Retrospective on Gargoyles: Disney’s Defenders of the Night

Retrospective on Gargoyles: Disney’s Defenders of the Night

Beginning in 1990, Disney gave their cartoons a home on network television with the Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block dedicated to their cartoon series. Originally, the Disney afternoon featured the first cartoons that Disney successfully created for television, including Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers and DuckTales. With the addition of new hit cartoons like Darkwing Duck, the Disney Afternoon proved to be a hit.

Demona and Goliath

By 1994, the Disney Afternoon began to transform and aim for older audiences, as their audience had grown with them. Moreover, other hit cartoons, like Batman: The Animated series proved that dark action cartoons would attract interest. Disney’s CEO, Michael Eisner, also dreamed of creating a superheroesque property for Disney. So, Greg Weisman’s concept for an adventurous and light cartoon transformed into a mystical journey with a realistic background.

Gargoyles became a success after it aired in 1994. Unfortunately, several circumstances hit the series that led to it dropping in popularity during its run. First, Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg, one of the main forces behind the “Disney Renaissance”, fell out with each other, leading to Katzenberg’s departure along with many Disney staff members. OJ Simpson’s trial also dominated the television waves in 1995. Then, the Disney Afternoon waned in popularity to the point of ending in 1997.

Despite Gargoyles’ drop in quality and popularity over its three-year run, many who grew up with the cartoon fondly remember it. It carries a cult following, even today. So, what made this cartoon so special?

Gargoyle’s Talented Voice Cast

Fans of Gargoyles quickly latched on to the show because of the brilliant voice cast. However, many took notice that they had heard the voice cast before. Something special organically formed in the ranks of the voice cast that no one originally expected.

Star Trek’s actors beamed into Gargoyles

Demona and Xanatos

Voicing the first two villains who appeared in the film, two actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation joined the cast. Jonathan Frakes took on the role of Xanatos, the scheming billionaire that always stayed a step ahead. Meanwhile, Marina Sirtis gave life to Demona, Goliath’s former lover who allowed bitterness and hatred for humans to rule her life. However, these two actors would not remain the only ones from The Next Generation. Even Salli Richardson, the voice of Goliath’s partner, Elisa Maza, had previously appeared on Deep Space Nine as a guest star.

Within the first season, another Next Generation actor joined the voice cast, Michael Dorn as Coldstone and later Taurus. Soon after, in the second season, Brent Spiner showed up as the mischievous Puck. Later Colm Meany and LeVar Burton also supplied voices for one-off characters in the series.

However, there were Star Trek stars from other generations that appeared in the show, like Nichelle Nichols who became the voice of Elsa Maza’s mother, Diane Maza. Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew also took on prominent single-episode roles in the series.

Despite the wealth of former Star Trek actors in the series, Frakes has stated on the record that the connection was a coincidence.

Star power outside of Stark Trek

Goliath grieves the death of his Angel of the Night

Even though several members of the voice cast had previously made appearances in Star Trek, they alone did fill up the roster of voice actors. The show made an impact with its excellent voice direction from its opening dialogue, voiced by Keith David.

Originally, one of the most significant voices to the cast was Goliath’s voice actor, Keith David. This actor had previously made his mark on films like The Thing and They Live. His booming voice gave the leader of the Gargoyles a sense of raw strength and power. However, he alone could not make the series a success.

Standing by Goliath’s side were five other Gargoyles from his time, each with a memorable vocal performance. Bill Fagerbakke provided the voice for the large-set Broadway. Then, Thom Adcox-Hernandez supplied the voice for the intelligent Lexington. Jeff Bennet became the voice of several characters, including Brooklyn and Xanatos’ assistant, Owen Burnett. Ed Asner provided the voice for Goliath’s mentor, Hudson. Finally, Frank Welker also provided many voices through the series, though his most prominent role was Bronx.

Following the main cast were several memorable performances on the side of villainy. Laura San Giacomo supplied the voice for Xanatos’ female equivalent, Fox. John Rhys-Davies, who one may remember as Gimli from The Lord of the Rings, supplies the voice for Macbeth. Jim Cummings voiced several characters, though the most significant was Dingo. Clancy Brown appeared as another pack member, Wolf, as well as Hakon and other characters. Then, Matt Frewer and Cree Summer often worked together as the duo from the Pack: Jackal and Hyena. Not to be forgotten, Tim Curry also appeared in the cast as Anton Sevarius.

