Friday, December 9, 2011

Rest In Peace, Bruno Bianchi and Shingo Araki

 A sad start to December: Last week, two key artists behind the original Inspector Gadget series passed away... strangely enough only a few hours apart. On the night of Thursday, December 1, Japanese animation veteran Shingo Araki (animator on season 1) passed away. French animation veteran Bruno Bianchi (co-creator and director) followed on the morning of Friday, December 2. I've actually known about this since Monday, but only today did I find the time to blog about these artists.

BRUNO BIANCHI (1955-2011)

Bruno Bianchi... where do I begin? This man was not only Inspector Gadget's co-creator. He also directed the entire original series (1982-86) and served as chief designer of all the main characters. In short, Bruno was one of the leading creative forces on the show. The fact that he is gone came as a great shock to me (he was only in his mid-fifties, for crying out loud), and it's hard to describe in few words the impact he had on my childhood, not only through Inspector Gadget, but also various other shows like Heathcliff and Iznogoud. That's why I've decided not to write much about him here, and instead post a longer tribute to him one of the next days. Now, then... Read on (below Bianchi's credits) to get to Shingo Araki...


SHINGO ARAKI (1939-2011)

Original Gadget animator Shingo Araki was a guy I really didn't know much about... but the Imdb site on his work reveals quite a legacy! Since 1965, this versatile animator/animation director/character designer had been continuously at work in Japan on a number of famous anime series... including Yu-Gi-Oh!, The Rose of Versailles, Lupin III Part III and Saint Seiya, among many, many others. Imdb's overview of his work, not to mention its Mini Biography (below), probably sums up his career better than I can:
"Graduated in Aichi Prefecture. Semi-professional debut as a cartoonist in the "Machi" adult comic magazine in 1955. Joined Mushi Production as animator in 1965. Founded Studio Jaguar in 1966. Debuted as animation director in 1970 with the TV Series "Joe of Tomorrow". Met for the first time also animation director and future collaborator Michi Himeno in 1973. Founded Araki Production in 1975. Debuted in a long-feature film as animation director in 1978's "Goodbye Battleship Yamato: Warriors of Love". Celebrated the enormous success for duet Araki-Himeno with the TV series and later three animated films "Saint Seiya" (1986-89), followed by new film of the saga "Saint Seiya Overture" from 2004. Illustrated the novel "Burai". Did tasks of Creative Consultor of Video Games' Brey saga."
In addition to the shows fully produced in Japan, Araki also worked for the famous studios Toei Animation and Tokyo Movie Shinsha (TMS) as an animator on outsourced American productions. It was through TMS he got assigned to Inspector Gadget, which he animated on during the show's first season... meaning the season which generally had the best animation in it. Presumably, he served as one of Gadget's key animators, as his name is the second one (of a long list) mentioned in the animation credits.

The fact that famous veteran artists such as Araki were assigned to work on Inspector Gadget really shows the ambitions DiC had with the show during its first season: the animation was far above average for TV cartoons at the time. Not every Gadget episode had good animation, of course (as they were outsourced to various Asian studios), but I'll choose to believe that Araki worked on some of the episodes with the best-looking animation. The fact that he was working on Gadget through the legendary TMS studio is a quality indicator in itself!

I thought it fitting to end this post on a Japanese note... so below, you'll find the original Inspector Gadget episode which actually takes place in Tokyo, Japan! I'll just assume that Araki animated on this one, because "The Japanese Connection" is one of my all-time favorite episodes... it's top-notch in practically every way, not least in terms of animation and design! Also, it shows off Bruno Bianchi's fun direction at its best. So I'm just gonna dedicate this embedded video to both Bruno Bianchi and Shingo Araki...


  1. These are the full episodes animated by Shingo Araki:
    - The Curse of the Pharaoh
    - Coo-Coo Clock Caper
    - The Bermuda Triangle
    - Did You Myth Me?
    - Unhenged
    And this is for you:
    I am the artist and did it as a tribute.

  2. I also know Shingo Araki's unit was apparently responsible for quite a bit of the stock footage used in the show's first season, most notably that close-up of Gadget reading one of those self-destructing messages, and that clip of the Gadget Van changing into the Gadgetmobile scene in the intro. They both showed up in other TMS episodes where Araki wasn't involved, and I even remember the Gadgetmobile animation being seen in a Wang/Cuckoo's Nest episode! (It was in "Smeraldo"; usually the Wang episodes had their own stock footage sometimes used.)
    Stock footage aside, Shingo Araki is one of my favorite animation directors on the show. His style had the characters appearing more rounded and very detailed, and the animation was very nice and cartoony. A few other traits I noticed from the Araki unit are Penny's highly-detailed eyes, Dr. Claw's somewhat skinnier arms, Brain having a bit more fur on top of his head and much larger eyes, and Gadget being drawn a bit shorter at times.

    Another one of my favorite animation directors was whoever did such episodes as "the Invasion," "The Infiltration" and the second act of "The Curse of the Pharaoh" (as the first act and safety tip for that was by the Shingo Araki unit.) That was also very cartoony, while the character designs were somewhat more stylized (especially Gadget; his face looked a bit different, with more angular hair and bigger eye pupils at times.) There was also the animation style used on "Basic Training" and "Funny Money;" that was also pretty good-looking as well (that scene of Gadget on the roof of the train in the former is some really good-looking animation work in the series!)

    Too bad Shingo Araki didn't work on the TMS-animated episodes of "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs." His work would have probably looked really good on those shows! (But then again, they never credited the animators on those episodes in most cases, so it's likely he worked on a few of them.) May he rest in peace.

  3. I'm watching "Infiltration" right now and watching the animation closely to notice the style. The woman who Gadget interacts with and thinks is Presto Change-o has a very early anime style. I also get quite a kick out of how they drew the Imposter Gadget (presto).

    1. Yeah, I find the style in "The Infiltration" very appealing too. :) I took a look at some of the clips with the woman after you mentioned her, and I find it amusing how even her elbows have that "clunky" look in some of her poses. That elbow design kinda stands out more when seen on a cute girl than on Gadget. :P The style feels quite reminiscent of Lupin III, among other anime of the era.

      Also, yeah, the design on Presto Change-O's Gadget is very funny. And a great way to always let the kid viewers know who the impostor is; while still keeping it believeable that the villain manages to trick everyone.