Saturday, August 31, 2013

Inspector Gadget on Children's ITV (plus one Fox Kids ad)

The online TV museum TVARK has among its videos some British television spots with Inspector Gadget. Especially charming are three clips aired on Children's ITV on November 14, 1986, serving as links between the channel's programs. In them, presenter Matthew Kelly is showing off drawings of Inspector Gadget sent in by Gadget's many young fans, all the while the clock is ticking nearer towards the actual show. I can't embed the videos, but read on to get direct links to all of them.

The first clip features an introduction by Matthew Kelly as well as a full-figure drawing of Gadget by an 11-year old fan named Louise. Of course, Kelly takes the occasion to remind Louise and other viewers that today is the day of Gadget's return to the channel, at 4:25 pm!

The second clip features a large drawing of Gadget's face by a fan named Georgina (you'll have to click on the video link to see that one). By this point, there's only a few minutes until 4:25 - and the presenter makes sure to point this out to Georgina with a firm message to not go away! I have to say, Matthew Kelly does know how to build up the excitement and expectations. (As well as how to make the kids sit through a commercial break - who would dare change their channel after hearing that?)

By the third clip, children glued to the TV screens could draw a sigh of relief: Kelly, after presenting two more fan drawings, finally lets them watch Inspector Gadget. I was a bit surpriced to hear him call Gadget a "brand-new series", but I'm guessing the series was brand-new to Children's ITV in 1986. (By the way,  if you're disappointed that the video cuts off just as the intro starts, here's a longer version of the clip which includes the entire intro.)

The last spot I found is completely unrelated to Children's ITV, but I might as well include it for the sake of completion. It's a 1996 ad aired on the then-new, UK Fox Kids channel, about its upcoming Comedy Club program block, where Inspector Gadget is one of the players. The presenter in this one is no match for Matthew Kelly, but you can't blame him for not being energetic.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pre-listen to Télé 80's New Gadget CD Now

Télé 80's partner GénériKids has launched exclusive online previews - or pre-listens - of the upcoming batch of Télé 80 CDs, including the extremely-long-awaited "Inspecteur Gadget - Edition Speciale: 30e Anniversaire 1983-2013"! GénériKids also specifies that this and the other new Télé 80 CDs are limited to 500 copies only. For various reasons, I didn't get around to write about this before now... but I discovered the previews on Sunday night (or Monday morning, if you will) and listened through all 30 track extracts from the Gadget CD. Overall verdict: I think they sound great! The majority of the music comes across as clear, flawless and vibrant. Admittedly, some slight hissing can be heard on a few tracks (I suspect these are among the tracks that were remastered directly from vinyls, rather than sourced from master tapes), but this does not feel like a big distraction.

As you might notice from my comment on GénériKids' site, I had a different kind of problem with the extract of track 30, the American "Inspector Gadget Theme" (02:50, originally released on ABC's Australian soundtrack edition). Listening to the GénériKids extract on Monday morning, it actually sounded like the track was both sped up and in mono - whereas the original version is in stereo! However, GénériKids seems to have updated this track sometimes after I posted my comment: the stereo is now more noticeable, and the tempo sounds more or less correct. Even so -- comparing with the Australian album version, I do get the feeling that the GénériKids extract still plays just a little bit too fast... and the music feels emptier, somehow, than it does in the Australian release. Maybe it's just me being too nit-picky... but here, check out a YouTube upload of "Inspector Gadget Theme" and compare for yourself. If there really is some problem with the track, it might hopefully just be some technical error with the extract on the web site (GénériKids changing this specific extract after the initial publication might be an indicator of that), so I'll reserve final judgment until I hear it on the CD.
I noticed another odd detail in the extract of track 28, "Inspector Gadget (Ending TV)" ("Gadget Closing" on the original Australian edition). I'm not even sure if this is a mistake, but I'll try explaining it to you anyway: Right in the start of GénériKids' track extract, the stereo effect sounds different from the Australian-released version of the song (the Australian soundtrack is presumably where Télé 80 got this track from). In the online GénériKids extract, the second and third notes of the composition are heard in the left and right speaker, respectively - i. e. in the left and right ear if you listen to the song through a headset. However, on the Australian edition of the same song, the second and third notes were both heard more or less in the middle, as you can hear in this extract from my own copy:

So why, then, are the notes in question heard in the left and right speakers in the Générikids extract - when this extract otherwise sounds exactly like the Australian soundtrack version? Did the CD producers remix the stereo? Or is Télé 80's version from a different, original source? I will have to guess/hope the latter, just because - after all - why would the CD producers have any reason to alter the original stereo effects? For that matter, the difference doesn't make the song any less enjoyable. I'm just curious about where the difference came from.

