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The Phoenix Gate

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At work on the pilot...

We were still working with the first writer on the pilot story. This was a story that those of us at Disney, who had been working on this show since 1991, felt VERY strongly about. So I was taking a much stronger hand than I normally would (or should) as a development executive. Though I wasn't yet conscious of it, I was already moving toward being a producer of the series.

Among other little details, you'll notice that our enemy is "marauders" at this point. Not Vikings. You'll notice that we still have the personalities of Lex and Brooklyn switched, and in general they come off more as kids than young teen warriors. Tom is called Robby. (Later, I'd use the name Robby for the Captain.) Princess K is a queen. And the Magus is old and dottering.

Notes on First Part of multi-parter. (Weisman)

I. Open with peasants struggling on foot up the hill toward the castle on the promontory. It is minutes from sunset.
A. Intro ROBBY (a peasant boy) and ROBBY'S MOM. She's hurrying her son along (with other peasants) so that they reach the safety of the castle walls before the advancing army of MARAUDERS.
1. They enter the castle. The gates are closed.
B. CAPTAIN of the Guards has all his archers at the ready on the castle battlements. We establish hideous stone gargoyle statues.
C. Outside the castle, just out of arrow range, the Marauding Army waits for sunset. It's a large force.
1. LOCHTER, purely evil leader of the Marauders, is keeping his men in line. (Perhaps violently.)
2. One MARAUDER asks Lochter why they wait: "What about the Gargoyles?"
a. Lochter tells him that every castle in Scotland claims to have Gargoyles. Most are just statues. Soon it'll be dark. The archers won't be able to pick them off. They'll attack.
D. Darkness falls. Silently, the marauding horde climbs the hill. The Captain tells his men not to waste their arrows.
1. Our Marauder reaches the foot of the wall and tosses a grappling hook tied to a rope up toward the battlement. Toward the largest of the stone gargoyles.
a. GOLIATH, the GARGOYLE-MASTER, suddenly comes to life, catching the hook.
2. Goliath flies down upon the marauders, closely followed by many GARGOYLE WARRIORS.
a. Prominent among the warriors is [DEMONA] a FEMALE GARGOYLE, that Goliath seems to favor.
3. Intro ELDER Gargoyle [HUDSON], who coaches from the battlements.
4. Also on the sidelines, intro TRIO of "teen-age" Gargoyles [BROOKLYN, LEXINGTON, BROADWAY] and their GARGOYLE-DOG [BRONX]. One in particular [Lex] can't wait to be a gargoyle warrior himself.
E. Gargoyles rout the Marauders who sound the retreat. The battle is over.

II. In throne room, intro the spoiled, beautiful, young QUEEN and her foppish court.
A. Intro semi-dottering old WIZARD. Sweet, but largely ineffectual. Establish that his powers are on the wain. He needs to have his books of spells in front of him to perform any magic.

B. Captain enters with Goliath. They report the victory.
1. Though the Queen is polite on the surface, we can tell she took the victory for granted. We can tell she takes these two for granted, particularly Goliath.
2. Captain and Goliath exit, but before they're out of earshot, they hear the queen make snide, contemptuous comment about Goliath and Gargoyles.
C. Outside the throne room, the Captain and Goliath are joined by the old one [Hudson] and the female [Demona].
1. Captain is really burned up about the way Queen treats Goliath. Wants to know why Goliath puts up with it? Why he stays?
a. Goliath responds on another level. True, it saddens him that his loyalty means nothing. But this is his ancestral home. Explains castle was built on Gargoyle Rookery. Gargoyles are communal, territorial beings. (Perhaps explain here why Goliath is the only garg. w/a name.) He cannot leave. Where would he go?
b. Old Gargoyle is satisfied with answer. He and Goliath walk off.
c. We see that neither the Female nor the Captain find the situation satisfactory.

