Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspector Gadget's Australian Soundtrack CD from 1995

Yes, really. Take a look below at what is probably the rarest Inspector Gadget soundtrack edition of all time: an official, 1995 CD reissue of ABC Records' 1986 LP, "Inspector Gadget - The Music"!

I actually bought this many months ago, but only now have I found the time to write a proper blog post about it. I know what you're thinking: how can this possibly be real? But bear with me and let me explain. I didn't believe it at first, either.

When I first spotted this CD on Ebay (sometimes last October), I was certain that it was simply a bootleg rip of the Australian LP. The cover looked completely homemade - as if someone had just snapped a crappy photo of the LP art and slammed it on a CD cover. Plus, I had never even heard of a 1995 CD reissue of the Australian LP, and could find virtually no proof of its existence online. (I did find one vague clue, but not enough to fully convince me of anything.) How could this CD exist when nobody had ever heard about it?

I had to contact the Ebay seller and persuade him to send me pictures of the back cover and interiors before I could even think of believing that this CD was real. But when he did send those pictures, my scepticism started to wane. The CD was looking more and more official.

Sure, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's music division had changed its name from ABC Records to ABC Music since the original LP. But it was obviously the same company... and the copyright information seemed very legit.

For the record, all the photos you see in this post were taken by me. But even the lower-resolution photos from the Ebay seller showed off some very official-looking details... which convinced me, despite still being slightly sceptical, to take a chance and buy the CD. (Don't even ask me how much I paid for it!)

Thankfully, all my suspicions were thrown aside when the CD arrived in the mail. The cover still looked awful, of course. Not only is it a terrible drawing, but the low resolution of the CD cover looked even worse in real life than on the seller's pictures. However... when I popped the disc into my player and started listening, I discovered something much more important: the music itself sounded fantastic. The tracks on this CD were not ripped from an old LP. The tracks on this CD were original recordings, taken directly from Shuki Levy's master tapes - or at least from top-notch copies of them. And they sounded cleaner and clearer than I had ever heard them before.

And realizing that, something else suddenly dawned on me.

Remember last summer when Télé 80 announced that they had 'found much of the missing Gadget music' and were planning a second CD? In the year that's passed since, they have stated several times that their new Gadget CD is sourced from "masters". Don't bother looking for those statements on their site, by the way... Télé 80 is still in the habit of inexplicably deleting Facebook posts. Below is a snapshot of a now-deleted thread from March 11. (At the time, the upgraded Gadget CD was scheduled for May 27; it was later pushed back to September.)

As we can see, Télé 80 clearly states that the tracks on their new CD are sourced from "Masters". I tried asking if this was true of all the tracks, but they never answered that question. They have not revealed anything about where they found those master tapes, either. But after I got hold of the 1995 Australian CD, it all made sense to me. They got the masters from ABC Music.

Think about it: ABC preserved the master tapes used for their soundtrack edition during the nine years that passed from the 1986 LP until the 1995 CD. Most likely, they have preserved those masters to this very day... and I suspect that, when Télé 80 started doing research for their second Gadget CD last year, it likely didn't take them long to hear about the 1986 LP (which has been listed on Discogs for years) and then get in touch with ABC Music. So, by pure coincidence - because ABC Records happened to take better care of its master material than Saban Records - 16 tracks from Levy and Saban's soundtrack survive on master tapes today!

I've been annoyed before that the Australian soundtrack didn't include more unique background music that was not already on the French LP.  I still am... but now that I know (or at least feel reasonably certain) that these tracks survive on masters today thanks to the Australian soundtrack, the double-dips feel a bit more justified. Of the 16 tracks on ABC's edition, 12 are background music cues; among them awesome compositions like "Mad Art Museum", "Gadget in Trouble", "Sophisticated Gadget", "Ghosts"... just to mention some of my personal favorites.

And here's what I've been wanting to get at all along: If my assumptions are correct, then I'd say there is even more reason to be excited for the new and upgraded Télé 80 CD. Because those specific, 16 tracks - sourced from the ABC masters - ought to sound spectacular. Heck, they might even sound more spectacular on a CD produced in 2013 than on ABC's CD from 1995... although they already sound great there.
   (It probably also means that most of the other 14 tracks on Télé 80's new CD are remastered from vinyls. Not that this is such a bad thing, either, if the job is well done. I think almost all of the Générikids track excerpts sound very good, including the tracks that would logically be vinyl-sourced, like "Gadget on Mars", "Gadget in Japan", "Pharaohs" etc. Plus, I suspect that track 27, "Inspector Gadget (Opening TV)", is also from a master tape, as Shuki Levy has it up on his site. But aside from that, I'd expect the absolutely best-sounding tracks to be the ones that were released on the Australian edition.)