Regardless of the above-mentioned details, I still think we're in for a very good CD edition. Almost all of the tracks sound good and many of them sound fantastic. Not to mention that - unless I'm completely mistaken when listening to track 27 - it sounds like we'll be getting the rare STEREO VERSION of "Inspector Gadget (Opening TV)", the original, American opening theme (which to my knowledge has only been released in mono on earlier CD compilations)!

In other news: Physical production of the CD was finished more than a week ago, according to an August 20 Facebook post by Télé 80. The first (very positive) review has popped up on the French site Animeland. In fact, French fans can actually order the disc right now from GénériKids' partner Génération Souvenirs, while the rest of the world will have to wait until September 30. At least we can already pre-order the CD from

UPDATE (September 17, 2013): The CD is actually not yet available from Génération Souvenirs. There has apparently been a delivery delay with all 4 new Télé 80 CDs. Télé 80 has been assuring people on Facebook that the CDs will be in stock "in a few days"... but by this point, they've been saying that for the past two weeks. Meanwhile, Priceminister claims to have the disc in stock for the French fans who want to try their luck there.

UPDATE #2 (September 22, 2013): Génération Souvenirs finally has the CD in stock, after some very unexpected delivery problems: the package originally sent to them from the production factory got lost in the mail according to a recent explanation by Télé 80. Télé 80 also mentioned that they in fact ended up printing only 300 copies of each new CD. Génération Souvenirs will ship orders from Monday onwards.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ancient DiC: Watch a "Cro et Bronto" Episode Online!

Remember Cro and Bronto? The caveman and dinosaur starring in one of DiC's first series, which I wrote about back in February of 2012? Back then, I had just found out that DiC's mini-series Cro et Bronto (1980) was one of the very first series that Gadget co-creator Bruno Bianchi directed. Co-directed, that is, as Bianchi shared the director's credit with Edouard David, later one of the principal character designers (alongside Bianchi) on Inspector Gadget. My curiosity was instantly piqued when hearing about this pre-Gadget work by Bianchi and David, but there was one problem... it was simply impossible to see. I couldn't track down any episodes online, not even a clip. Nor could I find a trace of information about VHSes or any other commercial releases of the series (probably because there are none). "Cro et Bronto" became one of the most unfindable cartoons I've ever tried to find on the World Wide Web.

Until a few months ago. This May, one episode of the series finally made it online. The French animation site Osibo News did a lenghty report on the history-of-DiC book "Les séries de notre enfance", and in the process posted several bonus videos featuring early DiC shows. Among these videos: the below "Cro et Bronto" installment! The video is terribly interlaced and the audio slightly out of sync, but no matter. Press the play button below to see this (literally) ancient DiC cartoon for yourself:

As great as it feels to finally get to see the series, though, I have to admit I'm not very impressed with it. It's so clearly inspired by Hollywood's classic chase cartoons of the 40s and 50s, and it so clearly pales in comparison to those great cartoons. The most obvious link is of course to Chuck Jones' Roadrunner cartoons: Like Wile E. Coyote, the small cro-magnon Cro lives to catch an animal; like the Roadrunner, Bronto the brontosaurus is the animal that never gets caught. And of course, this 1-minute-and-20-seconds-long cartoon manages to be more predictable than any entry in the Roadrunner series. Still, there were touches and details that I liked. The design is my favorite element, as it feels so distinctly French - very much in the vein of classic, French-Belgian comic strips. Cro in particular feels like he could have stepped right out of a series like Asterix or Iznogoud. And the absent-minded, naive personality of Bronto has a certain charm. Bronto's slow-paced, bumbling walk cycle is perhaps the best piece of animation seen in the episode.

One note about Bronto's personality: In my previous post about this series, I actually wrote that Bronto "...has a crush on Cro... and never realizes that Cro is out to hurt him". I've come to realize later on that the part about "crush" is not correct. I originally came to that conclusion because of French-written information from Planète Jeunesse - information that I translated through Google Translate and then interpreted on my own where the grammar and wording made things confusing. Couple that confusion with the below screenshot that I also found on Planète Jeunesse...

