tried to use this episode to emphasize that Elisa works the night shift. That she gets off work just before sunrise. Starts work just after sunset. (I actually imagine that she works a four day ten hour shift, plus mucho overtime.) Sometimes it seemed like the fans had forgotten that. I got a lot of questions back then like: "She works during the day and hangs with the gargoyles at night. When does she sleep?"
Morgan has a real nice role in this one. Keith is great as Morgan. So distinctive from Goliath in a part that was a mere throwaway in Awakening, Part One. Morgan and Elisa's easy rapor in this episode and Avalon One is what gave me the idea that he might someday ask her out (on that 2nd Halloween episode I've mentioned a few times). And the notion of a Keith-Salli-Keith triangle tickled me a bit.
Enter Macbeth as a perp with a human Demona dressed as a cop. (Always nice to show our characters in different costumes on occasion.) I'm curious how many people IMMEDIATELY recognized Demona as herself? After all, you'd only gotten a BRIEF glimpse of her human form in "The Mirror". And we hadn't shown it at all in "Vows" or "City of Stone". In fact, City of Stone began what we then called our Third Tier of stories. (Tier One was the first season. Tier Two was the first eight episodes of the second season: Leader, Legion, Metamorphosis, Lighthouse, Silver Falcon, Mirror, Eye of the Beholder, Vows.) And of course, City of Stone was transitional, so one could argue that Tier Three was beginning here with High Noon. Anyway, Demona's in atypical dress and species. Who knew it was her?
And once you did know, what were you thinking? The gargoyles have the same questions, I'd imagine. Last they (and you) saw, Mac and Demona hated each other, and had been taken away by the seemingly benevolent Weird Sisters. What was going through your heads about all this? Did you wonder at the seeming inconsistencies, like their knowledge of the Clock Tower? Their ability to get Coldstone out of the tower in daylight, unseen?
When my son Ben saw Demona, he thought it was one of the "triplets", which is what he calls the Weird Sisters. (They've fast become his favorite characters.) When I pointed out that she had red hair and not white, yellow or black, he was resistent to giving up on the idea that they weren't going to appear. (I was glad they eventually did. And now I wonder what he's going to think about the next seven episodes in which they do NOT appear.)
Throughout this, we cheat a bit on Elisa's exhaustion. We knock her out, but keep her tired. The subtle differences between various means of being unconscious and their effects on how tired one is confuse me.
I love Mac and D's exchange...
Mac: "You're still thinking like a gargoyle."
D: "I am a gargoyle." And don't you forget it.
Again, back in those days I just thought the audience would get revved up merely because we were teaming up THREE of our major villains. Macbeth, Demona and the villainous side of Coldstone. In Batman or Superman that would be a BIG EVENT. A huge threat to the hero. Did it have that effect on you guys? I feel vaguely that in a strange way, it did not. That our villains were so complex, that for once they backfired on us. That it wasn't viewed as, "Wow, our heroes have barely survived an encounter with one of those guys, how will they handle three?" Rather, the conflict was less interesting than the machinations and personalities. Am I being clear? Your thoughts?
This episode had some truly gorgeous animation in it. And the transformation scenes are both very cool. The Pain Link plays well here, though occasionally seems more geared to comedy than drama for some reason. The theme of gifts coming with a price... particularly the gifts of tricksters is emphasized in this scene.
Meanwhile Othello is desperately trying to remain an ostrich with his head in the sand. A position that on at least one level, Elisa 'believes' she'd like to take as well. With Othello, I think it's a real possibility that he will never act. With Elisa, I don't think we believe it for a moment. That's part of the reason they're both in there. To make sure that the theme of "Standing Up" is emphasized. Which brings us to the title, "HIGH NOON". That was one of mine, I believe. And I stole it right from the Gary Cooper movie. Sure we'd have a battle at High Noon. Because this was Elisa's story, not the gargoyles. Because the gargoyles would be asleep and vulnerable. But also because it was that kind of archetypal the-hero-stands-alone western battle.
You may notice that Xander Berkeley (the voice of Iago) does not appear in this episode. Because Iago has no lines when he's not in control of the Coldstone body. Again, I'm always so impressed with what a great job Michael Dorn does contrasting the Othello and Iago personalities without actually changing his voice.
I like Elisa's line when Brooklyn asks her if she recognized the woman with Macbeth. "She seemed familiar." Think about this for a second. If this was real life and not a cartoon, do you think you'd recognize Demona in Dominique? And yet I completely buy that Elisa recognized something in there. There's a strange nega-intimacy between Elisa and Demona. (Which is one of the sick reasons why I created Delilah, later.)
