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The Phoenix Gate

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Perish the thought that a yes answer can just be a yes answer. We had approval to proceed, but the powers that be at Disney were still not sure about doing this kind of cartoon at Disney. So they decided to focus test it with kids. Of course, we didn't have an episode produced yet to focus test. So they decided to put the pitch on video, and here I was doing a "Modified Ninth Pass" on the pitch, for this test.

In a focus group test, for those of you who've never heard of one, they pull a bunch of kids more or less off the streets (or out of malls) and put them in a room to watch a cartoon or something. Then a moderator asks questions, while we watch behind a one-way mirror and/or on closed-circuit t.v. The process, from my point of view, is WAY less than scientific, as one strong personality can push an entire group into saying almost anything. Some kids try to guess what answers the moderator wants, and try to make him happy or piss him off. The mere fact that they try this skews the results whether they're successful or not. Also answers get confused, particularly with kids. A kid will say, for example, that he or she "didn't like the villain." That might mean that he or she thinks it's not a very scary or interesting villain. Or it might mean they think it's a GREAT villain to hate.

Personally, focus groups are fascinating to watch in the way a train wreck is fascinating. You can't take your eyes off it. But as feedback goes, I don't hold much store by them.

Modified Ninth Pass (Weisman / 1-29-93)

1-A. Trio of typical stone GARGOYLES.

"These are GARGOYLES. Ugly, stone statues that squat on the roofs of old buildings. But there was a time, one thousand years ago, when gargoyles were real, living creatures. During the day, they slept...frozen in stone."

2-B. GOLIATH, the GARGOYLE-MASTER. Proud and Noble.

"But when the sun went down, GOLIATH, the GARGOYLE-MASTER would lead his gargoyle-warriors in defense of the king's castle."

3-C. Goliath reading in library, sitting on small gargoyles.

"And if there was no battle to be fought, he'd retreat to the library to read and learn, all the while making sure that the other gargoyles stayed out of trouble."

4-D. HUMANS scorning the Gargoyles.

"For all these efforts, Goliath received no reward, no thanks or even kindness. In fact, the people of the castle treated all gargoyles with nothing but contempt."

5-E. The Gargoyle-Master alone in the throneroom.

"Still Goliath could no more stop guarding the castle than breathing the air. It's part of a gargoyle's nature to be territorial, protective. And so for years, he maintained his lonely vigil."

6. Close-up of Goliath.

"Then one night, Goliath was betrayed and lured away from his post."

7-F (and/or 7-Alt). SORCEROR curses Goliath and the other gargoyles on the castle ramparts.

"The castle was overrun and sacked. Goliath and the surviving gargoyles were unfairly blamed. The castle SORCEROR laid a curse upon them, and they fell into a stone sleep--that lasted a thousand years."

26. Xavier.

"Now it's 1994. A rich and powerful man has decided there's a better place..."

Pre-8. Castle.

"...for a medieval castle than a picturesque hill in Scotland."

8-G. Castle on the skyscraper.

"He's moved the whole place--lock, stock and gargoyle--to the top of the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan."

9-H. Police Detective ELISA CHAVEZ.

"All of which means absolutely nothing to New York City Police Detective, ELISA CHAVEZ. She doesn't care about castles, and she doesn't believe in curses. She's hot on the trail of a major badguy."

10-I. She's ambushed on a rooftop by multiple THUGS. She's got the drop on most of them. But someone's about to nail her from behind. (And from another rooftop, someTHING is watching in the shadows.)

"Too bad that trail leads her right into an ambush. But thank goodness, a shadowy figure sees what's happening and decides to help."

11-J (and/or 11-Alt). Reveal THE GARGOYLE, determined, as he dives into fray from above.

"Thank goodness for THE GARGOYLE."

12. Gargoyle lifts a badguy with either hand. While a third shoots at him, the bullets glancing off his stone-like hide.

"Goliath benchpresses two badguys easy. And that stone-like hide of his makes him practically invulnerable..."

13-K. Romantic shot in moonlight. Close in. She reaches up to touch his face gently. He looks handsome and noble and just a bit uncomfortable and sad.

"...To everything but Elisa's kindness. She is the first human being who's ever offered him understanding and friendship, hope..."

14-L. From atop the skyscraper, she shows him Manhattan. The city as fortress. This is our showpiece card.

"...And a sense of purpose. She introduces him to his new home, Manhattan, and asks for his help in protecting it against modern day barbarians."

15-M. HUDSON. (One pose, plus two headshots.)

"Fortunately, our hero isn't alone. This is Goliath's old friend HUDSON, a Gargoyle-Warrior long past his prime. Hudson helps out by keeping an eye on the young Warriors-in-training..."

16-N. Trio of young Gargoyles, BROOKLYN, LEXINGTON and BROADWAY. Same as card 1. (But in color, perhaps?)

"...BROOKLYN, LEXINGTON and BROADWAY. (Uh, they picked their own names.)"

20-O. BRONX, the DOG. (Multiple poses.)

"And then there's BRONX, the Gargoyle-dog. He's not a big fan of adventure."

21-P. Bronx (two poses) chewing on a fire hydrant and flying.

"He just likes to eat a lot, sleep a lot and make a general mess."

23-Q. Trio uses Bronx to play trick on Hudson.

"All in all, it's a lot for Hudson to handle."

24-R. Goliath and Elisa try to be inconspicuous on the Subway.

"Not that Goliath has it any easier. It's hard for a seven-foot medieval monster to squeeze into the modern world."

Pre-25 (and/or Pre-25-Alt). Exteriors of castle.
"Sometimes he just needs to retreat back to the old castle..."

25-S. Interior of Gargoyle lair.

" and take it easy. Unfortunately, he doesn't get much time for relaxation..."


"Not with XAVIER around. Rich, powerful and arrogant, Xavier bought the gargoyles' castle. Now he figures he owns the gargoyles too."

30. ROBOT climbing building toward Gargoyle.

"If something rotten is happening in New York...odds are Xavier's behind it."

31. CATSCAN is discovered by Goliath and Elisa.

"Then there's CATSCAN. A scientist mutated by his own experiments..."

32. Catscan, in full pose and "Night Vision" head shot.

"...Into a bitter criminal with deadly Night-Vision."

33. DEMONA with BIG GUN.

"But the toughest villain of them all is the evil gargoyle DEMONA."

34. Demona vs. Goliath, above the city.

"Once she and Goliath were friends. Now, she's his sworn enemy, and she won't rest 'til she controls the night..."

35-T. Stone version of our Gargoyle. Looking vicious and scary. Daylight.

"And the night is all that matters, because the gargoyles still sleep as stone statues during the day, finding an outdoor ledge just before sunrise and striking a pose that could give you nightmares."

36-U. Night. Goliath, handsome and noble again, on top of a skyscraper with the full moon, Elisa and the other Gargoyles right behind him. Gothic mood, but clearly set in the present.

"But when the sun goes down, they're our only protection from the city's dark terrors."

37. Title Card: "GARGOYLES".

"They are the GARGOYLES."

38-V. KID at Disneyland.

"Joining the Disney Family in 1994."