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Chapter XIV: "Leader of the Pack"

I've already dealt with the changes between the first and second seasons of GARGOYLES. (See a previous ramble on that subject.) And hopefully you've all read the serialized postings of the memo I wrote to Michael Reaves in July of 94. Note the date. I was writing that memo to Michael a good three months before the first season of the series would actually premiere. Meaning, Michael, myself, all of us, were just guessing.

Now, finally, I have the time to sit down and ramble about my recent re-viewing of "Leader"...

STORY EDITOR: Michael Reaves.
WRITER: Steven Perry.

Some things were coming to fruition in this episode. A CY.O.T.I. robot had been part of the original development of the show and the Pack. Six characters seemed like a bit much, but the main reason we left CY.O.T.I. out of "Thrill of the Hunt" was because of the way we wound up intro-ing the Pack, that is as a group of T.V. super-heroes. Giving them a realistic robot in that context didn't seem to fit. By the time we got around to introducing the show's version of the Coyote robot (note the NORMAL spelling) much had changed in how we conceived the thing. And yet many of the original elements were still present, if altered. The orignal CY.O.T.I. (CYber-Operational Technical Individual -- or something like that) was a hovering robotic head. But not a Xanatos head. It was a dog-faced head. The head could attach to multiple different robotic bodies, as well as lock into various vehicles as a kind-of autoMATED pilot. One of the robotic bodies was four-legged, dog-shaped. Another was bipedal. But in either case there was never any question that the robot was a robot.

But by the time, we got to "Leader" we had learned so much more about our characters, that our whole conception of CY.O.T.I. changed into the Coyote you know. Part of the change came right out of how sophisticated Xanatos himself was. David constantly made Michael and I jump through hoops to come up with trickier and trickier plots. Plots that would allow the Gargoyles to generally triumph, and yet allow Xanatos to snatch some real victory out of seeming total defeat in what had become our trademark Xanatos Tag sequences. The one in "Leader" is one of the best, which brings up another thing that came to fruition in this episode. When we first created the Pack, I had NO IDEA that Fox and Xanatos were an item. That was a complete discovery, a revelation that came to us during the making of "Her Brother's Keeper": akin to, "Ohmigod, Fox is in love with David!!!" I don't know if it shocked you guys, but it sure came as a surprise to me, their so-called creator. Another instance when I think of myself less as a writer, and more as simply the guy who was tapping into what was really going on in the GARGOYLES UNIVERSE. When did you guys figure it out? During "Brother's Keeper"? During "Leader"? Or not until the end of "Leader" when it was objectively revealed? (Obviously, any of you who saw later episodes first are disqualified from voting on this one.)

Anyway, since we knew they were destined for each other, and we had this semi-top secret plan for them to marry and extremely top-secret plan for them to procreate, we knew we had to get Fox out of jail. And not break her out. But have her out more-or-less scott free. So that would be Xanatos' plan. All the subterfuge would lead to that. Having the robot pose as Xanatos in armor, allowed us for the kind of multiple surprise onion-peeling kind of story that I just live for. Plus it would leave us with a more wieldy five-man Pack again. Fox would graduate. Coyote would take her place.

One tricky thing was electronically futzing Jonathan Frakes' voice when Coyote was wearing his helmet. We wanted to alter it enough so that no one would know it was "Xanatos" until after he took off the helmet. But we didn't want to alter it SO much that you couldn't register Jonathan's standardly and casually wonderful acting AS Xanatos inside the armor. I think we succeeded. (Credit for that goes to the guys at Advantage Audio, who mixed the show. Real unsung heroes.)

We also gave Jamie Thomason, our voice director, and Jonathan the key note that would differentiate the true Xanatos from Coyote. And that was Coyote's fairly primitive desire for vengeance. If I do say so myself, I thought this was a terrific clue, a great moment of fair play, planted in the story. I wanted people to be a little surprised that Xanatos would care about vengeance. But I also figured most would buy into it, because we're all so trained to think of villains in a certain way. But then when Xanatos calls revenge a "sucker's game" at the end, the audience would feel "Oh, of course. That's OUR Xanatos. The other guy was just a cheap imitation." Who was fooled? Who wasn't? I'm curious to know.

