Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MAR 25, 2015 @ 9:00 AM

How Inspector Gadget Was Remade for a New Generation

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


BY JILL KRASNY

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Little Girl Reviews The New Inspector Gadget Series

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Boomerang Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) Premieres the New Inspector Gadget Series on March 7, 2015 at 17:30

And so it's time for the premiere in my own home country, Norway. Judging by the Scandivavian Boomerang TV guides at the Danish site TimeFor.TV, the new Inspector Gadget series will premiere this Saturday at 17:30 (or 5:30pm) in Norway, Denmark and Sweden; with two half-hour episodes airing in an hour-long slot. (I checked the TV guide's archives for the past seven days, which is why I'm quite sure March 7 is the premiere.) Here's a snapshot from the Boomerang Norway guide for Saturday, March 7, which lists the series under its Norwegian title, "Inspektør Gadget":


The exact same slot can be seen in the Swedish and Danish TV guides for Saturday; under the titles "Kommissarie Gadget" and "Inspector Gadget", respectively. (I couldn't find any Boomerang guides for Finland or Iceland on TimeFor.TV, though... does anyone know if those countries have separate Boomerang feeds?) It seems Saturdays and Sundays will be the series' Scandinavian air days for the time being, as no weekdays turn up in my searches. Here's Boomerang's Inspector Gadget schedule for Norway, Sweden and Denmark during the next two weekends:


Saturday, March 7
17:30
17:55

Sunday, March 8
11:00
11:25

Saturday, March 14
11:00
11:25

17:30
17:55

Sunday, March 15
11:40
12:05

18:35
19:00



Very little info seems to be available online about the Scandinavian Boomerand rebrand... and for that matter, about the programs themselves. I haven't found any TV guides listing which episodes air on the above dates, for instance, though I'll assume the episodes are presented in chronological order.

As for more general rebrand announcements, the only news piece I've spotted so far is this January 9 Danish article from tvnyt.com, which says the Danish rebrand officially started on January 17. Also, some dialogue-free Gadget videos have been up on Boomerang's Norwegian, Danish and Swedish web sites for about a month now (the same dialogue-free videos which are used on Boomerang sites in almost every country, I believe). But I'm still sure the actual, Scandinavian TV premiere of the new Inspector Gadget is this Saturday.

Any Norwegians and/or Scandinavians out there who plan on tuning in?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gadget Is Here For The Birthday (Comic-Book Style)

It's my birthday today, and I kind of feel like posting something... so how's this for a semi-narsissistic change of pace? It's the cover of a British comic book issue which was in stores just around the time I was born in 1988.


This is issue number 3 (February-March 1988) of a short-lived, UK comic book magazine published bi-monthly by Marvel Comics in London. Marvel had nothing to do with producing the magazine's contents; they simply translated and adapted issues of the French "Inspecteur Gadget" magazine published by Greantori for several years in the 80s. Greantori's comics were adapted from TV episodes, and were for the most part pretty awful: Badly paced storytelling coupled with amateurish drawings which were usually traced off of stills from the given episode. The one saving grace was the cover art, which almost always looked terrific. The covers were also based on existing artwork - model sheets, promotional art or episode motives - but were much better drawn than anything inside.

I quite like the above cover for Marvel's third issue. Yeah, the characters are posed somewhat generically, and there are some off-model colors, but Gadget, Penny and Brain still look very, very nice. I also like the gallery of faces in the left-hand margin, and the title logo here looks noticeably better than the classic American merchandising logo (with the possible exception of the squeezed "O", which seems to be redrawn from the "U" in the French "Inspecteur Gadget" logo).

The entire cover for Marvel's No. 3 was clearly taken from the French Greantori publication "album n°2" which I believe collected several stories from the standard magazine issues. I don't know the exact publication date of the French album, but here it is for comparison:


And that's not all for this motive, either. To continue the game of connect-the-dots: in 1993, the German publisher Bastei-Verlag used it for a one-off "Inspektor Gadget" comic published as issue 9 of their magazine series "Bastei Fernseh-Comic" ("television comic"). This time, however, the actual Greantori artwork was not used. Bastei's cover is apparently traced from the Greantori art instead, for whatever reason (specifically from the Marvel cover, I think, looking at the juxtaposition of elements and Gadget's speech bubble) - and it has to be said that the inking and character drawing is not nearly as accomplished as on the French and British covers. Still interesting to see, though.

