Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Les séries de notre enfance": It's Out!

I meant to tell you about this yesterday, but didn't get the time: The lavish, 208-page French book that goes behind the scenes of the DiC studios - loaded with rare art, in-depth articles and never-before-seen interviews - was finally released in France yesterday and can be ordered directly from the site of the publishing company. (I'll let you know if I come across other web stores to order it from - so far, Amazon doesn't seem to have it in stock. The book's writers have been talking about hopefully getting it released to a wide range of web stores, but perhaps this will take off more during the next few weeks.) UPDATE (November 16): It's now also available from the French Amazon.

As you might have noticed in the news column to the right, I've already linked to the publishers' pre-order site for the last few weeks; but now that the book is officially out, I thought a last plug would be appropriate (at least it will be the last until I receive it myself). One thing I haven't mentioned properly before - aside from the delayed release date - is the change to the final cover (above) just a few weeks ago. I personally think it's a vast improvement over the first draft... it really tells you much more clearly what the book is about. (The only small weakness I can think of, perhaps, is that the drawing of Penny has been flipped from the first cover version... so that now, her communicator watch is actually on the wrong wrist. But that's so nit-picky I'm not even gonna mention it. ;)

To quickly recap what this book is all about: "Les séries de notre enfance: Ulysse 31, les cités d'or, Inspecteur Gadget..." (directly translated: "The series of our childhood: Ulysses 31, The Cities of Gold, Inspector Gadget ...") is a fan project written and compiled by two extremely dedicated DiC fans named Maroin Eluasti and Nordine Zemrak. They've spent the last 5 years researching the history of the DiC cartoon studios: gathering background information, interviewing as many as possible of the folks working there, collecting rare artwork like model sheets, cels, development sketches and publicity art... all with the goal of eventually publishing a book dedicated to DiC, and particularly dedicated to its golden age in the 1980s. (Note the focus of the title: It's probably no coincidence that the three cartoons mentioned by name are arguably DiC's all-time most memorable ones.) A few months ago, Zemrak and Eluasti started a Ulule project to raise money for the publication of their love letter to DiC, and succeeded with flying colors in the beginning of September. Their fan-funded book has since been moving rapidly through production (accompanied by a number of great Facebook teasers both before and after the fundraising was completed) until the release on November 14.

So here's what you get: For DiC fans of all languages and nationalities, the book will consist of 65% (or more) images - rare production art, vintage cels and promotional material related to all of DiC's most famous shows. For those who understand French, there's also 35% text, consisting of detailed background info and in-depth interviews also related to DiC's famous series. Either way, the book ought to make a very interesting experience for any fan of 80s cartoon shows. I still have a hope there might be an English-language edition someday... but as I said earlier, that will most likely be completely dependent on the success of this French edition. So if you're a fan, and if you like this initiative, it might be a good idea to buy a copy now rather than wait for a possible English edition far into the future. Buying the French-language version will probably increase the chances of getting an English-language version.

Anyway, I'm hoping for the best of luck and the best of sales for this book. And most of all, I'm hoping it lives up to expectations! It should reach my mailbox (or nearby post office) any day now...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The New Inspector Gadget TV Series Is Scheduled For 2013

This just in (or in last month, actually): The revival/spinoff series that I talked about many months ago is definitely in production! Last month in Cannes, Cookie Jar announced their upcoming Inspector Gadget series at the TV and entertainment market MIPCOM - or more precicely, at MIPJunior, a 2-day screening and conference event for kids' content which precedes the main show. Below is the short press release that has been circulating online as part of the MIPJunior promotion (snagged from WorldScreen with the help of Google Cache, since it's hidden behind a subscription wall):

MIP Junior Spotlight: Cookie Jar Entertainment
Published: October 2, 2012

CANNES: Cookie Jar Entertainment is celebrating Inspector Gadget’s 30th anniversary with the launch of a brand-new series with its Canadian broadcast partner TELETOON. 
The series will again revolve around the iconic bionic bumbling detective. Also for TELETOON is Dr. Dimension Pants, an original series by Brad Peyton. The show What Do People Do All Day?, based on the popular Richard Scarry franchise, is for the Canadian broadcaster CBC. “These shows are based on very popular children’s brands and have shown through previous productions that they rate highly with audiences around the world,” says Michael Hirsh, Cookie Jar’s CEO.

Hirsh says that the company is expecting to pre-sell Inspector Gadget, What Do People Do All Day? and Dr. Dimension Pants at the market. He is also keen to find co-production partners for the latter two titles. “We have become the number one supplier to streaming networks for their kids’ content and we look forward to meeting with our existing customers as well as new entrants to the field around the world,” he adds of his further MIPCOM goals.

Want more? Here's picture proof of the press release, taken from the online slideshow version of the MIPJunior & MIPCOM edition of TV Kids, published September 25th. (You can find the press release yourself by going to page 26 in the slideshow.)

So finally, the revival/spinoff series is an official fact. (It somehow always feels more official when the production company announces it themselves.) And, it looks like "revival" might be the right word for it. Not much detail is uncovered, but judging by the above magazine snapshot, the show's title seems to simply be "Inspector Gadget". As in... a brand new season of the 80s series "Inspector Gadget"? Plus, the one sentence actually telling us something about the show says, "The series will again revolve around the iconic bionic bumbling detective." What, so it won't revolve around the son of the iconic bionic bumbling detective? WHEW!

Of course, we don't really know yet what the show will or will not do... but if it proves NOT to have any shockingly groundbreaking twists on the classic formula (like introducing a son for the main character - just a thought that popped into my mind), I really wouldn't mind. I just want to see someone do a good, new Inspector Gadget series - a new series which doesn't take away or change everything that made the show great in the first place. I'm hoping Cookie Jar and its partner TELETOON can do that. So far, at least, I'm liking what I'm hearing. It's nice that they're timing the new show to debut for Gadget's 30th anniversary. It's nice, too, that Michael Hirsh (executive chairman of Cookie Jar and DHX Media) is the one to announce it. Considering that Hirsh was also one of the original founders and leaders of Nelvana - the famous Canadian animation studio which co-produced the first season of Inspector Gadget with DiC - it just seems to fit. The new show is being produced in Canada, like the first season of the old show was, and for some reason I just like the sound of that.

To round off, here's yet another brief mention of the new show, from the MIPCOM News - Quick Review newsletter (page 4):
MIPCOM 2012 was the first time that kids studios DHX Media and Cookie Jar Entertainment have been in Cannes since they agreed a $111m deal. Underlining Canada’s importance to the kids business, the deal creates the largest independent owner of children’s programming in the world. Executive chairman of the enlarged group, Michael Hirsh, was in town with series such as Inspector Gadget (a new version) and Dr Dimensionpants.
Plus PICTURE PROOF! (Nice shirt, Michael.)

