Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Inspector Gadget iTunes Game Teased on New Official YouTube Channel and Facebook Page

Well, that's a lot of news jammed into one headline. Guess I'll start with what I find most interesting. As the below video points out, "Something's brewing on iTunes"...

...and that something, I believe, is an all-new iOS game starring Gadget! This will be the first video game based on the show since the hit "Inspector Gadget - M.A.D Dash" (2010), which became popular enough to push a new TV series into production. This new game, set to be released in two days, is apparently a sidescroller like M.A.D Dash but otherwise looks pretty different. Let's have a closer look at those flashing images from the video:

I must admit I find this art style both kind of charming and kind of sloppy-looking. It's great that they're using the original series designs, but the drawing style and rendition of those designs seem a bit off, particularly the faces of the M.A.D agents.

Also, here's an amateurish mistake: Gadget's springs are not supposed to come out from under his shoes... they're supposed to be an extension of his legs, which is why this gadget is called "gadget legs". At least the gadget copter looks okay...

Blundering slapstick, always an important part of the Inspector Gadget franchise.

And the cartoony frame below actually makes me curious to see the gameplay in motion.

I guess I'll give this game a shot. It's nice to see DHX Media doing something new with the Gadget franchise (the in-the-making TV series excluded), and timing-wise this ties in well with the series' 30th anniversary. Which brings me to the next piece of news - the YouTube channel that posted the game's teaser video:

Simply titled "Inspector Gadget", at least in the account name, this is not a fan-made tribute channel as I first suspected when I stumbled upon it. Its banner (above) acknowledges Gadget's recent anniversary with "INSPECTOR GADGET - Celebrating 30 Years", whereas the beginning of the info section reads, "Welcome to the OFFICIAL Inspector Gadget Channel". DHX has actually given Gadget his own channel.

Furthermore, when checking out one of the channel's videos, I quickly discovered the link to the official Facebook page. In fact, if you try typing the url "", you will now be redirected to this Facebook Page. As we can see below, it shares the YouTube channel's logos and banner tagline, and its info section reads (direct quote): "H!i Welcome to my official Facebook page. Penny and Brain got me this for my 30th Birthday." Yeaahhhh... this Facebook page is apparently run by Inspector Gadget himself. How... amusing.

Both the YouTube channel and Facebook page have been online since September 27, so it appears that DHX is doing a concentrated effort to create more online awareness of Gadget (and using the 30th anniversary as a springboard for that). This is a great initiative, of course, but I'm a little confused as to whom they're targeting. So far, the Facebook site and YouTube channel consist mostly of short clips and screenshots from classic episodes, many of them accompanied by Gadget's "personal" comments. I guess this might be mildly entertaining for kids. However, as a 30-year old brand, Inspector Gadget has quite a lot of older fans - and almost nothing currently featured on the Youtube or Facebook sites seems particularly geared towards them. (The YouTube channel has one full episode, and the Facebook page features an ad for the new DVD release of the series, but still.) How about some original production artwork on Facebook? How about some rare videos on YouTube, like for instance high-quality versions of these bumpers? There is so much unrealized potential here...

As of now, I'd say the game teaser is the one somewhat interesting thing to be seen on the two sites. But who knows? Maybe that could change with time. Come to think of it, maybe these official outlets for Gadget could even become the first places to feature trailers and previews of the upcoming CGI TV series.

UPDATE (October 19, 2013): The game, entitled "Inspector Gadget M.A.D. Grab", was finally released to iTunes on October 18, after a four-day delay from the date announced in the teaser video (a new video has been added to the YouTube channel to mark the launch). The game is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and is currently available for free, so GRAB it while you can!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspector Gadget's Australian Soundtrack CD from 1995

Yes, really. Take a look below at what is probably the rarest Inspector Gadget soundtrack edition of all time: an official, 1995 CD reissue of ABC Records' 1986 LP, "Inspector Gadget - The Music"!

I actually bought this many months ago, but only now have I found the time to write a proper blog post about it. I know what you're thinking: how can this possibly be real? But bear with me and let me explain. I didn't believe it at first, either.

When I first spotted this CD on Ebay (sometimes last October), I was certain that it was simply a bootleg rip of the Australian LP. The cover looked completely homemade - as if someone had just snapped a crappy photo of the LP art and slammed it on a CD cover. Plus, I had never even heard of a 1995 CD reissue of the Australian LP, and could find virtually no proof of its existence online. (I did find one vague clue, but not enough to fully convince me of anything.) How could this CD exist when nobody had ever heard about it?

I had to contact the Ebay seller and persuade him to send me pictures of the back cover and interiors before I could even think of believing that this CD was real. But when he did send those pictures, my scepticism started to wane. The CD was looking more and more official.

Sure, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's music division had changed its name from ABC Records to ABC Music since the original LP. But it was obviously the same company... and the copyright information seemed very legit.

