I know I've said this stuff before. Please read this carefully. I have a
real fear that this might sound defeatist or condescending, but you
can't possibly succeed in "saving" the show if you don't come to terms
with these hard truths. I don't know what you've been told by other
people. But I do know a few things about today's animation market. I've
told you before that I did not believe that Gerry Leybourne was
single-handedly responsible for not renewing the show. Dean Valentine is
also not single-handedly responsible. Neither is Eisner. If the fans
insist on looking for a VILLAIN to blame, they stand no chance. You say
you're looking for a straight answer. But really you've been given and
have ignored straight answers and what you are looking for is for simple
answers. There are none. Here are some (but not all) of the many factors
that have probably played into the non-renewal:
1) Quantity. A normal syndication package for any children's show is 65
episodes. If you don't make it up to 65 then you are considered
something of a failure. If you make 65, then you have created a show
that can have ongoing library use. That's a success. Anything above 65
is gravy and NO SHOW makes more than 65 episodes without significant
financial incentive. They made 78 gargoyles (including Chronicles). The
financial incentive for the last 13 was that ABC needed a boys action
show with some "Marquee" attached to help fill out it's Saturday Morning
line-up. You'll notice that no new episodes were made for syndication.
There was no financial incentive in syndication. So they didn't make any
more for syndication.
2) Ratings. The ratings for Goliath Chronicles are, or so I'm told,
lousy. Forget about the why for a moment, and just absorb this fact. If
the ratings are lousy, we've just lost the financial incentive to make
any more beyond the 13. On that level, Goliath Chronicles objectively
failed. Gargoyles did a bit better in its day, but it never broke out
and knocked down the competition. Aladdin did better business for
Disney. And they're not making anymore new Aladdin tv episodes either.
3) Shelf space. The Disney Afternoon, as we know it, is dead. The rise
of FOX, the WB and UPN ate up almost all of the existing independent
stations that aired the Disney Afternoon or (in lieu of the full two
hour block) the individual shows that made up The Afternoon. We've known
this was coming for awhile. Existing contracts kept the Afternoon alive
through the end of this season. But after that it is gone in it's
present form. Now, as I understand it, Disney has made a deal with
Kelloggs to do a reduced version of the Afternoon. I think it's supposed
to be an hour and a half long, with one new show and two library shows.
The new show for next season is 101 Dalmations. For fall of 98, it's
supposed to be HERCULES. There isn't room for new Gargoyles in
syndication. ABC has similar problems. As a broadcast network, they've
committed to air 3 hours of FCC/Kid friendly programming per week. That
means 3 hours of their morning have to be reserved for that kind of
programming, because unlike Fox, they don't have any other place in
their schedule to air this FCC stuff. That only leaves them with about
one and a half hours to fill their morning. They have an existing
commitment to the Bugs Bunny cartoons that they air for an hour. That
leaves them with one half hour slot to fill. Given Goliath Chronicles
ratings, it just doesn't make sense to fill that one slot with a show
that's failing, when you can take a chance on something new that might
4) Resources. The fans seem to regard Disney as this Giant that can do
whatever it wants, and that's true up to a point. But Disney TV
Animation has limited resources. There are only so many talented
animators and storyboard artists out there. There's only so much money
they can spend without profits to justify the expense. From Disney's
point of view, Gargoyles had its shot. You and I may quibble about how
that shot was handled. Whether it could have been handled better. I
think everyone would acknowledge that mistakes were made. But not
intentionally. EVERYONE at Disney wanted the show to be a huge success.
IT WAS NOT. I wish I could tell you different. Creatively, I'm very
proud of the show. We touched a substantial group of people. But an even
more substantial group preferred POWER RANGERS on a consistent basis.
They cleaned our clock. Disney has to decide how to allocate limited
resources. If Gargoyles had 78 shots to be a hit, and didn't quite make
it, you can see why they might think it's time to allocate their
resources to something else.
5) Quality. Resources came into play with Goliath Chronicles. The
decision was reached to allocate priority resources to shows and home
videos that they believed had a better chance to break out. That's why
Chronicles looks the way it does. In my opinion, the show is inferior to
the original on almost every level. This doesn't mean that a lot of good
people didn't work their butts off to make it as good as it could be.