When Coyote first took off his helmet at the end of Act One, my three year old son Ben yelled out "Xanatos!" He was truly and wonderfully surprised at that moment. It was fun.

Random observation: Wolf's not doing real push-ups. Not fully extending, either up or down.

Another thing we did do for the NEW SEASON start up was feature the gargs EXPLODING out of stone. Another of our series' trademarks that we wanted to be sure to get into the first episode of the new season.

Coyote clearly has a "quip chip" installed. He's got some great very Xanatosian lines. "Exact change". "Wanna see what I can do with both hands." Etc.

In fact lots of characters have great cutting lines in this one. Owen is wonderfully officious, even a tad smarmy in this one. You can almost see Puck smiling through, and this is before I knew Owen was Puck. But his, "Shouldn't you... be there." is just great.

Or Brooklyn's line: "Yeah, why should we stay up here... where it's safe." Great.

And Hyena: "I love a man who brings me weapons..." and "A robot?! Even better." Classic. And that was another discovery. Hyena would have the hots for Coyote. It wouldn't necessarily be reciprocated, but the mere fact that he was a robot wouldn't bug her. (I'm guessing she's used to using technology to satisfy her desires.) On some level, I think this was us (and Hyena) just being perverse for the sake of perverseness. But I also think it created an interesting parallel to Goliath and Elisa's relationship, if that doesn't sound to preposterous.

______

Another random observation: Hyena mentions Santa Claus. :) Ho ho ho.

______

CHARACTER CONTINUITY:
I think there was a semi-conscious desire to give every character something that new and returning viewers could use to hang their hats on, so-to-speak.

Lex is still so angry at the Pack for events in "Thrill of the Hunt" that he's literally HOPPING mad. Actually, that bit of hopping bugged me. Made Lex look silly and young at a point when I was hoping to present him as truly dangerous. Oh, well...

Brooklyn still feels the same way about Demona. And he's self-aware enough to know it. Though not mature enough to get passed it. (That'll come -- sometime in 2158.)

Broadway still hates guns and smashes them at every opportunity. (Lex obviously doesn't share his rookery-brother's opinion. Lex looks real tough holding that launcher. And I think it's a fairly shocking moment when that hole gets blown in Coyote's torso, and Lex is revealed -- through the hole, no less -- as the shooter. Even though we know by this time that Coyote is a robot, I still think it's one of the most violent images that ever appeared in our show. And it's all about context and attitude. You get the sense that Lex might just do the exact same thing to any of the human members of the Pack too.)

Hudson is still the observant guy who deduces events from what remains behind. "There's been a struggle here..." is right in keeping with his tracking skills and the way he examined that tampered-with bow back in "Awakening, Part Two".

Bronx is still a good judge of character. And he hates robots with fearful abandon. We decided he could literally smell when something isn't human. If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, we naturally assume that it's a duck. But for Bronx it better smell like a duck or he's going to rip its face off, eh? That was another great shocking moment, I think. There's a little bit of WESTWORLD homage going on. Or FEMBOT homage, depending on how old you are. (I'm old enough to remember both.) It's pretty cool. And I love Coyote's head rocketing off at the end. It's so cool and sick. I fell in love with that head, and decided to use it in all future Coyote's -- one way or another.

Nietzche, Sartre, Kafka. That exchange was pure Perry-Reaves. And people tell me _I_ write to old for the demographic. Geez.

I love that moment when the phone rings at PackMedia Studios. (Also have I mentioned I love the name PackMedia. It's so perfect.) Anyway, Broadway's tentative response, before picking it up. And Owen knowing someone WOULD just pick up. It kills me.

As most of you know I favor one word titles. But "Leader of the Pack" WAS in fact one of mine. It was just irresistible.

