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...


  1. Hey there! Cool blog :)

  2. Thanks! :) You're one of the first to comment actually:) Feel free to discuss/comment on anything you see here (or anything else that's Gadget-related). I've kinda missed getting comments...

  3. Well, actually, I wanted to ask a): have you seen the live-action movies and what do you think of them and b): I've watched the first season of the original series. Would you reccomend I watch the second season, 'Gadget Boy', and 'Gadget and the Gadgetinis'? I'm kinda struggling to bring myself to watch them because I'm afraid I'll hate them so much it'll just ruin it all for me (yeah, stupid, I know)

    1. Those are some interesting questions! (Which is why it has taken me a few days to get around to answering them... hope you’re still out there:) I finally found some time for it tonight, and was just about to post this reply when Google notified me that it was too long for the comments section’s word limit (!). As you probably understand, I wound up writing a much longer answer than I had planned to. ;) But I don’t really feel like cutting the reply down, so instead, I’ll just divide it into several comments. Consider this comment Part 1 of the answer. Now then… on to your questions:

      a) Yes, I’ve seen both live-action movies, and they were almost unbelievably bad. Completely unlike the cartoon series in every possible way except for the name. Awful writing, awful acting, awful direction. I watched them purely out of curiosity (as well as for reference in case I should get asked about them, such as right now;). They turned out to be even worse than I had expected. The direct-to-video film "Inspector Gadget 2" is quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen. Not only were the story and actors atrocious, but also the special effects... just unbearably cheesy and trashy. IG 1 was perhaps 1% better, but only because it had a theatrical budget and thus had better production values. In all other departments it was just as bad as the sequel.

      (To be continued in the next comment.)

    2. b) Now this question is a bit bigger. So I’ll break the answer down into sections:

      *SEASON 2
      I take it you liked the original Season 1, right? If that’s the case, there is certainly a possibility you will not like all the changes that were made to the show in season 2. The cast and crew behind the series were changed greatly between seasons. Budgets were cut severely, the animation quality declined and, worst of all, the writing could get really sloppy. Not every season 2 episode has bad writing and/or animation, though. Ep 74, “The Incredible Shrinking Gadget”, has great animation even though the script is terrible. Ep 84, “Gadget Meets the Clan” is a hilarious “Godfather” parody with both energetic writing and good animation. Probably my favorite season 2 ep.

      Still, the batting average of season 2 is low and sad. The characters became much more one-dimensional and would at times behave jarringly out of character compared to season 1 (where the characters were very carefully and consistently written). Gadget, who had been pretty stupid (but not completely helpless) in season 1, was reduced to 100% brain-dead in season 2. At times, he would behave so stupidly it was not even funny anymore. Penny would be much less involved in the stories, so we no longer got the exciting investigating/crime-solving sequences with her, which I personally loved in season 1. Dr. Claw’s grandiose schemes to take over the whole world got replaced by much less ambitious crimes… and worse, Dr. Claw would drop his crimes altogether in many episodes to concentrate on simply getting rid of Gadget. These episodes withouth a proper crime agenda from MAD are generally the worst of season 2, as they have extremely thin plot lines. And, of course, let’s not forget Gadget’s new assistant in season 2 (even though I’d like to): CORPORAL CAPEMAN, the perhaps most hated supporting character of any 80s cartoon. Fortunately, this ill-conceived fanboy/assistent only appeared in 6 or 7 of the season’s 21 episodes, but it was enough to leave a seriously bad taste in many IG fans’ mouths.

      I could say a lot more about the changes/faults of season 2 (and maybe I will later on)... but in short, I’m not sure I’d recommend watching this seaon. It IS an official part of the original series’ run, and that makes it kinda interesting - but for me, so much of the show changed that I personally have problems regarding it as "canon" compared to season 1. Season 2 really represents the “jump the shark” point for Inspector Gadget in many respects. Still, several episodes ARE somewhat enjoyable. In addition to the two above-mentioned, I also find “Ghost Catchers” and “Bad Dreams Are Made of This” relatively decent, as well as “Gadget and Old Lace” (which get surpricingly dark at times) and “Wambini Predicts” (not the best animation, but some funny, creative ideas). So… yeah… if you DO get the urge to check out the infamous season 2, those eps would most likely be my recommendations. (Beware of the 'Incredible Shrinking Gadget' ep, though… Capeman is in there!!)