But limited resources result in limited success. The resource issue was
the major reason why I walked away. I regret it now. The animation has
been weak, but I should not have passed up the opportunity to tell
twelve more of my stories. But that's spilled milk. Eric Lewald was
under the gun from the moment he came on board the show. There wasn't
adequate time to make the show at its previous quality level. There
wasn't even adequate time for Eric to become as familiar with the show
as I'm sure he would have liked to. I tried to help. I was paid to
6) Time. Along with limited resources, the main reason Chronicles isn't
up there is Time. The show didn't get a go ahead until late november
'95. I began "The Journey" in December. Eric didn't really come aboard
until January '96, as I recall. Look at where we are now. It's late
February. Do you really want to see the GARGOYLES episode that would
result if it started from scratch now and had to air in September? I
7) Expectations. I do believe that Disney in general views the show as a
disappointment. They had tremendous high hopes for it. They rushed 52
episodes into production for it's second year despite my warning that
they'd have to air a lot of reruns in between new episodes. The reruns,
the weaker stations we were on and many other factors, including series
content resulted in a solid but decidedly unspectacular performance. I
do believe that the high expectations that many at Disney had for the
show, led to greater disappointment in its real failure to break out and
its perceived failure in general. That disappointment doesn't make a lot
of people feel inclined to make more.
8) Strategy. O.k., I'm not at Disney anymore, so I'm not privy to their
strategy meetings, but from outside observation, it doesn't seem like
Gargoyles fits in their overall strategy plans. Maybe it never truly
did. Now we can be mad about this. We can even try to change it. But
first and foremost, we should be glad they made the show at all. Next we
should realize that if it doesn't fit their plans, they aren't going to
be too inclined to change them IN THE SHORT TERM.
9) Management. (The one I suppose you've been waiting for if you still
insist on playing the blame game.) There has been a lot of management
shake ups at Disney. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Rich Frank, Gary Krisel and
Bruce Cranston all left. So did I. We were all supporters of the show.
But Eisner didn't leave and he was a supporter too. I haven't talked to
him recently. I don't know what he thinks about the show. Maybe he's
disappointed. Maybe he's not. Maybe for him it's just the resource
issue. Gotta take a shot with something new. Maybe he's not involved in
this decision in a significant way. No way to know. But I wouldn't be so
quick to label him a villain. It doesn't hurt to let him know that you
love the show, but it can't help to blame him for its demise.
I don't know Gerry at all. I've never met her. I'm also a little vague
on her responsibilities at Disney, thought I've heard she's responsible
for scheduling ABC's Saturday morning. But before you blame her, or even
guess at what she personally feels about the show, reread all the above,
particularly the section on shelf space, strategy and ratings. Now she
may not like the show. I have no idea. Neither do you. If she doesn't
care for the show, I'd personally be curious to know what she bases her
dislike on. Goliath Chronicles? Gargoyles? Both? Whatever, she's
entitled to her opinion.
I've met Dean. I've heard that Gargoyles isn't his thing. I've heard
that he believes that it may not be Disney's thing either. But I don't
know any of that. And again, Dean's personal view of the show is,
positive OR negative, way down on the list of reasons not to make more.
Buena Vista. Mort Marcus ran Buena Vista at the time I left Disney. I
have no idea if he's still there. Mort was a big early supporter of the
show. He was also very disappointed when it didn't perform up to
expectations. Buena Vista is taking its next shots with Dalmations and
Hercules. But even if the Afternoon had survived, there wouldn't be any
new episodes of Gargoyles in syndication. Look at the Disney Afternoon's
history. A new show premieres with new episodes. Over the next few
years, the reruns move down through the Afternoon. That's cause they
couldn't afford the MILLIONS of Dollars that it would take to make new
episodes for early time slots that don't deliver very many kids. If
there aren't any (or many) butts sitting in front of the t.v. then
advertisers don't want their products advertised there, in which case
they don't pay much for commercials. So networks won't pay much for the
shows, so the shows operate at HUGE budget deficits. Gargoyles operated
at a huge deficit. Ultimately, I'm sure it will make an overall profit
for the company. It may have already. But let's not pretend this was the
Other divisions. Some did better than others. But no one is clamoring
for more gargoyles product, so none of the other divisions are clamoring
for more shows.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
We begin by admitting, at least to ourselves, that in the short term, we
lost the battle.