The fight between the Gargs and the Pack aboard the oil tanker was very well-choreographed in script. But this was an instance where, in my opinion, our board artists lost the forest for the trees. The fight in storyboard went off on some wonderful tangents -- that wound up creating problems for those interested in keeping track of our combatants. Who was where and when just became a mess. We basically were able to fix those problems in film editing. But that's accomplished by keeping the fight well-paced. In the script, I actually think it's well-choreographed. In particular, Broadway freeing Lex, Brook and Bronx made a bit more sense in the script.

Coyote's perception-warping weapon is very cool. We probably didn't use it enough. Mainly because it was too effective. Too hard to stop.

I wanted the gargs to have to swim back to shore from the sinking tanker. But no one else agreed with me.

The head of Fox's parole board is voiced by Jim Cummings (aka Dingo, Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, etc.), doing his best Orson Wells imitation. Which is damned good by the way. Jim Cummings and Jeff Bennett in the same show. Man, were we blessed or what?

And coming full circle, we have our great Xanatos Tag. The villains kiss passionately. You don't see that too often in cartoons, I think. I love Xanatos' great line "That was merely the icing, you're the cake." And also his "true love is so much harder to come by." But here's my question for you guys. At the time, did you really think Xanatos was truly in love with Fox, or did you think he was merely being glib? I knew by that time, but even David didn't. Wasn't until "Eye of the Beholder" that HE realized how deep his feelings were for Fox.

So, comments?


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"Leader" memo concluded...

Finally, the last section of the 7/94 "Leader of the Pack" memo. Act Three of the Beat Sheet. I'll try to type up my new ramble on the episode soon...

ACT THREE
8. Goliath, Hudson and Broadway arrive at the Packmedia Studio. It's quiet. Inside, they see the damage. But no sign of the missing gargoyles. The phone rings. Broadway answers it tentatively. It's Owen. He was wondering if he could schedule an appointment for the Gargoyles to have a big fight with the Pack at the Oil Tanker Whatever-Maru in the harbor. Is Midnight convenient?

9. On the Tanker. In a carvernous empty oil tank, Lex, Brook and Bronx sit inside, effectively imprisoned. Lex swears even more vengence [sic]. Brooklyn can't get through to him. (Maybe Brook makes some sarcastic reference to the three of them always getting captured. First Macbeth nets them, now the Pack.) [Note: This story just structured out that way. So this tidbit was me acknowledging the coincidence, so that the viewer wouldn't think we -- the writers -- were oblivious to it. Greg 2000] Eventually, the other three gargoyles show up for the fight. Broadway is sent to find the others while Goliath and Hudson run interference. At one point, Goliath digs his claws into Coyote's helmet and rips it off, revealing "Xanatos". Goliath isn't too surprised. But eventually after the others are freed, he is surprised. Bronx again beelines for "Xanatos"/Coyote. He smells robot and claws off half of the rubber Xanatos mask to reveal the Coyote robot beneath. [Do you know, I was half afraid that some people would take this to mean that Xanatos had been a robot all along. Greg 2000] Even the Pack is shocked and the tide of battle begins to turn for good, especially after Lex picks up one of Dingo's fallen weapons and blows a hole in Coyote's chest. The robot really malfunctions now. The head "evacuates" and rockets into the sky to escape. The Pack decides to retreat in their Attack Vehicle, but opt to blow up the tanker to cover their escape. Lex in the end has to choose between saving Brooklyn and preventing the Pack's escape. Obviously, he saves Brooklyn and the Pack gets away, though with their doggy tails firmly between their legs. The ship goes down. The Gargoyles tread water. Brooklyn thanks Lex, but Lex is grateful that Brooklyn reminded him what was really important to him. And the gargoyles have a long swim back to shore.

10. Parole board. Fox is released. (Let's not mention Xanatos here.)

11. Fox steps out of prison to be greeted by (surprise, surprise) Xanatos in his Limo. They kiss. She's grateful to be out, but she's sorry his vengeance plan against the gargoyles didn't work. But Xanatos never wanted vengeance. (He's no mook.) He has his priorities straight. He just wanted to stage scene [sic] to get her out. (I love the line about icing and Fox being the cake.) But, she asks, aren't you anry that Coyote was destroyed. Xanatos holds up Coyote's head and admires it like Yorick. Half of it is still recognizable as Xanatos. Half reveals the robot skull underneath. My dear Fox, robots are easily destroyed and rebuilt. But they'll never destroy the true Coyote. Because the true coyote is Xanatos. Or some such. [Interesting. We seemed to save this idea for "Cloud Fathers". Went with the "true love" line instead.] Go out on the robot head, half smiling a typical Xanatos smile.