Goliath and Elisa engage in a little dueling patronizing here. Elisa has to go back on shift, so can't accompany the 'goyles to Mac's place. Goliath is pretty smug when he says the six of them can handle it. (The smugness, I hope, is undercut when he follows it up by saying, "You have a whole city to protect." Which is how he views it.) Then Elisa talks to them like they're little kids. She wants a full report when they get back. (Who says these two weren't made for each other?)
Lex, who has been and will continue to be very adept at breaking alarm systems, etc., for once admits that it's all too easy.
I like the moment when Goliath taps the camera with his wing. A nice little touch. And very well animated.
Lex is always the voice of warning in regards to Coldstone. This is important. Goliath listens to Lex this time. And Lex is fooled when Coldstone reveals Demona's involvement, seemingly before they know Demona is involved. I thought that was very clever on the villains' part.
Bronx smells Demona behind the closet, just as he did behind the tapestry.
I like how the marble bust flies and crashes. Another nice touch in the boarding and animation. Nice weight to the whole Brooklyn-Demona-Bronx fight scene.
I liked staging the Macbeth, Husdon, Broadway fight in a library. Felt like a thematic rematch from "Lighthouse".
The pain link here is a BIT of a cheat. Usually with them in different rooms on different floors, it wouldn't be quite this intense. Maybe the library is directly above whatever room Demona was in.
Lex is sure Coldstone's wrong about Demona. Brooklyn's "Uh, guess again." line is fun.
The entire battle at Macbeth's place is part of a technique I enjoy using on occasion called "Suspended Structure". This is really an Elisa and Othello Story. But we let the gargs carry the action for a period of time, while the true protagonists can't or won't take action. This keeps the story moving, without compromising the inaction of our "leads".
Demona confronts Elisa at the clock tower. The animators get a little carried away here with some of Demona's body language. God knows, it's fun to watch. But would she really do all those sexpot poses? Is that in character?
It is fun to see her hail a taxi though.
Morgan's back. Elisa now looks VERY tired. Again, great work from the animators. It's all in the eyes. Morgan helps Elisa though he thinks she's just talking about normal copwork. It only proves there's really no such thing as a "Normal Life". Morgan certainly doesn't think he has one.
Meanwhile Desdemona's gettin antsy. It's the "in" that the Weird Sisters need. They take over. Unfortunately, here, the animators screwed up. The three Desdemona's were supposed to have silver, gold and raven hair. Instead, in most shots, they just look like three Dessies. Then when they finally do get the hair right, it's just before they merge back into one Desdemona. At which point, the hair color should have been Des'. Instead, I think it's Luna's -- briefly. Oh, well. Anyway, I could have just done this with Desdemona herself. But I wanted to give the audience a hint that the Weird Sisters were still involved. Ben was thrown by the hair. He almost didn't believe these were the triplets.
I like the line: "Even shadows must be true to their shade."
High Noon at Belvedere Castle. Coldstone wonders that he can see the sun. Again, that's me making sure people are clear that Coldstone is RE-ANIMATED STONE, not flesh. I don't think it's visually clear. (Part of the problem being that Othello's coloring is too similar.)
Then Elisa arrives -- counting on Macbeth's honor to keep Demona from shooting her. For that reason, she intentionally doesn't bring her service revolver to the party. Quite the gambit. Elisa also counts on Demona's temper -- and on the fact that Demona is unaccustomed to fighting with reduced human strength. She goads Demona: "I'm here to save him." and "You fight like a rookie." I love, positively LOVE, the former of those two lines. Elisa is a hero in her own right. Though Goliath has rescued her on occasion, I felt we did a pretty good job of always evening the score. She's no damsel in distress.
Mac & Coldstone: "This is diverting." "You have no idea." (Quotations approximate.) I like that. A tip of the hat to my being a guy, if you will.
We cheat a bit here on the pain link too. One could argue that Mac IS feeling the pain. But he's ready for it and covering. He does seem to be grimacing a bit when he says, "You have no idea." But still, I think we cheated.
I love the animation on the Othello, Desdemona, Iago fight.
Battle over, Coldstone leaves. Sends himself into exile. This is the gargoyle way.
And hey, our jogger is back. Again wondering where all these statues are coming from. That's just fun continuity for me. And Elisa: "Don't ask me. I'm just taking a nap."
And then the whole final scene between Mac and D and the sisters is so much fun. I love the sense of the fog lifting from their eyes. "What Primary Objective?" "Why are we working together?"
And I'm also proud of the trick. A very Xanatosian tag here. Steal Coldstone to distract the gargs from noticing the thefts of the gate, book and eye.
And how about that reference to "The coming battle..." that the Sisters end the episode on? What did you all think of that at the time?
