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:

...as 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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Behind-The-Scenes Article on Inspector Gadget's Reboot

Building up to the new series' American Netflix launch this Friday, Esquire just published a piece going behind the scenes of the show, with interview quotes from (among others) original co-creator Jean Chalopin and supervising producer Phillip Stamp. Right now, the piece is only available through Google Cache for whatever reason. (Though I'm noticing that its stated publication time is March 25 at 9 AM, a point in time which has not actually occured yet. Could this be a glimpse into THE FUTURE??!)

[UPDATE (March 26): The article is now up on esquire.com again. I''m guessing it was mistakenly published a few hours too early the first time around.]

I don't agree with all the points that article writer Jill Krasny makes. Certainly not with the implication that Andy Heyward not being involved might be reason to worry about the new series -- just look at all the Heyward-produced Gadget reboots from the 90s and 2000s. 'NUFF SAID. I also, at times, get the feeling that the writer overstates Jean Chalopin's involvement just a little. For instance, when she writes, "...he turned to 3D animation. He also cut the 24-minute plots down to two shorts  that clock in at 11 minutes each...", it sounds like "he" is referring to Chalopin. I doubt that either of those decisions were made first and foremost by Chalopin, who was involved not as a producer or an executive but as a consultant. (Oh, and by the way: the original series is not 35 years old yet.)

Still, the piece does make for quite interesting reading, delving into things like the faster storytelling pace and the reasoning behind a new character like Talon. Here it is in its entirety:


MAR 25, 2015 @ 9:00 AM

How Inspector Gadget Was Remade for a New Generation

Reviving a classic cartoon for the digital era isn't easy.


When Netflix announced it was adding Inspector Gadget to its ever-expanding roster of kids' shows last month, fans of a certain age got very nostalgic. Among the cartoons Millennials were raised on, hardly any was more beloved than the bumbling bionic Gadget.

But Netflix isn't bringing the old Gadget back. And neither is the show's production company, DIC Entertainment, which was acquired by Cookie Jar Group in 2008 and ultimately sold to Canada's DHX Media four years later.

The new DHX-produced series, which premieres on March 27, now looks drastically different thanks to a CGI facelift, new characters, and—sigh—a new theme song. Question is, will modernizing a well-known character like Gadget fall flat? And with Andy Heyward, one of the show's three original creators out (Bruno Bianchi passed away in 2011), can co-creator Jean Chalopin retain its old sensibility?

Steven DeNure, president and COO of DHX Media, was thrilled to acquire the rights to Gadget in 2012. But he worried the old Gadget wouldn't appeal to its target audience of young children.

For starters, the pacing was painfully slow. Kids today are used to fast-moving commercials, quick cuts, and a thing called the Internet. (Kids in the '80s, it seems, had more patience.) "If you do a show that's slow-moving today, you lose the attention of your audience," Chalopin says, "so we had to accelerate the pace."

To do so, he turned to 3D animation. He also cut the 24-minute plots down to two shorts that clock in at 11 minutes each.

In doing visual research, Phillip Stamp, vice president of DHX Media and head of the Halifax studio where the new Gadget was made, found an "infinite supply of fan art of Gadget, Penny, and Brain," from anime styles to renderings of their old look, suggesting fans would be open to changes. However, in order to retain the spirit of the original series, many aspects were kept the same. In the remake Gadget still wears his trench coat and cap, while Penny, always in pig tails, still dresses casually, albeit now in a hoodie.

Their personalities are mostly what you remember, too. "If [Gadget] is going to get a tissue or sneeze or something like that, he's not going to use one of his hands but the hand that comes out of his hat," Stamp says. Gadget remains as clueless as ever, and Penny remains just as brainy.

At table reads "Gadget would do something and Brain would react, and one of the directors would say, 'Wouldn't Brain be running alongside him trying to make sure he doesn't hurt himself or anyone else?'" Stamp says. "We worked hard to preserve those elements of the original."

Still, this being a revival of a 35-year-old series and all, changes had to be made. Gadget's antagonist Dr. Claw is now more kooky in his old age. And Penny has a whole lot more attitude. "We felt that these were natural evolutions of both the style of storytelling, and also just a natural evolution of what you'd find with the characters," Stamp says. "We also did have to be a little courageous and step out and put our mark on it."

"What we wanted to do was make Penny a little older," says Chalopin, who estimates she was between 10 and 12 before and is now in her mid-teens. She also has a new love interest: Dr. Claw's spiky-haired nephew, Talon. "He's more of a kid of today," Chalopin says. He makes a great counterpart to Penny with his good looks and his charm.

Speaking of Penny, her '80s technology needed an upgrade. "Penny had a smartphone way before it existed," Chalopin says, so that wouldn't impress children today. To get around the problem, he created "holographic protection" for Brain and a computer that appears out of thin air when Penny needs it.

Asked how the process of making the cartoon today differs from the past, Chalopin is quick to say everything's easier, thanks to technological advances in animation. "Jean loved that everyone was under one roof," says DHX president DeNure, who agrees the "immediacy of feedback and ability to adjust and change things as you're working in a 3D world and environment" has been a game-changer.

But financing remains an uphill battle. Much of what's selected today, at least for content streaming services like Netflix, must not only reach a broad group of viewers but transcend countries and age groups as well. As Erik Barmack, Netflix's vice president of global content for kids, says, "The things we look for in general is if the shows transcend countries, have a new story to be told, or a new way of reimagining characters." Gadget, he says, ticks off all three criteria.

As an older Millennial who grew up on Gadget, I'll be the first to admit I was skeptical, not just of the remake but of its appeal. Watching the show is like being on speed, with gags every second and crazy-fast dialogue. More than once I felt my age and had to go back just to catch what I'd missed.

But despite all the changes—of which there are plenty—there was one thing that stayed the same for me. The triangle of Gadget, Penny, and Brain was as strong and adorable as ever. I found myself rooting for all of them, laughing along as Gadget gave them more trouble. It reminded me of the old times I cherished. And I was happy to have my friends back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Little Girl Reviews The New Inspector Gadget Series

Want to know what kids of today think about the new Gadget? Here's a review by one of them, Sophie of Kidzcoolit.com - and she really, really loves it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The New Gadget Series Comes to DVD in Australia on April 2, 2015

Here's a bit of news I hadn't expected so soon - the first home video release!

I guess this sorta makes sense considering that Australia was one of the very first countries to air the reboot series, from January 5 (only France seems to have started regular broadcast earlier). Anyway: Season 1, Volume 1 - on Region 4 PAL DVD - can currently be pre-ordered from this Ebay seller, as well as from the Australian retailer DVD Warehouse. While it doesn't say anywhere on the above cover, both the Ebay listing and DVD Warehouse includes "Inspector Gadget 2.0" in the DVD's title, probably to separate it from the 1983 series in searches.

Bizarrely enough, this release has managed to get a PG rating (Parental Guidance) for "Mild animated violence". I own several Australian DVD releases of the original Inspector Gadget series, and they have always, without exception, been rated G (General). I can't imagine that the new series contains more "animated violence" than the old show... frankly, the opposite seems more likely. (That said, the 2007 DVD release of "The Original Series - Box Set 3", from Magna Pacific, did censor select scenes in four episodes.)

The Ebay listing doesn't offer much info, though it states 1 disc as the contents. DVD Warehouse provides the full name of the distributor: Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia. We'll probably have to wait a bit longer to find out how many episodes are included. Myself, though, I think I'll stick it out for a Blu-ray release.