Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cool Vintage Artwork - And A Question


I've been remiss in sharing any of the Gadget-related updates that the Facebook page for the "Les séries de notre enfance" art book has given us over the past year. Above is a great piece of vintage promotional art that they posted on August 25, 2013. I had already seen this artwork online on some Spanish and French VHS covers, but the above picture finally gave me a proper look at it. I love the classic feel of this drawing. Even if the art and coloring is not 100% perfect, I can't help but find it charming. The characters have an authentic, early 80s feel to them, very true to DiC's original model sheets (heck, I wouldn't be surpriced if some of the characters were traced from those sheets). Also, gotta love the brick wall from the intro and not least, that awesome 3-D effect they're going for. Go-Go Gadget!

The Facebook post featuring the drawing also included a question for the fans: What is your earliest memory of this series? Here's what I answered (slightly modified)...

I was 11 years old when I first discovered this series - I still remember it clearly. It was back in 1999, on the Norwegian channel TV2 (which had bought the series because the Disney movie was about to premiere). By pure coincidence, I zapped into the channel as the episode "Monster Lake" was playing (about midway through - the great scene where Dr Claw tries to swallow Gadget with his mechanical sea monster) and was hooked. I fell in love with the show's humor and action pretty much immediately.

Much of what I state above - my first feelings when seeing the show - still holds true today. Admittedly, I don't find the series quite as exciting now as I did at age 11. Back then, I could buy into Gadget, Penny and Brain being in danger on a whole different level. I could find Dr Claw a bit scary - as in really scary. Today, I appreciate the show more for its humor, its tongue-in-cheek parodies and the relationship between its main characters. It took me a few years to really pick up on Penny's love for her uncle.

Anyway, before I digress too much... what I wanted to get at is that I found the question on the Facebook site interesting. And that's why I've decided to ask it over here, as well: What is your first memory of Inspector Gadget? If you're a fan of the show, how did you become one?

5 comments:

  1. I began with the pilot. I think I might be one of the few people who actually saw -- or, perhaps more accurately, *remembers* having seen -- the "Winter Olympics" episode with the original pilot open/close when it originally aired on TV. I distinctly remember paying attention to the show (even though I was only about 2 when it premiered) and later noticing that the opening and closing sequences were different than the episode I first saw.

    Frankly, I think I was drawn in by the music first and foremost, despite my age. When I was 18 months old, Mom found one day that I'd figured out how to work the cassette-tape deck / player -- so I took a fascination with music quite early on!

    As I got a little older, I think I knew that this show was something different than most of the cartoons of the day. Many of the others I found moronic and didn't bother to watch, but I appreciated the fact that "Gadget" wasn't "dumbed down" or made "overly kiddy" -- it wasn't full of absurd characters, simplistic storylines or those obnoxious high-pitched voices that are (theoretically) supposed to make a kids' show more "cartoony." No, this show had a certain maturity to it -- it's silly, for sure, but never too much so* -- and the production was quite good-quality for a cartoon. But the music was the biggest draw for me.

    * The exception being when the decision was made to bring the "Capeman" character onto the scene. I suspect I know what the idea was -- bring in a character who was so dimwitted (and delusional) that it would make Gadget look almost competent by comparison -- but in execution, the character couldn't have been worse.

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    1. Thanks for the detailed reply. :) I agree that the show indeed has a "certain maturity to it" when it comes to plots and characters. It's a comedy, and it's formulaic, sure enough. But I was still impressed by the variety, and attention to detail in the plots, within that formula. Many of the stories felt like they could have come straight out of old spy/gangster movies, like when M.A.D. steals military jets to build their own air force, and hides the jets inside a custom-built mountain ("Follow That Jet"); or when Claw tries to do away with his former agent Nervous Nick Defecto, who has decided to turn himself in and spill M.A.D's secrets ("Quimby Exchange"). Plus, the plots also boasted a ton of exotic locales -- often in a way where research about that locale was important to the storyline. In "All That Glitters", for instance, when Penny and Brain are attacked by crocodiles, Penny uses research and rational thinking to find out that crocodiles don't exist in Peru - and so she deducts that the crocs attacking them are fake, and set up to scare people for whatever reason.

