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Chapter L: "The New Olympians"

Time to ramble...

Chapter L: "The New Olympians"
Story Editor: Gary Sperling
Writer: Adam Gilad
Director: Bob Kline

Well, the Greek Myths of course. But that's not really what I'm talking about. As many of you know, The New Olympians was a concept -- originally created by Bob Kline -- that we began developing at Disney TV Animation even BEFORE Gargoyles. It was definitely a concept that evolved, but it was also a concept that we felt fit nicely into the Gargoyles Universe. So this episode was created as a backdoor pilot. At the time we had big plans for the Gargoyles Universe. Hopes that it would eventually evolve into Disney's equivalent of the Marvel or DC Universe. The World Tour expanded our Universe in many ways -- mostly for the sake of the Gargoyles series itself. But also to demonstrate that our universe had the "chops" to go the distance.

So the New Olympians were imported whole, like Athena from Zeus' head -- into the gargverse. The development for "The New Olympians" series focused on four major characters: Terry, Sphinx, Talos and Taurus. Terry and Sphinx were kept out of this episode on purpose -- so that we'd have fresh faces for the series if it went. Talos has a very minor role. But Taurus took a lead here. Other characters, such as Kiron, Ekidna, Helios, Boreas and, of course, Proteus were also part of the N.O. development. Though again, we left out a bunch of other characters: Xetes, Kalais, Medusa, Jove and Xanatos (yes, Xanatos) so that the whole series didn't become old news, should it get going.

The basic concept of the series, familiar to anyone who's attended a Gathering and seen the original pitch, was Romeo & Juliet. Terry is a human. Sphinx is a New Olympian. They are in love. But their "families" aren't making that love easy. This episode, would in essence be a PREQUEL to that series. Terry hasn't arrived yet. Elisa will help pave the way for Boreas' decision to finally reveal the New Olympians to the human world.

But another important inspiration was the work of Jack Kirby. In my recent ramble on "Eye of the Storm", I commented on how we strove to avoid a Kirbyesque Odin -- and didn't entirely succeed. Here, Kirby was a clear influence. I hope The New Olympians weren't a rip-off, but I can't deny that his Inhumans, his Eternals and his New Gods influenced us -- or me, at least -- when we were creating both New Olympus and our cast of characters.

Creating the cast was also interesting. We basically compiled a list of Greek & Roman myth-figures. Gods. Monsters. Titans. Etc. Then we tried to think about their descendants... Tried to think about which would be the most visually interesting. (A lot of the gods, for example, just look like glorified humans, so we tended to ignore them.) Originally, Kiron had the Taurus role and Medusa had the Sphinx role. But after talking with the artists, we made the double switch, because it was felt that having to animate a centaur and a woman with snaky hair on a regular basis was just inviting difficulties. As with many of these pragmatic decisions, I eventually fell in love with the new version -- and wouldn't want to go back, even if I could be assured of the highest possible animation quality.

In order to import this diverse group into the Gargverse, I posited that these were the descendents of mortals who mated with the Children of Oberon (or Mab). They therefore have incredible abilities and amazing appearances, but they are mortal. Some may have extremely long lives, but they do age. Still, before they left the human world behind, many of the original Olympians were treated as Gods. But some were treated as Monsters. As in Gargoyles, PREJUDICE would be a major theme of the series. In fact, if you look at the PREVIOUSLY of this episode, you'll see that it's fully thematic. All stuff about humans being prejudiced about Gargoyles. That's because we had nothing content-wise that we needed to set up. But if we set-up human prejudice, than it helped forge the twist of prejudice against humans, which Elisa would face in the episode. (I do wish we had thought to include Goliath's line: "Humans fear what they do not understand...")

So the New Olympians fled the Human World. They established a secret island and developed astounding technology... including a cloaking device. (I was always a touch disappointed with all the fog and mist in the opening scene. I wanted the skiff to suddenly be on the open sea, with nothing around for miles. The fog allowed for the notion that something might be hiding BEHIND it. I didn't want that. Still, I think the idea gets across. And the shimmer effect is nice. Plus, I like how Goliath abruptly spreads his wings when he enters it. When my daughter Erin saw the city finally materialize, she said: "Wow!")

Were we just out of dialogue ideas, or were we trying to make a point or an inside joke or something. I'll let you decide...
Goliath: "We cannot wage war against an entire city."
Elisa: "You'll have to do better than that."

Michael Dorn wound up playing Taurus and the late Roddy McDowell as Proteus. Dorian Harewood, who was originally cast as Boreas, also wound up playing Talos. But none of these three were our original choices for those rolls. Instead we cast three people who I thought would be perfect for their parts. But none hit it. It was one of our rare recordings that DIDN'T work. So we fell back on Michael to play the very Worf-like Taurus. (This sometimes bothers me as the voice is exactly the same as Coldstone's. But ultimately you go with the best hand you have at the time.) Dorian ended up doing double duty as Talos and was terrific. And of course, Roddy was just brilliant as Proteus.