Then we go on and try to win the war.
We have one big chance and a general small chance. Both are long shots.
The Big Chance is the Touchstone Live Action Feature. If this ever gets
made and if it succeeds, then there will be renewed interest in the
The general chance is that television is cyclical. He-Man rules until
DuckTales comes along. Rescue Rangers rule until Batman comes along.
Soft and quirky is big now. But times change. And Gargoyles has a
marquee. (It's a trifle damaged, but it's real.) There's a chance it
could come back.
The best thing we can do is keep the flame burning. Keep executives,
particularly if there's any executive turnover, informed that there is a
fan base for the property. Write letters to Buena Vista, to Eisner, to
ABC, to Disney TV Animation, to Touchstone. Write letters to local
stations, asking them to air reruns. Write letters to the Disney Channel
for the same thing. If the reruns are airing in the U.S., we have a much
better chance of someday making new episodes. Keep these letters
respectful. Don't try to assign blame. My god, what difference does that
make. If I thought it would help I'd take 100% of the blame myself. I
certainly deserve some of it. Just let people know that you loved the
show. Praise it's virtues. Show "Deadly Force", "Lighthouse..." and "The
Green" at grade schools. Make the GATHERING a yearly event. Increase
it's budget and scope on a slow and steady basis until it becomes an
important event. (Don't try to get too big too fast. If you go bust
early on, you won't get a second chance.) Keep the fan base excited
about the show. (This to me is the main virtue to the whole fanfic
thing, which I have many mixed feelings about. If it keeps the fans
interested, great.) Don't let the fans marginalize themselves with
hostility or esoterica. If they get territorial they keep new fans out.
No new fans. No new episodes. Prove to Disney that you are part of that
great consumer demographic that they are hunting for. BUY STUFF. Buy all
the stuff you can find. Prove that the show can still make money for the
company. Buy all the videos off the shelf. Then write Disney's home
video division and have them make more. More copies of existing tapes
and more episodes on tape. Show those taped episodes to new fans.
Particularly young fans. Adults and college kids are great too, but if
kids don't like the show, we are doomed. Try to convince Disney records
to release Carl's music on C.D. Buy animation cells from authorized
Disney dealers. Talk it up.
As for the petition, hell, make copies. Send it a lot of places. Buena
Vista for sure. Don't worry about whether or not it's read cover to
cover by the president of the division (Mort Marcus, I think). It'll
make an impression. But I don't see why you shouldn't send it to Gerry
too. Send it to Dean Valentine at Disney T.V. Animation. Send it to
Barry Blumberg (at the same place). Have someone in every market send it
to their local ABC affiliate. Gerry isn't giving you bad advice there.
If the local stations want the show, they'll make their voices heard at
the network. (But remember, you need locals to send it to local
stations. A petition postmarked Newark won't be taken very seriously in
Cleveland.) Send it anywhere you think it might help. But you might want
to read it over first. If it's full of hostile and antagonistic attacks,
then we've marginalized the petition. Also try to make sure that there's
no doubling up. If people signed the petition twice and Disney figures
that out, then they'll figure the entire document is compromised, and
they'll freely ignore it. If it's a rational statement from real
existing fans than I promise you it'll make a positive impression.
But I don't want to kid you. We are probably past the point of no
return, at least for this coming fall. I appreciate that you refuse to
give up, and I'm not telling you to. But if you want to save yourself
some heartbreak, I think you might want to start focusing on the long
term instead of the short term. Even if we could change everyone's minds
overnight, we've all but run out of time to put new episodes of any
quality on the air by September. I don't like saying that, but I figure
it doesn't help anyone to beat around the bush.
Now let me say in advance that most of this won't work. Sorry. The odds
are against us. I take some consolation in knowing I was involved with
66 episodes that I can be proud of. I told the stories I wanted to tell.
Not nearly all of them, but many. I ended it with Hunter's Moon and
Journey, in a way that gave us some small closure but left it open in
case I get another shot. A shot I'm longing for. All this offers some
consolation. I hope you and the other fans feel the same. It's something
to hold onto through what's bound to be a LOT OF REJECTION. There are no
guarantees that we'll ever get the show back on the air in any form. But
what I've written above is the most practical plan I can think of. If I
can help in any way, let me know.
Otherwise, Good Luck. You are going to need it.
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