I'll try to post the High Noon writer's memo tomorrow. (Meant to do it yesterday, but I forgot.) Anyway, Done rambling. You're turn. (Again, I'm interested in both your original and current responses to the episode.)
You know once upon a time -- particularly when Cary Bates and I lived in NYC and had no real life outside DC Comics and spent every free moment going to movies -- I used to see over two hundred movies a year. I'm not kidding.
But no longer.
The oscar nominations were announced. And I went down the entire list and realized I've only seen EIGHT of the nominated films. That's 8 out of ALL the films nominated in ANY category.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Meet the Parents
The Emperor's New Groove
Not that anyone asked, but here's my assesment of the eight. (Obviously, I can't speak to any of the others.)
Gladiator - I was really enjoying this film most of the way through. I never thought it was Oscar callibre, but I liked it --right up until the end. I thought the ending however was so preposterous and awful, it spoiled my enjoyment of the whole film. Blech.
Cast Away - I just thought this was plain awful all the way through. The only section I was interested in was what happened (SPOILERS) after he got off the island. But that was given preposterously short shrift. Double Blech.
Meet the Parents - I disliked this so intensely, I walked out of it partway through. Went to a bookstore while my wife and friend Tuppence finished watching the movie. This is only the second film I've walked out on in my entire life. (Not counting movies I had to leave because of baby-sitting emergencies or bomb threats.) Triple Blech.
102 Dalmations - Oh, how I wish I could have walked out on this. But I was there with my kids. They enjoyed it well enough at the time, but have already forgotten about it. Double Blech.
Now the good news.
Almost Famous - I really enjoyed this one. Very well-acted, well-written. Funny. I didn't LOVE it the way some of the critics did. But I was really surprised it didn't do better at the box office. Smile.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - I really enjoyed this. Structurally, it's a bit odd. But I liked it a lot. Definitely one of the best films I saw this year... but as you can see, that's not saying much. Double Smile.
The Grinch - Another film I took my kids too. I enjoyed this one though. No, it's no classic the way the old Christmas special was. But there's a lot to recommend. And I had fun. Smile.
The Emperor's New Groove - A third film I took my kids too. This was a very pleasant surprise. A straight-forward simple story played for laughs. From the previews, I didn't think I'd like it. But, hey, I liked it a lot. Smile.
Now as for the nominations...
Picture - I have only two to choose from Gladiator and Dragon. Obviously I'd pick Dragon.
Actor - Russell Crowe over Tom Hanks. I liked Crowe's performance. (I just find it hard to believe it was the best performance this year.)
Actress - I saw none of the nominated performances.
Director - Again, I'll pick Ang Lee for Crouching over Ridley Scott for Gladiator.
Supporting Actor - Joaquin Phoenix by default. The only one of the performances I saw. But I thought he was much better in THE YARDS.
Supporting Actress - This is tough. I think I'd pick Frances McDormand over Kate Hudson (both from Almost Famous). But it's close.
Original Screenplay - Cameron Crowe's for Almost Famous over the three guys from Gladiator in a second.
Adapted Screenplay - The three guys from Crouching by default. (I don't think the screenplay was this movie's strong suit.) Does anyone remember if High Fidelity was a 2000 release? I loved that movie and can't believe it wasn't nominated.
Foreign Film - Crouching by default.
Art Direction - I think I will pick Grinch over Gladiator and Crouching.
Cinematography - Crouching over Gladiator.
Costume Design - Crouching over Gladiator, Grinch and 102 Dalmations.
Documentary Feature - I've seen none of these.
Documentary Short - I've seen none of these either.
Film Editing - Almost Famous over Crouching and Gladiator.
Make-up - Grinch by default.
Original Score - Gladiator over Crouching.
Original Song - "My Funny Friend and Me" by Sting and David Hartley from Emperor's Groove over "A Fool in Love" by Randy Newman from Parents and "A Love Before Time" from Crouching.
Animated Short Film - I've seen none of these. Which is odd.
Live Action Short Film - I've seen none of these. Which isn't odd.
Sound - Gladiator over Cast Away.
Sound Editing - I've seen neither of the nominees.
Visual FX - Gladiator by default.
Of course, there's a slim possibility that I'll see a couple more of the nominated films before the award show itself. I'll let you know if my opinions change.
But mostly I reiterate the word I started with. Pathetic.
A random bit of information that I thought I'd post while I'm thinking of it. Based on my current research, Alexander Fox Xanatos was conceived sometime between September 6th, 1995 and November 16th, 1995.
This may change, or I may eventually be able to pin it down more. But right now, that's my most current info.
Time to ramble...
