Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 27: Inspector Gadget

{inside the CH classroom}

Welcome to another edition of Cartoon Historian,I'm Stefan,your Host and lecturer along with my assistant Mina.

Mina: On this edition we will be covering the Legendary Bumbling Bionic Detective,Inspector Gadget.

[cartoon historian theme plays]

Been a while since the last Cartoon Historian lesson hasen't it?

Mina: Yup. btw,congrats on your flawless victory against the Trio.

Thanks Mina. Well lets get to today's lesson.

Inspector Gadget revolves around the adventures of a clumsy,dim-witted cyborg detective named Inspector Gadget - a human being with various bionic gadgets built into his body. Gadget's arch-nemesis is Dr. Claw, the leader of an evil organization, known as "M.A.D."

This was the first syndicated cartoon show from DIC Entertainment. Not only that but it was the first from the company to be created specifically for American viewers, along with The Littles and Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats.

Mina: Nice little tidbit for ya.

The Show originally ran from 1983 to 1986 and remained in syndication into the late 1990s.

Mina: The series was a co-production between DIC Entertainment and Canada's Nelvana; the animation work was outsourced to foreign studios such as Tokyo Movie Shinsha in Japan and Cuckoo's Nest Studio in Taiwan.

Inspector Gadget is a famous cyborg policeman with a seemingly endless amount of gadgets he can summon by saying "Go-Go-Gadget" then the gadget's name.

Although he has all this equipment,he is frequently left clueless on his missions, so his faithful and intelegent niece Penny [who doubles as a DiD] and his intelligent dog,Brain must secretly help him solve each case.

Almost every episode of the first season follows a standard plot with little variation. A disguised Chief Quimby interrupts a normal family activity between Gadget, Penny and Brain to give him a mission to stop the latest plot by Dr. Claw and M.A.D.

The episode usually takes Gadget to some exotic locale and somehow Penny and Brain find a way to accompany him.

Brain keeps Gadget out of trouble from M.A.D. agents (who Gadget usually mistakes for friendly locals),while Penny solves the case. With the help of Penny and Brain, Gadget inadvertently saves the day, Dr. Claw escapes and Chief Quimby arrives to congratulate Gadget on a job well done.

Mina: Like most Cartoons of the 80's and early 90's,Inspector Gadget contains PSA's.

Yup,Y'see each episode ends with Gadget teaching intelligent and responsible safety tips,with most of the tips having a connection with problems Gadget had experienced during the episode.

Now lets talk about the production itself. Mina,i'm gonna let you handle this.

Mina: The show was created by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin and Bruno Bianchi. The initial idea for Inspector Gadget came from Heyward,who also wrote the pilot episode (Winter Olympics) with the help of Jean Chalopin in 1982. Winter Olympics is often syndicated as episode #65, Gadget in Winterland.

Mina: Chalopin, who at the time owned the DIC Audiovisual studio, helped develop the format and concept for the rest of the episodes together with Bruno Bianchi, who also designed the final versions of the main characters and served as supervising director.

Mina: According to the DVD bonus film "Wowsers",a retrospective featurette with co-creators Andy Heyward and Mike Maliani on the four-disc DVD set Inspector Gadget: The Original Series, Gadget went through approximately 150 sketches before reaching his final design.

Mina: Nelvana writer Peter Sauder was the one of the head writers for Season One. But In Season Two,Nelvana was no longer part of the production.

Mina: In Season 2 the show was written by the DiC studio's employees Eleanor Burian-Mohr, Mike O' Mahoney, Glen Egbert and Jack Hanrahan (a former Get Smart writer, among much else). Hanrahan and Burian-Mohr would later write the Christmas special Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas as well as many episodes of the Gadget Boy spinoff series. Burian-Mohr additionally wrote dialogue for the educational show Inspector Gadget's Field Trip.

The first sixty-five 22½-minute episodes were co-written,co-designed,and co-storyboarded in Canada at Nelvana Animation Studio (which co-produced the series under DiC's supervision), while being directed (long distance) by French director Bruno Bianchi.

Most of these episodes were animated in Tokyo, Japan by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, the studio that animated most DiC cartoons of the 1980s, while a few episodes were animated in Taiwan by Cuckoo's Nest Studio and Wang Film Productions,before being finished in post production by DiC and Nelvana.

In the second season,the animation increasingly began to resemble a typical 1980s Japanese anime cartoon,most likely because it was animated by DiC's own then-new Japanese-based animation facilities. It was not uncommon for Gadget to briefly freeze in an "anime" pose when shocked, or slower frame rates when characters would move.

