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.


  1. wow! interesting to see these early sketches of the series! what a fantastic gift! is interesting to see how Jean Chalopin made ​​the animated lines for the production of the series, is very interesting I never thought one tooth Gadget! package is a fantastic collection, with Jean Chalopin a person of French origin surprises me that some leaves are the names of the characters in English when I suppose he would think the names in French for the series, it's great to see that after 30 or 31 years since the production of the series!, but surely these sketches were done after removing the mustache denuevo the inspector gadget

    thank you very much!

    1. Thanks for commenting, I'm glad you liked the birthday tribute! :) It was a pleasure for me to share these drawings. :) I don't think Jean Chalopin himself drew these model sheets, though. Bruno Bianchi was in charge of the visual development of the series, so I suspect he worked out these sketches and cleanups together with the four other French character designers credited for season 1: Edouard David, Christian Choquet, Jean Barbaud and Gilles Astorg.

      Also, I don't think this necessarily proves anything about whether the characters' names were conceived in English or French first. Yes, Jean Chalopin is a Frenchman, but when DiC developed and produced the Inspector Gadget series, they were conciously trying to break into the American market. They even intended it for American broadcast from the beginning (the show premiered in the United States first). And co-creator Andy Heyward, who came up with the initial idea, was an American. As such, I think it's more than possible that DiC gave the characters English names first, and then afterwards thought up the French names. I know, at least, that the episodes were written and voice-recorded in English first, then dubbed into French. To my knowledge, even the pilot episode was recorded in English first (and I believe only the syndicated version, where Gadget's mustache is explained in a redub by Frank Welker, was dubbed into French).

      And yes, for the most part, these sheets were obviously produced after Gadget's mustache had been removed. Still, I think traces of the mustache can be seen in some of the drawings, signaling that it may have been removed as an afterthought. Check out the "Gadget mouth chart", for instance. There are several black dots and lines under Gadget's nose, particularly in the drawing of the "D" mouth shape, where we can almost see the contours of the old mustache. I get the feeling that the mustache was whited out from these drawings to update the model sheet, but they were not entirely successful in removing all the lines.

      For the record, the Gadget teeth appears in only one episode, "Prince of the Gypsies". I love this gadget... it's just brilliantly idiotic. ;)

    2. Amazing! I am so pleased to see this amazing artwork. Thank you so much Mesterius for this amazing site. Sorry to keep saying amazing all the time, but come on this stuff is just totally amazing. I have always loved the drawing style of the series so much. I found Brian LeMay's site about 8 years ago and I got really excited about that. It always bugs me how DVD cover artwork almost always features a totally different drawing style (usually more "cartoony"). Yay! Gadget is the man! (Well, I suppose Penny and Brain are the man, technically) :) Lee James

    3. Lee James: Thanks for your passionate comments, and may I add, I'm really sorry for replying back to you so late! (I think I kept postponing it because I wanted to take the time to write proper, full replies. Typical me, really.) I'm glad you're enjoying the site and this post in particular. To me, this is one of the most special posts I've done, just because I could get to show people all these wonderful, rare drawings. I agree, I'm totally in love with the design style of the show -- both the main characters designed by Bruno Bianchi and his French team and all the supporting characters designed by Brian Lemay at Nelvana, Canada. Yes, Brian's site is fantastic. He obviously loved working on the show. And your comment about the DVD cover artwork really strikes a chord with me -- I think the artwork for almost all of the show's DVD releases looks terrible. "Too cartoony" is one way of putting it... "Too off-model" and "Too badly drawn" also comes to mind. ;) The one exception is the artwork for the French DVDs from IDP Home Video - those drawings really captured the style of the show beautifully. :) (I assume you've been seeing them around the net.) Thanks again for the comments and I hope to see you on the site again.

  2. Funny and great!!

    I also own some sketches of Inspector gadget (10 exactly...) (bought 8 years ago...) ...i think i'll sell them...if maybe you're interested...i'll try to find your mail...

    bests regards...

    1. Not sure if I'm interested, I'll have to see the sketches first and get to know a little more about them. I haven't made my e-mail address public, but, hmmm... have you got a YouTube account? If so, how about you send me a private message via YouTube and we take it from there?

  3. What a great collection, thanks for posting, Mesterius!

  4. I seem to recall the Telecom unit that animated the first act of "A Clear Case" and the second acts of "Sleeping Gas" and "Weather in Tibet" seemed the closest to following the original model sheets. They also apparently animated the entire "dynamite torch" scene in the pilot. (Any others I missed?) Brain also closely resembled those model sheets too in this animation style.