Picking up right where Part Three leaves off, Demona is forced to back off on killing Elisa right away because of Bronx. I really like that scene, mostly for how it illustrates Bronx's level of sophistication. It's not like he understands English, beyond a few simple names and commands. But he understands tone of voice. Something that Demona uses. She talks him down by saying nasty things in a nice tone of voice. He's still suspicious. But as long as her actions and tone don't get hostile, he's content to back off. At one point though, she can't restrain her venom, and he starts to growl again. And she has to regain her composure.
Great Choral music during the battle. Carl Johnson and music editor Marc Perlman (both of whom will be attending the Gathering this June in Los Angeles) did a magnificent job with this.
And there's some great fog as well.
It's also nice to see a legitimately joyful Demona, hoisting Macbeth into the air. He laughs, but his mind's on other things, wondering why Bodhe wanted to talk to him without Demona present. Perhaps he's feeling guilty. Perhaps she picks up on that, which is why she eavesdrops.
A tragedy of bad timing: My sense is that Macbeth is about to read Bodhe the riot act, when Luach interrupts. Mac essentially agrees with Luach, but not with his manner. He takes JUST the wrong moment to teach him a lesson about being a good king. Luach reacts badly and storms out. And it is Luach's behavior that Macbeth is considering when Demona leaves. Two seconds later, I'm quite sure the conversation went like this:
Bodhe: "Well, sire?"
Macbeth: "Well, what?"
Bodhe: "The Gargoyles, sire. You must disavow them!"
Macbeth: "Don't be a fool." etc.
The siege is pretty cool too. (Though you'd think boulders dropped from the battlements would be a touch more effective.)
Mac rescues Gruoch. Even at this age, I still think they're a sexy couple.
I like the scene where Canmore removes his Hunter's Mask. Like Gille before him with Demona, he's truly annoyed when Mac doesn't immediately recognize him.
"Never would I have done so! We have been allies for thirty-seven years!!" Demona ain't a great judge of character.
Luach and Bodhe show up. I like this scene too. (O.K., I'm partial. What can I tell you?) Bodhe has an interesting moment. One of two things happens here. Either he's pleased to finally have one of his own blood (i.e. his grandson) installed as King or the death of Macbeth has finally awakened the hero inside him. Or both. For once, I tend to give Bodhe the benefit of the doubt. I think, at this late date, he's finally come into his own. I like to think he died a good warrior's death at Luach's side.
Demona wakes up. She claims not to believe Gruoch's admonishment, but NOTE, she does not kill Gruoch. Underneath it all, she knows that Gruoch is right and feels chastened.
Macbeth wakes up. Here we have our final scene on Lunfanan Hill. It parallels the previous break-up of Mac and Gru. That time Mac sent her away, but he loved her still. This time she sends him away. She loves him too. But this parting is permanent. Very moving to me. "I will always love you." And because of that, he must leave her. But we know he hasn't forgotten her even into the present. Her loss informs what follows.
Back to the present. Over episodes two and three, things in the present have been progressing very slowly. Now the present takes center stage.
Demona echoes what I'm sure by this time we were all thinking: "Take off that mask. You aren't fooling anyone... Macbeth." And he explains that he wears it as a symbol of her betrayal. (And for a psychological edge, no doubt.)
Meanwhile, we have that semi-feeble exchange between Goliath and Xanatos in the air. Feeble (a) because in one little scenelet, the mouth on Xanatos' armor is moving like it had lips; and (b) because the whole tapestry thing was a fairly forced way to get X and Goliath back to the castle.
I like Demona's line: "Let's not start that again. You blame me. I blame you..." etc. It's a very rational Xanatosian moment for her. But that rationality is born from the knowledge that she can't kill Macbeth without killing herself. Her usual vengeful attitude is useless. What she doesn't know is how suicidal he is. "Revenge is a dish best served cold. And I have waited 900 years for mine." Hey, leave a dish out for 900 years and it will get pretty cold.
There's always a bit of comedy in the pain-sharing battles of D&M.
When the floor starts to give way, it reminds me of a scene that was WAY better animated in the DuckTales pilot. Where the bricks of gold fall away in a simlilar vein. It's nice here, but it was awesome there.
I also like when Demona has Mac's E-M gun, tosses it and catches it to fire at X and G. Nice little touch.
And Xanatos' truly frightened yet underplayed: "This is bad." when he sees the computer screen.
I like the multiple falls that get us down to the Atrium -- a wonderful setting for the final confrontations.
And Goliath's speech: "...Death never does."
Again we get multiple images of the Sisters throughout this scene. And again, I had to fight for that.
Each Sister gets to take a mental punch to weaken first Macbeth and then Demona. Are they being hypocrites here? One aspect of their persona is, certainly. But there's more going on, some of which I still haven't revealed.
