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AWAKENING, PART THREE

Watched this with the family half an hour ago...

More random observations...

RE: Our supporting cast...

Who knew that Brendan & Margot would wind up being so important? Credit Marina Sirtis, for making Margot so gloriously bitchy.

And then there's Vinnie's first appearance on that motorcycle. Of course, no one knew Vinnie existed back then, which is thoroughly appropriate to his character.

And credit Keith David with breathing real life into Morgan the cop. Morgan didn't even have a name then. He was just a place holder, someone for Elisa to respond to. But Keith made me interested in him.

Little things still bug me. Xanatos' floating ponytail in the scene where he and Elisa first meet.

In the Kitchen, the Freezer door was supposed to have one of those easy to open latches on the inside. The irony being that Broadway could easily extricate himself, if he just knew how to operate the latch (or even what it was). Something a kid could do, assuming the kid was born in the 20th century. But BW has to bust down the door.

In the original script and the recording of that script, it's Brooklyn who says "So many wonders..." and it's Broadway who says "Goliath said not to let anybody see us." But in those early days, lots of people in L.A. and in Tokyo kept confusing their names (and Bronx's) so the animation came back as you see it. And it was easier to re-record the voices then to reanimate. (Or am I getting all this totally backwards? I just saw the show again half an hour ago, and already, I'm confused.)

(CAVEAT: In all these little things, I'll probably be pointing out animation errors here and there. But please understand, I think most of the animation we got, particularly from Walt Disney TV Animation - Japan, was brilliant. I think those guys did a great job and don't get enough credit. But anecdotes generally come out of when things go wrong, not when they go right, so it may seem like I'm talking about mistakes more often than not. Sorry, in advance to Roy Sato or anyone else who might take offense.)

When Elisa is first being checked out by the Trio, there was a scene in the original animation where Brooklyn seems inordinantly interested in her behind. We had to call a retake, cuz the guy was practically drooling. I wonder if that's where I got the idea that Brooklyn would fall for anyone in a skirt (or with a tail).

Also, after Goliath saves Elisa from falling off the building we have a point of view shot from her. It begins at Goliath's feet and pans up to his face, as she takes him in. In the original animation, the pan started at his head and panned down. That seemed less effective, so we had our editors reverse the pan, without calling for a retake.

At the end of Act Two, the door slides open revealing Demona in silhouette, clearly plotting something with Xanatos. That always really bugged me. I didn't want to give away that she was alive in this episode. I didn't want to know who Xanatos was talking to. How did you guys react to this? Did that spill everything? Did any of you not know that Demona was alive? Did any of you, by this point, not know that she and Xanatos were the bad guys?

Elisa says something like "This is where Dracula shows up." when she's walking through the corridors of the castle. If you take that literally (and you might as well), then you gotta figure that someday, Dracula will be roaming that very hallway.

Elisa loses the first in her series of guns, when Goliath crushes it near the end of Act One.

Goliath tells a joke: "And please, don't fall off the building this time." Goliath tells a joke. Can you believe it? It wasn't bad either. We should have let him tell jokes more often.

Elisa's surprise that Goliath can talk is indicative of what I thought a 20th (or 21st) century initial response to the gargs would be. That's why Goliath Chronicles' trial episode bugged me so much. I don't think humans would take for granted sentience. And I think most humans, those less open than Elisa, wouldn't even buy talking as enough evidence that the gargs weren't just beasts. (Cf. Margot Yale.)

Goliath is a pretty begruding hero. That's somewhat unique for cartoons. Elisa asks if there are more gargs, and Goliath responds: "Barely." He cuts her very little slack. But already you can see their relationship developing. I still think Hudson's expression after Goliath sweeps Elisa up into his arms is just priceless.

In that same scene, Hudson gets named for the river. I love that scene, as I loved the scene where Tom, Brook and Lex are talking about names. Of course, the desire not to name most of the gargoyles until we got to NYC '94, was mostly pragmatic. It allowed us to use those fun, cool NY names for most of the characters. But once we came up with the rationale for it, and once I managed to explain it to everyone, I really fell in love with the concept. Hudson's lament, here, that humans don't think something is real until they've put there stamp on it, is, to me at least, so damn true. And Elisa's response is so feeble and circular. "Things need names." Pathetic. But I'm no different. <SIGH> I'm such a human. But I aspire to gargoylosity. Anyway, after Hudson points to the river, and Elisa basically tricks him into taking that name, she used to have a line, as I may have mentioned before, where she said (under her breath) "Good thing we weren't facing Queens" -- implication being that Hudson nearly ended up being called Queen, I guess. It was always funny, but S&P didn't care for it, and I couldn't really defend it. So out it went. We tried another version, where she just says, "Good thing we weren't facing East." But it didn't play. So out it went too.

