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Time to Ramble on "City of Stone, Part One", which I watched the other night with my family....
Story Editor: Michael Reaves
Story: Michael Reaves
Teleplay: Brynne Chandler Reaves & Lydia Marano
Well, over a year had passed since we had revealed in "Enter Macbeth" that Macbeth had named Demona. Now we were gearing up to explain that little tidbit of info. I'm curious to know how many people were still focused on that before the "PREVIOUSLY ON GARGOYLES..." reprised it.
City of Stone was a story I had conceived originally (but briefly) as a Direct to Video movie. My boss Gary Krisel rejected it. He felt that a movie featuring the Gargoyles needed to feature our heroes a LOT MORE than this story did. Nevertheless, he liked the concept of the HUNTER a lot. So I got him to agree to let us do City of Stone as a multi-parter for the series. And I promised that Michael and I would come up with a new Hunter story that focused more on our heroes. Thus Hunter's Moon was born -- as a Home Video, originally, and we had an ending to shoot at for the entire second season.
Meanwhile, I couldn't actually disagree with Gary too much. This was Demona and Macbeth's story. The origin of two of our major villains. We had some great animation on this from Koko in Korea. Not as strong as our WDTVJapan stuff, but still very good.
What was the terrorists' cause, you might ask? I'm not telling. At the time, I had no answer. We were vague on purpose. Since then, I've come up with an answer. Now I'm being evasive on purpose.
I love Matt as a hostage negotiator.
But not as much as I love Brendan & Margot as hostages. They're a hoot.
How fast was everyone on the uptake with the Weird Sisters? Those three little girls. Even before the gargs showed, one was saying something like: "Don't worry, it'll be over soon." Did you think they were odd then? Did you notice them?
I like Brooklyn's "Don't gush" line.
When the Weird Sisters tell Goliath they weren't talking about THAT terrorist, my six year old daughter Erin said: "I think they were talking about Demona." For Chanukah, I gave Erin a Kenner Brooklyn, Broadway and Hard-Wire Goliath (which I told her was a Goliath robot). My three year old son Benny got Goliath, Lex and Xanatos. So for the first time, while they watched they could play with the toys.
It's interesting to watch the first flashback SET. All sorts of old footage from Awakening Part One, mixed with new footage. It's all very seemless thanks to great editing by Bob Birchard. And it wasn't easy. Because there was considerable confusion overseas throughout City of Stone, in terms of which model of Demona to animate. We had her standard model. Plus one that was slightly older, for the second set of flashbacks in this episode. They were constantly mixing the models up. We'd call retakes whenever we could, but sometimes we decided just to make due. So you have the flashback from Awakenings, where Goliath tells Demona to stay behind. That's followed by us finally seeing what Demona and the Captain said to each other after Goliath left. No great revelation in that scene, but we figured it would be nice to finally reveal it. Plus we wanted to clarify things from Demona's point of view. But in some of those shots, Demona appears to have aged a bit.
We see Othello & Desdemona. We are allowed to do something in this episode that we couldn't really do for S&P reasons in Awakening. To personalize the victims of the massacre a bit. In Awakening, we only got to meet the survivors. Finally we meet the victims. Of course, we're still cheating a bit, since my excuse to S&P was that our audience already knew (1) that these two died and that (2) they survived in a sense in Coldstone. But it did, independent of previous episodes, allow the startling moment when Demona picks up a fragment of Othello's face. Of course, I tried to get tha fragment -- and all those fragments in the immediate vicinity -- to be the pieces that survived into Coldstone. I think that was semi-successful.
Demona's cowardice overwhelms the courage of her strongly held convictions. She flees. Benny: "The sun's gonna come up." Yep. She turns to stone, shedding a tear. That "TEARS OF STONE" image was so effective that I allowed it to repeat in the episode. Later, her tear drops onto the stone Goliath and seems to be coming from his eye. A nice visual variation on a theme.
Demona: "It worked! At last my clan is free of human rule!"
Erin: "No. It didn't work."
Later Erin sees Demona watching Goliath holding some smashed gargoyles' remains and crying "my angel of the night". Erin says: "He thinks that was her [Demona]." Now you may be wondering why I'm reprinting such obvious responses here. But they interest me. It really struck me this viewing that in this episode, despite the "Previously" segment and all the flashbacks, that you really would be lost if you were a new viewer. Is there anyone out there for whom City of Stone was your first Gargoyle experience? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Did you have a clue as to what was going on?
Demona's classic neurotic short-circuit: "What have I -- What have THEY done to you?" The motivation that writer's live for.