This short brief mentions a fact I haven't yet bothered to write about: DHX Media buying Cookie Jar Entertainment in a deal which, after finalizing last month, created the world's largest independent library of children's entertainment. (Brag, brag.) So Gadget is technically owned by DHX now... even though Cookie Jar is still an up and running company, as a subsidiary of DHX. I had wondered if this buyout would affect the upcoming Gadget series in any way (maybe a bit like how the planned 2009 reboot was cancelled after Cookie Jar bought and swallowed DiC)... but this seems not to be the case here, as both DHX and Cookie Jar were behind promoting the new show at MIPCOM. Good stuff.

By the way... "iconic bionic bumbling detective" has a kind of catchy ring to it. New official tagline?

Go Watch: Awesome Boomerang Ad For The Original Series

I seldom do short updates like this anymore, but I'm making an exception here because of a rather brilliant Boomerang ad for the original series which I just happened to stumble upon (and which I apparently can't embed). Produced by Cally Lonnen from London, aired on Boomerang in I-don't know-when. Go watch it - I bet you'll feel like appreciating it afterwards, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The DiC Book Is A Go (To Say The Least)!

DiC fans rejoice! At the end of Friday, September 14, the Ulule fundraising for the French "Art Of" book on the DiC studios ended its run... and it was a resounding success. The original fundraising goal was actually achieved on September 7, but the book went right on collecting, finally totaling at 125%! This is a great thing, of course, as more funds means a product of higher quality. To quote the book's writers Maroin Eluasti and Nordine Zemrak (right after the 100% victory was achieved, in a moment of great happiness on September 8):

Like us, you believed and together we succeeded! In fact, yesterday we reached 100% and more.
Fans of the heart, we thank you for your trust and support that will allow this beautiful project to exist.
As the adventure continues, each additional euro will consider new options:
- Varnish on the cover of the book;
- A collector's version, an edition of 50 numbered and signed books;
And many other things ... ;-) 
You will be told quickly.
Maroin & Nordine

One such bonus-related news piece was actually announced even before the funding was completed, on August 20 on Facebook: Instead of the originally planned 192 pages, the book will be 208 pages long, allowing for more pictures and info! Other than that, it is not yet known which bonuses will end up in the final product... but with 25% more backing than the originally needed sum, the book should definitely benefit one way or another.

In fact, we'll be able to see for ourselves shortly, as the authors still intend to have their work released by the end of October. And then... well, let's just say that all of us "early birds" who donated more than a certain amount can lean back and wait for our copies of the book to arrive in the mail. :) For the rest of you interested DiC fans out there, the writers hope to be able to make the book available "everywhere" when it's officially released... in other words, probably both in book stores and web shops. More details about this will likely follow soon. For day-to-day news about the actual production of the book, I'd recommend following its Facebook page, which has already given us great teasers in the form of cels, merchandise and memorabilia over this past month.

Among all these wonderful news, only one big question seems to remain: What are the prospects for an English-language edition? Right now, there are certainly no news regarding this... understandably enough, I guess, since the project was of course conceived as a French publication first and foremost. And many of the DiC series from the 80s have bigger cult followings in France than they do in other countries. I still believe, though, that an English-language edition of the book could find success (we are talking about a book that celebrates DiC's greatest shows from the 80s, after all), but I'm pretty sure the authors will not consider anything like this until after the French edition is released - and then it will probably be a question of how successful the French edition is. Still, we can always hope. More than a month ago, I actually did ask on the book's official Facebook about the possibilities for an English-language version. Quoted from an August 6 post on the Facebook wall, here is Nordine Zemrak's (fairly enthusiastic) answer:

...if the project became succesful, english language could be possible ! ! (...)

So at least the writers are open to the idea. For my part, even though I'm looking forward to the visual side of the book, it would be fantastic to be able to actually read the interviews and the behind-the-scenes information properly, so I'm gonna keep on hoping for the English-language version to happen. In the meantime, I'll settle for the French book to pop into my mailbox in less than a month and a half...

Above: One of the many Facebook previews of the book's contents, a beutiful Inspector Gadget cel
from "Monster Lake". More previews related to other DiC productions below.

Monday, August 6, 2012

French Book About DiC's Early Cartoons In The Making

...and it needs your support. Read on to see if this is something you're interested in:

This should be exciting news for all DiC fans (especially those who speak French). I just found out that a lavish new book about the early history and TV cartoons of DiC is being prepared in France - as an internet-funded project! It will feature previously unpublished interviews and rare illustrations (ranging from cels and storyboards to vintage photos), as well as a thorough behind the scenes-look at all of the most famous cartoon series produced by the DiC studio.

The book, titled "Ces séries de notre enfance: Ulysse 31, Les cités d'or, Inspecteur Gadget..." (directly translated: These series of our childhoods), is being written by two huge DiC fans named Maroin Eluasti and Nordine Zemrak... and these writers are currently trying to raise money online in order to publish the book this October. So far, 10% of the needed funds have been collected, and they hope to have the entire amount before September 14, the day the fund-raising ends. (In case you wondered: Yes, all donations will be refunded if they don't get enough support and the book is not published.) Visit the book's official site if you want to make a donation and get cool collector's items in exchange for it, or if you just want to read more about the project. They also have a Facebook page where fans can ask questions. Below you can check out the video trailer:

The authors' presentation of the book (brough to you by Google Translate and me, as if you had to ask) sums up the whole project better than I can:

"Who has not dreamed of fighting with Ulysses 31, to help him find his way, of crossing the oceans in search of the Mysterious Cities of Gold in the company of Esteban, Zia and Tao, of fighting monster plants along with Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors? Who has not laughed at the blunders of Inspector Gadget or the jokes of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats? These series of the 1980s have shaped our childhoods with their mysteries and humor.
Today, we offer to find them and rediscover them within a single book citing all productions of the same studio: D.I.C. 
Captivated by these legendary series, we want you to discover the secrets of their production. This book will be the culmination of five years of research, documentation, interviews of all parties related to the creation of their series. We performed thus the globetrotting to gather evidence in France, the United States as well as Japan, China and Luxembourg and attempted to reconstruct the puzzle of an adventure more than thirty years old."

The book will concentrate chiefly on the period 1978-1988 - the decade which saw DiC grow from a small, French animation studio making commercials and industrial films into a major, international player in TV cartoon production. More importantly, this was the decade in which (arguably) all of DiC's most memorable cartoon shows were made. Just looking at the characters featured on the cover (and the sneak peeks next to the cover) makes me immediately interested in this book. 