The thing that struck me most, however, was the almost thorough lack of action in this episode. After all that Viking stuff in Part One, and Vikings and a full act of commandos in Part Two, Part Three is a mood and character piece. Sure Elisa falls off a building, but that was a problem easily solved. Until the commandos' Central Park attack in the last seconds of Act Three, nothing else happens that could genuinely qualify as action. That was mostly a result of what was once a four-parter being turned into a five-parter. The reason we made that change is because Michael Reaves wrote a brillaint four-part script. It was amazing. But it was WAY too long. I was faced with either having to make drastic cuts (as I would later have to do in Avalon and Hunter's Moon) or expand it. Fortunately, Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston saw the wisdom of expansion. For one thing, it would save us money. But also, it made sense because we could run the five parts across a whole week of the Disney Afternoon like a mini-series special event. It wouldn't require us to re-program one day of that first week. So we were all agreed, the four parter would become a five parter.

But that meant adding act breaks, and redividing everything. The episode that most benefited was Part One. In the orignal version, Part One covered all of what is currently part one, plus the first act of what's currently part two, i.e. ALL the Scotland stuff. The episode ended with Goliath's "suicide". A great ending, but we would have obviously had to cut a TON out of the flashback. This way we were able to expand into part two and preserve almost all of the story.

So Part Three winds up being nearly action-free. And by the way, I love that. I still think the episode works great, and it proved to me that the charcters themselves could really hold the audience's attention. (I'm such a proud papa. Unashamedly so. It must be pretty obnoxious.) I wish we had always had the luxury to be so... well, luxurious. To expand and play character. But generally a half-hour format makes it tough. I'm very sick of writing half hours, actually. But the powers that be in Animation believe that kids can't or won't sit through an hour long show.

As usual, I welcome posts here responding to this episode. Both your original reaction to seeing it for the first time, and your current reaction if you've seen it again recently.


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AWAKENING, PART TWO

Watched the episode again last night.

Little things....

My two year old son is fascinated with Tom. And misses him in the second act after he's gone. Misses him in other episodes too. Kinda puts the lie to the strongly held belief I've always had that contrary to Network Executive Dogma, kids don't need animated shows to be about kids. Of course, my son is just two. My five year old has no problem with their being no "little girl" in the show.

Goliath says "What sorcery is this?" for the first time. We wound up using it over and over in the series, til it became something of an in-joke. But the truth is, we could never come up with a better line that said the same thing.

Goliath's "suicide" at the end of Act One, is still one of the most startling things I've ever seen in a cartoon. That was Gary Krisel's idea (my boss Bruce Cranston's boss). And I've always admired him for it. It's also the reminder I use to keep me humble when I'm listening to notes from the higher ups. Michael Reaves and I were just going to have the Magus offer to cast his spell on Goliath as something of a consolation prize. "Best I can do" kinda thing.

Love that Chernabog moment where Goliath says "I've been denied everything, even my revenge!" Man, Keith David is great.

The way it's edited you'd never know the problem the last fight in the Viking's camp caused me vis-a-vis Broadway. As you may recall from Part One, during the Viking's initial attack, Broadway stopped for a snack, and then opportunistically used the turkey leg to bonk a Viking. A nice little comedic beat. Well, in Part Two, we wanted to contrast that by having Broadway land in front of the roasting spit by the fire -- so that the audience again thinks he's just thinking about his stomach. But that after the massacre, the much more serious Broadway immediatlely starts using it as a weapon. That's pretty much what you see. But that's not what we received in Animation. What we got was a virtual replay of the scene from Part One. Broadway lands with a big grin and starts to eat. Then he gets attacked and uses the spit as a weapon. It took judicious editing to keep Broadway from feeling too one-dimensional. And even then as the series progressed, we started to downplay Broadway's appetite (another good Gary Krisel suggestion). We brought it up again in Hunter's Moon, Part Three to show how far the character had come. Yeah, great kitchen, but an even better library. That kind of thing.

