Sunday, July 20, 2014

Canadian Actor Derek McGrath Voicing Chief Quimby In The New Gadget Series

We know at last one of the new show's new voice actors.

Derek McGrath, a prolific Canadian actor, voice actor, song writer etc., is the voice of Chief Quimby in the new series. Quoting a July 9 article from My Kawartha:

Mr. McGrath has been acting for almost 50 years - on stage, on the radio, on television and in the movies - and has written more than 100 songs. He has worked with everyone from Jack Lemmon to Billy Ray Cyrus. More recently, he provided a voice over for Mike Crosmaz’s independent zombie film, Walk With Me, and just wrapped up work as Chief Quimby on the reboot of the Inspector Gadget cartoon.

You can read more about McGrath's long and productive career by clicking this link. Here, however, I'd like to focus on (natch) the Gadget-related aspects. First, regarding the production timeline of the new show, the above statement tells us that voice recording has finished - definitely for McGrath in the role of Quimby, and likely for the entire cast. This, in effect, should mean that all the episodes have both been written and voice-recorded by this point. And of course, we already know that the show is well into animation.

But back to Quimby's voice. Personally, I really hope Mr. McGrath can portray Quimby with the same charm and personality that the character had back in season 1 of the original series, as played by another Canadian, Nelvana voice artist Dan Hennessey. (Admittedly, that appeal also had a lot to do with how Quimby was written: I think that in the original season 1, despite his occacional frustrations with Gadget, he was portrayed as a more charming and sympathetic straight man than in any later versions.) I'm not familiar with McGrath's work and have no clear expectations of how he will sound as Quimby... but here's a rather charming video interview from last year which lets us hear his natural voice:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The DiC Exposition (Paris, April 25 - May 4, 2015)

Okay, so I'm not a fan of EVERY DiC series from the 80s by a long shot, but damn, does this look cool nonetheless...

The above poster advertises for an art exposition of classic DiC series set to happen in Paris from April 25 to May 4, 2015. From what I understand, it's being arranged by Maroin Eluasti and Nordine Zemrak, the authors of the comprehensive, French-language DiC history book "Les séries de notre enfance". That book contained a ton of great-looking production art from DiC series of the 80s (DiC's golden age to many, including me) - and judging by this comment from the book's Facebook site, so will "DiC - l'exposition":

Elle aura lieu principalement à Paris du 25 avril 2015 au 4 mai 2015 . il y aura enormément de produits dérivés ainsi que Des cellulos, story board, dessins préparatoires, photos d' époques, journaux, magazines et de très belles surprises

And then Google Translate's English version:

It will take place mainly in Paris from 25 April 2015 to 4 May 2015. there will be a lot of merchandise as well as cels, storyboards, preparatory drawings, photos of the era, newspapers, magazines and beautiful surprises.

Sounds very cool. I wouldn't be surpriced if a lot of the drawings, storyboards, cels etc. which didn't make it into the book will be on magnificent display here. Plus, if the book's focus is anything to go by, I'd expect a LOT of artwork from the early shows such as Ulysses 31, Cities of Gold, Inspector Gadget, The Littles, Heathcliff (as well as selections from the shows of the second half of the 80s, up until the point when Jean Chalopin left the company).

Oh, and did you notice that "Entrée gratuite" near the bottom of the poster? Free entry! This really is sounding better and better.

The authours promise more news on Facebook soon, and are encouraging fans to make suggestions for what they want to see in the exposition. I doubt I'll be updating regularly here about the developments, so if you want day-to-day news, head over to Facebook and follow their site.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chief Quimby's New Series Design Revealed (And More)!

Via the French news site our first look at the redesigned Chief Qumby!

...and with this, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief. You see, for over a year now, a question had been percolating in the back of my mind: would Chief Quimby be part of the new show? I always assumed he would, but then again, none of the synopses or press statements have even mentioned him up to this point. So the above visual certainly feels reassuring. And I think Quimby looks pretty good here, too. It is a bit odd to see him with glasses, and I miss the pipe in his mouth - will he be smoking at all? - but his original facial design seems to lend itself nicely to CGI. In fact, this redesign seems more faithful to the original facial shape than for any of the other characters. If his (season 1) personality is kept, and if the disguises and self-exploding messages are included at the start of every single episode, I think I'll be good!

(And seriously, how could the self-exploding message NOT be included? It's one of the most brilliant running gags ever conceived for a cartoon.)

On a similar note, I love Penny in the new picture above. That previously revealed image looked fine, but... here she just seems much more alive, and truly looks and feels like Penny. (Gadget, meanwhile, looks a bit generic.) Also, what's that thing floating in mid-air that Penny is controlling with her hands? A hologram? Some kind of modern-day replacement for the computer book? Man... by this point, each new image just makes me want to see more.

Now for something that might be a slight disappointment, though. The French article with the picture also contained some fresh information about the new series which - if correct - contradicts some of the previously revealed details. Let's have a look via Google Translate (and my own grammar tweaking)...