But the key thing in terms of this scene (and the events of AVALON) is that both Mac and Demona need to be mentally weakened for the spells of control that the Sisters are going to use on them in HIGH NOON and AVALON. And M&D need to borderline volunteer to relinquish control over themselves. Macbeth, who has been suicidal, is tired and willing. Demona's tougher. But even she doesn't put up much of a fight. "You tricked me." she says. And certainly they have, but she can't break the grip of three children, and though of course they are not ordinary children, one must wonder if she really wanted to.
Goliath: You have learned nothing.
The sisters (as children) say their cool (and ironic) line: "We have written their stories. They are our responsibility. They are our children." My three year old son Ben says: "I love the triplets."
But theirs is a story for another day.
Xanatos really has to sweat in this one. Unusual for him. I love his line to Bronx: "What are you looking at?"
But once the skies burn, he's back to his old self: "Magnificent." Believe it or not, it took some effort to really get the skies burning. The animation came back with only a few contrails of gas burning. We used video tricks to get that whole sky-burning effect that was SO important to the story.
When the gargs rush back inside they were supposed to lift Elisa up into the air in their joy at seeing her unstoned again. Thus you have contrast to explain Xanatos' line to Owen, "You'll forgive me, if I just shake your hand." (But you also have to wonder how he'd respond to Fox when next he saw her.)
And Xanatos gives a line I'd been waiting to use for a year. "I always wondered why I allowed you gargoyles to live. You come in handy now and then." I had always worried that an audience raised on certain villain cliches would just assume that the reason Xanatos never killed the gargs on one of the myriad occasions when he had the chance, was because we were bad writers. This X/G exchange was here to demonstrate that X wasn't that kind of villain. That he was never wasteful. Maybe at this point in the series, it wasn't necessary to spell it out. But it was still nice to get the sentiment across.
Of course, this ends the Xanatos/Demona partnership. Uneasy though it had been. It's why VOWS had to come first.
And that's my ramble...
Time to ramble...
So the sun rises on the next day. Elisa IMMEDIATELY starts talking, even though she's facing the wrong way, putting to the lie all those nice fans who tried to make excuses for why she was animated facing that direction.
It's also kind of cool to watch Goliath and Brooklyn turn to stone and then see Owen turn from stone to flesh. He's got that URGENT-Owen tone going there for a sec, then quickly regains his usual Owen composure. It's fun.
There's a line in here about mixing magics, which was supposed to be a vague, vague cover for later revelations that Owen is Puck. Owen suggests getting the Grimorum from Goliath. X responds it wouldn't do any of them any good since none of them are sorcerors and MIXING MAGICS is supposed to be dangerous. That last phrase is REALLY a reference to a notion in X's head, that Puck might be able to help. X than rejects the notion himself. He's right about mixing magics, but that isn't the main reason that Puck won't help. Puck won't help because that's not the deal that Owen made with Xanatos.
I like Xanatos' casual confidence though: "We'll just have to set the sky ablaze."
Travis scene is fun for me too. Gives me one of those oblique opportunities to semi-break the fourth wall. A woman comes up, tells Travis the truth. He discounts her story, nominally because she doesn't watch television. Anyone who doesn't watch television must be a kook. Now a report on Mass Hypnosis... (That last bit is in there to explain in passing what the world response to the City of Stone events is likely to be.)
FLASHBACK TIME: Duncan has a beard. "Some cousins are not that close." I love how Neil Dickson read that line. And I love Duncan's genuine surprise when Mac saves his life.
Mac saves Demona again. Proving what a good, loyal guy he is.
And then we bring in the Weird Sisters, in the most SHAKESPEAREAN scene in City of Stone.
But first let's talk about the title. I LOVE that title. "CITY OF STONE". I think it was one of mine. But I have to admit it's flawed. Though it's spooky and evocative it really only covers the present day story. The present day story is certainly important, but I think we'd all agree that the real juice in this four-parter is in the tenth and eleventh centuries. And the title doesn't really cover that stuff at all. I didn't notice it at the time, because the importance of the flashbacks snuck up on me. At first I thought they would simply inform the action in the present. But it wound up being more of the reverse. Still I like the title. It sounds like a Movie title to me. What do you guys think?
Anyway, we bubble, bubble, toil and trouble it a bit. I love the nasty expressions that Canmore and Luach shoot each other. [I also love J.D. Daniels work as Canmore. He's such a little nasty. Great contrast to his work as the goody-good kid Tom.]
I'm fairly certain that we screwed up on Luach's name. The name should have been Lulach. But a typo got us stuck on Luach. At first I thought maybe either name would be accurate, like Malcolm and Maol Chalvim. But now I think we just blew it.
