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Gargoyles FAQ

Life in the Real World

This is something I wrote YEARS ago. But I don't think it's here in ASK GREG, or if it is, it's only in the old archives. Vash dug it up recently, and I thought I'd reprint it here, verbatim, I've added a few notes in [brackets]:

Life in the real world.

I know I've said this stuff before. Please read this carefully. I have a real fear that this might sound defeatist or condescending, but you can't possibly succeed in "saving" the show if you don't come to terms with these hard truths. I don't know what you've been told by other people. But I do know a few things about today's animation market. I've told you before that I did not believe that Gerry Leybourne was single-handedly responsible for not renewing the show. Dean Valentine is also not single-handedly responsible. Neither is Eisner. If the fans insist on looking for a VILLAIN to blame, they stand no chance. [Neither Leybourne or Valentine are at Disney anymore.] You say you're looking for a straight answer. But really you've been given and have ignored straight answers and what you are looking for is for simple answers. There are none. Here are some (but not all) of the many factors that have probably played into the non-renewal:

1) Quantity. A normal syndication package for any children's show is 65 episodes. If you don't make it up to 65 then you are considered something of a failure. If you make 65, then you have created a show that can have ongoing library use. That's a success. Anything above 65 is gravy and NO SHOW makes more than 65 episodes without significant financial incentive. They made 78 gargoyles (including Chronicles). The financial incentive for the last 13 was that ABC needed a boys action show with some "Marquee" attached to help fill out it's Saturday Morning line-up. You'll notice that no new episodes were made for syndication. There was no financial incentive in syndication. So they didn't make any more for syndication. [These days a syndication package can be as few as 39.]

2) Ratings. The ratings for Goliath Chronicles are, or so I'm told, lousy. Forget about the why for a moment, and just absorb this fact. If the ratings are lousy, we've just lost the financial incentive to make any more beyond the 13. On that level, Goliath Chronicles objectively failed. Gargoyles did a bit better in its day, but it never broke out and knocked down the competition. Aladdin did better business for Disney. And they're not making any more new Aladdin tv episodes either.

3) Shelf space. The Disney Afternoon, as we know it, is dead. The rise of FOX, the WB and UPN ate up almost all of the existing independent stations that aired the Disney Afternoon or (in lieu of the full two hour block) the individual shows that made up The Afternoon. We've known this was coming for awhile. Existing contracts kept the Afternoon alive through the end of this season. But after that it is gone in it's present form. Now, as I understand it, Disney has made a deal with Kelloggs to do a reduced version of the Afternoon. I think it's supposed to be an hour and a half long, with one new show and two library shows. The new show for next season is 101 Dalmations. For fall of 98, it's supposed to be HERCULES. There isn't room for new Gargoyles in syndication. ABC has similar problems. As a broadcast network, they've committed to air 3 hours of FCC/Kid friendly programming per week. That means 3 hours of their morning have to be reserved for that kind of programming, because unlike Fox, they don't have any other place in their schedule to air this FCC stuff. That only leaves them with about one and a half hours to fill their morning. They have an existing commitment to the Bugs Bunny cartoons that they air for an hour. That leaves them with one half hour slot to fill. Given Goliath Chronicles ratings, it just doesn't make sense to fill that one slot with a show that's failing, when you can take a chance on something new that might succeed.

4) Resources. The fans seem to regard Disney as this Giant that can do whatever it wants, and that's true up to a point. But Disney TV Animation has limited resources. There are only so many talented animators and storyboard artists out there. There's only so much money they can spend without profits to justify the expense. From Disney's point of view, Gargoyles had its shot. You and I may quibble about how that shot was handled. Whether it could have been handled better. I think everyone would acknowledge that mistakes were made. But not intentionally. EVERYONE at Disney wanted the show to be a huge success. IT WAS NOT. I wish I could tell you different. Creatively, I'm very proud of the show. We touched a substantial group of people. But an even more substantial group preferred POWER RANGERS on a consistent basis. They cleaned our clock. Disney has to decide how to allocate limited resources. If Gargoyles had 78 shots to be a hit, and didn't quite make it, you can see why they might think it's time to allocate their resources to something else.

