Monday, May 18, 2015

DHX Is Strongly Considering a Second Season of their New Inspector Gadget Series

Well, that's just like this site, isn't it? Before I've even gotten around to reviewing the new TV series, I'm announcing news about its second season. But news like this shouldn't be kept waiting, even for a review. Yeah, about that...

As you probably realize by now, I haven't been quite honest with you guys regarding one thing I've been asked lately. The truth is - I have started watching the new TV series. I'm 11 episodes in at the moment. I've kept quiet about it because I didn't know when I would be able to get a proper review posted, and I wanted to avoid the pressure of feeling late with it. Ironically, the result is now that I feel even more pressure, because readers are obviously (and understandably) wondering what's going on. Part of the delay is my own doing: I've kept building up the news about this reboot for more than three years, and because of that, I admittedly feel an obligation to do the review thoroughly. It becomes, all of a sudden, a lot more work than I had anticipated. All I can say to people who had been hoping to see it out much sooner is, sorry.

But I have a lot of things I want to say about the reboot, and the review I'm talking about is in the works. Meanwhile, if you want the short story of what I think: there are definitely things I don't like about the new series, and the quality of the script writing varies wildly to me. At the same time, though, it does have charm, much of it is fun, and I'm enjoying it enough to keep watching.

Incidentally, it seems a lot of people around the world have been enjoying it. That is certainly being indicated in this transcript of a May 14 "Earnings Call" session with DHX CEO Dana Landry, where Landry answered a number of questions about DHX's financial results for "Q3 2015", or the third quarter of 2015. Near the end of the transcript, this rather interesting exchange appears...

Robert Peters - Credit Suisse 
Hi, thanks for taking my question. Dana, I was just wondering if you could maybe give us an update on how Inspector Gadget has been doing in the U.S. and now that it’s out on Netflix and maybe also the early reception to Twirlywoos just kind of thinking, how we should think about the ratings on those shows and any reason they might have to their merchandising opportunities.  
Dana Landry - Chief Executive Officer 
Yes, thanks for the question Rob, I mean I think on Gadget it’s interesting because our excellent partners on Netflix are notoriously keep their information close to the chestier. So there is anecdotally we feel that they are very, very happy about Gadget. But specifically because we’ve sold Gadget in other areas and the biggest territory of that we have experienced on is in Germany Super RTL the ratings are extremely strong. And a couple of other territories that is launched as well in the linear world, it’s getting tremendous traction. And so the early indications are very positive on Gadget and all of our linear channels are talking about the second season. So that’s very positive.

The transcript is obviously done very rushedly, or maybe automatically, considering the weird spelling and grammar errors (chestier? how about chest?); but the meaning comes across clearly. It sounds like, following strong ratings in several areas, the second season of the new Gadget series is very close to being greenlit.

A potential second season has been hinted at in the media before. Remember the recent tax credit cuts in Nova Scotia that I wrote about on April 14, which saw DHX Halifax indicate that they might move out of the region unless changes were made? One detail I didn't mention from the news reports at the time was a rather interesting statement by Shaun Smith, DHX director of corporate communications, which appeared in a Chronicle Herald piece on April 10:

Smith said DHX just wrapped up production of the first season of Inspector Gadget, a top animation property that has been picked up as exclusive content by Netflix in the United States. 
But the sharp cutback in the province’s film tax credit has made production of the cartoon’s second season unsustainable in Nova Scotia, he suggested.

Speaking of DHX Halifax, how is the Nova Scotia tax credit situation right now? Time for an update on that. On April 23, following loud protests from the local film industry, the drastic cutback in tax credit was actually revised once more:

Marc Almon, chairman of Screen Nova Scotia, announced the new agreement (...)

"There's still a lot of details to be worked out, but basically the system will be moving to a Nova Scotia all-spend model that we feel will allow for many projects to remain competitive with other jurisdictions in the country." 
That model means the focus is now on the total amount of money spent in Nova Scotia and using the incentives to encourage production in the province, he said. 
The deal will replace the existing tax credit with a 25 per cent incentive on all spending for production in the province, plus up to five per cent more in incentives for work involving rural locations and series.