Regarding the 16 Australian tracks: I should point out, for the sake of accuracy, that the Australian track list contains a few title mistakes. Track 6, strangely titled "Inspector Gadget Theme", is actually the fantastic "Chocolate Factory". And "Max's Theme" is not a Maxwell Smart reference, just a clumsy misspelling of "Mad's Theme" (a different orchestration than the one on the French LP, as I mention elsewhere). And here is proof that my Australian CD is as straight a reissue as they come: Not only does it have the exact same content, it even reproduces the track list errors from the original LP - which I also have in my collection. Let's make a quick comparison:

The mistitled track 6 is actually not listed on the LP's back cover (even though it's on Side 1)...

...but it is listed on the LP's label (below). I have a feeling that perhaps Saban forgot to include "Chocolate Factory" in the track list that they provided to ABC... and then later on, some ABC employee discovered that Side 1 included one more track after "Kingdom", and decided to just call it "Inspector Gadget Theme", not knowing its real title was "Chocolate Factory". Just a theory, of course, but it might explain why track 6 is listed on the label, but not on the back cover.

I bought the Australian vinyl early in 2012, long before I knew about the CD reissue. At the time, my plan was to digitalise the LP and share its unique tracks online, as I had no hope that anyone would bother to re-release the music officially. But then I heard about Télé 80's upcoming CD project (the first CD, to be exact) and put my own plans on hold. Which is still the case now. Télé 80's new CD starts shipping from Amazon today, and there's nothing I want more than to see this great music spread legally on a good CD edition. (Which it promises to be, I think - I've already ordered my copy.) Therefore, as tempting as it is, I will not be sharing anything from my "Inspector Gadget - The Music" CD today...

.....ohh, who am I kidding?? I can't resist sharing just a couple of tracks with you! Consider this a teaser for what you'll very likely be getting on the new Télé 80 CD. Here's a track that can be heard on both the French LP and the Australian LP/CD, the eerily beautiful "Ghosts". (Compare with a fan rip from the 1983 French LP here.)

And below is one of the rarer tracks released only on the Australian soundtrack, "Italian Gadget". I'm only sharing the first half of this one, though... you'll have to buy the new CD to get the rest (as well as the instrumental "Brain The Dog", the alternative "Mad's Theme", etc...).

I'm hoping these excerpts give you an idea of the CD's sound quality. At least in my ears, the CD version of "Ghosts" sounds far better than the LP-ripped version... which should bode well for Télé 80's edition.

All that being said, the 1995 Australian CD is still shrouded in mystery. Why is it so unknown compared to the Australian LP? As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I did find one trace of the CD's existence on the site Australian Television Memorabilia, in the soundtrack section for the ABC TV series Swap Shop. Under a listing for Swap Shop's 1989 LP soundtrack, it says: "(Re-issued in 1995 in a double CD pack with “INSPECTOR GADGET”)." The year of release fits, as does the publisher, ABC. I contacted the administrator of the site, but he didn't know anything more about the Gadget CD than what was posted online. Personally, I'm thinking that perhaps this double pack reissue of both Swap Shop and Gadget was a very limited one. The fact that the two CDs were a combined reissue might indicate that it wasn't a particularly widespread release, just two old children's TV soundtracks bundled together in a CD package for the few kids/parents who might want them (the "ABC for kids" logo also seems like a hint in this direction). This is only speculation, though. Maybe we'll dig up some facts in the future.

Learning about this CD's existence has been a fascinating experience. It reminded me that the internet doesn't know everything. But now, at least, the internet knows a little more.

Here are some high-res scans of the CD's cover art, label and booklet to round off...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Inspector Gadget's Original Model Sheets (A 30th Anniversary Tribute)

As promised, here's the special birthday surprice that I was talking about in my previous post: A collection of high-resolution, original model sheets from the 1983 series!