I love Luna's line: "You would lecture US on fate."
Erin, my six year old daughter, began to get very annoyed with Duncan here. "Why doesn't he give Macbeth one chance? He just saved his life! Duncan is a fraidy-cat. And stupid." I love a good judge of character. When Bodhe ("Be reasonable, Macbeth") tells Mac that Duncan's after him, and Mac can't believe it, Erin felt quite vindicated, "See, [Mac] just asked the same question that I did."
I like Mac's sad line to Gruoch: "The Journey will be brief."
And I like D and Mac's exchange:
Mac: "You are the answer."
D: "I'm uninterested in the question."
Ben, my three year old son, was having a little trouble with how fast everyone was aging. He didn't always get that the flashbacks weren't taking place right after each other. He got the difference between past and present. But not that we kept leaping forward from say 1032 to 1044 etc. "That's a different Demona," he would say, before I explained that she was just getting older. It then occured to me that I'm not even sure if he knows that white hair specifically signifies old age in a cartoon. After all, Brooklyn's hair is white. So's Luna's, in all her forms. (It's supposed to be silver, but it looks white most of the time.)
Mac is surprised, and not a little freaked out, to hear that there's still a Hunter out there. With Gill dead, he has no clue who it could be.
He offers an alliance, and Demona -- clearly thinking of the Captain of the Guard -- says, "You sing an old song." That, for me, helped tie in our Wyvern flashbacks to the whole Mac/Demona story. I was always afraid they weren't really related enough.
The whole thing with the Sisters looking different depending on the point of view, was another idea of mine that most people thought I was nuts about. (Like having characters unaware of the change in themselves in "The Mirror".) It worked just fine, and in many ways is clearer than any alternative I can think of. But man, I had to WORK to convince people.
The sisters are pretty tricky here, they use the barest excuse of an offered trade to more or less enforce their will on Mac and D. Bending Oberon's law without breaking it. That's not too important here, but will obviously be important in later episodes.
The clues of course are planted in the spell. "Forever and eternal bound and each the other's pain resound." How many people got the implication here as opposed to figuring it all out when the sisters explained it near the end of part four?
Seline handing Mac that magic ball was another instance of us cheating a bit. We were sick of using the fall to the death shtick. But we couldn't just have Duncan skewered. So this was an S&P compromise. The good news was it looked pretty cool. Brief but scary. It even seems to scare Mac.
When Gruouch says that she's afraid Mac's made "a bad bargain," she was supposed to touch his hair to give a visual reminder that he had given up his youth to protect his clan -- and that it scared and saddened her more than a little. I gave that note over and over, but somehow it never got in there. It still works, but I really wish she had run her fingers through his hair there.
D likes Mac and Gruoch here. Look at her face. Maybe she sees a bit of herself and Goliath in them. (With Gruoch as Goliath, of course.)
I like the battle too. It's very economical staged, yet it feels kinda epic to me. Very smartly story-boarded. I really like Demona's clean sweep of Duncan's cavalry off their horses.
Mac says: "You fight like a demon." Laying the groundwork for Demona to get named. This was a bit of an argument with S&P. "Demon" was supposed to be an off-limit word for us. I convinced Adrienne Bello it was important to justify Demona's name. And my bosses backed me up. (That never happens anymore, by the way.)
There's a character in here that we never name except in the credits. He's Duncan's right hand man and Demona appears to brain him by flying him head first into a big rock. He's called MacDuff in the credits. Obviously, another name from Shakespeare. I think maybe he didn't die, but became an ally of Canmore's in part four. But I'm not sure. I know that in part Three, Charlie "Travis Marshall" Hallahan did his voice. In part Four, the character I'm thinking of (both of whom have red hair at least) is voiced by Jeff Bennett.
M&D find the mask with Duncan, and Mac says, "so the battle is truly over for us both." Which is majorly ironic, since we know the battle will continue for at least 900 years.
Bodhe comes out from the background only after "THE NIGHT IS WON!"
Bodhe, though contemptuous, is a very fun character to write. I love his little aside about Canmore: "He'll be trouble; slay him now." We like Mac better that he won't kill a child. But you'll notice that Demona won't kill the kid either.
The coronation is fun. That whole naming sequence is fun.
M: "They will learn to respect you."
D: "I'd rather they feared me."
M: "They'll do that too... 'Demona'"
A nice bow tied on that "Know her?!! I named her!!" line from way back in "Enter Macbeth".
Now as we prepare to segue back to the present, Erin recognizes the three sisters as serving wenches "Because of their hair". To which Ben says, "Me too". But when we get to the present, neither realize that the sisters are also posing as cops. Mostly, because they're police hats largely cover their hair.