And that's all folks....


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CORRECTION

CORRECTION:

I'll be at ANIME EXPO on SATURDAY, JULY 1ST! At 1pm. Talking about 3x3 Eyes, among other things. Sorry for any confusion.


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Anime Expo

Attention anime lovers...

I will be at Anime Expo on Saturday, July 2nd in Anaheim, California. I'll be on the New Generation Pictures panel at 1pm, where I'll largely be discussing 3X3 EYES. Other topics of discussion include NAZCA and NURSE NANAKO. (I'm not involved with the last one at all, so I hope I got the title right.) Stop by and say hi.

3X3 is a really fun series that I just finished voice directing into English. It stars Christian "Max Steel" Campbell and Brigitte "Angela" Bako, and features many former GARGOYLES actors including Goliath, Thailog, Morgan, Broadway, Hollywood, Lexington, Brentwood, Obsidiana, Coyote Trickster, Natsilane, Hudson, Jack Danforth and Burbank. It's the story of a three-eyed three hundred year old demon girl with multiple personality disorder and the teen-age zombie bodyguard who loves her.

Hope to see you there.


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More of the "Leader" memo...

Here we have Act Two from the Beat Sheet I gave Michael Reaves in my 7/94 memo on "Leader of the Pack":

ACT TWO
4. Hyena and Jackal are ready to kill Xanatos/Coyote for revenge. X/C puts them down hard. He reminds them that it was Fox who told them to go after him. She's out of the picture now. Besides, it was the gargoyles who really sent you down. They put him away once too. They've destroyed enough of his plans. He wants them bad. He's [sic] works the Pack up into a revenge-fest frenzy. They want the gargoyles. But how do they find them? As X/C puts on his helmet, he says, we let them find us.

5. Goliath, Broadway and Hudson arrive at the castle. Owen is there, but not Xanatos. Goliath is confrontational but cautious. Woen has the Pack's social calender and says they should be at PackMedia studios shortly. Goliath is immediately concerned about the others. They take off.

6. From a nearby shadowed rooftop, Brooklyn, Bronx and Lex watch the police (Elisa, Matt, maybe Morgan) check out the Studios. It gives Brooklyn time to talk to Lex. He knows how Lex feels. Everytime Demona's name get's [sic] mentioned Brooklyn feels the same way. But you can't let it take you over. You need to remember what's really important, etc. Lex isn't listening. The police leave. Lex insists on going in. Brook & Bronx follow.

7. Inside, the place is deserted -- UNTIL SUDDENLY the floor begins to open up beneath them. The PACK Assault vehicle, rises up from a secret entrance beneath. Brokklyn suggests retreat, at least until they can get reinforcements from Goliath, et al. Lex ignores him and wades right in. The battle is on. Lex (followed by Brooklyn) goes after the four pack members they recognize. Lex is a holy terror and they're doing all right, at first. His shocking ferocity making up for any deficiencies. Bronx for some reason beelines for Coyote. (Basically, he smells robot.) It's a good fight, but soon all three gargoyles are out cold and at the Pack's mercy.

ACT THREE
(To be completed next time... Finally.)


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More of the "Leader Memo"...

Sorry, everyone, I know this is going very slowly. But transcribing is really boring. So I can't stand to do too much at a time. Anyway, here's another chunk of my 7-2-94 memo to Michael Reaves regarding "Leader of the Pack":

Beat sheet:
ACT ONE
1. Sundown. Open w/prison break. Let's make it much more fast and furious. It can start quier, but almost immediately should go to explosions, alarms, etc. The guards become aware of the break IMMEDIATELY. A big action set-piece. No time for a lot of talk. Also, let's have Dingo bust out the boys, and Coyote bust out the girls. It's a more practical plan. They'll all meet up in the NEW all-terrain PACK ATTACK vehicle. (And no, Kenner isn't asking for this, I am. Xanatos has the resources. After he saw Macbeth's hover-thing, he'd start his people on R&D. This is the result. The Pack should not be hand-to-mouth. This thing should be a flying submarine multi-purpose thing. Real cool.)