"Eh la qui va là ? Inspecteur Gadget ! Eh la ça va pas ? Ouh ouh". [French theme song lyrics.] The unforgettable theme song of "Inspector Gadget" will soon return to echo on France 3. The public broadcaster has pre-purchased from the Canadian production company DHX Media the rights to a new version of the cartoon series about the adventures of the famous inspector who delighted children in the 80s.
In 2015, the bumbling police character, assisted by the young Sophie [Penny] and dog Finot [Brain], will try to capture a new generation of children. For this, the inspector created in 1983 by Bruno Bianchi, Andy Heyward and Jean Chalopin will be revised and updated in 3D. Gadgets coming out of his trenchcoat will themselves also be updated for the twenty-first century. In short, his world will be upgraded but the plot of the series will not be changed. 
This new series of 52 episodes of 11 minutes will be delivered in June 2015 by the Canadian production but it will take a few months to France 3 for the translation, dubbing and production of a less dated theme song. The channel should therefore not broadcast "Inspector Gadget" 2.0 before fall 2015. 

So, okay... IF this new info is accurate, then we have some serious contradictions on our hands. Instead of Boomerang France, as we learned from a Turner press release back in February, the series is now apparently set to air on the public channel France 3. Note also that the planned French premiere time is no longer November 2014, but fall 2015 (!). To be specific, June 2015 is the tentative release time for Canada and fall 2015 for France. Considering the announcements we got half a year ago, I'm really surpriced to hear now that the series will not be ready for a Canadian premiere until the summer of 2015. Seriously, this feels like a major postponement.

And then, the part I feel particularly (potentially) disappointed by: The series will apparently consist of 52 episodes á 11 minutes, rather than 26 episodes á 22 minutes. As you might remember, the show presentation in DHX's distribution catalogue from January was the first source to state that 26 x 22 minutes would be the format for the new series. Back then, I expressed hope that this meant each episode would be 22 minutes long. But if this new French article is accurate -- apparently not. This is not necessarily a contradiction to DHX's distribution catalogue. In many cases, TV shows consisting of 11-minute episodes are still produced in a half-hour format, a 22-minute package containing 2 episodes (making sales and distibution deals easier, I imagine). That seems to be the case here. However, it IS definitely a change from the June 2013 press release, where the format was stated to be 26 x 11 minutes.

I've already written a little here about why I feel sceptical towards an 11-minute format. It's not that the series can't possibly work with this shorter run time - that depends on the execution. But I've kind of been hoping that this new show will be just slightly darker than the original, and have a little more room for character development and plot continuity... and that, to me, seems hard to cram into a mere 11 minutes. I hope the writers are at least given the freedom to do an occacional, full 22 minute episode if the plot requires it (this should be doable as long as the series is produced in a half-hour format anyway). Shows like Phineas and Ferb work well like that.

(Thanks to Nbu for the picture link.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Photos of the DHX Crew Animating Gadget

The photo shoot from DHX Halifax continues! This time via the Twitter account of politician Geoff Regan (the husband of Kelly Regan, who tweeted the first photo I showcased). What's up with DHX and all these politicians? Well, the photos circulating around Twitter all seem to stem from an 'open house' tour DHX arranged on the evening of June 24, the day they officially opened their new and larger Halifax studio offices. Here are Geoff's Gadget-related photos:

The original Twitter caption for this one included a little tidbit about the production process:
"Creating animated comedy takes time. A week's work = 40 seconds of a show."

I'm intrigued by these shots of Penny and Gadget (edit: and apparently also Brain in the back seat) inside a car. Is it supposed to be new version of the Gadget Mobile? Also, might this be an example of Penny and Gadget officially working together on a case (since she's an inspector/agent-in-training in the new series)?...

Not much Gadget here, but I believe we might be seeing
an Inspector Gadget model sheet on the wall
right above those computer screens...

And finally, via the Twitter of PR Professional Michelle Crosby, another photo of Len animating on that shot we've already seen. This time around, we see a little more of the on-screen action. Is that possibly Brain in the edge of the left-hand screen, being chased by Gadget?

Thanks to Cortoony for the photo links!

Looking Over the Shoulder of Inspector Gadget Animator Len

Look look look! HE'S ANIMATING!

After just discovering the new series designs of Penny and Brain, here we have our very first behind-the-scenes glimpse of the CGI animation process. It's pretty fresh, too: The photo was posted to the the Twitter account of a lady named Kelly Regan three days ago, on June 24, with the caption, "Len is animating Inspector Gadget here at DHX Media." (Meaning specifically DHX Halifax.) Adding to that, I think we can also glimpse the storyboard Len is working from right underneath his computer screen. I kinda like that frame of Gadget; it seems to be a slapstick-based shot. One detail which seems a bit weird: there's apparently a lot of space between his eyes and hat. Then again, this might be an extreme moment.

How long has the series been in animation? I'm not sure exactly, but I would guess at least for a couple of months. I learned the name of another animator, Evan Madinsky, through this article on DHX, and Evan's LinkedIn profile tells me that he started out on the show as a layout artist in January but has also been animating since April. So that should give an indication of the production process, though it doesn't necessarily tell us exactly when animation for the series (in general) started.