These actors were only the tip of the spear for Gargoyle’s brilliant voice cast.

Adapting Shakespeare for the 1990s youth

Machbeth and the Weird Sisters

Beyond the outstanding voice cast, Gargoyles notably took several Shakespearian stories to craft its tales. Originally, the influences of Shakespeare’s work only appeared in subtle ways, like the name of a villain: Macbeth. However, as the series continued, more connections with the playwright’s works became apparent.

More and more characters from Shakespeare’s plays began to pop up in the series, like Puck from a Midsummer’s Night. The sprinkling of influences continued to build until the backstory of Demona and Macbeth took a center seat. During the reveal episodes, City of Stone, the series revealed that Macbeth was the same character from the play. This four-part episode also introduced more members from Oberon and Titania’s family, the Weird Sisters, who also acted as the witches from Macbeth.

The influences continued to mount until both Oberon and Titania made their appearance in Ill Met by Moonlight. While the series made no direct adaption of Midsummer’s Night, it told the story of the faeries during modern days.

So, even though Gargoyles never directly adapted any of Shakespeare’s works, the series modernized and adapted several characters from his plays.

The Story of Gargoyles

The Magus turns Goliath's clan to stone

The series began in 10th century Scotland, where Castle Wyvern, the home of Goliath’s clan became the target of Vikings. During this time, only Goliath had a name given to him by the humans. Otherwise, none of the Gargoyles gave each other names, as was their custom. While the clan had protected the castle for generations, the residents did not treat the clan as equals.

During the Viking’s siege, the captain of the guard seemingly worked alone to sabotage the castle’s defenses and allow Hakon to overtake the castle. Even though the captain pled for the survival of the helpless, stone gargoyles, Hakon destroyed all the Gargoyles on the castle’s walls.

Fortunately for Goliath and Hudson, the captain of the guard arranged a rouse to lead the pair away from the castle the previous night. Thus, they survived the massacre. Likewise, Goliath had punished Broadway, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Lexington by sending them away to the nursery for their rambunctious actions the night before. So, these six gargoyles and the clan’s eggs survived the massacre.

However, Goliath found rubble that led him to believe that his beloved, Demona, had perished in the attack. So, he led the survivors on a strike against the Vikings and their leaders. Unfortunately, as Goliath attacked Hakon and the Captain, the Magus believed that Princess Katherine fell to her death. In his grief, he cast a spell that sealed the Gargoyles in stone until the castle rose over the clouds. Though he later found that the princess had survived, he could not undo the spell.

Since Goliath now was the last member of his clan alive, he decided that he would have the Magus cast his spell once more, on him. Meanwhile, the Princess and Magus left the castle as caretakers of the unborn eggs.

The castle rises above the skies

Castle Wyvern on Eyrie Building

A thousand years later, a billionaire Xanatos learned of the legend of Castle Wyvern. Thus, he decided that he would both buy the castle and relocate it to Manhattan. He then created a custom skyscraper that would seat the castle at the top. Once the skyscraper’s construction was finalized, he set the Gargoyle statues on their perches then waited for nightfall.

His gambit proved fruitful as the Gargoyles returned to life that night. As he introduced the six gargoyles to the modern age, a strike team attacked the castle to steal technology from Xanatos. This attack attracted the attention of the NYPD, so Detective Elisa Maza entered the castle in search of answers. As she surveyed the aftermath for clues, she met Goliath for the first time. After he saved her from falling to her death, she befriended the six gargoyles.

Using their loyalty to the castle, Xanatos convinced the Gargoyles to strike against those who he claimed had stolen from him, Cyberbiotics, hid the data in three places. To ensure that Goliath cooperated, he revealed that Demona still lived. He claimed that he found her separate from the castle and decided to see if she would revive like the six clan members.

New betrayal

Xanatos presents the Cyberbiotics Airship

Unfortunately, Elisa later discovered that Xanatos hired his men to stage the raid against his castle. Thus, a human had once again betrayed Goliath’s trust and clan. Thus, Goliath gathered his clan to confront Xanatos over his betrayal. Meanwhile, Xanatos had created robots that resembled Goliath using the data from Cyberbiotics.