Here's something interesting for you: Inspector Gadget went through three voices during production of the pilot episode. The first was Gary Owens, who voiced Inspector Gadget in a deep-toned, British-sounding way. Jesse White sounded closer to the voice of Maxwell Smart of Get Smart,one of the series' inspirations.

Eventually, producers decided to hire Don Adams himself instead to get the full effect, and found that he fit the role perfectly. In the first season, Gadget's nemesis Doctor Claw [as well as his pet cat M.A.D. Cat and Gadget's loyal dog Brain]were voiced by Frank Welker aka The Man of 1,000 voices.

Mina: That was interesting.

Anyway,Penny was portrayed by Cree Summer Francks in her first voice acting role; and her father Don Francks wound up playing Doctor Claw in a few episodes where Welker was unavailable for recording.

When co-production of Inspector Gadget moved from Nelvana in Canada to DiC's headquarters in L. A. for the second season, several of the voice artists (including Cree Summer and Frank Welker) were replaced.

Don Adams was the only cast member who still voiced his character. Welker did voice many supporting characters during season 2, but apparently he could not continue voicing his main roles due to contractual difficulties.

Mina: Now let's talk about the Theme music.

The theme music was inspired by Edvard Grieg's movement, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and was composed by Shuki Levy and produced by Saban Records,(now Saban Music Group). Saban has provided music for many DiC cartoons in the 80s and 90s. Saban is still operating today.

Many of the background music cues were some sort of variation of the Gadget melody. Even at festivals or dances in the cartoon, the Gadget theme was often played.

Occasionally during an episode, such as in 'Launch Time' and 'Ghost Catchers', Inspector Gadget would hum his theme. Levy also had a range of other musical cues for each character, as well as cues for the various moods of the scenes. Penny and Brain each had several different versions of their respective musical themes.

Mina: It's time to talk about the seasons.

Season 1

The pilot episode, "Winter Olympics", was animated by Telecom Animation Film and had a slightly higher budget than the rest of the series. In the pilot, Gadget had a moustache. The pilot episode also featured slightly different opening and closing credits. Three versions of the pilot episode were produced.

Mina: Damn!

Since DiC,at the time,was a French company looking to expand its operations to the US, the show was produced for release in both France and the USA.

It was broadcast in the North America in September 1983. A month or so later, the series premiered in France, whose version also featured a theme song with French lyrics and the French title Inspecteur Gadget appearing in front of the episode.

The first season was aired from September 1983 to December 1984, comprising sixty-five episodes. After the first season, the show was a worldwide hit.

In the first season, nearly every episode saw the introduction of some new supervillain who had come to be employed by Dr. Claw to commit a crime suited to their special skills. They are typically arrested at the end of the episode, and do not appear again in the series.

For Season 2 debut on September 1985 and ended in February 1986. This season had 21 episodes,making the grand total of Inspector Gadget episodes: 86.

The format of the show was changed for this season. The episodes would be divided into "threes", i. e. three episodes in a row sharing the same general theme and often the same villains, who would often not be arrested at the end of the episode.

Each episode would normally revolve around MAD just trying to get rid of Gadget. New characters and settings were introduced. Gadget, Penny and Brain moved into a high-tech house filled with many gadgets, where a few of the episodes were actually located. Penny wasn't a DiD as much. In the season's fourth episode, Corporal Capeman was introduced as Gadget's sidekick.

Mina: What the hell were thay thinking?

The characters from Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats make various cameo appearances in the second season,just as Gadget would have cameos in their series.

Inspector Gadget also has some spin-offs and 2 Live Action-Movies,but I'm not gonna talk about them.

Mina: Inspector Gadget is truly one of our greatest Cartoon Icons. In fact,In January 2009, IGN named Inspector Gadget as #54 in it's Top 100 Best Animated TV Shows. And later this year,a new Inspector Gadget comic book will be launched in the U.S., written by Dale Mettam and illustrated by José Cobá.

Well that's all she wrote for this episode of Cartoon Historian. See Ya Next Time.

Mina: Bye!

[fade to black. credits roll as the cartoon historian closing theme plays]


Anonymous said...

Brilliant cartoon from a great era.

KingsSideCastle said...

Wow a lot of great posts I need to catch up reading on this blog recently. :-) Anyway, love Inspector Gadget. ^_^

I'll try and read through the Trio of darkness series later. ^_^