2. Just after sundown at the clock tower, Elisa informs the argoyles that there's a prison break and the Pack's involved. Lex goes bananas. WE'VE GOT TO BRING THEM DOWN. Goliath agrees with the sentiment, if not he intensity. Manhattan is their castle to protect. But Broadway wants to know, how do they find the Pack? Lex is sure they'll return to Packmedia Studios. Elisa disagrees, that's the first place the cops are going to look. Lex is positive. They're like animals. They'll eventually return to their cave to hide. He's going there to wait and watch. Goliath figures on being more pro-active. He knows Xanatos is behind the Pack from Elisa's talk with Fox in "Brother's Keeper". He's going to the castle. Broadway & Hudson are going with him. Brooklyn is concerned about Lex. He insists on going with Lex to the studio. He also insists on taking Bronx.

3. Aboard the Pack's vehicle, Coyote and Wolf fight for the right to lead. (Let Wolf make the first challenge, so that we aren't forced to make Hyena politely step aside.) Coyote wins, but Hyena and Jackal insist on seeing his face. Coyote vouluntarily removes his helmet, revealing that he is "Xanatos".

ACT TWO
(to be continued...)


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Me and my daughter Erin

My daughter Erin is here with me, and together we will answer some ASK GREG questions for you.


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More of the "Leader of the Pack" memo...

This continues my transcription of the memo I wrote to Michael Reaves on 7-2-94 regarding Steve Perry's original outline on "Leader of the Pack"...

Specific Notes & Questions...
Some of these will be rendered moot by other changes, but for future reference...

--No YoYo's for Brooklyn. He's too old to be playing with that. (Not that I don't enjoy a well-balanced yo-yo myself, but it's embematic [sic] of being really young. Like having him play jacks. Remember, this is a guy who likes motorcycles.)

--I liked the Hudson game show scenelet. Maybe slip that in right before Elisa tells the gargs about the prison break. If it no longer fits, save it for another episode.

--I think Wolf is a descendant of Hakon's. [It's interesting to me now that I put this comment in this memo. It's absolutely apropos of nothing. I must have just wanted to write it down somewhere so that I'd remember. Greg 2000]

--The gargoyles exo-sheathe remnants don't dissolve into vapor.

--Is a smoking jacket really Xanatos' style?

--Suddenly, on the bottom of page 3, Goliath has spider-sense. Maybe not.

--Goliath seems to be brooding about things he's already come to terms with. "...enemy one day, friend the next." He learned that lesson from the Captain in episodes 1 & 2.

Beat sheet:
ACT ONE
(to be continued soon...)


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SEASON TWO

Well, my plan had been to finished transcribing the "Leader of the Pack" outline memo. Then start on my new ramble on seeing the episode last week. However, I'm at home today and the only copy of the memo is still at the office. So I'll finish the memo soon. Meantime, here's a ramble that "Leader" inspired with a little background info on the transition to Season Two...

So the second season begins. And we had a new system in place. Tiers and tentpoles. As you may recall from a previous ramble we had run into huge scheduling difficulties with "Enter Macbeth". The animation had come back very problematic and the nature of the story was such that we couldn't air it out of order. I received a mandate to make sure in Season Two's fifty-two episode killer schedule that we do everything possible not to run into that kind of problem again.

Trouble was, I liked the sequential nature of the series. If all the episodes could air in any order with no effect on each other then how could the characters grow, evolve, change? How could the situations?

My solution was tiers and tentpoles. We would create tiers of episodes that could air in any order as long as they aired BETWEEN their tentpole multi-parters. We'd pay special attention to the Tentpole episodes to make sure THEY didn't get into production trouble that would derail the entire airing schedule. But if an individual episode within a tier ran late, we could skootch another one forward without causing any harm.