During the fight against Xanatos’ robot gargoyles, Goliath learned that Demona had lied to him as well. She had been alive for a long time and told Xanatos about the castle. She begged Goliath to join her, for humanity was the enemy, which he refused. Seeing that Goliath would not join her, Demona decided that she would kill him. Before she could fire at Goliath, a stray rocket knocked the ground out from under her feet, sending her plummeting to her doom.

Thus, by the end of the battle, Elisa Maza arrested Xanatos for conspiring to steal from his rival company. Also, Goliath not only lost his former love a second time, but she had betrayed his trust. Still, the Gargoyles decided that they would continue to protect the castle since it was their home.

Protectors of New York

Brooklyn on a motorcycle

As the Gargoyles became accustomed to their new home in the 20th century, they began the explore the surrounding city. The younger members, Broadway, Brooklyn, and Lexington were the most adventurous of the clan. They loved checking out the new inventions of the modern age, leading up to Brooklyn riding a motorcycle that Lexington fixed up. Broadway also fell in love with watching movies and would sneak into a cinema to watch from the storage rooms.

Meanwhile, Goliath preferred to stay with Elisa when he explored the city. She was his sole human friend early on, so he felt the need to protect her. Later, her partner, Matt Bluestone, and mother, Diane Maza, also befriended the Gargoyle clan.

Unlike the younger generation, Hudson preferred remaining at their home, watching television. He rarely traveled away from the Castle or their later homes. Bronx also tended to stay by his side, though his lack of wings limited his ability to travel down the castle on his own.

Originally, Goliath insisted that their priority was to protect their home, Castle Wyvern. However, as the Gargoyles began to feel at home in the city, they changed their stance to protect the entirety of the city. They found that dangerous lurked from all corners that could cause havoc on the innocent residents of New York City.

A new home

The Clock Tower

Through the course of the first season, the Gargoyles remained in their original home, Castle Wyvern. However, Xanatos continued to scheme against them even from behind bars. First, he organized a group of humans, the Pack, to hunt down the clan. Later, he hired a mercenary, Macbeth, to hunt down the Gargoyles.

Beyond Xanatos’ machinations, Demona revealed herself to be alive and still scheming against Goliath. Seeing that Goliath would not see things her way, she targeted the younger members of the clan, like Brooklyn, to join her side. However, her toxic hatred became clear to all members of the clan.

As time passed, Elisa became convinced that the Gargoyles were not safe in their own home. Thus, she frequently pleaded with Goliath for him to see reason and realize that the castle was no longer their home. Finally, with Macbeth’s effective hunt of the clan, the rest of the clan saw what danger they were in. So, they stole away the Grimorum Arcanorum and left for a new home.

Elisa then set the clan up in a new home, a Clock Tower over her precinct building. While Goliath originally was unhappy with the move, he came to see the clock tower as their new home.

Avalon calls


Through the course of the second season, Avalon and Oberon’s children loomed over the series. First, Demona summoned Puck to do her bidding. While Puck twisted her words to play with both her and the Gargoyles, he left Demona with one final gift after his release. From that day on, instead of turning to stone by day, Demona transformed into a human.

Events continued to build between Demona and the clan until she decided that she would cast a spell to turn all humans that heard and saw the spell to stone during the night. In the series, magic incantations only worked if you both saw and heard the spell in progress. As Demona trapped New York City’s population in stone, Macbeth recognized her work and hunted her down in turn. The two also reminisced on their shared past.

During these flashbacks, viewers learned that Demona not only survived the siege of Castle Wyvern but also never was sealed in stone. Instead, she lived through every day of the thousand years leading up to the current events. Even though Gargoyles age slower than humans, she should have naturally died. However, the weird sisters turned both her and Macbeth into immortals by binding the two together, trading his youth for a share of her strength. Thus, they became tied to Avalon. After the Gargoyles defeated Demona and reversed her spell, the Weird Sisters emerged to take away both Demona and Macbeth.

Finally, Tom, who was a child during Castle Wyvern’s siege, appeared in Manhattan in search of the Gargoyles. As he met up with Goliath, he led away Bronx, Elisa, and Goliath away on a journey to Avalon.

