So yes, my present binge is animation. The post office appears to have eaten some DVDs of other 90s animated TV goodness and so while waiting (and having finished Avatar) I decided to start watching one of my favorites from back in the day. Disney doesn't seem to mind people posting their shows and even some movies on YouTube apparently. Though since they decided the first two DVD releases of Gargoyles didn't make enough money for them to release the whole series, I am glad they are still willing to allow people to still watch the series somehow.

Now I greatly enjoyed a lot of the Disney weekday afternoon shows that came out in the early 90s. The highlight being Darkwing Duck, though I think Talespin may deserve more praise for the creativity behind it. However all of these still were very obviously catering to kids with the comedy and the silliness. But then Gargoyles came out and was something dramatically (heh, was that an accidental pun?) different. I remember being somewhat confused by the promos with it having no ties to any other Disney characters and looking really dark. I think I was even skeptical at first. Then I watched it...

This show actually probably produced more fervor in me than even Batman: The Animated Series (which is still a far better show in almost all regards, and was key in Gargoyles even getting greenlit I am sure) because of its serialized storytelling. Oh and the fantasy trappings. Heck, when they introduced King Arthur I wasn't sure the show could get any better. (Though, it actually kinda got worse after that point, so maybe I was right...(I just read that Weisman didn't work on The Goliath Chronicles and thus why the third season was so bad.) All the Star Trek voiceovers was a funny connection for a geek of a kid as well. But I think mostly it was the use of myth and legend mixed with a modern New York and out of time strangers... It just made for great entertainment.

I was a little worried however in returning to the series, how it would stand up. I had not seen this show in greater than 10 years; I had no idea how it would sit with me now.

Well as I am now about 21 episodes in, I can say the animation unfortunately doesn't live up to what I remember. Which is more a fault with the studios they hired out to. Perhaps they could have had some better storyboarders as well. Still, having watched a number of Batman episodes recently and then seeing Gargoyles which came out a few years later, the quality just doesn't match up. Which isn't to say that Batman was perfect. A couple of the studios they'd go to for the drawing were not very good either. But I think the storyboards and passion of the Batman producers were able to get the best out of their limits. My guess is also that the Gargoyles crew had to work with the animators for the more kids oriented Disney fair, and were less skilled at the more mature quality of Gargoyles. I think this definitely shows up in the action scenes which often come across as confused and poorly coordinated. Now, my complaining is coming from comparing Gargoyles to perhaps the best animated show ever... if we compare its animation with say, the X-Men 90s cartoon... Gargoyles looks pretty fantastic.

Now animation aside, I still just love the concept of this series and quite a bit of the execution. There's plenty of corniness and dated stylings and some overacting, but there's also some great great concepts and storytelling going on. I am also surprised how little I am remembering of this show. For Batman I hear the title of the episode (and see the sweet little art they use for the title shot) and I can recall the episode and most of what happens. Gargoyles... I know I have seen all the episodes I have watched up to this point, but I am finding I can hardly remember a lot of the story. Which has been great for viewing purposes.

But overall the series does what comics (and animation can do) best, exploring different genres by mixing them together in a fun little mishmash. Gargoyles plays on the super hero genre (but avoids some of the stale trappings of the genre) and takes obvious queues from comics (and unfortunately 90s comics) but also plays with fantasy and literature and myth. It is great fun.

I have also been surprised by some of the things they have been allowed to get away with. Watching Batman, the discussions on their battles with the people who control the content of the shows I learned a few of the rules that were in place at the time, but Gargoyles breaks a few of those. The one that surprised me the most was probably the episode where Elisa gets accidentally shot. Admittedly this shows the consequences of playing with a gun, but they point the gun straight at the camera, and have it go off. A major no-no from the content controllers. My guess is they gave this a special circumstances case and moved on. Also it was probably due to effects from the Batman series that they allowed such things. But Gargoyles also uses the easy run arounds on some of the censorship issues. Laser guns, robots getting destroyed, etc. Oh and a fake death. It was pretty shocking for a cartoon, but then you find out it was fake and thus apparently alright...

Anyways, I am really enjoying revisiting this series. I very much look forward to watching the episodes post-Avalon (minus that overly long trek back to New York in the annoying magic boat...). Not because I am expecting greatness, but because I know I missed episodes. As for the Goliath Chronicles, I want to see it, because I only caught a handful of episodes due to them moving it to Saturday. I know everything I did catch was bad, and now knowing that Weisman was not involved helps me understand why. But still, I would like to see what they do. Pretty much all I remember is the Angela/Broadway romance... Oh and I think the Gargoyles might become fully known to New York City.

Anyhow, if you would like to partake: Here's the beginning of episode 1

I have been contemplating a top 10 90s cartoon TV show list and a top 10 overall cartoon TV show list. Which would you prefer me attempt to post?


The Venerable Monster said...

If you like Fantasy and myth mixed with a modern day New York setting, you should go see the Smurfs movie that's coming out.

AedonTor said...


Skip said...

Now I have to watch Gargoyles. Thanks a lot, binger. Look forward to more posts/commentaries.

avallak said...

I've always loved this series, too. I am surprised Disney hasn't tried to revive it or make a movie out of it with all the new animation technology. I love all the genre mishmash: fantasy, sci-fi, comics, noir... You name it, they do it. The later parts did definitely struggle. Post-avalon was always rough for me, but there were some good nuggets in there.

And, yes, the star trek reunion cast was always humorous.