5) Quality. Resources came into play with Goliath Chronicles. The decision was reached to allocate priority resources to shows and home videos that they believed had a better chance to break out. That's why Chronicles looks the way it does. In my opinion, the show is inferior to the original on almost every level. This doesn't mean that a lot of good people didn't work their butts off to make it as good as it could be. But limited resources result in limited success. The resource issue was the major reason why I walked away. I regret it now. The animation has been weak, but I should not have passed up the opportunity to tell twelve more of my stories. But that's spilled milk. Eric Lewald was under the gun from the moment he came on board the show. There wasn't adequate time to make the show at its previous quality level. There wasn't even adequate time for Eric to become as familiar with the show as I'm sure he would have liked to. I tried to help. I was paid to consult. But...

6) Time. Along with limited resources, the main reason Chronicles isn't up there is Time. The show didn't get a go ahead until late november '95. I began "The Journey" in December. Eric didn't really come aboard until January '96, as I recall. Look at where we are now. It's late February [1997]. Do you really want to see the GARGOYLES episode that would result if it started from scratch now and had to air in September [1997]? I WOULD NOT.

7) Expectations. I do believe that Disney in general views the show as a disappointment. They had tremendous high hopes for it. They rushed 52 episodes into production for it's second year despite my warning that they'd have to air a lot of reruns in between new episodes. The reruns, the weaker stations we were on and many other factors, including series content resulted in a solid but decidedly unspectacular performance. I do believe that the high expectations that many at Disney had for the show, led to greater disappointment in its real failure to break out and its perceived failure in general. That disappointment doesn't make a lot of people feel inclined to make more.

8) Strategy. O.k., I'm not at Disney anymore, so I'm not privy to their strategy meetings, but from outside observation, it doesn't seem like Gargoyles fits in their overall strategy plans. Maybe it never truly did. Now we can be mad about this. We can even try to change it. But first and foremost, we should be glad they made the show at all. Next we should realize that if it doesn't fit their plans, they aren't going to be too inclined to change them IN THE SHORT TERM.

9) Management. (The one I suppose you've been waiting for if you still insist on playing the blame game.) There has been a lot of management shake ups at Disney. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Rich Frank, Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston all left. So did I. We were all supporters of the show. But Eisner didn't leave and he was a supporter too. I haven't talked to him recently. I don't know what he thinks about the show. Maybe he's disappointed. Maybe he's not. Maybe for him it's just the resource issue. Gotta take a shot with something new. Maybe he's not involved in this decision in a significant way. No way to know. But I wouldn't be so quick to label him a villain. It doesn't hurt to let him know that you love the show, but it can't help to blame him for its demise.

I don't know Gerry at all. I've never met her. I'm also a little vague on her responsibilities at Disney, thought I've heard she's responsible for scheduling ABC's Saturday morning. But before you blame her, or even guess at what she personally feels about the show, reread all the above, particularly the section on shelf space, strategy and ratings. Now she may not like the show. I have no idea. Neither do you. If she doesn't care for the show, I'd personally be curious to know what she bases her dislike on. Goliath Chronicles? Gargoyles? Both? Whatever, she's entitled to her opinion.

I've met Dean. I've heard that Gargoyles isn't his thing. I've heard that he believes that it may not be Disney's thing either. But I don't know any of that. And again, Dean's personal view of the show is, positive OR negative, way down on the list of reasons not to make more. See above.

Buena Vista. Mort Marcus ran Buena Vista at the time I left Disney. I have no idea if he's still there. Mort was a big early supporter of the show. He was also very disappointed when it didn't perform up to expectations. Buena Vista is taking its next shots with Dalmations and Hercules. But even if the Afternoon had survived, there wouldn't be any new episodes of Gargoyles in syndication. Look at the Disney Afternoon's history. A new show premieres with new episodes. Over the next few years, the reruns move down through the Afternoon. That's cause they couldn't afford the MILLIONS of Dollars that it would take to make new episodes for early time slots that don't deliver very many kids. If there aren't any (or many) butts sitting in front of the t.v. then advertisers don't want their products advertised there, in which case they don't pay much for commercials. So networks won't pay much for the shows, so the shows operate at HUGE budget deficits. Gargoyles operated at a huge deficit. Ultimately, I'm sure it will make an overall profit for the company. It may have already. But let's not pretend this was the LION KING.

Other divisions. Some did better than others. But no one is clamoring for more gargoyles product, so none of the other divisions are clamoring for more shows.


We begin by admitting, at least to ourselves, that in the short term, we lost the battle.

Then we go on and try to win the war.

We have one big chance and a general small chance. Both are long shots.

The Big Chance is the Touchstone Live Action Feature. If this ever gets made and if it succeeds, then there will be renewed interest in the show.