III. In open courtyard, where peasants are "camped out", we see Gargoyle dog and trio of young 'goyles wreaking havoc.
A. They're waking people. Eating food, sloppily. Making a general mess. But not maliciously. They're just having a good time.
1. It looks like fun to Robby the young peasant boy, and he moves to join them.
a. Robby's mom pulls him away. Gargoyles are dangerous and untrustworthy.
b. This really hurts the de facto leader of the trio [Lex]. He decides to live up to the gargoyle reputation and scare them.
c. He succeeds. Robby now believes Gargoyles are bad.
d. Goliath intervenes. It's getting close to sunrise anyway.
2. Gargoyles all move to the battlements and strike a pose.

IV. Daytime in Lochter's camp. Marauders are nursing their wounds.
A. Lochter is visited by a mysterious shrouded figure who wants to make a deal. (Maybe to misdirect the audience, we will put this stranger in the voluminous robes of the Wizard.)
1. In exchange for a fair share of the profits, stranger promises to secure entry for Lochter and his men.
a. And they won't have to worry about Goliath or his Gargoyles.

V. That night, Captain talks to Goliath, Female Gargoyle and Old One. (Perhaps in front of Queen, as well.)
A. Captain urges Goliath to take all his Gargoyles and chase Lochter's army out of the county.
1. Goliath doesn't like the idea. He basically believes in DEFENSE, not OFFENSE.
2. Captain, with some support from Female, argues that the best Defense is a good Offense.
a. Besides, Goliath doesn't have to battle Lochter's forces, he just has to put a good scare into them so they'll never come back.
3. Goliath reluctantly agrees, but he's not going to take all the gargoyles with him. He'll go alone.
a. Female balks. It isn't safe. He could never fight off all of Lochter's army alone.
b. But Goliath has no intention of fighting. And he can be plenty scary enough, by himself. (Makes a scary gargoyle face to prove it.)
c. He agrees to take Old One with him, in case something goes wrong. But the rest will maintain their nightly vigil.
4. Goliath and Old One take off after Marauders.
B. Lochter gets word from the traitor: there's been a slight change in plans.

VI. Intercut between the following:
A. Goliath and Old Gargoyle follow the tracks of the Marauders by starlight.
1. Goliath is impressed by how fast the army has traveled in one day.
B. The Trio and their dog are chased off by frightened and annoyed humans.
1. They explore the bowels of the castle and find the ancient caverns of the Gargoyle rookery that the castle was built on.
C. The Captain is giving some odd orders to his night guards. Sending them away from weapons' room. Etc.
1. He is examining their bowstrings, etc.

VII. Goliath and Old Gargoyle catch up with "army", only to discover it is a small band of men running abreast without equipment.
A. Goliath realizes they've been fooled. He and the Old One head back to the castle. But it's almost dawn.
B. The sun comes up.
1. Goliath and Hudson are frozen, en route back to castle.
2. Trio and Dog are frozen in bowels of castle.
3. Gargoyle warriors are frozen on parapets.
4. Archers take up their stations, unaware that their bows have been sabotaged.
5. The captain (i.e. the traitor) gives the signal for Lochter's men to attack.

VIII. Lochter and his army attack.
A. Each bowman gets off one shot, before their bowstrings snap. (The Captain had tampered with them.)
1. Soon the castle is overrun.
2. And it doesn't help that the Captain opens the gates as well.
3. The battle is short.
B. The castle is sacked.
1. Anything worth anything is taken by the marauders.
2. All the humans including the Queen and the Wizard and Robby and his mom are put in chains and dragged off.
C. Lochter's men begin to destroy the stone Gargoyles with maces.
1. Captain tries to stop it. This wasn't part of the deal and isn't necessary anyway.
a. If Marauders leave territory with their slaves and booty, the gargoyles won't follow. It's not in their nature.
2. Lochter isn't taking any chances. All the gargoyles are destroyed.
a. Ultimately, the Captain has no choice.

IX. Fade to sunset. Goliath and Old One awaken and hightail it back to castle.
A. They arrive long after Lochter has left. A small fire still burns here and there.
1. The castle has been sacked of all valuables.
2. There are no people.
3. And worst of all, the Gargoyles have all been destroyed, i.e. murdered.
a. They lie in stone rubble all around him. Partial pieces, etc.
b. There is no particular sign of the female; Goliath assumes that she is among the rubble. Big time FURY.