And a little hint of Avalon things to come, as we see Tom, Princess K and Magus depart with the eggs. How many people had given the eggs any thought since Xanatos told the gargs back in Awakening Two that they were the last of their kind? And did this little tidbit whet the appetite, or did you forget about it immediately? I was already planning the Avalon/Archmage/World Tour/Angela stuff.
Benny (out of nowhere) asks: "What happens if someone is frozen in the sky?" We discussed various possibilities. But we're still weeks away from getting around to seeing "The Price". So I didn't want to spoil that one for him.
The intro of Gillecomgain. Erin (who has seen these before once, long ago) suddenly remembers: "His face is gonna get scratched."
Now, back in the 20th century, Owen points out that Xanatos' tv override works for "Cable, as well." I always liked that.
I also like Demona's VERY convincing lie. At this point, we don't know how she's survived through the centuries. Maybe she did do it by stealing minutes of life from thousands of people. And maybe now, she and Xanatos will do the same on a citywide scale. I always thought it was a very elegant lie. What did you guys think? Did you buy it?
The "Watch or Listen but not both" stuff regarding the magic, wasn't just a convenient excuse to give us a Robbins expository scene later. I always felt that the magic our various sorcerors did couldn't be as simple as it seemed. Anyone who reads the spell out loud can do it? No. There are complex inflections, movements, etc. involved. Study and willpower, etc. This was an attempt on my part to demonstrate that it was about more than just being in range with someone who has a copy of a Grimorum page.
On the other hand, I do think we cheated a bit to trap Owen. That spell she reads is the City of Stone spell. Yet it seems to put Owen, of all people, into a trance. We talked about her nailing him some other way first. But it was too clumsy and time consuming, so we just cheated.
Gathering Clue: Demona to Owen: "You are the tricky one." And she wraps him up in iron cable.
Elisa's watching Casablanca. Great movie.
Phoebe is looking at Seline when she speaks to Luna. Like Demona aging, we had a hell of a time getting the overseas studio to keep the three sisters straight. I began to insist that each of their appearances on the storyboard was accompanied by a hair color chart. And once more, it's black for Seline, blonde for Phoebe and silver for Luna.
We also made a real effort to put subtle character distinctions between the three sisters. Seline is the hard case. Phoebe is the gentle one. Luna is the mystic. It was part of hinting that the Sisters would serve multiple purposes in the series. Some of which I still have not revealed.
Back to the past. The guard says "Maybe they won't come." Erin asks: "Maybe who won't come?" And then the gargoyles come. The guards are taken down, and Demona raises her mace into the air. Erin asks: "Are they dead?" And dad... equivocates.
I like that gargoyle (Demona's second) with the breast plate. John Rhys-Davies did his voice.
At this stage, Demona believes that these scattered gargoyles are all that are left in the world. A second later, three gargoyles she's never met show up. (Now, true, they're the Sisters. But I was trying to make a general point, hinting that sometimes characters make absolute statements when they flat out don't know what they're talking about. Audience members beware.)
Benny immediately figured out that the three old gargoyle females were the weird sisters, or as he put it: "They're the humans. The one's that disappeared." I.e. the kids that disappeared in the first sequence of the episode. That made me feel a little better. People are always telling me that I write stuff that is too adult for kids to get. I tell them that I try to write on multiple levels. So that the kids get what they need to get and that adults, etc. get more. But it's nice to get confirmation that the kids do get it on occasion. Particularly in an ep as complicated as this one.
Intro Findlaech, Gruoch, Bodhe and young Macbeth. I like how quickly they are all characterized in that scene. F is loyal. B is equivocal at best. Bodhe is already thinking about how to marry G off to advantage. "What about Macbeth? Is he a match for the lass?" Yeah, sure he's talking about chess. I came to have a great deal of contempt for the character of Bodhe. (Too be fair, I have no idea what the historical Bodhe's character was like.) And yet, almost simultaneously, I became fond of him too. He was SO human. SO flawed. SO afraid of the world. And yet SO desperate to tread water in it.
We also establish the "SIGIL OF MORAY" which will become an important prop throughout.
I like that little blushing moment of G & Mac's. But mostly, I like it because of B & F's reactions. Bodhe is suddenly nervous that Gruoch might, shall we say, lose something with Macbeth prematurely. Though he pushed them together, he now rushes to separate them. But it's too late. The connection has already been made. F just laughs.
