“1000 years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear. It was the age of gargoyles. Stone by day, warriors by night. We were betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect, frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years. Now, here in Manhattan… the spell is broken! And we live again! We are defenders of the night. We are GARGOYLES!”
If you were a kid during the ‘90s you know what this monologue is from! Gargoyles was a hit with both kids and young adults. The cartoon was created by Greg Weisman, the man who also created two of the best animated DC and Marvel cartoons: Young Justice and The Spectacular Spider-Man. Gargoyles features a species of nocturnal creatures that turn to a stone-like state during the day. After spending a thousand years in their petrified state due to a spell, the gargoyles are reawakened in modern-day New York City after having been transported from Scotland. They befriend NYPD Detective Elisa Maza and take on roles as the city’s secret nighttime guardians. Detective Maza gets the gargoyles up to speed with modern times. She even names the ones who weren’t given names in medieval Scotland after the boroughs and landmarks of New York City: Brooklyn, Lexington, Broadway, Bronx, and Hudson.
During its three-season run, Gargoyles was known for its relatively dark tone and complex story arcs. This garnered favorable comparisons to Batman: The Animated Series, which was in syndication around the time Gargoyles aired. The use of melodrama in conjunction with character arcs was heavily utilized throughout the series, as were Shakespearean themes. As a matter of fact, many of the show’s main and recurring characters are based on characters from Shakespeare’s plays, including Oberon, Macbeth, and Puck.
The story arcs and characters presented in Gargoyles would be great to see on the silver screen. Given the fact that Gargoyles is a Disney property and Disney has been doing well with its Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar franchises, I’m sure they would be successful in adapting this show as well. The gargoyles themselves could be brought to life using the same motion capture technology used by James Cameron in Avatar.
Strong Female Characters
The female characters in the Gargoyles universe are very well written. There is character depth and growth that is not seen in many other cartoons. Having a strong female character is a boost for any film, especially if said character is not a “Mary Sue”. Elisa Maza is a great example of this. She is presented as a dutiful NYPD detective at the beginning and grows into more of a hero as the show progresses. She is very accepting of the gargoyles, even though they aren’t human. This is partly because Elisa has experienced prejudices during her life since she is of mixed heritage: African American on her mother’s side, and Native American on her father’s side. Demona and Fox have similar arcs in the series, albeit in reverse. Demona starts out as a kind gargoyle like the rest of her clan, but since she was not under the same spell as they were, she lived for a millennium experiencing how bad humans can be. Thus, when we are introduced to her in the modern day, she hates them completely. Fox starts out as a villain, but becomes reformed and helps the Manhattan Clan from time to time, usually when it is of benefit to her. Watching these character arcs unfold in a film series would be interesting to see. If the series was to go long enough, then we could even be introduced to Angela, a headstrong young gargoyle, who is the child of Demona and Goliath.
The way the relationships work out in this show mirrors James Cameron’s Avatar in some aspects. Eventually, Elisa Maza falls in love with Goliath, even though they are different species. Their love transcends their anatomy and it is beautiful. At the same time Demona, Goliath’s former mate, is disgusted by this. Seeing this unfold in a film series would be bold, but familiar to audiences. The parallels it would have with the way interracial relationships form would be great. Other interesting relationships include Xanatos’ relationship with Fox and Broadway’s relationship with Angela. Xanatos — being a self-made man — was hindered from finding true love due to his trust issues and his enormous wealth. He meets Fox, eventually realizes she is his equal and falls for her. Broadway’s feelings toward Angela are even more complex. Aside from the fact that his other younger clan members are also attracted to her, he sees Goliath as a father figure. With Goliath being her dad, he doesn’t know if he’s worthy… a feeling many men have when meeting the father of their significant other.
The saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” fits this series perfectly as alliances are always changing. Just like a soap opera, former heroes become villains and former villains become heroes or at least antiheroes. Apprentices become leaders and older leaders learn to follow. The fluidity of these relationships makes for more interesting stories to translate into film.
The key to any great film is the casting. Picking the right actors for the leading and supporting roles can make or break a film. For the gargoyles, Disney will need actors whose voices have a presence. Keith David did a phenomenal job voicing Goliath in the television show, and I wouldn’t mind him coming back to do the voice, but if I were casting a live-action reboot of Gargoyles, then I’d pick Idris Elba as the leader of the Manhattan Clan. He has both the physicality and voice to play this character. The human actors would be best if they resembled their animated counterparts. Zazie Beetz would make a great Elisa Maza and Jake Gyllenhaal would fit as David Xanatos. I know time and scheduling play a factor with casting, so as long as the actors match the categories stated, anyone else could do just as well.
This is a show that the “Mouse House” would be smart to adapt. Gargoyles has many stories that are ripe for building a film franchise, possibly making enough films to rival the Harry Potter franchise. Only time will tell if Disney will ever go back and start mining their old animated shows for potential films.
Would you like to see a live action reboot of Gargoyles? Leave your comments below.