(I must admit I don't know anything more about the animator Len (his surname is not included), and I'm not 100% sure how the photo uploader Kelly Regan ties into DHX, either. Regan is a politician in Halifax, which doesn't tell me much; but I'm guessing she might be related to David Regan, an executive vice president at DHX.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Series Designs of Penny and Brain Revealed!

And it's ON!

More than a whole year after we got to see the redesigned Gadget in CGI, we get our very first look at Penny and Brain. Courtesy of this Chronicle Herald article, they and Gadget (and The Doozers, unrelated show) pose together with supervising producer Phillip Stamp (hey, don't we already know him?) at DHX Halifax's newly opened space at Park Lane Terrace.

Wow. Just wow. I really don't know what to say at the moment. Will I have a more reflected view on this later on? Possibly. But right now... these are my gut instincts speaking.

Penny: The moment I saw her design, I wasn't sure it rubbed me the right way... but the more I look at it, the more I like it. At least I think I like it. She is different from the original series, to be sure, but her look retains some of the same spirit and personality. Maybe her head shape is slightly generic, but the face and eyes feel like Penny... though I wish I could see those parts in higher resolution to judge properly. And I like how part of the original hair style is kept, but the hairdo still looks slightly different. One question, though, exactly how old is she supposed to be? I'm getting a 15-16 years vibe from the photo, personally.

Brain: Not quite so sure about his design. I do think it looks kind of charming, but... this design doesn't quite say "Brain" to me the way the two other designs say "Penny" and "Gadget". He looks less cartoony and more like a real dog than in the original series - which is surpricing to me, since I find the designs of Penny and Gadget VERY cartoony (in a good way). Although, maybe there will be a contrast between his look when standing on all fours, acting like a normal dog, and his look as a humanized dog standing on his hind legs. We know that he will don disguises in the new series, like in the old, so I'm expecting a lot of cartoony slapstick and action from that. Also, I like his suspicious facial expression - that does feel like Brain.

What would the original Penny and Brain say about their revamped look?

Before I forget... the Chronicle Herald piece also included a few written observations on the new series, including a very enthusiastic quote from Phillip Stamp:

DHX has three series in production at the Halifax studio, including the highly anticipated Inspector Gadget relaunch, and an announcement of a couple of other titles to be produced at the site is expected soon. 
There was a glow of Inspector Gadget-like characters, gadgets and backdrops emanating from most computer screens during the tour, providing evidence of the mammoth nature of the conversion of the decades-old children’s favourite into a 3D format animated series. 
“It’s a safe bet you’re on to something good when you’re laughing out loud at sequences during production,” Stamp said.

Oh, and... Need I mention that, despite my design criticisms above, I'm excited as hell to see more of this? C'mon, DHX, give us more! High-res character designs! Clips! Trailers! Time to roll out the advertising!

Ahem. Anyway, now you've heard my spontaneous rambling. I would love to hear yours. Please, everybody out there who has an opinion about Penny and Brain's new look - voice your opinion in the comments. Are these designs a stunning triumph or a total catastrophe? Or everything-in-between?

UPDATE (June 26): I've been having some interesting discussions about the redesigns with fellow Gadget fans Daniel and Cortoony over in the comments section. One of the main topics has been the colors chosen for Penny and Brain's new designs, compared to those in the original series. Well - just for fun, Cortoony went ahead and actually did his own color edit, changing both Penny's jeans and Brain's overall coloring to match the 1983 colors more closely... and I just had to show it to you. The official version is to the left, Cortoony's edit to the right:

I really like what he's done with Brain, bringing back the brighter colors of the old design; and I think Penny's jeans look awesome with the vibrant green and the added knee pads (not to mention the matching green sweater emblem). That is not to say I don't like the official versions of the designs... in fact, I like them a lot, and Brain is beginning to grow on me. But it's still interesting to compare like this, wouldn't you say? For more, see Cortoony's first color edit attempt, with a more subdued green and without knee pads. And to compare with the original series... here's a cel scan with better-looking colors than the cel photo I posted up above:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cartoon Network Will Air the New Inspector Gadget Series in the United States

Some days, the news just keeps popping up. And some days, even one sentence mentioned in passing can contain big news - as seen in yesterday's Globe and Mail piece on DHX's revival of Teletubbies:

DHX is scouring its own library, looking for other titles that could merit a remake. New Teletubbies episodes will stick closely to the original feel, but another of its ongoing reclamation projects involves a substantial refresh of the popular 1980s cartoon Inspector Gadget, which will air on Teletoon in Canada and the Cartoon Network in the U.S.

So now we know. The new Gadget series has an American home - on Cartoon Network. Considering that Boomerang picked it up in France, I suppose CN in the U.S. was always a pretty likely scenario (in fact, commenter wile-e2005 guessed it several months ago).

Any CN viewers out there looking forward to this?