We had a similar problem with Hudson's sword. We were supposed to make a big deal of him using it for the first time in the battle at the Viking camp. But some of the animation in both Parts One and Part Two showed him using the sword and/or having it by his side before that. That's what retakes are for, I guess.

Xanatos' first appearance... I'm really curious to know how many people, seeing this for the first time knew that Xanatos was the bad guy. I thought it was a little too obvious myself. There's a look he gives Goliath when he's taking the gargs' questions in the Great Hall that I thought absolutely tipped his hand to the audience. But we did try to create a guy who looked like he should be the hero of the show. Handsome athletic Bruce Wayne type up against scary monsters. And Jonathan Frakes is terrific.

(There was a while when Gary Krisel thought maybe we should have Xanatos -- or another rich guy, a pre-Renard if you will -- actually be the gargoyles modern benefactor. I'm glad that's one bit of advice I didn't take from Gary.)

We also get the first look at Owen. Jeff Bennett. Man. What a great cast we had. Wasn't Owen just fascinating from moment one? I didn't know he was Puck way back then, but I sure did know there was a story behind him.

Love that moment when they all Shatter out of stone near the top of Act Two. The sky spinning behind Goliath. The rotating camera for the others. Bronx leaning into the foreground. Still gives me a little thrill. Don't disappoint me Xanatos said. Well, it worked for me.

The first time we got the animation back on that sequence, their stone skins didn't really EXPLODE off them. In fact the first version of the footage had no stone at all. Those of you who have been to the GATHERING have seen that footage. We really had to push to make that concept of them exploding to life every night play visually.

There's an intentional this-ain't-Batman moment during the fight with the Commandos. Goliath gets tossed off the building. He's falling and he grabs for a flagpole, just like Batman would. But Goliath is so heavy, he rips the flagpole right off the building, and he has to use his claws to save himself. Back in those days, everyone was terrified that GARGOYLES was going to be perceived as a BATMAN rip-off. I actually had to write up a memo for the Marketing Department, listing all the significant ways the shows were different. This flagpole bit was our (me, Frank, Michael's) conscious reaction to the constant comparisons.

There's a moment during the fight where Goliath is facing a Commando, and from off-stage Xanatos rescues Goliath by firing his laser at the wall and dumping the masonry on the commando. But that scene gave us nightmares, because it looked like the laser beam was coming from Goliath's eyes. Like he was Cyclops of the X-Men. This made us nervous, because the concept was so new, we were afraid that the audience would think that maybe Gargoyles have all sorts of "cool" super-powers like that.

One line got cut from Part One that would have helped a bit in understanding Lex's character. In Part One, during the initial battle with the Vikings, we had Lex investigating a catapult, fascinated with how it works. That little scenelet got cut from the script for time. But I still miss it.

Anyway, please feel free to post your own responses here on the episode. Both how you felt when you first saw it, and what strikes you now looking at it again.


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More on Theseus...

Apropos of nothing, I've been thinking some more about Theseus. So you guys are the victims of this off-topic Ramble.

I really like the guy.

Here's a kid with a tough upbringing. He's a bastard, and a royal one to boot. That's always hard. Then he pulls his father's sword from UNDER the stone (sound familiar?) and sets off on a quest. Lots of adventure, dealing with bandits and rogue kings. Gets to Athens. And immediately has to deal with an assassination attempt perpetrated by his step-mother (the always interesting Medea). Then he promptly volunteers for hazardous duty and goes to Crete where he's a big hero (at least from the Athenian point of view -- obviously the Cretans and the Minotaur wouldn't agree.)

On the way home, he does abandon Ariadne, but I still think he had no choice because the lady had caught Dyonisus' eye.

He then screws up and is indirectly responsible for his father's suicide. Mary Renault tries to explain this in THE KING MUST DIE. Everyone can decide for themselves whether her explanation is convincing.

Anyway, I'm coming to what I think is the key to his character. The transition point that changed his life, largely for the worse -- ultimately.

He fell in love. With Antiope, Queen of the Amazons. (Hyppolyta's younger sister.) I think this was a great love. A love of equals, in battle, in governance, in life, in bed, etc. This was the love of his life.

And then she dies. It all might have turned out differently if she had lived. I think they were a good influence on each other. But she died in battle, saving his life. And nothing would ever be the same.