Tentpole One was retroactively set as the "Awakening" five-parter. Tier One was retroactively everything between that and "Reawakening", which became Tentpole Two by default. (Now obviously the Season One airing order was very important, but they had aired already, so I didn't have to worry about them anymore.)

Tentpole Three would be the "City of Stone" four parter. Tier Two would include eight episodes: "Leader of the Pack", "Metamorphosis", "Legion", "A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time", "The Silver Falcon", "The Mirror", "Eye of the Beholder" and "Vows". In theory, I was supposed to make sure that these eight could air in any given order.

In practice, it never turned out to be that simple. For example, how could I air "Vows", the episode where Xanatos & Fox wed before "Eye of the Beholder" the episode where they get engaged? I wound up having a strong order preference for ALL 65 episodes. Tiers and Tentpoles be damned. But the truth is, the system served us well. It did tend to keep us on track. Creatively, it allowed us to build to strong multi-parters. And we rarely ever HAD to air episodes out of my preferred order. We only screwed up twice. "The Price" aired too soon. "Kingdom" aired too late. But only someone paying VERY careful attention would notice that. (Of course, anyone fanatical enough to be reading this was probably one of those people paying VERY careful attention.)

So anyway, "Leader" was my choice to open the new season. Lots of action. Some really great twists and turns. Some great character moments. It all seemed like a great way to intro potential new viewers to the series. BTWE, is there anyone out there for whom "Leader" was their first GARGOYLES episode? I'd love to hear from you here at ASK GREG.

We made other changes off the first season, as well. We had rebuilt the opening titles sequence to include some new footage. Keith David/Goliath's narration was added as well. This was written by Gary Sperling and myself. And hotly debated around our offices. Hotly debated inside my own brain as well. Frank Paur and I both felt that the titles were more powerful, more dramatic WITHOUT the narration. But we wanted to make sure that the series was still accessible to new viewers. The narration would serve the same function as the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND theme song. If you missed our pilot, you could still get the set up. Frank & I could see the wisdom of both positions. Even our boss, Gary Krisel, could. He left it up to me. I finally decided to err (and air) on the side of caution. I needn't have worried about "drama". Keith's voice, as usual, was so dramatic, that the opening narration became a classic -- reprinted on nearly every garg website I've ever seen. My kids love to shout out "WE LIVE AGAIN!" in chorus with Keith.

Another thing we did was to permanently install those "Previously on Gargoyles..." recaps at the head of EVERY episode. This was done for three reasons. One, see above, we wanted new viewers to have a chance to get what was going on without requiring them to see every episode that had come before. So the salient points could and would be summed up in those recaps. Two, since at some future time there was the possibility that the episodes WOULD air out of order, the recaps would help ground a viewer in when this particular episode was falling. And most important, three, it helped us in editing.

You see, footage would come back from overseas. And sometimes it would be great. And sometimes not. But no matter how good it was there wasn't a single episode that couldn't be improved by trimming a few frames here, a few frames there. No scenes were cut wholesale, but timing was improved and sped up. Mistakes were edited out. The recap gave us thirty extra seconds per episode of editing flexibility.

Now, on some level, the recaps may have backfired. Though they provided useful information, they may have given new viewers the IMPRESSION that there was too much to learn. I'm not sure it's true, but I've heard that argument. Also, I started hearing from the Disney Afternoon mailing list that everyone hated the recaps, because what they included tended to give away too much in the episode that was about to air. We fixed that problem midway through the season. Me, I still have no regrets. As I've mentioned before, HILL STREET BLUES was a major influence. The "Previously on..." format (which everyone uses today) came right out of Hill Street, so I was comfortable with it. And that 30 seconds of editing flexibility absolutely helped the shows play better.

NEXT TIME ON GREG'S RAMBLES...
More from my original memo to Michael Reaves and my specific responses to reviewing "Leader of the Pack"...


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I'm shocked...

There's nothing in the queue. I've got another hour and twenty minutes to kill and there's nothing left in the queue. ARGGGHHH!!!

Gore, Todd, help!!!!!



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