X. The kids emerge from rookery caverns. They are torn up by what they find.
A. Goliath and Old One are relieved that someone survived. But that doesn't abate their anger.
1. Together, the six gargoyles fly off to get their revenge.

XI. Lochter's army has encamped for the night.
A. We see our Marauder torment Robby and his mother outside in chains.
B. Inside his tent, Lochter and the Captain discuss what to do with the Queen.
1. They figure the wizard is probably worthless.
a. Wizard wishes he could just get his hands on his books of magic.
b. Lochter taunts him with the books, burning them one by one. (Only one left.)
C. Outside the gargoyles attack carefully.
1. They are way out-numbered.
2. Old one is old. But he picks up a sword and holds his own.
3. Trio and Dog have no fighting experience.
a. Trio leader [Lex] makes use of some of the "scare" techniques that worked on the peasants in act one.
b. Saves Robby's mother from Marauder.
c. Robby saves him from one too.
4. Goliath is a holy terror. Wading into the hordes. Tossing them aside. Scaring the stuffing out of them.
D. Lochter and Captain here the noise and look outside.
1. Despite the overwhelming odds, the Gargoyles are winning.
2. Captain says they better get out now.
3. Lochter dumps the last magic book and grabs the queen.
a. Wizard tries to stop him, but is pushed aside.
b. Lochter says he'll never see the queen again.
c. Wizard assumes they're going to kill her.
4. Lochter and Captain flee with Queen in tow.
5. Goliath sees them go. Follows alone.
E. Wizard stumbles out of tent with last magic book.
1. Battle is winding down.
a. Freed peasants and guards are now helping gargoyles.
b. Marauders retreat, scatter.
c. Queen is nowhere in sight.

2. Irrational Wizard blames gargoyles for not protecting castle in first place and for starting this fight which caused the queen's death.
a. Using his spell book, he curses them. [See spell options below.]

XII. Goliath catches up with Captain and Lochter.
A. Captain tries to reason with Goliath.
1. Tells him he never meant for Gargoyles to be destroyed.
2. What does Goliath owe the queen anyway. Now he can return to his rookery and be left in peace.
B. Goliath rejects Captain's excuses.
1. Captain taught him to go on offensive. "See what your lessons have wrought." Etc.
C. Goliath defeats (kills?) Lochter and Captain.
1. Rescues grateful (and much changed and matured) Queen.

XIII. Goliath and Queen return too late.
A. Though it is still night, the other Gargoyles have been turned to stone.
B. Wizard feels like garbage when he finds out the truth.
1. But he can't undo the spell. Lochter burned his other books.
C. Queen says that her people will not return to the cursed castle. They will start a new life elsewhere.
1. She sincerely invites Goliath to join them.
D. Goliath says no. He will return to the rookery.
E. Only gift that Wizard can offer is to cast the same spell on Goliath that he cast on the other gargoyles. (Or perhaps a slight variation.)
1. Goliath agrees to this.

XIV. The stone Gargoyles are perched on the abandoned castle walls by the humans. Robby waves goodbye.
A. One DAY, 1000 years later.
1. XAVIER is looking over his newly purchased ancient castle.
a. "Terrific," he says, "Now move it to Manhattan."


[NOTE: DEMONA's story tracks as well. Like the Captain, she hates to see the way Goliath and the Gargoyles are treated by the spoiled Queen. She and the captain make a deal. They will convince Goliath to temporarily remove the Gargoyles from the castle. Lochter will sack it and take away the humans as slaves, leaving the empty castle for Demona, Goliath and the rest of the Gargoyles.
Goliath screws up the plan by refusing to take all the Gargoyles away. Captain says, no problem. He'll sabotage his archers and the attack can take place during the day. He promises to protect the frozen Gargoyles.
Demona agrees, but just before dawn she gets nervous and flies away to hide.
She returns at some point (though Goliath won't see her). She sees the destroyed 'goyles and realizes that Goliath would never forgive that. She flies away to find a new life. Somehow, she will survive into the twentieth century, by which time, she will be bitter and evil and Goliath's worst enemy.
Which again raises the question, are we sure we don't want her teaming up with Xavier in parts 2-5?]