Now finally, back to Elisa. Confused as hell, but beginning to catch on at the mention of PackMedia Studios. She heads for the Eyrie. X's response: "Ah, the charming Detective Maza." Love that guy.
Owen and Elisa do their little dance and we get to play a gargoyle recurring bit with them as they freeze into stone mid-argument. At this point my kids catch on to the basic rules. (All of which might have been clearer if we hadn't had such a big gap between watching part two and part three). Erin: "So the humans are the opposite of the Gargoyles. When they turn to stone, the others wake up."
Xanatos starts explaining the plan, and my son turns to me and says, "Daddy, I have to tell you something." [Which is how he starts most conversations these days.] "I had a lot of dreams about fire in the sky." I'm not sure if I believe him, but it was a nice conversation piece.
I like the way Goliath looks at Elisa when he says, "This has to work." Feelings showing.
Then everyone leaves to go pass gas. :) [I know. I'm really mature.]
Bronx goes after the tapestry. We wanted to keep that subtle so that we weren't tipping our hand. Did anyone wonder about that or did it just slide by? Did anyone remember at the cliffhanger that Bronx had been left behind to save Elisa?
Anyway, there's my ramble. Where's yours?
I'm feeling like my smart-ass responses just haven't been very sharp lately.
So appropos of nothing, I'm taking a poll.
If you've got a few minutes, go through the smart-ass response archive and copy and paste your favorite one.
Maybe if you guys point out the "classics" to me, it'll help me redefine my mission on this score.
For the last couple hours, I've been trying a new system wherein in addition to my responses/answers/rambles/rants being placed in there appropriate subject-based archives, I'm also supposed to automatically add them to a chronological archive. In this case "RESPONSES 2001 - 2 (Feb)"
Unfortunately, I didn't start this first thing this morning. It was a good idea that came later in the day from one of your fellow fans. So some early-in-the-day responses won't make it into this new archive.
And, unfortunately again, I'm trying to learn a new habit here. It isn't literally automatic. I have to remember to do it. And I've forgotten to click that button on a couple of messages. Sorry.
I'll try to do better.
Time to ramble...
Xanatos again does equally well as hero and villain, as he opens the episode saving his and Fox's lives.
He's got some nice lines here too:
Another reprise of Launchpad McQuack's old: "Any landing you can walk away from..."
"At least she's not chipped."
"Demona and I need to have a little talk."
"No sense hailing a cab." Or stealing one. I'm not sure if it's clear, but we wanted to give the impression that traffic was hopelessly stalled by all the stone people behind the wheels of their cars. And that Xanatos would have to hoof it.
And then it's back to the clock tower where my favorite line is Brooklyn's as he's looking at what he thinks is a statue of Elisa:
"The nose is all wrong." Gotta love a critic.
Goliath doesn't objectively know that the statue is really Elisa, but his instincts are clearly firing up early warning signs.
Meanwhile, my daughter Erin is busy advising all of us: "They should make sure... cuz that's really her!" and "I bet they're going to Elisa's house." Which they weren't.
Originally, we had planned to (as usual) leave Hudson behind with Bronx. But we switched it to Broadway, so that Hudson could come with and reestablish his fine relationship with Robbins. I should point out that we BEGAN work on City of Stone before Lighthouse. We knew we needed a blind man for City. That blind man was then developed for Lighthouse, making for a great scene in City. Sometimes, things just seemed to work.
Brooklyn still hates Demona intensely. Forcing Goliath to compensate.
My son Ben was all nervous that "They're gonna turn to stone again." He was vague on who the "THEY" were.
Demona's reign of terror on the statues presented us with interesting S&P problems -- and some bizarre but VERY FUN solutions. Adrienne understood the necessity of having Demona blow up and/or smash a few of the stone humans. Even though the implication was death for those people. She was okay with it on the condition that we didn't spell it out, because, at worst, the death's were so fanciful, they certainly weren't imitatible. But she did want us to limit the number of deaths. So at one point she nixed the idea of blowing up yet another statue, but allowed us to blow up the shopping bags (and hand and arm) of one. This seemed less harsh to her. Of course, bloodthirsty lot that we were, we loved it. Because if you think about it, it was certainly more horrific come sunrise.
I finally saw the two statues that people thought were Brendan & Margot. Certainly, they looks like them a bit. But trust me. Two different people got destroyed. That woman was a brunette. And the guy was wearing a toupee.
At this point, Benny became as concerned as Goliath that Demona would shoot Elisa.
Then we segued into our flashback and Benny was still trying to figure out why Demona scratched Gillecomgain in the previous episode. Erin, meanwhile, wanted to know why Gille was wearing a mask.
