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Disney Plus is making a live-action Gargoyles series, skeptical question mark?

From… a frequent James Wan collaborator on the Annabelle movies, even more skeptical question mark?

A scene from the 1990s Disney animated TV series Gargoyles, featuring gargoyle characters Goliath, Lexington, Brooklyn, and Broadway Image: Buena Vista Television/Everett Collection
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Spend any time talking to Greg Weisman, creator of the 1990s animated series Gargoyles, and a few things are sure to come up: Yes, he’s interested in continuing Gargoyles, which was cut off mid-story, and which maintains a cult following to this day. And yes, he’s open to a live-action version. But Walt Disney Studios, which owns the rights to the show, has been playing around with that idea for decades, and every time it almost gets off the ground, something changes and it gets scuttled.

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, a live-action TV series for Disney Plus is actually being written and produced. But take that with a grain of salt — there are a lot of challenges in any new version of Gargoyles, and it’s still very early in the series’ potential development.

According to THR’s report, the new Gargoyles is being developed and produced by writer-producer Gary Dauberman, known for his work on the Conjuring horror-movie spin-offs Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation (which he wrote), and Annabelle Comes Home (which he wrote and directed, from a story he developed with The Conjuring director James Wan). Dauberman has been signed as writer, showrunner, and executive producer on the new series. James Wan’s company Atomic Monster would executive produce the show.

The idea of putting a kid-friendly adventure like Gargoyles in the hands of someone best known for bloody, graphic horror movies feels a bit odd: Dauberman also scripted the Conjuring spin-offs The Nun and The Nun II, and the Stephen King adaptations It and It: Chapter Two, directed by Andy Muschietti. But while Gargoyles has the slightest tinge of gothic horror, it isn’t a horror series. Its story, about a species of creatures who sleep in stone form by day and revive as living beings by night, is more of a modern urban fantasy. In the pilot episodes, the gargoyle Goliath and a few of his warrior tribe are put under a spell that keeps them in stone form for a century. They go to sleep in medieval Scotland and wake up a thousand years later in Manhattan in 1994, now in the hands of a man so Machiavellian, there’s an entire trope about airtight schemes named after him.

A man with a brown goatee and ponytail wearing a black coat and gloves kneels next to a stone gargoyle covered in ivy plants Image: Walt Disney Television Animation

In the animated series’ original three-season run from 1994 to 1997, Gargoyles took its characters around the world and introduced a wide variety of settings and characters, so there’s plenty of fodder for a series that wouldn’t just be a straight live-action reboot. But Variety also reported on the series in progress, with a summary of the new show that’s so similar to the summary of the old show, it suggests Dauberman is just remaking the animated series. Except that summary suggests all gargoyle characters besides Goliath will be eliminated from the new story:

The current logline for the project reads: “Based on the cult classic Disney animated series, Goliath is the last of a heroic race of gargoyle warriors who once lived among mankind. Free from a centuries long curse that turned him into stone, Goliath struggles to solve the mystery of his past while watching over modern-day New York City alongside police detective Elisa Maza.”

The series’ reliance on inhuman creatures as the main characters would make a live-action adaptation an expensive prospect, which could explain the decision to cut all the subsidiary characters and leave Goliath as the only remaining gargoyle.

Polygon spoke to Weisman in 2020, when it became apparent that Gargoyles would stream on the newly launched Disney Plus and potentially spark a new generation of fandom, and he said previous discussions about a live-action Gargoyles reboot or spinoff were derailed when Disney bought Lucasfilm and Marvel: “Why take a chance on what they viewed as an obscure 1990 show with a cult following, when you can just do a Spider-Man cartoon, or a Star Wars cartoon?” he asked at the time. “Why take a risk on a huge-budgeted Gargoyles live-action feature that might bomb, when you could make another Marvel movie?”

Disney’s Marvel projects have been making less money than expected over the past several years, resulting in the company scaling back its plans for the MCU franchise’s future. That leaves more room for new projects like a potential Gargoyles reboot. It remains to be seen exactly what Dauberman has in mind for the franchise in terms of scope and tone, and whether the new series beats the odds for adaptations in development, and actually makes it to the screen. No word yet on whether Weisman will be involved, but when Polygon reached him to ask, he replied that he has no comment to make at this time.

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