In other words, a much more favorable deal for local film and television producers in the area. But does that mean DHX Halifax stays in Halifax? According to a May 14 Chronicle Herald report, that part is not yet quite clear:

The company [DHX] didn’t respond to questions from The Chronicle Herald on Thursday — and hasn’t all week — about whether it is planning to remain in Nova Scotia. 
David Regan, an executive vice-president with DHX Media, previously said the company would pull out of Halifax if controversial changes to the provincial film tax credit announced in the April 9 provincial budget were not amended. 
After protests and meetings with industry, the province created a new stream within the digital media tax credit modelled on systems in Ontario and British Columbia to support the local animation industry. 
The changes come into effect July 1 and were welcomed by Halifax animation firm Copernicus Studios Inc. DHX Media, however, has remained silent.

So there's the news. Whether there is a second season of the new Inspector Gadget series, or where it will be produced, is still somewhat up in the air. But judging by Dana Landry's quotes, the reboot certainly seems to have done well enough in ratings for Season 2 to happen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Canadian Update: Teletoon Premieres Inspector Gadget's Reboot in the Fall of 2015

As shared a few hours ago on Inspector Gadget's official Facebook site...

Attention Canadian Gadget Fans: The brand new series Inspector Gadget will be premiering on TELETOON in the Fall of 2015! Stay tuned for more details.

This marks a change from the tentative June 2015 premiere that animator Scott Baltjes mentioned back in December. The Fall 2015 launch has actually been revealed one other place online - in this April 12 article on Gadget voice actor Ivan Sherry that I previously wrote about here (though I neglected to mention the following then): 

Sherry said the new Inspector Gadget started to air in January in 65 different countries around the world. In March, the show started on Netflix in the United States, and will air on Teletoon in the fall.

Now we have two sources of info, one of them being the show's official Facebook account; so the new Canadian premiere time is clearly legitimate. Stay Teletooned!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

News Flash Roundup: Gadget's New Voice Speaks, DHX Is Considering To Leave Halifax

Some interesting newspaper articles of late...

Ivan Sherry talks about Inspector Gadget. The article "Former Kingstonian new voice of cartoon classic" is essentially a fluff piece (not much of real depth is revealed), but it's still the first interview I've seen with Gadget's new actor.

One of Sherry's quotes brings the production timeline into perspective a bit:

Sherry said all 52, 11-minute episodes have been voiced and produced. 
"We finished recording them last summer," Sherry said. "Then, they animate after we've recorded. A lot of people assume it's the other way around. 
"So you actually have a lot of influence over what the animators are going to draw, because you're bringing the energy, and you're making the decisions for the character based on the script, you're bringing your own take on it."

What the animators are going to "draw"? Sigh. And then there's this quote which is kinda frustrating...

"I haven't found many people who don't know the theme song (to Inspector Gadget) or they all say 'wowzers,' 'go go gadget,' everybody knows Inspector Gadget," Sherry said. "It's unbelievable, I had no idea."

...simply because that wonderful theme song which everybody knows is NOT USED in the new series. Not that Sherry is to be blamed in any way for that.

In other news: DHX Halifax, the division of DHX which produced and animated the new Gadget series, may be shut down or moved if recent changes to the film tax credit for Nova Scotia (the Canadian province of which Halifax is the capital) go through. The reasons are detailed in the linked piece "Cape Breton comedian: reduction of tax credit could see demise of N.S. film industry". As far as I can understand, though, the bottom line is this:

