A few years ago, I attempted to remind Disney that they have an epic, original property at their disposal, one that has huge creative, box office, franchise, and marketing potential; they didn’t listen. So I’m back again to see if I can convince the powers that be that now is the time for a live-action adaptation of Disney’s Gargoyles. They have the money, technology, and confidence of both investors and the moviegoing public to make it happen; they just need to give Goliath & Co. the green light.
More than just a cash-grab that banks on nostalgia, an earnest adaptation of the 1990s animated series would bring a homegrown group of New York City-based heroes under Disney’s wing. Sure, the studio’s Marvel Cinematic Universe has done pretty well for themselves with adaptations the acquired superhero properties, but their very own Gargoyles are doing nothing but gathering dust somewhere up in the warehouse rafters. If Paramount can turn the fan-favorite comic and cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into a live-action film franchise, Disney could certainly pull off Gargoyles with all the assets and good will at their disposal.
For the uninitiated, Disney’s Gargoyles was an animated series that originally ran from late 1994 to early 1997. The premise was fantastic in the truest sense of the word: stone gargoyles imported from Scotland awoke at night, shook off their rocky exteriors, and soared across the New York City skyline with an aim to explore the city and protect the innocent.
With the exception of their leader Goliath, the rest of the gargoyles took their names from the city’s notable landmarks: Brooklyn, Broadway, Hudson, Lexington and Bronx. Each of them had their own strengths: Brooklyn was a tough tactician as second-in-command, Broadway supplied brawn and belly-busting humor, Hudson was the wise old sage, Lexington was the brains, and Bronx was the fiercely loyal guard dog. They also came with built-in, practical weaknesses-turning into vulnerable stone statues at daybreak and an ability to glide, but not fly-which were seamlessly blended into the plot.
The voice cast was exceptional, anchored by the robust and commanding presence of Keith David while also featuring Ed Asner, Jeff Bennett, Thom Adcox-Hernandez, Bill Fagerbake, Frank Welker, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis to name a few. And as for the look and sound of the show, the pre-HD animation was rich and atmospheric, while Carl Johnson’s score was an orchestral force. Factoring in the fantastic writing from the husband-and-wife team of Michael Reaves and Brynne Chandler Reaves, Gargoyles had the perfect storm of behind-the-scenes talent that enabled the show to compete with Batman: The Animated Series for best cartoon show of the 1990s.
I may be a tad biased, and you can certainly argue that point, but it’s still a pretty remarkable feat for an original property to compete with a well-established superheroic icon for the hearts and minds of a generation of cartoon-watchers. It helped that Gargoyles’ tone was similar in its maturity level and dark, serious themes as Batman. Great pains are taken to explain the title characters’ backstory, which takes place a millennium ago. What begins as a fanciful medieval yarn about powerful and intelligent nocturnal creatures defending a castle inhabited by human allies soon turns brutal and violent when a surprising betrayal wipes out the majority of the Gargoyles. Things look a little brighter when the surviving members awaken 1,000 years later to find themselves home in their old castle, which is now atop a massive skyscraper owned by businessman David Xanatos.
However, the billionaire is soon revealed to be the villain of the piece as he looks to enslave the Gargoyles for his own purposes. Luckily, New York police detective Elisa Maza acts as a liaison to the Gargoyles in this confusing new world and soon becomes their most trusted friend (along with some weird Beauty and the Beast-type interactions with Goliath). I mention all of this to point out that Gargoyles has all the pieces of the puzzle that studios like Disney look for in a potential franchise: strong female protagonist in Elisa Maza, check; nostalgia-based property, check; variety of characters to hit all four quadrants of audiences, check; enough storytelling for potential sequels and spin-offs, check; plenty of action, heart, humor, and drama to please all comers, check, check, check, and check.
So what’s stopping Disney from making a Gargoyles movie? It’s certainly not the technology, which has evolved to the point that a few guys in motion-capture suits can bring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in almost-too-realistic detail. That same technology exists to make the Gargoyles themselves convincing in flight and in battle, aided by the fact that they’re only active at night rather than right, all-revealing daylight. It’s not a question of intellectual property, as far as I know, since Disney owned the rights to the cartoon, and their subsidiary Marvel Comics had a run on the property in the 1990s; even the Slave Labor Graphics and Creature Comics run of Gargoyles was at Disney’s pleasure, until the rights owner’s increased licensing fees priced the storyline out of existence. There was once talk of a Gargoyles presence in a video game, possibly Kingdom Hearts, but ultimately the idea wasn’t pursued. Perhaps there’s nothing standing in the way of a Gargoyles film now except for the will to invest the time, money, and talent into bringing it to life.
As a bit of a concession, just because the technology makes Gargoyles possible, that doesn’t make it profitable. Duncan Jones’ Warcraft had the tech to bring the Alliance and the Horde to life on the big screen, which China and a few other international markets love, but it’s a disappointment at the domestic box office. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a similar story of box office woes Stateside, just without the help of the global market that boosted the original film to almost half-a-billion dollars worldwide. However, each of these films, which are similar to what a Gargoyles adaptation could be like, did quite well with their first installment thanks to a combination of nostalgia/fandom, filmmaking technology that’s able to bring these characters to life, and a sheer, simple interest in seeing what these movies look and sound like on the big screen. Without knocking the other studios or projects, I’m convinced that Disney is capable of surpassing these efforts, if they’ll just give Gargoyles a chance to soar.
Would you love to see Disney’s Gargoyles take wing and appear on the big screen? Or are they better off staying dormant in the darkness? Let us know in the comments below! And better yet, let Disney know!