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"Gargoyles" Awaken on DVD, Looking All The Better For Their Age

Back in the day, Gargoyles was one of the few cartoons on the air that attempted to break its genre’s formula. With Batman: The Animated Series, Gargolyes elevated television action animation from the repetitive, vanilla pit into which it had sunk to new heights of story telling, voice acting, animation, and music. These cartoons gave viewers something else to think about besides the villain of the week. With drama, witty and smart dialogue, and character designs that could portray every emotion, Gargoyles was, and still is, one of the most highly applauded animated series to come out of the 90s.

Beginning in the days of Vikings, we’re first introduced to the Gargoyles in the five-part opening episode “Awakening,” which showcases the excellent animation and music that the show’s known for and provides some great moments of character development. A few sub-par episodes litter the disc (“Enter MacBeth” and “The Long Way to Morning”) but most of the first season is strong and it ends with the stellar “Reawakening” finale, in which Michael Dorn and Keith David provide two of the greatest voices in animation.

Supporting such a critically acclaimed show, the DVD had to meet fan standards as well as Disney’s high marketing bar. All thirteen episodes from Season 1 are remastered, giving the show detail that was previously unseen and an even richer look in terms of colors and animation. A few video problems did present themselves in this set. There was minor interlacing in the opening text on each episode, but that problem appears only rarely outside of the episode “The Long Way to Morning,” where it’s seen every time the lightning flashes. Audio seems to have a lot of fading going on, lowering and raising the audio occasionally during scenes. This may be due to the audio track trying to throw itself to other channels to heighten the surround sound. However, if it causes such problems on basic stereo the studio seriously needs to fix it as it can get very annoying.

Bonus features aren’t overwhelming on this release, but what is here (full commentary on all five parts of “Awakening,” Original Show Pitch, and footage from the annual fan-convention) provides you with solid entertainment. Commentaries are informative but seem to be more aimed at the hardcore fans. However, they pick up after the first part of season and end up letting us in on a lot of cool little tidbits along the way. The same goes for “The Gathering” convention footage. Fans of the show are completely devoted to it and you can definitely see their dedication. The original show pitch is shown in expectedly sub-par quality, with obvious wear and tear over the years but that can actually add to the enjoyment. It made me feel like I was watching something that only a few were supposed to see. The pitch is loaded with concept art and characters that were eventually (and sometimes drastically) changed. The DVDs were definitely made with the fans in mind and I have to respect them for doing it, even if I sometimes felt lost along the way.

The only minor things on the discs I could find fault with were the repeated disc art, with only a color change distinguishing disc one and two. The menus are nicely animated, but icons that accompany the options on the menu look like completely generic clip art, with a play icon for “Play All” and a treasure chest for “Special Features” just to name a few. The lack of chapter stops were sorely missed by the seventh episode, proving once again that no matter how good an intro is, it still gets tiresome. It seems most of the effort in the release went into the episodes themselves and, admittedly, that is as it should be. A little extra polish wouldn’t have hurt the release, but I’m sure if Disney continues to release them, we’ll see an amp up in quality eventually.

The release is a great purchase for the fans of the show, and even for those that only remember bits of it from its original broadcast a decade ago. If you see it, don’t hesitate to pick it up; it’s a solid release that’s well worth your time.

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