Me, I'm still fascinated with Bodhe for some reason. I love how he talks big at first, until Mac makes it clear that he's not going to obey. Then he goes into pleading mode.
I also love the scene with Gruoch on Lunfanan Hill. Very heartbreaking and romantic. Did kinda make me wonder what would have happened if Macbeth had just said "Screw it!" and spirited Gruoch away with him. What would there lives have been like then?
The Weird Sisters are fun at the wedding. I like the line: "Certainly not our hero." It's one of those self-aware-tv-moments-that-ride-the-edge of which I'm so fond.
I also really like Duncan's scene with Macbeth after the wedding. He's such a manipulative bastard.
And now we begin to parallel similar scenes in City One. The Weird Sisters again go to Demona to get her to ally with Mac.
Demona: "Ally with a human. Never Again." Well, obviously Demona should never say never again, but in this context she's thinking about her alliance with the Captain and the tragedy that led to.
There's a nice little beat with Gruoch's rose. Gruoch seems cold to her new husband Gillecomgain. We wonder if we should feel some sympathy for a man who has married a woman who loves another. We wonder if he has feelings for her as he gently takes up the rose she was sniffing. But then he crushes it underfoot, so basically we feel okay about hating him again.
Erin asked: "Why'd he step on it?"
And I didn't want to answer, because the writers are trying to manipulate you.
Ben answererd for me: "Because he's a bad hunter." A much cleaner explanation, don't you agree?
Notice here that Mac is not yet the fighter that he someday will be.
Notice also if you watch all four parts of City of Stone together that Emma Samms who voiced Gruoch -- but had never done voice work before -- gets progressively better with every episode. She's somewhat stiff in City One. As with many live-action actors, she's unused to using her voice alone to project subtleties. She's a bit better here. But by City Four, she's rockin' the joint with some really powerful work. I can't remember when I've ever seen any performer push the learning curve that quickly. Most either get it or don't. A few of those who don't, slowly improve with practice. Emma just revved UP.
Did anyone else feel that we went to the well with that long drop from the Terrace at Castle Moray once or twice too often? Again, we were trying for parallelism, but I hope it didn't get boring.
Erin: "I like Macbeth when he was a little boy. I don't like him when he's a grown up." (I think she meant she liked the younger red-headed heroic Macbeth in general in these City flashbacks. Didn't like him as a present day villain in Enter Macbeth, etc. This actually pleases me a great deal. It's the ability to create sympathy in villains that separates Gargoyles from many of its rivals.)
I love that moment when Demona rips the mask off. Gille indicates his scars, "'Tis you're handiwork, remember?" And Demona honestly and simply answers "No." And he goes BERSERK! Bad enough she scratched him and altered the entire course of his life. But that the event was so insignificant to her that she doesn't even remember it...! Now THAT pisses him off.
Gillecomgain should have known: "Live by the drop, die by the drop." As he follows Findlaech's course to doom.
I also like the little moment o' connection between Mac, Gruoch and Demona. Demona actually says Thank You to a human.
And another wedding. Two in one episode. Bodhe introduces: "Lord and Lady Macbeth!" I wanted to get the designation 'Lady Macbeth' in here somewhere. Just to provide more obvious contrast between our version of Gruoch and Shakespeare's.
I also get a kick out of the chilling little scene back in the present with Brooklyn & Goliath. Brooklyn bringing up the "Massacre at Castle Wyvern". Fearing that Elisa could wind up a victim too. This sets Goliath off to the point where he is CLEARLY thinking that he needs to KILL Demona now. "Once and for all." And then those creepy little stone Weird Sisters. Yikes.
Then Xanatos has finally made it across town and is back in hero mode. He saves Owen. And shuts off the broadcast, clearly thinking that that will break the spell. At least, I hope that was clear. Honestly, I'm not sure if it was. I wanted the audience to think that would work. Then be surprised when it doesn't. Did that work for anyone?
The "Hunter" shows up. Demona at first recognizes only the mask. How many times must I destroy you?! she says. A hint to events in the past of both City and Hunter's Moon. But than when she sees him feeling her pain, she knows exactly who's behind that mask. I'm curious how many people picked up on that. This was the first time we showed them feeling each other's pain. The first time we had them in real proximity to each other.
Their fight is kinda cool. There's a neat moment when Macbeth is flying Demona like a kite. And he's very gutsy throughout, leaping after her. Of course, he's semi-suicidal, so it's no surprise he's fearless. But we don't know that yet.
And finally, our cliffhanger. X is so sanguine. "You want vengeance or a solution?" And we end on a surprising image: Goliath and Xanatos shaking hands. Now, it's like no big deal. They ended up teaming upfrequently. But I thought that then, it would be startling.
WHAT DID YOU ALL THINK?