The survival of the clan’s eggs

The Avalon Clan

As Goliath, Elisa, and Bronx arrived on Avalon’s shores, they learned that an ancient enemy of Castle Wyvern, the Archmage, was attacking the home of Princess Katherine and the eggs that she had left with. Princess Katherine and her crew, including Tom, had made Avalon their new home after seeking a safe place to raise the eggs. Since time passed differently in Avalon, they had only aged enough that Magus and the Princess were now elderly.

More importantly, the Goliath met up with the new generation of Gargoyles, including Angela, who strongly resembled both Goliath and Demona. Later, the series confirmed that Angela indeed was their daughter, though both had issues admitting it in part because their culture does not single out children. Instead, children of a clan had the entire older generation as their parents, not the actual pair.

As Goliath fought against the Archmage, the Magus sacrificed himself to wake up the sleeping king, King Arthur. Thus, Princess Katherine’s clan succeeded in protecting their land. As Goliath prepared to depart back to his Manhattan clan, Angela joined the trio, wanting to learn about the outside world and her clan.

Unfortunately, Avalon never sends travelers to where they want to go. Instead, its magic sent Goliath and the others to where they needed to be.

Worldwide tour and other surviving gargoyle clans

Angela and Anansi

As Angela, Bronx, Elisa, and Goliath attempted to return to New York City, Avalon sent them on a long journey across the globe. They traveled from Africa to Japan to South America, solving situations that needed their aid. Thus, the series introduced several new mythical elements to the show.

Goliath met up with Odin, eventually returning Odin’s Eye to him. They also met the ghosts of Haken and the Captain, learning their deeds left them in eternal purgatory. Later, they met up with Elisa’s mother in Africa, where they met Anansi. They also met extraterrestrials on Easter Island.

Most importantly, this group learned that the Manhattan and Avalon clans were not the last surviving Gargoyles in the world. They met up with the London Clan, Clan Ishimura, and the Mayan Clan. This gave hope for the future of the species.

Not long after Goliath and his crew finally made their way to New York City, another of Demona’s ancient enemies, the Hunters, located and struck out against the Manhattan Clan. Originally, Demona created the Hunter by scratching the face of a child who caught her stealing food. Following his pursuit of revenge, he passed along his vendetta to the following generation. Thus, generations of Hunters had tracked and murdered gargoyles in search of Demona.

This generation had three children who took on the role of the Hunters. After they tracked the Gargoyles to their Clock Tower home, they launch rockets at the clock tower, despite the police officers below. These actions revealed the Manhattan Clan to the entire population of the city.

In the end, the Hunters saw that the Manhattan Clan put themselves in harm’s way to protect humans. Thus, two of them put down their arms and discontinued the hunt. However, Jon Canmore refused to end the hunt.

The Quarrymen

The Quarrymen

Unlike his ancestors, Jon Canmore decided to stir fear in the city and turn many to his side. Thus, he formed the Quarrymen as his new group of gargoyle hunters. This group united in their anger over the supernatural creatures, determined to kill them all.

Since the city now was more dangerous than the Castle, Goliath’s Clan returned to their traditional home. Luckily, since Goliath had helped Xanatos keep his infant son by his side, Xanatos also decided to turn a new leaf and become their ally. So, Xanatos posed no threat to the clan.

By the end of the third season, the public began to realize that the Quarrymen were not sane in their pursuit of the Gargoyles. Thus, they accepted the Gargoyles and rejected the mantra of the Quarrymen.

The legacy of Disney’s Gargoyles

Demona and Hakon

Even though Gargoyles has yet to see a reboot or reemergence on television, fans of the series continue to treasure it. For a time, the series received a strong treatment as Disney released it to DVD. However, Disney discontinued the DVD sets before they released the third season. Now, fans of the series can watch all three seasons on Disney+. Also, the recent DuckTales reboot featured Keith David in a brief scene that harkened back to the series.

Gargoyles have also seen several adaptions in comics, video games, and toys throughout the decades. For instance, Neca is due to release a Goliath figure in late 2001. Though, no new video games spawned after the 1990s.

Still, perhaps the love of the fans will lead to the creation of a new chance for the Gargoyles franchise.

Do you have old and used Gargoyles toys?

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Made in Collaboration with:

Goliath saves Elisa Maza

Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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