      Now this spinoff is a bit easier to give my personal verdict on: It’s crap. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of each season, but for me, that was more than enough. Put simply, Gadget Boy has bad/lazy writing, trashy animation (FAR cheaper than the second season of the original series) and an awful concept conceived purely to make money on the name recognition of (Inspector) Gadget. DiC of the 90s in a nutshell. In other words, not recommended;)

      (To be continued in the next comment.)

      I’m a bit more divided on this one. Compared with all the other spinoffs we’ve seen over the years, it’s not really that bad… but at the same time, far from great. My main problem with the show, perhaps, is that even though it supposedly tries to be a sequel to the original show, the characters behave in ways they never would have in the original. Dr. Claw has become a really pitiful character here (far more so than in season 2). He sounds much older and not intimidating at all, has far less style and dignity, and he even has a mother in some episodes (yes, A MOTHER!). Also, Penny is older and in my eyes not the same appealing character as in season 1. Following the trend of season 2, she is generally less involved in the physical crime-fighting. And of course, Brain has been replaced by two “Gadgetinis” robots. This last element is perhaps the worst of all, as Brain was a really great character while the Gadgetinis are somewhat generic. Still, at least they aren’t annoying. (Well, not much anyway.) What makes the Gadgetinis series sorta interesting is that it was the first series since the original to be made with the involvement of all three of the show’s original creators: Jean Chalopin wrote it, Bruno Bianchi directed it and Andy Heyward was one of the producers. Also, this show was produced by SIP Animation and not by DiC like all the other spinoffs… and this probably accounts for the fact that the animation and designs are pretty decent. (I could have survived without the redesign of Gadget’s chin, though.)

      Writing-wise, there are some really bad episodes and some pretty good ones (as well as everything inbetween). I haven't seen the entire series, but one of my big problems with the show is how childish and wacky in tone it can get, compared with the original Inspector Gadget series. It feels like they're taking that aspect way too far at times (not least in the episodes with Dr. Claw's MOTHER!! (shudder!)). And Gadget, now a Lieutnant, has a slightly different personality... he sometimes feels more like a naive child than like the grown-up Inspector who genuinely believed that he was the world's greatest detective. I don't really like that change. And, like the second season of the original show, Gadget is simply TOO stupid here. The original season 1 found a good balance between stupid and funny which none of the later spinoffs have quite managed to match... Gadgetinis included.

      Again, not sure if I'm gonna recommend this series. It's not nearly as good as season 1 of the original, of course... and I think it has a LOT of irritating flaws. On the other hand, some episodes are less irritating than others;) If you ARE gonna check it out, some not-so-bad episodes I'd recommend would be "Don't Call Me Gadget," "Nice Guys are Finished", "The General's Daughter", "Santa Claw" and "Meet Super GG".

      Wow, I seriously wrote a lot more here than I planned to! Maybe parts of these answers will wind up in a blog post later on;) Hope all my babbling managed to provide at least a few answers to your questions:)

    4. Interesting. Would you say the Gadgetinis spin-off would fare better or worse for someone who enjoyed the first season of the original as opposed to the second season?

      Also, what is your opinion of "Inspector Gadget's Last Case" movie?

      (Sorry to butt in on your comments like this)

  4. Wow, and here I was thinking that my questions had frightened you off! Anyway, I did try watching the first live-action Gadget movie but I was turned off after the first five minutes. Just in case you didn't know, the Nostalgia Critic did a review of the first movie back in March 2011. I'd give you a link but I don't know how to make it work in this comment box thingie.
    Anyway, to be honest, the reason I asked those questions is that I'm an aspiring writer, and one of my pet projects is a reboot of the Gadget series and I was hoping to share my ideas with someone. I'm working on a script for a pilot episode, if you're interested in seeing it.