The descriptions of the book's contents makes it sound even better (translated by you-know-what and you-know-who):

"Specifically, what does it [the book] contain? 
The book format of 29.7 cm × 23.7 cm wide will include 192 pages in a beautiful glossy paper. The iconography represents 65% images and 35% text. 
In detail, there will be:
- Interviews with Jean Chalopin, Bernard Deyriès, Bruno Bianchi, Jean Barbaud or even Michi Himeno, Shingo Araki, Mitsuru Kaneko and many others;

- Photographs of productions in Japan, the United States and Canada from 1978 to 1986;
- Photos of generic recording of Ulysses 31 in Los Angeles in 1981 with the memorable Lionel Leroy along with Haim Saban and Shuki Levy;
- Research into the design, characters and model sheets of Ulysses 31, Inspector Gadget, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Lupin XIII, etc.;
- Numerous illustrations: cels, backgrounds, layouts, storyboards, caricatures, products..."

...and perhaps most intriguing of all, this note from co-author Maroin Eluasti about his and Zemrak's approach to writing the book:

"We can confirm that it will be very comprehensive, particularly during the period from 1978 to 1988. An attempt was made through interviews with various players to not merely make a summary of the series or to repeat what has already been seen elsewhere. We wanted to really be comprehensive (while trying not to bore you;-)) 
In addition, all documents of the cartoons in the book are beautiful and totally original! And finally, there will be about fifty pictures just to make a complete immersion into the years 1970/1980. In addition to other things, this is making it a book totally different to what have been done so far;-)"

This all sounds pretty fantastic. Such a History/Art Of book about the DiC studio has never existed before, and I can imagine it will uncover a wealth of interesting information and images related to not only Inspector Gadget, but also to Ulysses 31, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats.....  The only downside - a rather big downside - is of course that the book almost certainly won't be published in English. However, the contents will be divided between 65% images and 35% text, so if the image part is good enough, it might still be very interesting even to fans (like me) who don't speak French. Here are a few more sneak peeks of the book's illustrations:

Oh, that's right: Below is an example of some of the cool stuff you can get in exchange for your donation to this project. (No, you don't have to give 250 euros, by the way; this is just an example. You can go as low as 5 euros if you want to.) Exclusive cels, storyboards, film reels etc.... all making it even more tempting to support an already good cause. As I said earlier, go straight to the book's site ( if you'd like to donate. (The site very conveniently converts the donations to your country's currency, so you can know exactly how much you're giving.) The authors hope to get the book published by October, as I said, but that release date is dependent on whether they can raise enough money in time. Every donation counts; so if you feel like contributing, do it right away and make sure to spread the word at the same time. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Télé 80's Second Inspector Gadget CD Is Coming

On July 12, some rather interesting news appeared on Télé 80's Facebook page. I've had no time to blog about this before now, but better late than never (especially as this will not be released until November):

Yep, the second "Inspecteur Gadget" CD is on its way... and it gives the impression of being a bit more special than Télé 80's first lackluster edition. The Facebook post that announced this "Edition Speciale" CD has since been inexplicably deleted, but thanks to Google Cache, I can still share it with you:

The above screen grab is a cached version of the Facebook site from July 18. When the post was deleted (on July 22 or 23, I think), it had gotten even more comments... some of them asking if one could still make suggestions for the contents of the "Special Edition" CD. Télé 80 responded with an enthusiastic yes, but then deleted the entire thread. Talk about mixed signals to the customers. This is not the first time I've seen Télé 80 delete threads from their Facebook site, and I'm still not sure why they do it.

Anyhow, let's look at the facts revealed so far. Here's the written message in French (posted here for reference, as the original Facebook post no longer exists):
...and here, with the usual aid of Google Translate and my flickering with the translation options, is what I can make out of it in English:

So, to sum up: In November, Télé 80 will release a special "30th anniversary edition" CD of the Inspector Gadget music by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban. This CD will include 26 original tracks as well as 1 new remix called "Gadget Dance Mix". (Unless this remix is by Shuki Levy himself, I couldn't be less interested in that part.) Presumably, the audio will be in good quality and free of vinyl scratches this time around... as Télé 80 promised much better sound quality when Volume 2 was first announced months ago. Télé 80 also mentions that the Gadget CD they released with bad sound quality in May might become a collector's item, as only 500 copies have been sold around the world at this point, and they intend to destroy the rest. Good riddance, I say. (Though I must admit that a small part of the completist in me would like to get that CD now, seeing as it is the first CD release ever of the show's original background music. Damn my collector's instincts!)

The "new" cover art looks pretty awful (awful enough for people to complain about it in disbelief at the Planete Jeunesse forums)... ironically enough because, once again, Télé 80 reproduces the art from a vintage LP cover, in this case the cover of the 1986 Australian LP "Inspector Gadget - The Music". Still, this is slightly reassuring from one perspective. The Australian record (as regular readers know by now) contains a few tracks that were not included on the 1983 French LP... and I had expressed hope earlier that Télé 80 would look at the Australian LP for their second "Inspecteur Gadget" CD, and get the unique tracks on that edition included. (I even sent them a few e-mails about this, but never got a reply.) The cover image certainly indicates that Télé 80 are at least aware of the Australian record... and the fact that this new CD includes 26 original tracks makes it very likely that some of those tracks have been collected from "Inspector Gadget - The Music" (the French LP contained 22 tracks).

Original cover source: ABC Records' Australian LP Soundtrack, 1986

I find it interesting, by the way, that Télé 80 mentions getting hold of many missing track titles "...thanks to your help and to Shuki Levy". I can understand "your help", as I'm pretty sure a number of fans have helped Télé 80 out with getting good LP copies to rip the music from. But Shuki Levy himself? Does this mean Levy personally helped Télé 80 out with good-quality copies of the original LPs, or with master tapes of his original compositions? I would guess the former, because 26 tracks are no more than what you'd get by simply combining the contents of the French and Australian soundtrack LPs.