The general chance is that television is cyclical. He-Man rules until DuckTales comes along. Rescue Rangers rule until Batman comes along. Soft and quirky is big now. But times change. And Gargoyles has a marquee. (It's a trifle damaged, but it's real.) There's a chance it could come back.

The best thing we can do is keep the flame burning. Keep executives, particularly if there's any executive turnover, informed that there is a fan base for the property. Write letters to Buena Vista, to Eisner, to ABC, to Disney TV Animation, to Touchstone. Write letters to local stations, asking them to air reruns. Write letters to the Disney Channel for the same thing. If the reruns are airing in the U.S., we have a much better chance of someday making new episodes. Keep these letters respectful. Don't try to assign blame. My god, what difference does that make. If I thought it would help I'd take 100% of the blame myself. I certainly deserve some of it. Just let people know that you loved the show. Praise it's virtues. Show "Deadly Force", "Lighthouse..." and "The Green" at grade schools. Make the GATHERING a yearly event. Increase it's budget and scope on a slow and steady basis until it becomes an important event. (Don't try to get too big too fast. If you go bust early on, you won't get a second chance.) Keep the fan base excited about the show. (This to me is the main virtue to the whole fanfic thing, which I have many mixed feelings about. If it keeps the fans interested, great.) Don't let the fans marginalize themselves with hostility or esoterica. If they get territorial they keep new fans out. No new fans. No new episodes. Prove to Disney that you are part of that great consumer demographic that they are hunting for. BUY STUFF. Buy all the stuff you can find. Prove that the show can still make money for the company. Buy all the videos off the shelf. Then write Disney's home video division and have them make more. More copies of existing tapes and more episodes on tape. Show those taped episodes to new fans. Particularly young fans. Adults and college kids are great too, but if kids don't like the show, we are doomed. Try to convince Disney records to release Carl's music on C.D. Buy animation cells from authorized Disney dealers. Talk it up.

As for the petition, hell, make copies. Send it a lot of places. Buena Vista for sure. Don't worry about whether or not it's read cover to cover by the president of the division (Mort Marcus, I think). It'll make an impression. But I don't see why you shouldn't send it to Gerry too. Send it to Dean Valentine at Disney T.V. Animation. Send it to Barry Blumberg (at the same place). Have someone in every market send it to their local ABC affiliate. Gerry isn't giving you bad advice there. If the local stations want the show, they'll make their voices heard at the network. (But remember, you need locals to send it to local stations. A petition postmarked Newark won't be taken very seriously in Cleveland.) Send it anywhere you think it might help. But you might want to read it over first. If it's full of hostile and antagonistic attacks, then we've marginalized the petition. Also try to make sure that there's no doubling up. If people signed the petition twice and Disney figures that out, then they'll figure the entire document is compromised, and they'll freely ignore it. If it's a rational statement from real existing fans than I promise you it'll make a positive impression.

But I don't want to kid you. We are probably past the point of no return, at least for this coming fall [1997]. I appreciate that you refuse to give up, and I'm not telling you to. But if you want to save yourself some heartbreak, I think you might want to start focusing on the long term instead of the short term. Even if we could change everyone's minds overnight, we've all but run out of time to put new episodes of any quality on the air by September. I don't like saying that, but I figure it doesn't help anyone to beat around the bush.

Now let me say in advance that most of this won't work. Sorry. The odds are against us. I take some consolation in knowing I was involved with 66 episodes that I can be proud of. I told the stories I wanted to tell. Not nearly all of them, but many. I ended it with Hunter's Moon and Journey, in a way that gave us some small closure but left it open in case I get another shot. A shot I'm longing for. All this offers some consolation. I hope you and the other fans feel the same. It's something to hold onto through what's bound to be a LOT OF REJECTION. There are no guarantees that we'll ever get the show back on the air in any form. But what I've written above is the most practical plan I can think of. If I can help in any way, let me know.

Otherwise, Good Luck. You are going to need it.


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The Dynamite Comics

Gargoyles Comic from Dynamite

The story of Gargoyles continues in the comic book series Gargoyles and Gargoyles: Dark Ages published by Dynamite. Available online or at your local comic book shop.

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Gargoyles Figures by NECA

NECA has produced a line of Gargoyles figures which continues to grow. Available through online and department store retailers.

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Gargoyles Season 1 DVD Cover

Includes episode commentaries by co-creator Greg Weisman, interviews with the cast, and a documentary on the fan convention.

Season One
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