I aquired these a few months ago as part of a package that I'll tell you more about later. I think the majority of these drawings have never been released on the web before... or any other place, for that matter. Some of them were included on Shout! factory's 2006 DVD set (which also has some sheets that my collection lacks), but those were in low resolution and often edited: for whatever reason, the DVD presentation removed any visual sign of the show's French or Japanese production origins. The great thing about the package I bought is that it includes many model sheets both in their cleaned-up versions and in their original sketch form, often with French notes and names on the sketches! (Two of the sheets also have some Japanese notes for the overseas animation crews.) Obviously, the model sheets were sketched in DiC's French headquarters, then traced for the final, English-language versions to be used by Nelvana's crew in Canada. In the cases where a sketched model sheet closely resembles a cleaned-up sheet, I'll try to present the sketch together with the clean-up. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway - here's to you, Gadget. Let's enjoy this rare artwork in celebration of one of the quirkiest, most entertaining and most charming television cartoons ever.

I love, love, LOVE these sketches! So many great expressions!

Above is a size comparison guide for the main characters. Notice that, with the exception of Gadget, all the characters are listed with Japanese names. Not to mention that Gadget has a small mustache, indicating that this sheet was drawn early on in the production of the regular series. (The same mustache can be seen in early model sheets by Nelvana character designer Brian Lemay, who used Gadget as a size guide when designing M.A.D. agents etc.)

This mouth chart for Gadget was one of the sheets included on Shout! factory's DVD set,
but without the Japanese name at the top.

But now, let's look at some gadgets! Many of them in sketch form with French descriptions...

Arguably the best gadget ever: The Gadget Teeth!

And in the end, some more clean character sheets...

Inspector Gadget, Penny and Brain - clean model sheet

Inspector Gadget, Penny and Brain - PMS sheet
The above PMS sheet is interesting: the color codes we see here actually reveal the exact, original colors that DiC intended for Gadget, Penny and Brain.

Inspector Gadget with an unusually small copter

The package also contained a few logo sheets. This is not my favorite version of the logo, admittedly. It's not the logo seen on-screen in the series, but rather the logo that has been used on promotional material in the U.S. pretty much since the show started in 1983. (And as we can see above, it was also used on the show's cleaned-up model sheets.) Even this logo gets a PMS guide.

The Big 30th

Happy 30th, Gadget.

30 years ago today, on the Monday that was September 12 of 1983, the first Inspector Gadget episode aired on syndicated television in the U.S.

That is, if we are to believe the current information on Wikipedia.

For many years, pretty much all online episode guides for Gadget listed September 10, 1983 (a Saturday) as the date of the show's first airing. These episode guides also claimed that the first season of 65 episodes had originally aired weekly, every Saturday morning, from September of 1983 all the way through November of 1984. Only fairly recently (sometimes during the last couple of years, I believe) have these old dates been switched on Wikipedia with the dates currently listed: September 12 as the start and December 9, 1983 as the end of season 1's first airing. and a bunch of other sites still use the weekly dates starting with September 10.

This is not to say the new Wikipedia dates are wrong, though. I believe in fact that the opposite is more likely. Inspector Gadget (along with He-Man and The Masters of the Universe) was one of the first television cartoons produced directly for syndication, as a so-called "daily strip". In other words, it originally aired in daily installments, to my knowledge every afternoon Monday through Friday. This is why people growing up with the show in its original airing have memories of running home from school to catch the latest episode. And it's also why the first season has a total of 65 episodes, as that number of half-hours was the requirement for first-run syndication.

So all in all, I'm willing to support Wikipedia's latest info as far as the September 12 date goes. But I wanted to point out the conflicting episode guides just as a reminder that September 12 might not be 100% accurate, either. (I don't really know where the information about September 10 or 12 originated in the first place.) Still, as September 12 seems much more likely than the September 10 alternative, I'm going to consider today the official anniversary date.

By the way, Wikipedia's claim that "Winter Olympics" was the first episode to air on that September day in 1983 is nonsense. I know Wikipedia has said so forever, and so has many other sources, including UAV's 2004 DVD edition, but that doesn't make it true. It's a case of wrong information that has been copied over and over again. The pilot episode did air on its own sometimes in 1982, to test the waters; but when the full-fledged series debuted in the fall of 1983, "Monster Lake" was the episode that introduced the show to viewers. The pilot was added to the mix only at the very end of season one's original airing, as episode 65. (The specific version that aired then - today out of circulation - can be seen here. Check 02:35 for the redubbed clip where Gadget's mustache is explained to viewers already familiar with the other 64 episodes of season 1.) So, if we are to celebrate the airing of one specific episode on this anniversary date, that episode is "Monster Lake".

But we are of course not only celebrating "Monster Lake" today. We're celebrating the entire Inspector Gadget series and its history. And to that end... here's what I've been wanting to tell you during this entire post: I have something special to share with you today. Check back here a little later for an exclusive birthday surprice. I think you'll like it.