For initial spell that Wizard casts upon Old One, Trio and Dog in anger...
1) Frozen in stone for 1000 years.
2) Frozen in stone 'til castle rests in the clouds.
3) Frozen in stone so long as this castle stands on this ground.

For spell Wizard casts upon Goliath, as the best he can do for him.
1) Same, or maybe the slight variation of 999 years, giving Goliath a headstart, and an ability to see if it's safe.
2) Same.
3) Same.
4) He will continue his endless cycle of sleeping as stone in day, guarding the castle and his friends at night until either 1), 2) or 3) occurs.

Advantages and Disadvantages to various choices:
The main question, is whether or not Goliath has been awake and alone every night for a thousand years. (Goliath option 4)). If he has, it would allow him to be at least passingly familiar that modern technology exists. I.e. when we get him to NYC and he sees an airplane, he won't think it's a dragon. Plus there's the tragedy of that much loneliness. And the possiblity down the road of one or two flashback episodes (Goliath fights in WWII or something). Disadvantages include that it adds a layer of complication to the spell. And maybe we like the idea that he thinks an airplane is a dragon. (Although keep in mind, we can always play those beats with the other 'goyles.)

As to the other gargoyles, the main issue is when do you want them to wake up. If it's not until after the castle is installed at the top of the skyscraper, than option 3) doesn't work. 1000 years makes a nice round number, but is it a stiff coincidence that the 1000 years ends in NYC? Probably no more so than the Castle in the Clouds curse, though the latter may have more ambience.

And again, if we want Goliath awake BEFORE the castle arrives in NYC, i.e. on the boat, than we have to vary the spell with him to some degree or else it won't be possible.

Finally, the following combines (in as coherent a form as I could manage) the General Notes of all concerned.

--First off, I raised the issue of the stone/day - alive/night rule and the problems it can potentially cause. The consensus was an acknowledgement of the difficulty, but a real desire to keep that element. Gary, in particular, felt very strongly that it was one of the main appeals to the concept: an automatic ticking clock to every story, kryptonite, etc.

--Though we all agree that the ECLIPSE would make a great episode some day, we're very concerned about establishing the gargoyle rules here in the first part. We don't want to confuse the issue with an eclipse.

--We want to keep the story largely from Goliath's point of view. His problems. His tragedies.

--The-not-yet-named-Hudson is Goliath's aide and advisor. He is NOT a babysitter to the kids. In fact, if Goliath requested him to act as babysitter, he'd probably refuse. From his point of view, Goliath's the gargoyle-master, and the kids are his responsibility.

--Anyway, we'd like to establish the kids independence from the get-go, to help establish them as being more teen-age in nature than real young. They don't need a chaperone.

--We also felt strongly that the castle should be home to both the gargoyles and the humans in 994 A.D. We discussed the following back-back-story as rationale:

Long before 994, there was a gargoyle rookery high on a rocky promintory overlooking the sea. Medieval man sought out these rookeries as prime real estate for building their fortresses or castles. For one reason, the cliffside protected there backs, and the only accessible wall was easily manned by archers, etc. Secondly, medieval man knew that the gargoyles were instinctively territorial and protective of the rookery's inhabitants, whether those inhabitants were gargoyles or humans. If the humans of the castle could put up and co-exist with the gargoyles they'd have a built in group of warriors at night. And it was mutually beneficial: the gargoyles received human protection during the day.
Though not as rare in Europe as, say, the giraffe, even then Gargoyles and their rookeries were scarce. A castle-builder who couldn't find one to build on might carve stone gargoyles to fool and thus scare away would-be attackers. (Back then everyone knew about gargoyles.)
But our castle in Scotland was built on a rookery. And the gargoyles and humans have coexisted there for years. But as our story opens, relations are tense. Humanity as a race is taking on airs. To the humans, the gargoyles are uncouth. Grotesque. Ill-mannered. Nocturnal, and therefore noisey at night when humans are trying to sleep. Considered, at best, a necessary evil.

That's it.