In fact, 26 tracks are less than what you'd get if you include every single, unique track from each of those editions... and that worries me a bit. I've calculated that if Télé 80 collects everything that has ever been released of original Gadget music by Shuki Levy, they would end up with 28 tracks! Which leads me to wonder if something is being left out. Let's take a quick look at the tracks that Télé 80 could in theory release, collected from various soundtrack editions and compilations of TV themes:

The French 1983 LP - 22 Tracks
1. Inspecteur Gadget (Inspector Gadget, French vocals). 2:37
2. Le thème de Sophie (Penny's theme, French vocals). 2:30
3. La chanson de Fino (Brain the Dog - the song, French vocals). 2:00
4. Gadget sur Mars (Gadget on Mars). 1:30
5. Le fantôme (Ghost). 1:56
6. Musée de l'art fou (Mad art in Museum). 2:05.
7. Gadget au Japon (Gadget in Japan). 2:02.
8. L'usine de chocolats (Chocolate factory). 2:00.
9. Rodéo (Rodeo). 1:30.
10. Thème du Dr Gang (Mad's theme). 2:12
11. Héros dans la jungle Africaine (Heroes in African jungle). 1:50
12. Gadget chez les Incas (Gadget with the Incas). 1:00
13. Fais gaffe (Look Out). 1:34
14. Gadget en difficulté (Gadget in trouble). 1:11
15. Désert d'Arabie (Arabian desert). 1:15
16. Gadget le sophistiqué (Sophisticated Gadget). 1:40
17. Thème du train (Train Machine). 1:55
18. Le royaume (Kingdom). 2:00
19. La course de voiture (Car race). 1:12
20. Les pharaons (Pharaohs). 1:30
21. Le thème de Sophie (Instrumental) (Penny's Theme). 2:30
22. Thème d'ouverture (Instrumental) (Opening theme). 1:12
The Australian 1986 LP - 5 Unique Tracks (16 in total, but many overlapping with the French LP)
23. Inspector Gadget Theme (US theme song, extended version. Also released on the Australian compilation CD 30 Years of Funtastic TV Toons, 1990). 2:50
24. Brain The Dog (background music track; instrumental theme for Brain). 1:08
25. Mad's Theme (misspelled Max's theme on the back cover, this is an alternate version of  "Mad's theme", orchestrated slightly differently from the version on the French LP). 2:12
26. Italian Gadget (background music track). 1:03
27. Gadget Closing (US end credits theme). 0:41
The Original US Opening Theme, which has circulated on various CD compilations of television themes ever since the 1980s, and is no doubt very easy to find:
28. Inspector Gadget Theme (Opening, US version). 1:12

In other words: If the upcoming CD really contains 26 original tracks, it would seem that Télé 80 is leaving out 2 tracks that could have been included.... and this being a French release, it would not surprice me if these 2 leftovers prove to be American themes. I could easily picture the "Gadget Closing" theme and one of the US themes (either the Opening Theme or the extended "Inspector Gadget Theme") being taken out, as these American theme songs do sound slightly similar to one another. Still, all three of these themes are also different from one another - and all of them are unique, vintage compositions by Shuki Levy. For that reason alone, they deserve inclusion on an official soundtrack CD... especially if that CD wants to live up to the subtitle "Edition Speciale".

But maybe I'm jumping to conclusions here. As Télé 80 mentioned in a Facebook comment, the contents of the CD can still be changed and revised. For all I know, that might be why they suddenly deleted the thread announcing this news... maybe they felt that it was too early to give detailed information, considering these details might change before the release. Whatever the case, I truly hope they will include all of the US themes - or more to the point, all the compositions that have been released from Shuki Levy's original score. It would only serve to make the CD more attractive for fans around the world.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Verdict On The Inspecteur Gadget CD: Wait For Volume 2

Do Not Buy This Lousy CD

Remember my recommendation last week that you should buy/support the new "Inspecteur Gadget" soundtrack CD regardless of what could have been better, like I was planning to do? Well, I have to take that back. Today, I've come to the conclusion that the Télé 80 CD is not worth my money.

Let me explain: I haven't actually bought the CD... but thanks to Itunes, I've been able to listen to excerpts from all 12 tracks of it. (For those who don't use Itunes, try the French music site Qobuz for listening samples.) And honestly - most of the tracks sound pretty disappointing. The worst part is, they COULD have sounded far better if Télé 80 had simply taken the time to locate proper source material (i. e. better LP copies).

First of all, I can confirm that the "crackling of vinyl" mentioned on the Planété Jeunesse forum is very much there... and not only on a few tracks, but on most of them. The French and American theme songs do sound good, but that's probably just because the masters for these main themes have been taken better care of than those for the background music (which are today presumably lost). And that brings me to the main problem with this release. Nearly all of the background music tracks, as well as the awesome soundtrack-exclusive version of Dr Claw's theme (track 6, "Le theme du Docteur Gang"), have a LOT of crackling, and some of them sound embarrassingly bad. (The only exception seemed to be track 5, "L'usine de chocolat" (Chocolate Factory), where I didn't register any scratching noises.) This bad sound quality is particularly disappointing as I know that very good (or possibly even mint) copies of the French LP are still in existence. XIII Bis Records just didn't take the time to find them.

Let's compare, for instance, with the fan-done MP3 rip of the "Inspecteur Gadget: Bande originale" LP that has been circulating on the internet for years ever since originating on this site. There is some subtle crackling on some of the tracks there, to be sure... but generally, the tracks in that rip sound great, and MUCH CLEANER than the same tracks on the Télé 80 CD! (Click here, here and here to listen to some of the fan-ripped background music tracks.) The fact that an unofficial fan rip of the LP sounds far better than an official CD release proves just how amateurish this first "Inspecteur Gadget" CD from XIII Bis Records is. This is not only sad on Télé 80's part, it's downright embarrassing. They better go out of their way to make up for this in the planned Volume 2 CD.

I'll not go into detail about the other reasons not to buy this sloppy CD release, as you already know them from my previous posts: Only 12 tracks on the disc instead of the 25+ tracks that Télé 80 could potentially have compiled from both the French and Australian LPs... the cover image has been flipped for no reason whatsoever... and oh, yes, there actually is one more thing. As you may have noticed, the very last track on the CD is a "US version" of the Inspector Gadget theme. However, this is not the original TV version of the theme, but rather an extended version running for 2:50 minutes. (This version was first released, I believe, as the first track of the Australian soundtrack LP "Inspector Gadget - The Music", before spreading to a few CD compilations of television themes). I don't have a problem with the extended theme song being there, as it's authentic Shuki Levy; but the one version of the American theme that has really stuck in people's minds over the years is undoubtedly the shorter TV version. The extended theme on the CD is good, but not nearly as great... and the theme loses some of its snappiness when the song suddenly starts over again midway through. (Have a listen here to judge the extended theme for yourself.) Bottom line: Both the shorter and longer versions of the theme song deserve to be included on an official soundtrack release; and the shorter (and best) version is of course not included. Probably because the Télé 80 team didn't know about (or didn't bother to research) how popular that original, American TV theme is in the minds of everybody who grew up with it. Again, lackluster work. And speaking of theme songs: Why did Télé 80 change the original title of Penny's French theme "Le theme de Sophie" to "La chanson de Sophie"? As if the mirrored cover image wasn't enough of a pointless change.