Over the past few years, the Canadian government has given generous, monetary support - in form of a hefty tax credit - to film and television productions which are hundred percent Canadian. This has led to many more animated productions coming to Canada than would otherwise have been the case; simply because producers can save a lot of money by having a series done there, with a wholly Canadian cast and crew, and save tax money. Now, however, this very convenient tax reduction arrangement is about to change for Nova Scotia: of July 1, the film industry tax credit will only cover 25 per cent of eligible costs with the remaining 75 per cent available as a non-refundable tax credit. The credit used to be 100 per cent. A new $6-million Creative Economy Fund has been established to fill the void but it won't be available until 2016 and it will be available to a variety of creative industries, not just the film industry. 
"If they go through with this cut, this government is going to leave Nova Scotia with the poorest and least attractive tax programs in North America, so that means that productions which have come here before are going to go elsewhere," said MacDonald. "And there's lots of places for them to go. 
"Why would you come and make your television show or your film in Nova Scotia when you can drive up the road and make it in New Brunswick and get the proper tax credit? If they make this decision and follow through with it, as soon as they do it, just watch, everything will shut down." 
The rumblings have already begun with DHX Media in Halifax suggesting they may leave the province if the changes to the tax credit go ahead. They are the producers of the "Inspector Gadget" animated series and employ more than 150 people...

The tax reduction likely goes a long way toward explaining why the new Inspector Gadget series is a 100% Canadian production. It probably even explains, to an extent, some of the new voice actor choices. As the Ivan Sherry piece mentions: "...all the [voice] talent is Canadian, and includes Tara Strong, originally from Toronto, who lives in Los Angeles, Calif." Of course, a ton of different reasons play into how and why the new actors were selected, but it does sound like they needed to be Canadian.

I wonder what will happen with DHX Halifax now that the tax situation is (seemingly) changing. If the new Gadget series is popular enough to warrant a second season, will that season be produced elsewhere?

UPDATE: I corrected some details regarding the tax credit situation pointed out by this anonymous commenter.

UPDATE #2: For those wishing to delve into the tax credit situation more, Mark Mayerson has written an interesting piece on it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Inspector Gadget Series Gets Canadian Pre-Premiere at the TIFF Kids Film Festival on April 19

Are you living in Canada? And are you feeling slightly annoyed that nearly every country on the globe has already premiered the new Gadget series, while Teletoon Canada is not airing it until June? Then the following may be for you.

Via the official site of the children's film festival TIFF Kids, which takes place in Toronto, Canada from April 7 to 19:

Inspector Gadget
The bumbling detective is back in action! Come enjoy four episodes of the brand new animated series as Gadget, his resourceful niece Penny, and her dog Brain set out to stop the sinister Dr. Claw and his global crime syndicate MAD from conquering the world! 
Director in attendance, April 19! 
N.B.: Some scenes may be scary for younger audiences; cartoon violence 
This programme is rated G.

TIFF's Inspector Gadget screening starts at 11:00 AM on Sunday, April 19 (eight days from now). Tickets can be bought online by pressing "BUY - 11:00AM" at the Inspector Gadget site. The program will consist of the following four 11-minute episodes:

Gadget 2.0 Part 1 (#01a)
Gadget 2.0 Part 2 (#01b)
A Hole in One (#10a)
Operation Hocus Pocus (#10b)

The credited directors for these episodes are William Gordon and Phillip Stamp (who is also a supervising producer on the series). I'm not sure which of them will be there for the TIFF screening, but it is kind of cool that one of the directors is participating. Also, of course, with this being a pre-premiere in Canada, it's cool that they're starting off with the very first episode, "Gadget 2.0".

While I'm at it, here's some more info about TIFF Kids via a PDF press release...