What's interesting is that Proteus himself is not the greatest actor. Erin noticed... "There's something different in his voice." Of course, it's Keith David PLAYING Proteus playing Goliath. (Which is always fun.) And Keith hits the mark with precision. As does Salli & Michael when they're playing Proteus playing Elisa & Taurus. Sure Proteus always LOOKS the part -- thanks to his shape-shifting abilities. And I suppose he's less of a ham than Sevarius. But he never quite takes the time to truly "inhabit" his roles. Certainly, while playing Elisa and then Goliath, there are a number of small tip-offs in his choice of words that are just wrong. Like can you really imagine Goliath saying: "Who's that guy?" One assumes that his performance as Taurus' dad is equally off the mark.

The walla in the Senate House when Elisa is on trial isn't my favorite. We just didn't get enough coverage, so it repeats and repeats.

All of the New Olympians we see are prejudiced. Every one. Some are worse than others. Boreas is well-meaning, but wrong. Taurus is narrow-minded. Talos is, at best, only pragmatic -- not morally outraged by Elisa's treatment. Most of the others are just flat out racists. "New Olympians fear what they don't understand." I'm sure somewhere on the island there were some more enlightened individuals, but we made a point of NOT showing them.

I wanted to do a few things with that theme. (1) Show that prejudice breeds prejudice. The New Olympians have some legitimate grievances against the human race, but they've learned the wrong lessons from their ancient persecution. (2) Of course, we wanted to play the irony of the monsters being afraid of the "Humans of Legend". Elisa tells the Gargoyles to hide when they first land on the island. And she's the one that the New Olympians fear. They have "no quarrel" with the Gargoyles. And the best solution that even Boreas and Taurus can come up with is to "Quarantine" our girl. (3) There was a three. I had it in my head a minute ago. Now, for the life of me, I can't remember what it was.

Maybe it had something to do with Prejudice only truly being able to be attacked one person at a time. I went to an all boys high school. We were all so deathly afraid of being called homosexuals that a culture of homophobia was ingrained into all of us. It wasn't like I was going around gay-bashing. I like to think that even then, I had the sense and the control to stifle my prejudices. But I can't deny I had them -- probably still have them to some extent, unfortunately. Anyway, then I went to college. Acted in a couple plays with a guy I really admired -- both as an actor and as a human being. Became good friends with this guy (who had the amazing name Steve Wraith). THEN I discovered he was gay. By that time, I didn't care. He had personally won me over -- in a slightly less dramatic fashion then how Homer Simpson learned to accept gays after John Waters saved his life. Steve never saved my life, but I'm afraid the metaphor is VERY apt. I haven't seen Steve in twenty years, but I owe him a lot. A few years later my cousin came out. After that, many if not most of my friends came out. My sister. Etc. Steve paved the way to make me a better person. Conceptually, we can all talk about dismissing prejudice, but I have this sneaking suspicion that the only way we really learn is one human being at a time. That's why Goliath vouching for Elisa was ineffective. People are doomed to HAVE to figure things out for themselves. And unfortunately, some never do.

And so we put Taurus through that process. He meets a human. His distaste is palpable. He knows the story of the Minotaur, his ancestor. [Now Theseus is one of my all time favorite characters from Myth. But I couldn't resist flipping the tale of the Labyrinth and telling it, if just for a few seconds, from the Minotaur's point of view.] But Taurus will learn to respect humans - one human at at time. Elisa and Taurus actually have a lot in common. Both are cops. Both have/had fathers who are/were cops. But as Elisa says, he's "got some funny ideas about justice."

Elisa is clearly more enlightened. In part, that may come from her own history. She grew up as a person of color in a largely white society. She's no stranger to prejudice. Being both African-American and Native American, it's possible that she has even faced some rejection from African-Americans and Native Americans as well. Clearly, based on her openness with regards to Goliath and the Gargoyles, she learned her lessons long before we met her. Pretty much from the moment she realized that Goliath could talk -- and was therefore sentient by human standards, she treated him as an equal. I always admired her for that. Unlike the New Olympians, she didn't let the prejudice she faced turn her into a bigot.

Taurus will eventually get the message. His prejudices don't just vanish. But he's learned something.

I like the sequence where Goliath comes to break Elisa out, and Proteus takes advantage of the situation by first turning into Elisa and then Goliath. (When Erin first saw him as Elisa, she said, "Uh oh." which is pretty much exactly what he was going for.

I like how Taurus threatens to fire Helios.

I like how Goliath turns to stone in Proteus' cell.

I like how Elisa takes charge -- and basically FORCES Taurus to partner up with her. She has two tip offs that Proteus is posing as Goliath. First the fact that he didn't turn to stone and blames it on the cloaking device affecting the sun's rays. Of course, Elisa knows that it's not literally the sun that turns a gargoyle to stone. It's his or her biological clock, which is often triggered by sunrise. But the real clincher is Proteus' plan to blow up the Collonadium. Elisa knows Goliath would NEVER do that.

I like when Taurus tries to express his admiration -- and still can't do it without insulting her species. Elisa takes it in stride: "I'll choose to take that as a compliment." Progress is slow.

We end the episode with a pretty blatant pitch for giving the New Olympians their own show. It's certainly shameless. But I make no apologies. I still contend that THE NEW OLYMPIANS would make a GREAT t.v. series.

Anyway, that's my ramble. Where's yours?