All this is sad to say, as I really do like the initiative and good intentions behind the idea of finally releasing iconic 80s TV soundtracks such as Inspector Gadget on CD. But when it's done as sloppily as this, I can't get myself to support it. The only thing giving me a little hope is perhaps that Télé 80's leader Christophe Renaud openly admitted that many of the tracks on their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD were of bad quality - and that they're planning a volume 2 with better sound quality. (I believe I was wrong, by the way, when assuming earlier that Télé 80 was going to search for the lost, original masters: what Renaud meant was probably just that they're gonna find better LP copies to rip the music from.) I won't hold my breath for this... but I really, truly hope that Volume 2 (whenever it comes out) proves to be a big, happy surprice. At the moment, however, there's no hiding that the best way for you to enjoy Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's original Inspector Gadget soundtrack... is the illegal way.

Monday, May 21, 2012

CD UPDATE #2: A Very Short Review From Planete Jeunesse

Okay, I'm beginning to get worried now.

The French cartoon site Planete Jeunesse has a forum thread dedicated to the Télé 80 CDs; and on the second page of the thread, a user named Virocha has posted short reviews of some of the first 8 CDs. Here are the very short notes Virocha had about the "Inspecteur Gadget" CD that's coming out today (again brought to you in English by Google Translate):

"On Gadget: 
- We hear some crackling of vinyl on some tracks.
- There is only half of the original 33rpm [LP], but it is possible that such a result to another volume because they have not had time to find a 33t completely usable. 
If this opening batch [of Télé 80 CDs] suffered from a lack of time and reliable sources, it is hoped that for the future, they will take advice from the experts. In any case, they are listening to requests for releases that can be done on their site."

I have to admit... the more I read about the first batch of Télé 80 CDs, the more it feels like the project has simply lacked the time and money to become perfect. The mentioning of "crackling vinyl on some tracks" reaffirms my suspicion that (at least part of) the Gadget CD is indeed ripped directly from the original, French LP... but they apparently didn't have the time to locate a mint copy of that LP before releasing the CD. Now, I can understand that Télé 80 wanted to start off the label with some of the most commercially popular titles... and Inspector Gadget (like Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold) is a big cult series in France. So it makes sense from a monetary perspective to rush the soundtrack of Gadget into production. But honestly... if all Télé 80 needed to make a better product was time to locate a mint copy of the "Bande originale" LP... then I'm beginning to think it would have been better to put Inspecteur Gadget on hold until the second or third batch of CDs. After all... it is a bit frustrating if some tracks on the new CD could easily have been in better quality, had they only waited a few months with releasing the CD.

Anyhow, I hope that Télé 80 plans to really make up for it with their next "Inspecteur Gadget" CD. The best solution, I think, would be not to do a direct "Volume 2", but rather an "Extended Edition" CD which contains all tracks from the original LPs in the best quality possible. This extended CD would, of course, ideally be released after Télé 80 has taken the time to locate mint-quality copies of both the French and Australian LPs. (Gee, I think I just thought of yet another thing to suggest to Télé 80.)

Other than that, I'm hoping that the "crackling vinyl" mentioned by Virocha is not very noticeable. I still hope to enjoy the first CD volume. But I think I'm gonna wait with ordering a little longer... just until I've read a few more reviews...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CD UPDATE: Télé 80's Leader Says They Will "Certainly Do a Volume 2" of Inspector Gadget, Explains About The Missing Tracks

Télé 80's leader Christophe Renaud, showing off his new CDs

In yesterday's post on the French CD release of Inspector Gadget's soundtrack, I was asking why the CD coming out tomorrow has only 12 tracks... as the original LP edition it is based on has many more. Well, I somehow missed this interview from May 10 with Christophe Renaud (above), the leader and gründer of the Télé 80 soundtrack project. Answering questions from the web site, Renaud speaks in detail about each of the 8 CDs that will be released tomorrow as the first batch of Télé 80 soundtracks. What he says about Inspector Gadget is particulary interesting - and it pretty much explains why their first "Inspecteur Gadget" CD has only half of the tracks that can be found on the French LP. (Note: The following interview excerpts are translated from French by Google Translate, with grammar help by me.)

Christophe Renaud: Inspector Gadget is the one that caused us the most problems because the master tapes were lost. There are many master tapes to record companies that were lost, and therefore Inspector Gadget deserves a volume 2. That is to say, here is a cd which contains about a dozen titles, while we could have put in - it is true - 24. Certainly we will do a volume 2, but with bands of good quality because the bands we had were of bad quality.

The confirmation that Télé 80 is planning a "Volume 2" is great news, to be sure... though at the same time, it's sad to hear officially that the master tapes for the series really are lost. Or are they? Renaud starts out by saying that "the master tapes were lost"; but in the end, he adds that they plan to do a Volume 2 "...with bands of good quality because the bands we had were of bad quality". Sort of a contradiction, if you ask me.

Again, this is me speculating... but maybe what it means is that, whatever master tapes Télé 80 actually found for Inspector Gadget, they had deteriorated to a point of no longer being usable. In another interview from May 17, Renaud was asked if any of the music on Télé 80's upcoming CDs had been remastered, and his answer was plainly no:

Christophe Renaud...under no circumstances are these remastered versions. It would have been far too expensive to do for a collection aimed primarily at the general public, which will be available in supermarkets at a price of about 6 €. 

In other words: Lacking the budget to restore master tapes in bad quality, Télé 80 is probably confined to searching for better-quality versions of these masters instead... versions that they can use without having to go through an expensive remastering process. At least that's how I interpret the interviews.

I hope Renaud and his team manage to find the "bands of good quality" that Renaud is talking about for Volume 2. If not... then I guess the best alternative would be to get hold of mint LP copies, and rip the remaining music from them. It might not be as great as if the original masters are found, but in a worst-case-scenario, it's much better than nothing. A fan rip of the French "Bande Originale" LP has already been floating around the web for years, and it generally sounds great to my ears. Here are the Youtube links to ripped versions of two tracks that will not be on the first CD volume: "Gadget in Trouble" (Gadget en difficulté) and "Sophisticated Gadget" (Gadget le sophistiqué). I'm looking forward to hearing these on a future CD edition one way or another.

And also -- I really hope that for Volume 2, Télé 80 will take a look at the Australian LP "Inspector Gadget - The Music". The Australian record, as I've mentioned before, actually has 3 tracks that are totally unique to that edition and not included anywhere on the French LP. Getting these tracks included on the "Inspecteur Gadget Volume 2" CD would make the collection so much more complete.

The Australian LP Soundtrack, 1986

Anyhow... that is probably a great suggestion to write to Télé 80 about with regards to their planned, second volume of Gadget. But for right now, let's concentrate on the first volume coming out on May 21 together with seven other iconic 80s soundtracks! Only a day to go...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inspector Gadget's Original Soundtrack on CD

Well, parts of it, anyway. On May 21 - only 2 days from now - you will be able to own a slice of Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's Inspector Gadget soundtrack on official CD! Click here to pre-order from the production company, or here for the link. This is the first time any of the background music from the show has ever seen a CD release (or a legal modern-day release at all), making the above CD sensational news.