After that, he makes one bad decision after another. (Though he does manage to set up the first semi-constitutional monarchy, which is something of an achievement, even if his motivation was selfish -- he didn't want to be tied down to dealing with day-to-day governance.) But basically, he just can't deal. His marriage to Phaedra is clearly a political alliance. And that's a disaster, resulting in her vengeful suicide and the death of Hyppolytus, his son by Antiope. The fact that Theseus is largely to blame for Hyppolytus' death (as he was for his father Aegeus') I think drives him past caring about much of anything.

Now he's just looking for something to kill the pain. He kidnaps Helen, not cause he wants her but because she's a prize. He becomes buddy to that idiot Perithoos. He abandons Athens and winds up stuck in Hades for seven years. And finally, he's killed by a king who was trying (in a very old west fashion) to build his rep by being the man who killed Theseus. It's not a great Arthurian way to go, of course.

But it feels honest to me.

I'm not trying to excuse all of Theseus' mistakes (some of them were fairly horrendous). But I do think there's an explanation.

And if you look at Antiope as the fulcrum of his life. With the Teeter-Totter heading uphill until he met her, holding steady while they were together, but swinging sharply down after her death, I think it ranks up there as one of the great tragedies. And yet still very human.


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"Awakening, Part One"

My kids and I have started watching the 66 chapters of Gargoyles from start to finish, so I thought I'd give a shot at rambling on each episode as we view them.

So starting at the beginning...

Random thoughts:

In the original script, there was a bit that came right after Princess Katharine reprimands the Captain for inviting the Gargoyles into the Great Hall. She says something to the effect of: "To allow beasts in the dining hall..." Right then, we were supposed to cut to a shot of one of those hounds that you can see milling about in the initial establing shot. The hound was supposed to grab a chunk of meat off of one of the nobles' plates. This would further establish Katharine's hypocracy, but also embarrass her further, lending believability to the things she says and does thereafter. I recall that the scenelet got animated, but not well. Frank refused to include it in the final cut. He may have been right, given what we had to work with. But I still miss the moment I envisioned in my head.

Katharine and the Magus are so nasty in this episode. Boy, did they go through some changes.

I'm also struck by just how much the Trio grew from this first appearance. They're kinda medieval ninja turtles here. But they show potential. I still love their exchange with Tom as he tries to get names out of them and they are baffled as to why names would be important.

I do wish we could have seen more Gargoyles flying around. (It really would have been nice to catch a glimpse of the Coldtrio, but frankly, they hadn't been designed yet. We knew they were coming, but we didn't have time to design them before they were necessary.) But it would have been great to see more beasts, more females. More young and old. But I guess we did all right.

The cliffhangers are interesting too. In both, the threat is the Gargoyles themselves. Princess Katharine says something nasty about gargoyles, just as Goliath enters the Hall. He growls, clearly having heard her statement. And we go to commercial... I could never have gotten away with that by even episode 2. But this early on, we didn't know the gargs well enough to know how they'd react. Clearly they had our sympathy. But would Goliath go berserk? Obviously, not. But that was the tension in that beat. Same thing happens between Acts II & III. The threat seems to be from Brooklyn, Lex and Bronx. Of course, they're bluffing. Annoyed with the humans, they are simply trying to put a scare into them. But the audience doesn't know that yet, so I can get away with the second cliffhanger being a Garg threat as well. Of course, by the end of the episode, we know just how noble they are. And that's a great cliffhanger I think. Goliath roaring to the heavens filled with grief over the death of his "Angel of the Night". 'SCool. (But how many of you really thought she was dead?)

There are also moments that are fairly mundane to us now. Elisa pulling up in her car. Goliath first breaking out of stone. Demona stepping out of the shadows. I'd be curious how all those moments made you guys feel the very first time you saw them, particularly those of you for whom this was in fact the first episode you ever saw.

I invite you to post your comments here on Awakening, Part One.


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Congratulate me!

I got through all the October questions in one day. I'll leave them up for about a week and move on to November soon.


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"ALONE": The Demona Contest Results

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who entered: Shauntell, Airwalker, Derek!, Aris Katsaris, Jon and Bud-Clare. I'd like to state for the record that none of you gave a "wrong" answer. But this was, of course, a contest, and I had to choose a winner. My choice is quite subjective, but the winner by a hair is Airwalker with the following entry:

"ALONE: The Demona Contest Answer"

Demona consciously chose the word ALONE for a password because in her perspective she is alone. Only she seems to see that humanity is a threat and that what she is doing has to be done. Her birth clan remains blind to that fact. Only she alone can see it.