...and, well, you can hopefully see where I got things mixed up. The thing is, Bronto does love Cro - but he loves him like a dog loves his master, like an ever-loyal friend. I realized this when re-reading a post about the series on the blog Le Grenier de la télé, where it's mentioned specifically that "...Bronto, naïf à faire peur, adore Cro comme un chien aime son maître...". Or in English:"...Bronto, too naive to be afraid [of Cro], adores Cro like a dog loves his master..." So there you go. Makes about 100% more sense than my "crush", right? I'm still not sure why I found it logical in any way that the dinosaur Bronto would have a romantic crush on the caveman Cro... but as I recall, that February 2012 post was written very late at night...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jean Chalopin Talks Gadget - Old and New

Old news by now, but: A July 1 article from The Globe and Mail reveals some more info on Gadget's upcoming TV series. Among other things, it talks about Teletoon Canada's hopes for reviving the inspector on their channel:

When the bumbling detective last graced the screen, cartoons were exclusively aired on Saturday mornings and remote controls were still considered optional components for most televisions. Now he’ll compete against on-demand services that serve up thousands of cartoons at any time, as well as dozens of other distractions that have viewers turning away from traditional television in favour of online alternatives. 
It’s hoped that by tapping an existing franchise that has endured decades of syndication, the show will win viewers quickly and encourage them to put down their devices and sit down in front of the television. 
“In 1981, the pace of television was very slow,” says Jean Chalopin, the show’s co-creator and a consultant on the new series. “If you did the same thing exactly now, it would be very difficult to get an audience. Kids today are used to seeing different forms of animation and moods.”
Gadget’s return, scheduled for some time within the next year, is being orchestrated by Teletoon Canada, which needs to draw more adult viewers to its subscription-based channel to attract the kind of advertiser it needs to drive profits higher. The media world is so crowded –YouTube alone has more than a billion users a month looking for fresh content – that it’s almost impossible for a conventional television station to create a new cartoon series that will deliver the ratings needed to drive up advertising revenue. 
“The challenge is drawing adults to their television in the hours before 9 p.m.,” says Alan Gregg, the director of original content at Teletoon Canada. “One idea we had was to bring back franchises that already have an adult appeal.”

I like the fact that Teletoon wants the new series to attract adults as well as kids. But in my eyes, the most interesting piece of information appears right in the middle of the above quote: Jean Chalopin, DiC's founder and Gadget's co-creator, is a consultant on the new series! The Globe and Mail piece features only snippets from the interview with Chalopin, but article writer Steve Ladurantaye has posted the complete interview transcript on his personal site! This is pretty much the only interview I've ever seen with Jean Chalopin talking at length about Gadget:

How did the original series start?
We started in Paris and ended up in Toronto. We started in Paris looking for a character to finance an animation series, we wanted it to be a toy so we could get a toy company to finance the show. But we never produced anything more than a plush toy with Gadget, it was never a success as a toy. But the idea we liked, so we took it to others. He became a mixture of other characters, the Six Million Dollar Man and Insp. Clouseau. We felt a toy was no longer essential and we found a way to finance with French television, Canadian television and some financing from the U.S. We produced 65 episodes up front, all in Canada. 
How is this different than failed reboots such as Gadget and the Gadgetinis?
We are keeping the same structure. There were a number of other things produced that more or less tried to do the same thing with additional characters. They didn’t address the continuity in a way that I would have liked to have seen. Nothing really tried to capitalize on the franchise of the character. Now we’ve taken something that is very much the same visually, but with a team of people that have the love of the original character who was born in 1981. 
How was it different to write a show back then? Do kids expect something different now?
In 1981, the pace was very slow. If you did the same thing exactly now, it would be very difficult to get an audience. Kids today are used to seeing different forms of animation and moods. So it’s the same story, with a new pace. Kids are now exposed to more things – in the 1980s you had the Flintstones and maybe some classic Tom and Jerry. Now we need to write gags for adults too – kids and adults work at different levels. If you’re 37, you’ll know the show but you also want the nine-year-old to like, so you need different jokes. We won’t be King of the Hill or Family Guy, it’s not under the belt like that, but there needs to be more gags. 
How involved will you be with the new show?
Michael Hirsh (CEO of DHX Media) is a long-time friend. He showed me some visuals he was doing in Halifax and I reacted so well. One of the greatest days of my year was flying to Halifax, everyone there is funny and really understands what they are doing. They understand what this is – at the end of the day I laughed so much that my stomach was hurting. 
Was it like that with the original series?
It was like that we when created Gadget, we were having fun. Because we were having fun it became what it is, but little by little it became like a job. 
What do you think it retained some of its popularity? It wasn’t on TV for all that long.
We were getting very good ratings. But Gadget has been a very good No. 2, it was never No. 1. For eight years, it was on Nickelodeon every day. But still, it has never achieved top ratings – always the second best. But Gadget has been on air for so long everywhere around the world because it gets decent ratings. It’s very simple because you have a character that is completely predictable. He is always nice. He’s completely idiotic, but he’s a good human being and his niece loves him. He may mistake his dog for a bad guy, but his niece loves him. The mission was always given by Chief Quimby, Gadget would take the mission and the note would explode in the face of Quimby and then Gadget would go on an adventure and in the wrong way. The mystery of whatever crime had to be resolved was solved by Penny with the assistance of Brain. He will resolve, but he’ll have no clue how he did it. 
Penny is a strong female character – that’s not all that common.
There’s a family relationship that works, he’s likeable character and behind him you have the real hero who is the young girl. In every family kids feel they know they answer but they are not listened to so perhaps there is something to that. When we created we liked the triangle. We may change that a little today, but we have not changed the relationships in this triangle. We need more gags, yes, much more gags because the pace before was very slow and we didn’t have much money when we first produced the show. It was the 1980s, kids of today and adults have a very high demand for fun and pace.