  5. Hi again! Yeah, I've seen the NC review, it captures the movie pretty spot on, I'd say. Anyway, cool to hear about a Gadget reboot being one of your pet projects! I'd love to see a well-made revival of the series myself. The part about your script is making me curious, but right now, my studies are keeping me so busy that I'm not sure how wise it would be for me to get involved in detailed script feedback and stuff at this moment. (I'm already away from the blog for long stretches between each post, and really don't have time to be here that often, unfortunately.) Still, feel free to tell me more about your ideas here:) As you're saying reboot, does that possibly mean a sort of reimagining of the original series?

    1. Well, my idea is a little darker than the original was. Not 'grim & gritty 90's comics', dark, more like 'Astro Boy meets Tintin meets Pixar dramady' kinda dark Still has lots of comedy but at times can shift to serious action, drama and mystery. One thing that my story does is focus on the relation between Gadget and Penny which I think is really very in important. Since this is a slighty more serious story, Gadget would be more competent -- oh, he'd still be an absentmided goofball with no investigative skill whatsoever, but he can kick serious ass when the situation presents itself. And Penny and Brain aren't sneaking around behind his back -- they're openly helpin Gadget, and he's deliberatley providing distraction for them.
      So uh... that's not too much of a defilement of the original source material, right? ^__^;

    2. "...that's not too much of a defilement of the original source material, right?"

      Well, yes and no. First of all, I must say I think your idea sounds pretty cool! For many years, I thought the only way to do a really good revival of IG would be to go back to the way things were in the first season (basically because that's the version of the show I've always loved). But I've come to realize that perhaps it would be even better if one could take the basics of what made the show great in season 1 and build something slightly more serious onto that. In that respect, I think you're on the right track with focusing a little more on the relationship between Gadget and Penny. There is something there, something touching, that the original series only subtly touches upon: The love Penny has for her dimwitted uncle that ultimately is (probably) her biggest reason for fighting crime behind his back and letting him take all the credit. Of course, she has other reasons too... she clearly sees Dr. Claw as her nemesis (even if Dr. Claw doesn't realize that) and is in this fight also because she knows that MAD would win, and the world would be doomed, if Inspector Gadget were to face Dr. Claw entirely on his own. But I still think that her undying love for her uncle is the primary reason for Penny doing what she's doing.

      I'm a little less certain about this part: "...Penny and Brain aren't sneaking around behind his back -- they're openly helpin Gadget, and he's deliberatley providing distraction for them." This is obviously the biggest change from the original format (at least of what I know about your idea so far). I definitely like the thought that Gadget can "kick serious ass" at times, or at least defend himself a little when he realizes that he's in danger. And your analysis of Gadget as the distraction from Penny and Brain's real investigation is spot on, because that's excactly what he's doing in the original series (thought without knowing)! But yeah, when it comes to Gadget KNOWING that Penny and Brain are the true crime fighters... hmm. Personally, I've always seen the irony of Gadget getting credit for Penny and Brain's work as one of the funniest ingredients in the original series (perhaps the most important ingredient)... so it defintely feels a bit risky to try and change that. However! that is not to say it can't be done, or done well - it would just need to be done carefully. In that vein I have a suggestion (just a suggestion) for how this maybe could be pulled off:

      [Continued in next comment.]

    3. Let's just say, for now, that we're thinking about a possible story arc for the entire season of this new IG series. You see, I've been thinking at times about what it would be like if Gadget were to suddenly find out that Penny and Brain have been doing the real job all along. I think it could be really interesting for us (the audience) to be able to witness that moment of realization. So my idea is this: What if you start off this new, darker series with the same basic format as the original season 1 - Penny and Brain helping Gadget and fighting Dr Claw behind his back - and then suddenly, at a certain point in the season, let Gadget find out what has really been going on all the time. I think it could make for a pretty interesting arc... he could even come to realize it gradually through several episodes, because (as we all know) he's not exactly a mastermind. And then suddenly, he does realize, and his relationship with Penny and Brain is faced with a whole new situation which could be really interesting to see progress. I'm thinking that Gadget maybe becomes depressed at first, facing the fact that he didn't actually accomplish all the brilliant police work he's been getting credit for… and maybe it even leads to something of a brief drama/crisis in his and Penny’s relationship. But then, at a point, Gadget realizes that Penny and Brain's help has been a good thing after all and gives them his blessing to continue fighting crime, albeit together with him rather than behind his back.

