We still don’t have Disney+ over here in the Philippines. I think it’s quite a shame that the House of Mouse doesn’t understand how many people over here are willing to shell out their hard earned cash each month for the opportunity to stream their large catalog of movies and television shows. I know a lot of people who would just want to go through the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, watch classic animated Disney movies or re-watch their more recent endeavors like Phineas and Ferb. I know I would like to as well.
However, if they do eventually bring Disney+ over here, I wouldn’t watch any of them. I will get to them eventually but there is positively one cartoon that I feel is strangely overlooked by most because you wouldn’t think a kid friendly conglomerate would ever think of producing something so incredibly deep, with strong character development, strongly serious at times, dark mythology and incredibly smart writing.
I’m talking about Gargoyles, of course.
If you haven’t heard of Disney’s Gargoyles, I can’t really blame you. While it has definitely gained a sort of cult following, it was only a modest hit when it first came out in 1994. It never really made a huge mark in pop culture and, if I’m being honest, I can kind of see why as it never really felt like it was ever going to be a mainstream hit with its concept.
The basic idea behind Gargoyles is that, centuries prior, creatures known as Gargoyles were made defender of a kingdom in a form of symbiotic relationship. As the creatures are basically helpless in the morning as they turn into stone statues when the sun is up. When nighttime comes, however, they are able to help their daytime protectors from invading forces. During a particular siege, the leader of the gargoyles, Goliath, is tricked into leaving the castle and, during his absence, the castle is invaded and the royal family seemingly killed in the raid. The wizard of the castle then puts a curse on the surviving gargoyles, stating that they will remain in their stone state “until the castle flies above the clouds.” Fast forward around 1,000 years later, the billionaire Xanatos, buys the castle and rebuild it on top of his skyscraper. With the curse fulfilled, Goliath and the gargoyles are now revived in modern day New York and they pledge to protect the city as they did so many years ago.
I can remember the first time I watched Gargoyles and it was just pure happenstance it was the first few episodes. It just so happened to be on cable very late at night and, as I didn’t have anything to watch, I decided to check it out. The animation looked nice and all but the thing that actually drew me was Xanatos. It wasn’t his look but his voice. His voice sounded incredibly familiar to me. It took me an episode or two to figure out it was First Officer William Ryker from Star Trek: The Next Generation! It was so shocking that I didn’t even realize that Demona was also voiced by another Star Trek: The Next Generation cast member, Deanna Troi!
While I may have initially stuck around because of the incidental Star Trek: The Next Generation connection, I kept on watching Gargoyles because of how good the stories are. I may have dismissed it early on as typical Disney fodder when I first laid my eyes on it but, as I kept watching, I soon realized Gargoyles was far from it.
I can’t help but think that Disney saw the huge numbers Batman: The Animated Series was pulling in so they decided to jump on the bandwagon and go all-out in making a much more serious cartoon than what they were used to doing. I can safely say they did a good job. The overall tone is definitely much more somber and more melodramatic in a sense. Gargoyles seemed to be more targeted at an older audience as the show deals with some mature themes like prejudice and how things are not always black and white. This leads to the show and its characters having a lot of depth to them. Xanatos may come off as the big bad for a good part of the show’s 78-episode run but he’s never comes off as exactly evil. In fact, by the tail end of the second season, Xanatos turns full good guy.
Speaking of characters, it is kind of odd that the Gargoyles themselves aren’t particularly interesting. Oh, they are still characters in their own right and they are generally likable. You do have the stoic leader, Goliath, who commands respect thanks to Keith David’s booming baritone. You have the grizzled veteran, Hudson, who is may dismiss most modern conveniences besides television. This is the exact opposite of Lexington, the smallest of the group, as he’s incredibly curious about technology and actually becomes apt at using most devices. There’s the more hot-headed Brooklyn who’s more willing to get into a fight but does mellow out as the episodes go. Broadway is your classical overeater but with a love for detective movies. They also have a dog-like gargoyle in Bronx, just to keep things a little different.
It’s mostly the villains that actually are the ones to watch as they are definitely much more smartly written. I’ve already talked about Xanatos but you just gotta love his attitude as, even when his grand schemes are thwarted, he never takes things personally and thinks of them as learning moments. Demona is also a very interesting character as, while her goal of eliminating all human life is rather despicable, it’s understandable because of all she went through. There are many more villains I can talk about but none of them are as infinitely watchable as these two.
The show isn’t perfect, unfortunately. Gargoyles kind of peters out by the third season as most of the writers left Disney and the show moved away from the confines of cable to network television. This meant the new writers had to make things a little more child-friendly to meet normal broadcast standards. The animation quality also took a dip by this points due to production moving to a new studio. I also had some problems with the middle of the second season, particularly “Avalon World Tour” when Goliath, Bronx, their human ally Eliza Maza and Angela, Goliath and Demona’s previously unknown daughter, traveling through time and space in an attempt to get back to the present time. It’s not necessarily bad but breaking up the team meant less time with the more established characters and it just went on for too long. Still, I wouldn’t mind slogging through the “Avalon World Tour” as the episodes are still good.
Gargoyles is a much overlooked show that definitely deserves a lot more renown. It may be “a Disney cartoon” but it’s much more than that. If you have Disney+, I’m pretty sure they have all of the episodes on there. If you can, I say watch them all. Yes, even the more disastrous third season. Because if there are more eyes on Gargoyles, then maybe Disney might think of reviving the show back to its former glory.
Have you seen Gargoyles? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!