Now... Enter the HUNTER. The Hunter got a sort of Steve Canyon intro. That is, he's been talked about by various people for the last few minutes, though we haven't gotten a look at him. (This was the technique used when Steve Canyon was first introduced in the comic strips.) Now he shows up, and I trust he isn't disappointing. Benny immediately says: "THat's the one that got scratched." Sharp boy. (Keep in mind, that we haven't yet seen the adult Gille, so we haven't seen his scarred face yet.)
I love this sequence. It's a great fight, full of great little touches, flourishes, etc. Great storyboarding work here.
Again, characters are revealed in a nutshell. Gruoch's already loyal. Bodhe's revealed to be a coward. Even when his daughter rushes downstairs, he stays above.
Findlaech dies. It's a classic Disney fall-to-one's-death death. But there is a difference. F is the good guy. Usually, that's done with the villain. Was anyone shocked?
I love how at this point, Macbeth is nothing but an annoyance to both Demona and the Hunter. I also love how complex Demona is. Under it all, she's really something of a romantic. She rescues the young lovers. Then can't believe she did it. She's trying to will herself to be cold. So that she won't feel anything. But it isn't natural. She's not a cold woman, though her plans often are. It's that divide that's generally gonna screw her up everytime.
When the Hunter first enters on Prince Duncan, we were supposed to (BRIEFLY) think he was there to attack the Prince as well. But I don't think that comes off even slightly.
And o.k., yes, Gillecomgain has a face to match the Hunter's mask. It's worse than Clark Kent and those glasses. Does Scotland really not know it's him? Believe it or not, that never even occured to me initially. (Yes, I'm a dope.) Now, I'll chalk it up to the notion that everyone figures he's TOO obvious a suspect. You can almost here the water cooler talk:
MacMorris: "Hey, MacTavish, have you ever noticed that that Gillecomgain guy has scars across his face just like the red marks on the Hunter's mask?"
MacTavish: "What are you saying, MacMorris? That Gillecomgain is so stupid, he'd wear a mask and then put his scars ON the mask? Not much of a disguise. Know what I think. I think the Hunter is trying to throw suspicion onto old Gilley."
MacMorris: "Oh, give me a break."
MacTavish: "Hey, pal, it worked with you."
I made a real effort to just have the Weird Sisters EVERYWHERE.
Back to the present. Someone dons a Hunter's Mask. How many knew it was Macbeth right away? I figured at the time that regular viewers would figure that out pretty darn quick. That didn't bother me. For them, I figured the mystery would be "WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD MACBETH DON A HUNTER'S MASK, WHEN THE HUNTER KILLED HIS FATHER?" I thought that mystery was at least as intriguing. Do you guys agree or disagree?
I also liked the variation on the mask. No eyes. Nothing. Modern technology.
Fox. Fox presented an interesting dilemma. What was Xanatos' attitude toward her in this? We already know he loves her. But he doesn't include her in the immortality thing with Demona. Why? Demona won't allow it? Or he thinks Demona won't? Or he doesn't fully trust D and won't risk Fox until he knows the set-up works?
And then he finds out that she did watch the broadcast. He had told her not to, but she did. He doesn't fill her in. (Not that there's much time.) Is he prepared to let her lose a minute from her life (as he believes has happened)? How would he have felt if Demona wasn't lying about that? At the end of her life, would an immortal Xanatos be desperate to give her that one minute back? Of course, given Fox's heritage, which I didn't know yet, it's possible, she'll outlive him by quite a bit. Course, anything's possible.
How's the cliff-hanger? We haven't seen the city yet, but we do get to see Owen, Fox and Elisa all turned to stone. We're so used to the Gargoyles in stone, but not humans. I thought it was sort of chilling. The more chilling, because we know from earlier in this very episode, what can happen when living beings are turned to stone. (The Wyvern Massacre.) Now we've seen this four-parter a bunch of times and we're used to it. But I'm curious as to how you all felt the first time you saw Part One.
Another interesting aspect, is that 3/4 of the threat is to characters that we consider to be villains. Or more than 3/4. In the past, young Macbeth has lost his father and is clearly at risk. And Demona is being hunted. In the present, Fox and Owen are stone. And Xanatos and Fox appear to be falling to their deaths. Sure, the clincher is Elisa. But I think it's a tribute to how well-rounded are villains are that we care what's going to happen to them. Can you imagine most cartoons making the death of the villains a cliff-hanger? People would simply cheer.
One little flaw: Elisa's facing the wrong way. It was easier to board that way, I'm sure. But I can't figure out why she would have been standing and facing that direction at sundown.
Comments welcome, as usual...