France's XIII Bis Music Group is the company behind this soundtrack edition, which they're releasing together with several other 80s TV soundtracks under a newly created label dubbed Télé 80 (as evidenced on the above cover). The tag line next to the logo reads, "The cult series from your childhood", which basically sums up what the label sets out to do: Télé 80's business plan is to re-release on CD the original LP soundtracks of numerous famous TV shows from the 1980s... and of course score big nostalgia points by recreating the look and contents of those vintage LPs. Case in point: Their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD even reuses the admittedly clumsy-looking cover of Saban Records' 1983 LP, "Inspecteur Gadget: Bande originale de la serie TV"... with the only major difference being that the image is flipped on the CD cover. (Also, the placing of the Gadget logo was better on the original, but that's nit-picking.)

Télé 80's CD soundtrack, 2012
Saban Records' original LP soundtrack, 1983

Still, as faithful as the Télé 80 edition is to its LP origins, the number of tracks on the CD has me a bit worried. Below, from Télé 80's official site, is the complete track listing (with English track titles added by me):

1. Inspecteur Gadget (Inspector Gadget) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’35
2. La chanson de Fino (Brain the dog - The Song) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
3. La chanson de Sophie (Penny's theme) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’30
4. Le Musée de l’art fou (Mad art in Museum) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’05
5. L’usine de chocolat (Chocolate factory) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
6. Le thème du Docteur Gang (Mad's theme) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’10
7. Gadget chez les Incas (Gadget with the Incas) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 0’50
8. Le Royaume (Kingdom) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
9. La course de voiture (Car race) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’10
10. Les Pharaons (Pharaohs) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’30
11. Thème d’ouverture (Opening theme, instrumental) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’10
12. Inspecteur Gadget (US Version) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’50

My big question here is this: Why so few tracks? The original 1983 French LP edition had 22 tracks, and it would definitely not have been a problem to get all of them (and probably more) into one CD. Also, let's not forget the 1986 Australian LP edition "Inspector Gadget - The Music", which featured a few unique tracks worthy of inclusion as well. Why are these not here?

Making matters even more confusing, the blog actually lists 23 tracks for the CD! This blog revealed the complete track listings for the first batch of Télé 80 CDs back in the beginning of April... and here's the track info they provided for Gadget (once again with English titles added by me):

1/ Inspecteur Gadget. (Inspector Gadget) 2'35.
2/ La chanson de Fino. (Brain the Dog - the song) 2'00.
3/ La chanson de Sophie. (Penny's theme) 2'30.
4/ Gadget sur Mars. (Gadget on Mars) 1'30.
5/ Le fantôme de Gadget. (Ghost) 2'00.
6/ Le musée de l'art fou. (Mad art in Museum) 2'05.
7/ Inspecteur Gadget au Japon. (Gadget in Japan) 2'05.
8/ L'usine de chocolat. (Chocolate factory) 2'00.
9/ Rodéo. (Rodeo) 1'30.
10/ Le thème du Docteur Gang. (Mad's theme) 2'15.
11/ Héros dans la jungle Africaine. (Heroes in African jungle) 1'50.
12/ Gadget chez les Incas. (Gadget with the Incas) 1'00.
13/ Fais gaffe Gadget. (Look out) 1'35.
14/ Gadget en difficulté. (Gadget in trouble) 1'10.
15/ Le désert d'Arabie. (Arabian desert) 1'15.
16/ Gadget le sophistiqué. (Sophisticated Gadget) 1'40.
17/ Thème du train. (Train Machine) 1'55.
18/ Le royaume. (Kingdom) 2'00.
19/ La course de voiture.(Car race) 1'15.
20/ Les Pharaons. (Pharaohs) 1'30.
21/ Le thème de Sophie (Instrumental version) (Penny's Theme) 2'30.
22/ Thème d'ouverture. (Opening theme, instrumental) 1'12.
23/ Inspecteur Gadget (Alternative US version). 2'30.

The funny thing is - while this information is probably outdated compared to Tele 80's site, the blog DID get the track listing from the official CD producers. Leading me to believe that, somewhere late in the production process of the "Inspecteur Gadget" CD, the producers suddently decided to cut half of the tracks planned for inclusion. This is especially strange as it would have made perfect sense to have all of these tracks on one CD... after all, track 1-22 are the exact tracks that were on the 1983 "Bande originale" LP. So why were they (apparently) taken out?

I sent Télé 80 a Facebook message asking how many tracks their "Inspecteur Gadget" disc REALLY contains - 12 or 23? I didn't get a clear answer, but here's what they wrote back:

"...many masters Saban burns and lost .We decide to make a CD just for Public but no for the fans , just a popular CD simple , when you find master , we are ok to make a Cd integral but the quality is very poor for this CD ...dramatic quality ...all masters lost ...thank you"

So Télé 80 didn't really answer my question... but they did point out one of the main problems of making a CD with Saban's music: the lack of master material. I'm no expert on the current situation of Saban's master recordings from the 1980s; but according to numerous forums and sites I've been visiting over the last few days, the consensus seems to be saying that the masters in most cases are either lost, rotted or burned. This means that CD producers must turn to ripping old LP editions in order to get Saban's soundtrack music in the best quality possible. So maybe - and this is just a theory - maybe the source LP that Télé 80 had for their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD was not in mint condition; and some of the tracks just didn't sound good enough to be released on CD. If this is the case, Télé 80 may have held off from releasing all the music because they want to extract the remaining tracks from a better-quality LP... and possibly release a Volume 2 later on. (Yes, I realize this is very optimistic thinking, but ALL of the available soundtrack music for Inspector Gadget deserves a proper re-release.) The last part of the official press release states that Télé 80 will launch a collection of 80 CDs in total between 2012 and 2015, so hopefully they're not done with Gadget after just this one volume. 

Bottom line: It does seem that the CD contains only 12 tracks, which is certainly a disappointment. But I'll still encourage you to buy and support this release. The compositions included are all great - and it sells for less than 6 €, after all! Sure, this CD is made for the general public rather than the hard-core collector, but think about it this way: We have never before had an official CD release of the show's soundtrack; and now it happens, almost 30 years after the original LPs were available! This is why it's important to support such an initiative: If enough people buy this first CD, it definitely increases the chances of a Volume 2 with the rest of the LP music. Good enough sales may even signal to the CD publishers that there is an interest out there for a bigger, more complete soundtrack edition... and it might prompt someone in charge to start a more thorough search for surviving music masters. Wouldn't it be fantastic to finally get soundtrack music which was never even released on the LPs? (This might be reaching for the stars, considering the status of Saban's masters, but you never know... it wouldn't surprice me if the masters for at least some original Saban scores still exist in usable condition, somewhere in the world; just misplaced and hidden so thoroughly that nobody knows where to find them.)