Gadget's speech bubble line: "There is no problem that is a problem to me!"
The story inside is based on the episode "Gadget's Replacement". Its German TV episode 
title is actually "Arbeitslos", but it's titled "Die Computer-falle" in this comic book.

(With thanks to GC for providing the magazine images seen in this post.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BREAKING: The New Inspector Gadget Series Premieres on Netflix in the United States on March 27, 2015


Via DHX's official press room, some VERY interesting news for American Inspector Gadget fans...

DHX MEDIA ANNOUNCES NETFLIX US EXCLUSIVE FOR INSPECTOR GADGET
SERIES SLATED FOR US PREMIER ON MARCH 27 
Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, London. 25 February 2015. DHX Media, a key player internationally in the creation of content for families and children, has licensed Netflix as the exclusive US home for its new Inspector Gadget series. The new CGI, 26-episode series is expected to premier on Netflix US this March. It will also appear on Netflix at later dates in Latin America, the U.K., Ireland, Benelux, France and the Nordics following initial broadcast in each country. 
Inspector Gadget is one of those classic properties that’s perfect for a contemporary version,” Josh Scherba, SVP Distribution at DHX Media, stated. “We are delighted that, beginning this March in the US, the bumbling bionic detective will reach a whole new generation of fans on Netflix.”

Here's an excerpt of Netflix's announcement as well:

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Feb. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A secret agent mouse, a cyborg detective, crazy outback animals, and a group of kids who run a toy company, are just a few of the adventurous and funny characters joining the world's leading Internet TV network beginning this year. Working with award-winning global partners, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is adding five new animated and live-action comedy series to its already broad selection of high-quality kids and family entertainment. (...)

Inspector Gadget – March 2015 
Everyone's favorite bumbling bionic detective, Inspector Gadget, is back in an all new CGI animated series. Dr. Claw has reactivated his global crime syndicate MAD and Inspector Gadget must stop him! Backed up by his niece, Penny, her dog Brain, and an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry, the lovable Gadget fights crime as only he can. (...)

This puts a definite "outdated" stamp on the news from last June that the series would air on Cartoon Network in the States. After Cartoon Network recently announced its 2015-16 upfront without a mention of the Inspector Gadget reboot, I was half-way expecting Boomerang to be the show's destination in the U.S. too... so this came completely out of the blue for me. On the plus side, I'm guessing the series will be presented in HD on Netflix, which might perhaps not have been the case had it come to Boomerang in the States.

Interesting, by the way, that Netflix in numerous other countries will also feature the series sometimes after its initial Boomerang airings. This apparently includes my own country, Norway, under the "Nordics" section. (About that: The Boomerang premiere in the Nordics - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland - seems to be happening soon, as indicated by videos like this on the Norwegian Boomerang site, but I've been unable to find premiere dates for Norway and other Scandinavian/Nordic countries yet. If anyone should know, please comment about it.)

UPDATE (February 26): Here's a very short teaser ad from Netflix's official YouTube channel, mentioning the March 27 launch date:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

French Dubbing Studio Uses Interesting Promotional Image

Okay, I hadn't actually expected to return to the blog quite so soon, but this is hilarious.

I just came across the site of Audio Postproduction SPR Inc., a studio which specializes in postproduction servives such as dubbing to other languages. According to their list of dubbed projects, DHX's new Inspector Gadget is one of many animated children's series that SPR have dubbed into French, and - well, have a look at their presentation site:


It really was just a question of time, am I right? Cortoony's beautifully rendered mustache version of the new CGI Gadget always looked real enough to be an actual promotional image. And now, as we can see, it is! Expect Mustache Gadget to turn up on official DVD and Blu-ray covers for the new series shortly.