Subconsciously Demona chose ALONE as a password because inside Demona lurks Angel, the sane innocent she once was. Angel is alone, trapped inside a villain, unable to stop being alone until Demona can accept a millennia of guilt, forgive herself, and allow Angel to be free once more.

A close runner-up was Derek! who gave another very interesting answer:

ALONE: The Demona Contest

A city of humans had been turned to stone and their only hope was about to be eliminated. And Demona had done it alone. She alone had survived while others didn't and she alone had eluded the Hunters for centuries. But why would the word ALONE suddenly enter her mind?

Subconsciously, the word had been with her since she kissed Goliath on the forehead in 994 AD. She covered up her pain with the mask of a mightly warrior. She made a mistake 1000 years ago and couldn't deal with the consequences, which caused her to forever be alone.

These are both great entries. I particularly liked Derek!'s first paragraph and Airwalker's second. Which is not to say I didn't like the reverse.

Anyway, Airwalker, I'm not at my office right now, so I haven't yet chosen the prize, but I will contact you via e-mail early next week and arrange its delivery to you. As stated, it will be worthless, but it should hopefully be of interest.

Congratulations and thanks for playing.


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The nominees are in...

Praise the Dragon,

I finally got through all the September posts.

That means the next entry you see will be a Ramble that declares a winner to "ALONE: THE DEMONA CONTEST ANSWER".

Sometime next week.

Then, I'm taking on October.


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caveat

I feel like a came down to hard on Alaxk, and I didn't mean to. Again, I have no trouble with people not liking aspects of the show (or the entire show for that matter). And I think this (ASK GREG) is a legitimate forum to express those opinions. I welcome, even encourage criticism. I'm happy to respond.

The only thing that sorta bugged me about Alaxk's approach was that he didn't state his opinions as his own. He put them in the form of questions meant to imply that by now I must realize what a mistake I had made. Since I don't feel that way, it procluded any clear discussion of ideas. It felt a bit precious to me, and I'll admit, it bugged me a bit.

But that's not to say that Alaxk isn't 100% entitled to his opinions about the World Tour -- or anything. And those opinions are perfectly legitimate. Next time just state them.

Sure we're called "ASK GREG" but this isn't JEOPARDY, and your posts don't HAVE to be in the form of a question.


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Sorry...

This hasn't been a great batch of answers so far. I suppose I might be in a mood, but the questions haven't been too helpful. I'll try to do better later in the week.


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More Theseus...

Hey Aris,

Stopped by the comment room and saw some of your comments on Theseus.

I have a slightly different take on the guy. I do think he's heavily flawed, but I think (or like to think) that some of the stories about him reflect bias. He's still more of a hero to me than a villain. (By the way, have you read the Mary Renault books THE KING MUST DIE and THE BULL FROM THE SEA. I'd recommend them.)

For example, in the Persephone story, I've always gone with the version that Theseus swore an oath of loyalty to Perithoos. Perithoos then insisted on going to Hades to take Persephone. Theseus is then stuck. He either has to break his oath to his friend or go to hell, so to speak. He tries to talk Perithoos out of this fool's gambit, but the guy won't listen. (And I wonder if Perithoos hadn't pissed off Eros and gotten shafted.) So Theseus goes. And is severly punished. Thus Athens is abandoned by him for years, and they don't forgive him. Thus you get some bias...

As for his history with women...

Ariadne - I always read that Theseus was FORCED to abandon her by Dionysus, who had taken a shine to the lady. (And this fits with Renault's more realistic interpretation too.)

ANTIOPE - I always thought that Theseus only ever really fell in love once. With Antiope the Amazon. (Sister to Hyppolyta, though Renault and others often confuse her with Hyppolyta herself. It may be that Hyppolyta was more of a title than a name. When Herakles' Hypolyta was killed, her sister Antiope ascended to the throne and took the name/title Hypolyta. That might explain the confusion.) When Antiope died, I think it killed something inside him.

I don't want to whitewash the guy, and maybe my problem is that too many of my early exposures to the character did just that. I do think he's a Bastard. With all that that implies. But I like to think there's more good in him than evil.

I could go on -- and some day I probably will -- but that should do for now.



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