      Again, these are just suggestions… and I'm still not sure if I like the idea of Gadget being aware that Penny and Brain are helping him; and thus aware that he's only there for distraction and not competent enough to do the job himself. Probably because I find it very funny how Gadget, in the original series, is so absent-minded that he's really living in his own world, where he is of course an undisputed master of detective work. Somehow that point becomes very diluted if Gadget were to start being clumsy on purpose... because he now suddenly KNOWS that Penny and Brain need it for distraction. His antics would certainly not be funny the same way anymore. Hmmm... maybe the best way to do this would be if Gadget got just a little smarter (again, gradually) as a result of all his realizations - smart enough to join the crime fighting next to his niece and dog instead of just providing forced slapstick. He could still be a clutz, and still mess things up, but be a visibly integrated part of the Penny/Brain team. After all... just think what an amazing team these three would make: Gadget with his bionic equipment, Penny with her detective/computer skills and Brain with his array of disguises and infiltration possibilities (as well as being there to help out Gadget when he messes things up). It COULD turn out really epic... especially if you make the MAD organization slighty darker too, so the trio has a real threat to fight against.

    4. I was thinking something pretty much along the same lines as you suggested. One thing I didn't make clear when I said Penny are Brain are openly helping Gadget is that only Gadget, Penny, Brain, Quimby and maybe a select few other allies know this fact, with it being kept a secret from MAD and the general public. But yeah, I've pretty much been going back-and-forth with the 'revelation' idea, but now I think I'm definetaly going to go with that since you're pretty much my gage for the fanbase's reaction.
      Another thing I'm going to explore is just what happened to Penny's parents. My opinion is that MAD killed them or something -- grim, I know, but it sounds better than they just dumped her on Gadget or something. Also, Dr Claw and MAD will be a a lot more menacing.

    5. Hi again! Sorry about the late reply, my weekend wound up getting pretty busy. I do find it interesting that MAD doesn't know about Penny and Brain's being accepted as an official part of the team. On one hand, I'm kinda divided on how plausible it is that Claw, who's known for having cameras and spies just about EVERYWHERE in the world, can miss out on the fact that Gadget, Penny and Brain are now in reality an integrated team... no matter how much they try to hide it. On the other hand, of course, Dr Claw never quite realizes that Penny is the brains behind the crime-solving in the original series (even though he catches her many times), so building from that logic, I guess it CAN be made believable. But I think it's wise to be aware that portraying Dr Claw as not knowing about the team-up might possibly make him less threating/powerful than he otherwise would have been... unless it's done carefully. And you do of course want to make MAD and Claw MORE menacing than in the original series, so it might become a tough balance. What if Dr Claw also has some sort of arc during the series, and comes to a point (much later than Gadget's realization, of course) where he faces the fact that a little girl and a dog has been the real reason he never managed to defeat Gadget all this time? I'm thinking that could make for a pretty cool cliffhanger in the season finale, just to make one suggestion:)

      Otherwise, I'm honored to hear I'm your "gage for the fanbase's reaction.";) Still, it's hard to tell if I really represent a consensus for the Gadget fan base or not. True, I don't care that much for season 2, and a lot of fans share that opinion; but on the other hand, I think I can be somewhat conservative at times about what I personally think can work within the Gadget universe... again, with many of my viewpoints boiling down to season 1 because I love that so much:) So I'd definitely recommend that you get the opinions of as many IG fans as possible! Hopefully, more people will join in the discussions here as time goes by... I know there are some dedicated fans on youtube, for example.