Personally, I'm gonna buy this CD regardless of what could have been better. And then I'm gonna write to Télé 80 and make suggestions for an "Inspecteur Gadget: Volume 2" CD. I strongly suggest that everybody who wants more of this fantastic soundtrack music does the same... the more people who speak up and show their interest, the bigger the chances are of getting what we want. You can write to Télé 80 several ways: Through the "Contact" section on their site, through their Facebook profile (either as a personal message or as a wall post)... or even to the e-mail address of someone working at XIII Bis Records: (According to a post on the forums, the guy at this address will "forward to the team who's in charge of this [the Télé 80] project".) I'm not sure which option is the best for getting heard by Télé 80, but I recommend trying them all.

Oh, that's right: In addition to all that, I can't really leave this subject without mentioning the following to all you Levy/Saban fans out there: Several of the other Télé 80 soundtracks coming out on May 21 are also collections of their music - including The Mysterious Cities of GoldBomber X and He-Man. (Bomber X I've never even heard of, but just seeing that Levy and Saban did the music makes me curious to check it out.)

A few of these shows have gotten more complete soundtrack CDs before (for instance The Mysterious Citites of Gold), but at 5.95 € per piece, the Télé 80 discs are still a steal. Especially when it comes to "Inspecteur Gadget". So pre-order the CD right now either from XIII Bis themselves or from and don't forget to contact the producers telling them you want more!

Monday, April 16, 2012

MAJOR NEWS: New TV Series In Production Thanks To the Success of the "M.A.D Dash" Video Game

I really haven't got much time to blog at the moment, but when you come across information like this, it's hard not to. You might argue that it isn't exactly "news", as the quotes I'm presenting here are almost three months old already; but for some reason, I only heard about this a little while ago. And extremely few web sites seem to have even mentioned it so far. Read on to get the full story...

I've neglected to write much here about XMG Studios' hit mobile game Inspector Gadget: M.A.D Dash, mostly because I haven't yet had an opportunity to play it (I own neither an Iphone nor an Ipod Touch). But the previews and videos I've seen of the game generally look great, and its popularity has grown steadily since the release in December of 2010, easily making M.A.D Dash the most successful Inspector Gadget video game ever created. Still, the latest result of its success is something I would never have dreamt of.

A bit of context: Back in January, at the Mobile Games Forum 2012, XMG's CEO and co-founder Ray Sharma held a lecture about "transmedia" in the mobile game industry... using his Inspector Gadget: M.A.D Dash as an example of a mobile game that had successfully crossed over into non-game medias. Here's what Sharma had to say, according to a January 26 article by Jon Jordan of Pocket Gamer Biz:

"Go, go, again 
In terms of XMG's history, when it released its Inspector Gadget iOS game in late 2010, and you could buy the ringtone and unlock the 10 most popular TV episodes too. 
"We did 1 million downloads in a week, and it's reinvigorated the TV brand with a new TV series in production," Sharma revealed."

Yes, really. A mobile game has laid the groundwork for a new TV series. At first I thought this couldn't be true, but the Pocket Gamer Biz site seems genuine enough. Jordan repeats the fact in another article from January 30, again while on the subject of XMG's transmedia success:

"...its Inspector Gadget game was so successful that a new TV series has been commissioned."

And finally we also have this post from Pocket Gamer's Twitter account, posted the same day as Jordan's first article appeared:

pgbiz @pgbiz 
'Son of Inspector Gadge't TV show in production on the back of Gadget iOS game success #mgf2012

Obviously hastily written, but let's ignore the misplaced quotation mark in "Gadget" and take a look at what these words seem to reveal. "Son of Inspector Gadget"? Is that possibly the title for this new TV series that Sharma mentions? The quotation marks in the post certainly seem to indicate it... and if that really is the case, then we can probably assume the following: This new TV series will not be a direct revival of the original series, but rather a continuation - canon or not - set years after the original.

The words "Son of" raise as many questions as they answer, though. Let's say, just for theory's sake, that this upcoming show will literally be about Inspector Gadget's son. Does that mean Gadget actually got married at some point? And got a family? Even more importantly, where do Penny and Brain fit into this picture... they're his family already, remember? Not to mention that I find it extremely hard to see how all of this will be pulled off convincingly. Sigh... part of me wishes that the new show's title could have been "Niece of Inspector Gadget" instead. That certainly sounds much more intriguing to me, as well as easier to fit into the show's established themes/universe.

On the other hand, I could be really jumping to conclusions here. The fourth source of information I came across is from a different source altogether, namely an article by Joost Rietweld on the site Gaming Business Review. Interestingly enough, it seems to slightly contradict the above Twitter post. Published on January 31, here's the relevant quote from Rietweld's piece, "Mobile Games Forum 2012: Industry Shows Signs of Maturing":

"...Sharma was looking ahead by exploring cross-media, or transmedia, strategies. XMG’s mobile game for the somewhat forgotten animated TV series ‘Inspector Gadget’ spun-off a range of side products including best-selling ringtones, up to the point where the game “reinvigorated the TV series”. Indeed, a new season of the series is currently in the making."

Interesting how Rietweld's statement appears to be saying that "the series" - as in "the original series" - will simply be getting a new season. I would love for this to really happen, but it's a bit hard to believe given that almost any revival of a creative property these days insists on changing around everything that made the property great to begin with.
   However... there is one thing which sorta kinda supports the theory that the upcoming TV series MIGHT be a revival of the original series: That's what "M.A.D. Dash" is.


For those not familiar with the game, just take a look at the above gameplay video and you'll see what I mean. The design and animation instantly evoke the 1983 series. The game makers use original voice clips, sound effects with an authentic feel... even the theme music is there! (This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. M.A.D Dash marks the first time an Inspector Gadget game has used Shuki Levy's theme song since the late 80s, due to a monetary conflict that arose between DiC and Saban's company. Someone involved in this new game - at Cookie Jar or at XMG - apparently realized how extremely important that music is to the success of Inspector Gadget, and cleared the rights issue. Smart move.) In short, nearly everything about this game seems to cleverly bring back memories of the original TV show... and that accounts for a huge part of its popularity among older gamers.

This is the reason why the "Son of Inspector Gadget" title (true or not) doesn't quite make sense to me. The upcoming TV series is obviously being produced "on the back of the iOS game's success", right? And the game is based directly on the 1983 TV series. Why, then, would they follow up this game's success with a new TV show making a lot of changes to the original series? Wouldn't it, in fact, be logical to give viewers more of the original instead?