March 4, 2015
Young audiences are treated to pancakes, Peanuts, parties and plenty more between films at the TIFF Kids International Film Festival 
Toronto – Now in its 18th of year celebrating the best in children’s cinema from Canada and around the world, the TIFF Kids International Film Festival™ enhances the festival-going experience for young movie lovers with activities, and special events happening throughout TIFF Bell Lightbox, encouraging kids and their families to engage with the festival in a variety of ways. Running from April 7 to April 19, the festival kicks off with a night of food, activities and fun at the Opening Night Party on April 10, with the Canadian premiere of Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, the latest claymation feature length film from Aardman Studios, the creators of Wallace & Gromit. 
TIFF Kids is also presenting a sneak peek of Inspector Gadget, the brand new animated series, produced by DHX Media and airing on Teletoon later this year - which sees the detective back in action, along with his resourceful niece Penny, and her dog Brain.  
Special Screening: Inspector Gadget
Canadian Premiere
Sunday, April 19 at 11 a.m. 
Recommended for ages 6 and up. 
Gadget 2.0—Part I, dirs. William Gordon, Philip Stamp, Canada 
When the evil Dr. Claw escapes from his iceberg prison, Gadget is called out of retirement to take on his old arch-nemesis once more—but a double agent inside HQ could sabotage his mission before it even begins! 
Gadget 2.0—Part II, dirs. William Gordon, Philip Stamp, Canada 
Hot on the heels of Dr. Claw’s nephew Talon, Gadget, Penny and Brain embark on a globe-trotting pursuit that takes them from the South American rainforest to the Antarctic. 
A Hole in One, dir. Philip Stamp, Canada 
Which came first, the chicken, the egg… or the doughnut? Investigating a mysterious wave of chicken-napping, Gadget, Penny and Brain uncover Dr. Claw’s plot to sedate the world’s population through his evil (but delicious) confectionary treats. 
Operation Hocus Pocus, dir. William Gordon, Canada 
Dr. Claw springs the evil MADgician out of an asylum to destroy Gadget—a task made all the easier by the fact that the oblivious inspector believes the nefarious necromancer to be his friend!

...and some hi-res screenshots which were included on the presentation site (you saw one of them up above). These don't seem to necessarily stem from the episodes which will be screened, but look nice regardless.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Episodes 1-7 of "New Inspector Gadget" Hit Australian iTunes in 1080p HD!

I've felt something of a lack of energy to devote to this blog lately, and so I've been remiss in reporting various news bits I've observed over the past month. Time to try and change that. Especially since this latest thing I just learned is pretty interesting.

As I already mentioned here, the new series got its first-ever DVD release in Australia not too long ago, on April 2. Titled "Inspector Gadget - Season 1, Volume 1" - or alternately "Inspector Gadget 2.0" or "New Inspector Gadget" on various sites - this PAL Region 4 release from Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has been revealed to contain the first 7 half-hour episodes on 1 disc, with a run time of 151 minutes.

What I didn't know when I reported this earlier, though, is that episodes 1-7 have also gotten an Australian iTunes release through that same distribution deal (and on the same date, April 2), under the title New Inspector Gadget, Season 1, Vol. 1! Why is this so interesting? Well, the iTunes store actually offers the episodes in HD - 1080p and 720p - as well as standard definition. Meaning that Australian consumers can now choose between a physical, standard-def DVD edition or both HD and SD versions of the episodes on iTunes. Aside from the 16 half-hours currently available on Netflix in North America, this is the first HD release the new Gadget series has seen, and the first which is not streaming video. Because of that, this iTunes version is probably the best-quality release the series has received so far. 

It's a bit disappointing that Universal is not doing a Blu-ray release, though. What we have here seems to be a standard way of releasing new animated series these days -- both HD and SD on iTunes, but only SD DVD in terms of physical media. I mean, we're in 2015. Are Blu-rays STILL that much more expensive to put out than DVDs, and that much less profitable when it comes to kiddie shows? This series was clearly meant to be seen in HD. At least the iTunes version offers that... but it would be nice to see a collector's edition Blu-ray of all 26 half-hours eventually.

Oh, and one more slight downside. According to Cartoon Central Australia, the tentative release date for "Inspector Gadget 2.0 Season 1 Volume 2" from Universal is June 18. I'm guessing the next Australian iTunes release will also follow the DVD release... so Australian consumers will apparently have to wait a bit for more episodes. According to the Australian Government's classification (how's that for official info?), the Volume 2 release has a run time of 130 minutes, meaning that it will likely contain the 6 next episodes, #8 through #13.

(This makes sense because only the first 13 half-hours - of 26 - were launched on Boomerang worldwide and Germany's Super RTL back when the Gadget reboot initially premiered around the globe during January-March. The last 13 half-hours of Season 1 have been held back, and have only begun to hit airwaves during the last few weeks. Meanwhile, episodes 17-26 are still being held back by Netflix US. But I digress...)

Ideally, I'd say one new half-hour per week would be a better release strategy for iTunes than two months between a new batch of episodes. But hey, at least Australia is offered several decent purchase options already!

Saturday, April 4, 2015