      And yes, I love the idea of trying to dig a little deeper into Penny's back story. Her parents killed by MAD? Intriguing idea, though of course something we've heard many times before (I immediately think of Batman). It does give Penny a very clear-cut motivation to fight MAD, so on a purely emotional level it works well. I also think how this is presented to the audience will be very important. How about if we get to know a bit, but not everything, at first? Like, how about if all we know about Penny at the start of the series is that she was left as a foundling outside his door? Gadget takes it upon himself and his detective skills to find the mother, but doesn't succeed and ends up raising the girl himself. I kinda like the idea of Gadget taking care of Penny since she was a baby, because I’ve always wanted to dig deeper into just how Penny has come to love the clumsy, naive Gadget so much. Clearly, she sees a lot in him, and clearly, one of his best qualities is kindness. Being raised by such a clueless, but genuinely well-meaning soul is a good reason for growing fond of that person, in spite of (or perhaps even because of) all his weaknesses. That in itself could be a pretty good motivation for Penny to start helping “Uncle” Gadget in his investigation as soon as she’s old enough, because she can see how much he’s struggling. And, naturally, as soon as Penny and Brain start helping him behind his back, Gadget’s reputation within the police force skyrockets, until he’s got the position as top detective. It is at this time that Gadget (and Penny) becomes a serious threat to Dr Claw, and the rest, as they say, is history…

      [To be continued.]

    6. …but what I wanted to get at with all this babbling is this: NOT knowing everything about Penny’s origins from the start could (potentially) make for a really cool story sometimes later in the series. A story where Penny somehow gets the opportunity to finally find out who her parents were/are and what happened to them. And this could definitely tie into MAD. Maybe her parents were top investigators themselves, who happened to be hot on the trail of MAD… so hot, in fact, that Dr Claw decided to destroy them. So why, then, do the parents choose to leave Penny outside Gadget’s door? Maybe because they know he’s a very nice, harmless, small-scale police detective who will never be seen as a threat by MAD… and so they assume Penny will be safe there.

      Whether this twist on the idea is better depends of course on what you want to do. I realize that my ideas make Penny’s origin story a little more coincidental… for instance, there is no biological relation between Penny and Gadget, even though they become a family. But at the same time, I think it might make the plot slightly more unique, just because it ties Penny’s dedication to fighting crime so closely into Gadget’s naïve and bumbling dedication to the same thing. Of course, as she grows older, Penny becomes more of a real nemesis to Dr Claw, but I’m still not sure I like Penny fighting him because of bitterness over her parents already from childhood. Maybe because she is so optimistic in the original series, with not a trace of real bitterness towards MAD evident in her, is why I prefer the idea of her finding out much later about her parents… maybe in her teens? (Come to think of it, how old do you see Penny in this new series?) And it would also be better to let her know later on in the series (in the present), because then we could see her reaction to it. (Man, I sure am obsessed with “revelation” moments, aren’t I? ;) You could even save that story for season 2, because so much is already going on in season 1:)

      Finally, just a quick question: Have you got any plans for Brain? I’d love to see a little of how his friendship with Penny started. Myself, I think I’m picturing that he was Gadget’s dog already before Penny got into the family, and so they’ve known each other since Penny was a baby. You got any theories on this?

  6. I did think about the whole thing with Claw being ignorant of Penny and Brain. My (rather pathetic) excuse is that who would ever seriously belive that a little ten-year-old and her dog would ever be able to outwit a criminal mastermind like Dr Claw? Although I can see Claw spitting chips once he finds out the truth, which would probably occur towards the end of the first season, maybe.
    I was thinking that Penny is a blood relation of Gadget, and he's just as grieved by their deaths as Penny is, although now I think about it might be a little too heavy of a background story for someone as light-hearted as Gadget. Then again, I find of kinda weird that Gadget would just take in some random kid he found. As for Brain, I'm figuring he's an escaped lab experiment that Gadget found and rescued as a puppy (hence why he's as smart as a human).
    Just so you know, I've started an online writing course and I'll be pretty busy for some time. But I've taken notes of everything that's been said here. Sorry my replies are so brief, but I'm on limited net time. Best of luck with the blog and I'll let you know how my plans are working out :)