I don't know... I'm not gonna pretend I understand corporate logic. I do know, however, that I want more facts about this show! Information so far is pretty vague, with two of the above-mentioned sources even outright contradicting each other. And it's a bit strange that Cookie Jar - whom I at least presume is the production company behind this TV series - hasn't made any official announcements yet. Still, we don't know how far into production the show is... judging by Sharma's direct qoute, the only thing we know is that it IS somewhere in production. Let's hope it gets finished and released. Yes, the new show can wind up being both good and bad; but until we know more, I'm gonna remain enthusiastic about the fact that a new Gadget series is FINALLY being made! Think about it: For the first time ever, we're getting a reboot series without the involvement of DiC -  the company which almost ruined the franchise during the 90s and 2000s with their own, awful Gadget reboots. Cookie Jar has every chance of raising the bar, and I'm hoping they intend to do just that. Whether their new series proves to be a complete reimagining or a faithful recreation of the original... I want to see what they can do with Inspector Gadget.

But enough of my babbling. You've heard my theories and thoughts, now it's time to voice your own! What do you think?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Vintage Merchandise: It's Greek to Everybody

This must be one of the weirder merchandise illustrations I've seen in a while... but somehow it still has a cool vibe to it. Up for sale on Ebay (directly from Greece) is this Greek edition of an Inspector Gadget board game that was released in the 80s. They get a lot of strange touches into this cover drawing: All of Gadget's clothing has the wrong colors (except for the pants), Penny's eyes look REALLY freaky (and dead)... and then you have M.A.D. Cat, who's actually integrated into the Greek Inspector Gadget logo, from which he pops out and grins at our heroes like the Chechire Cat from "Alice in Wonderland". (Is M.A.D. Cat a fan, I wonder?) Gadget even points at him with a playful smile... now what the heck is THAT supposed to mean? Of course, he probably doesn't know that M.A.D. Cat belongs to Dr. Claw, but I almost get the feeling that he's saying: "You rascal, you... sitting on top of my logo like that!"

It's hard to explain why I kinda like this drawing, but then again, a lot of stuff in this world is hard to explain...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gadget, Nozzaire & the Gadgetinis Storyboards

Came across a couple of Gadgetinis storyboards at the French blog BOO! Illustrations! I've never seen storyboards from Gadget & the Gadgetinis before, so I thought I'd showcase them here for those interested. I assume they were done by the person running the blog, a storyboard artist, illustrator and teacher who simply calls him or herself "Boo".
     Not sure which episode this first board is from (as I've still not seen the entire series)... so if anyone can identify the exact episode, please do so in the comments!

The second storyboard below, though, I managed to recognize. It's from episode 50, "Operation Get Gadget", about 5 1/2 minutes in. Briefly explained, this scene is about Gadget's superior in the spinoff, Colonel Nozzaire, being hit by some high-tech radio waves (shot at him by an off-screen MAD agent) which hypnotises the colonel into wanting one thing only: To destroy Gadget. Pretty bad timing, considering that Nozzaire had just brought Gadget some chocolate to apologize for his generally aggressive attitude. And just as Gadget receives this chocolate, the colonel is hit...

I can't seem to find the episode online anywhere... but below, you can check out the matching screenshots from the finished scene. (By the way, for anyone caring about such small details: Note that the short close-up of Gadget eating yet another chocolate (panel 6-7 in the above storyboard) was dropped from the final scene.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Cro et Bronto" - Bruno Bianchi's Very First Cartoon Series?

Wow, I stand corrected! In my December 10 post, reminiscing about Gadget's late creator Bruno Bianchi, I wrote that the original Inspector Gadget series was Bianchi's first outing as a director. That's what I always thought... but it appears not to be the case. Bruno Bianchi actually had experience from directing at least one TV cartoon series before Inspector Gadget! Presenting... CRO et BRONTO from 1980!

This show is interesting to Inspector Gadget fans not only because of the involvement of Bruno Bianchi, but also as a piece of ancient DiC history! Yep, this cartoon was of course made by DiC, where Bianchi had already been working since 1977. First broadcast in March of 1980, Cro et Bronto was a co-production between DiC and Antenna 2, the French channel that aired all of the show's 45 episodes, running for 1 minute and 20 seconds each. Below is the series' title screen:

I've never seen this show and it appears extremely hard to see at all. In fact, I can't locate a single clip of it online, not even an intro - and that in itself is saying a lot. The only proper information available anywhere seems to be on the French cartoon site Planete Jeunesse, which at least provides an article containting a few detailed facts and some screenshots.

According to Planete JeunesseCro et Bronto was clearly inspired by chase cartoons from the classic Hollywood era (think Chuck Jones' Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote cartoons as well as Tex Avery and a plethora of others). It had no dialogue and focused entirely on slapstick comedy accompanied by music. The plots center around a hungry little stone age man named Cro and his obsessive attempts to catch and eat the dinosaur Bronto. Oh, but there is a twist to this predator-prey setup: Bronto, a peace-loving and plant-eating brontosaurus, actually has a crush on Cro... and never realizes that Cro is out to harm him (or her?)! Wow, Bronto's absent-minded personality almost reminds me of... Inspector Gadget!... 

And, needless to say, Cro's ambitious plans and traps for capturing Bronto has a tendency to backfire on him...

The series was co-directed by Bruno Bianchi and Edouard David, with music by Claude Mann. Interestingly enough, Edouard David would go on to collaborate with Bruno Bianchi on the main character designs for Inspector Gadget. Knowing this, it wouldn't surprice me at all if Bianchi and David also did the character designs for Cro and Bronto. The designs in these screenshots certainly feel like Bianchi's style.

To finish off, here's an excerpt of a French comic book adaptation of the cartoon, originally published in the magazine Télé Récré A2 (and found online over at the blog Le Grenier de Récré A2). This comic book version is credited by Planete Jenuesse as part of the reason why Cro and Bronto is still remembered by some viewers today, since they apparently vanished from the television screens long ago. For the record, Télé Récré A2 was a magazine adapting the TV cartoons from Antenna 2's program block of the same name into comic book stories. Unlike the TV series, Cro and Bronto talk a lot... and they appear to have a semi-friendly relationship in some of these pages. What's the deal, is Cro out to catch Bronto or to mock him? Maybe the comic book artist (someone called Gen-Clo, according to the source blog) toyed a little with the characters' personalities...

Hope you enjoyed this slightly Gadget-related post about one of Bruno Bianchi's earlier projects. It may not be Inspector Gadget, but this show is certainly fascinating as a piece of DiC history I was never aware of before, as well as (possibly) Bruno Bianchi's first work as a cartoon director. (Don't quote me on that, though... I've been wrong before!)

The cover for a record edition featuring Cro et Bronto's theme song. I'd 
love to at least hear the song, but like the series itself, it seems pretty 
unfindable online...