The interview is a bit short, but still very interesting. I love the part about how DiC originally wanted Gadget to be a toy franchise, but then went in the opposite direction and produced the series because they liked the idea and wanted to have fun with it. Of course toys were produced when the show first came out, but the toys were never the driving force (which I'm glad for), and never caught on the way the TV series did.
   To that end, Chalopin's comment abot Gadget being "a very good No. 2" on Nickelodeon serves as a sober reminder of the kind of popularity the show has enjoyed over the years. Inspector Gadget was a hit when it first came out, and continues to get good ratings in reruns, but it never reached the commercial heights of, say, the Scooby-Doo franchise.

I was a bit surpriced by Chalopin's descriptions of earlier (relatively unsuccessful) reboots, where the one example mentioned by the interviewer is Gadget and the Gadgetinis. As Jean says, "There were a number of other things produced that more or less tried to do the same thing with additional characters. They didn’t address the continuity in a way that I would have liked to have seen. Nothing really tried to capitalize on the franchise of the character."
   Personally, I very much agree with this. Later reboots and spinoffs like Gadget Boy and Gadget and the Gadgetinis never lived up to the original series, and many of them were impressively bad. But the strange thing here is that Chalopin himself was very much involved with Gadgetinis. He wrote or co-wrote every episode, and is even credited on-screen as having created the Gadgetinis series. So, is he a) talking about every reboot attempt besides Gadgetinis, or is he b) unhappy with the Gadgetinis series in retrospect? Was he perhaps not allowed to do some of the things he wanted on that project? I believe the Gadgetinis series was in development for some time before Chalopin got into it (it was called G.I. Gadget at one point), so maybe Chalopin's wishes for the series had to be compromised to fit with concepts already created.

In a few cases, it feels like Chalopin isn't really answering the interviewer's questions, but he still gives us interesting information. For instance, we only get vague details about exactly how involved he is with the new show (he apparently visits the crew in Halifax from time to time), but at the same time we learn that Michael Hirsh is one of the people in charge, and that Chalopin has great confidence in the crew. Later on, the interviewer points out that Penny is a "strong female character". I suspect that he was looking for a comment about female heroes in cartoons, and about how this was somewhat unique at the time. Instead, Chalopin talks about Penny's role in the family triangle, and likens the appeal of her character to how " every family kids feel they know the answer but they are not listened to". There is definitely something there. Personally, though, I think Penny being a young girl - rather than a young boy - made a big difference to the show. To me, it makes both her battle with M.A.D and her relationship with Gadget more interesting and endearing. Penny gives the show more heart, more charm. Plus, portraying a little girl as a brilliant computer whiz is refreshing in itself, and makes the contrast between her and Gadget even stronger. (And who cares how unlikely it is? It's cool!)

At any rate, I'm glad to hear Chalopin say that they "...have not changed the relationships in this triangle [between Gadget, Penny and Brain]" in the new series - and I'm curious how Penny's new role as an inspector-in-training will be integrated into that structure. It sounds more and more like this new show will indeed try to work in the same continuity as the 1983 series.

P.S.: Admittedly, the fact that Chalopin is involved with the reboot was known before this article. I have been following the developments of the new season of Chalopin's famous series "The Mysterious Cities of Gold" for a long time now... and back in November of last year, a new biography appeared on where it was mentioned that Chalopin "...still devotes time and a large part of his life to series such as The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Inspector Gadget and other new creative projects." (Via Google Translate from the French sentence, "Malgré tout il garde toujours du temps et une large place dans sa vie pour des séries telles que les Mystérieuses Cités d'Or, Inspecteur Gadget et autres nouveaux projets créatifs.")
   While the biography didn't specify exactly which Inspector Gadget project Jean was devoting time to, I felt pretty certain even back in November that it had to be the new TV series. Also, a French TV interview with Jean, which originally appeared on Youtube back in December of 2012, suggested the same thing. I don't understand French, but I noticed that, at about 5:25 in the video, the narrator actually mentions "Reboot du Gadget". So Chalopin has been involved with the reboot for some time now. Makes sense, of course, considering that the series has been in pre-production at least since the start of 2012.