      And of course, let's not forget Dr Claw himself, who is actually a "serious" villain placed within a "silly" cartoon show. His superficial inspiration may be a parody of an old James Bond crook, but his personality really makes his character in the series. Throughout the first season, it's made clear time and time again that Claw is a ruthless and highly intelligent criminal, who has no scruples killing off enemies, or for that matter, the agents working for him if they are no longer useful. Nervous Nick Defecto is only one example of that. Claw is made fun of oftentimes (he *is* defeated in every episode, after all), but throughout the first season, the writers wisely kept his dignity as a power-hungry, threatening villain.*

      We've talked about the music before, but yes, it is and has always been an important part of why I love this show. As a kid, without reflecting too much upon it, I found the music just pitch-perfect for the show - it was so cool, so catchy, and so unique. And I'd look forward to the intro sequence with that awesome theme song every time the series aired. The music grew on me, as many things from the show did, but I loved it from the beginning.

      * Which is to say, I felt Claw's character was dumbed down a lot in the second season. In most of those episodes, Claw was simply obsessed with killing Gadget, so there was no criminal scheme at all; and the few crime schemes he had felt cheaper and much more small-scale than the first season. The personality was dumbed down, as well - Claw just didn't feel as threatening or dignified in S2. So in my eyes, Capeman was not the only moronic element of that season, even though he was the worst.

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    2. By the way, I have a question regarding what you say about the pilot episode. I'll understand if you don't remember this in detail (you were 2, after all), but am I right in assuming that you watched the pilot - with its original open/close - many months BEFORE the regular series started airing in the fall of 1983? I'm asking out of curiosity and because I find this interesting from a research point of view. The thing is, most episode guides on the web today claim that "Winter Olympics" was the first episode to air when the show began its wide-spread syndication (supposedly, it aired on that first day in September of '83, followed by "Monster Lake" on the next day of airing). And I've never believed that. It makes no sence that DiC, when the regular series was finished in production, would have decided to introduce the show to a wider audience with the pilot episode, where Gadget has a mustache and tons of other details are also different from the standard series. As far as I know, they debuted the show in syndication with "Monster Lake" -- and then at the very end of the season, they aired an edited version of the pilot, as episode 65, explaining why Gadget has a mustache. (That version can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNcUychznBw).

      And that's why I'm wondering - when you talk about seeing the pilot when it "originally aired on TV", with the mustache opening/closing - are you referring to an airing that took place long *before* that wide-spread September 1983 debut? It would be interesting to get the history of the pilot's airing nailed down a bit more.

      I have, by the way, seen a mention of such an early, very first TV airing of the pilot one other place - on this forum: http://henshinjustice.com/forums/showthread.php?t=31754 The user ryuuseipro says, "I saw this pilot, back when they first gave it (on WPIX Channel 11)!!! This was a while before the series itself came on. (...) When the series finally came on, I was rather puzzled as to why Gadget was clean shaven!"

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  2. Oh my god, I remember this art. Paris, winter… 1990. Holy shit! It was on the wall of a spagetthi factory in Rome! Holy mother of goat! Its all coming back to me.. Stella! The woman in the yellow dress! She worked at that factory! My god I remember now.. I was supposed to marry her! Oh my god, I forgot the wedding! Oh no! My goodness, Stella must be so upset! I got to find Stella! Stella Stella!

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  3. What I remember most about watching Inspector Gadget as a kid is how Penny always treated kids she encountered around the world as equals dispite their different backgrounds. I grew up with a racist father, and I can honestly say that Inspector Gadget helped me to grow into a better person than I might otherwise have.

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