For the record, all the photos you see in this post were taken by me. But even the lower-resolution photos from the Ebay seller showed off some very official-looking details... which convinced me, despite still being slightly sceptical, to take a chance and buy the CD. (Don't even ask me how much I paid for it!)

Thankfully, all my suspicions were thrown aside when the CD arrived in the mail. The cover still looked awful, of course. Not only is it a terrible drawing, but the low resolution of the CD cover looked even worse in real life than on the seller's pictures. However... when I popped the disc into my player and started listening, I discovered something much more important: the music itself sounded fantastic. The tracks on this CD were not ripped from an old LP. The tracks on this CD were original recordings, taken directly from Shuki Levy's master tapes - or at least from top-notch copies of them. And they sounded cleaner and clearer than I had ever heard them before.

And realizing that, something else suddenly dawned on me.

Remember last summer when Télé 80 announced that they had 'found much of the missing Gadget music' and were planning a second CD? In the year that's passed since, they have stated several times that their new Gadget CD is sourced from "masters". Don't bother looking for those statements on their site, by the way... Télé 80 is still in the habit of inexplicably deleting Facebook posts. Below is a snapshot of a now-deleted thread from March 11. (At the time, the upgraded Gadget CD was scheduled for May 27; it was later pushed back to September.)

As we can see, Télé 80 clearly states that the tracks on their new CD are sourced from "Masters". I tried asking if this was true of all the tracks, but they never answered that question. They have not revealed anything about where they found those master tapes, either. But after I got hold of the 1995 Australian CD, it all made sense to me. They got the masters from ABC Music.

Think about it: ABC preserved the master tapes used for their soundtrack edition during the nine years that passed from the 1986 LP until the 1995 CD. Most likely, they have preserved those masters to this very day... and I suspect that, when Télé 80 started doing research for their second Gadget CD last year, it likely didn't take them long to hear about the 1986 LP (which has been listed on Discogs for years) and then get in touch with ABC Music. So, by pure coincidence - because ABC Records happened to take better care of its master material than Saban Records - 16 tracks from Levy and Saban's soundtrack survive on master tapes today!

I've been annoyed before that the Australian soundtrack didn't include more unique background music that was not already on the French LP.  I still am... but now that I know (or at least feel reasonably certain) that these tracks survive on masters today thanks to the Australian soundtrack, the double-dips feel a bit more justified. Of the 16 tracks on ABC's edition, 12 are background music cues; among them awesome compositions like "Mad Art Museum", "Gadget in Trouble", "Sophisticated Gadget", "Ghosts"... just to mention some of my personal favorites.

And here's what I've been wanting to get at all along: If my assumptions are correct, then I'd say there is even more reason to be excited for the new and upgraded Télé 80 CD. Because those specific, 16 tracks - sourced from the ABC masters - ought to sound spectacular. Heck, they might even sound more spectacular on a CD produced in 2013 than on ABC's CD from 1995... although they already sound great there.
   (It probably also means that most of the other 14 tracks on Télé 80's new CD are remastered from vinyls. Not that this is such a bad thing, either, if the job is well done. I think almost all of the Générikids track excerpts sound very good, including the tracks that would logically be vinyl-sourced, like "Gadget on Mars", "Gadget in Japan", "Pharaohs" etc. Plus, I suspect that track 27, "Inspector Gadget (Opening TV)", is also from a master tape, as Shuki Levy has it up on his site. But aside from that, I'd expect the absolutely best-sounding tracks to be the ones that were released on the Australian edition.)

Regarding the 16 Australian tracks: I should point out, for the sake of accuracy, that the Australian track list contains a few title mistakes. Track 6, strangely titled "Inspector Gadget Theme", is actually the fantastic "Chocolate Factory". And "Max's Theme" is not a Maxwell Smart reference, just a clumsy misspelling of "Mad's Theme" (a different orchestration than the one on the French LP, as I mention elsewhere). And here is proof that my Australian CD is as straight a reissue as they come: Not only does it have the exact same content, it even reproduces the track list errors from the original LP - which I also have in my collection. Let's make a quick comparison:

The mistitled track 6 is actually not listed on the LP's back cover (even though it's on Side 1)...

...but it is listed on the LP's label (below). I have a feeling that perhaps Saban forgot to include "Chocolate Factory" in the track list that they provided to ABC... and then later on, some ABC employee discovered that Side 1 included one more track after "Kingdom", and decided to just call it "Inspector Gadget Theme", not knowing its real title was "Chocolate Factory". Just a theory, of course, but it might explain why track 6 is listed on the label, but not on the back cover.

I bought the Australian vinyl early in 2012, long before I knew about the CD reissue. At the time, my plan was to digitalise the LP and share its unique tracks online, as I had no hope that anyone would bother to re-release the music officially. But then I heard about Télé 80's upcoming CD project (the first CD, to be exact) and put my own plans on hold. Which is still the case now. Télé 80's new CD starts shipping from Amazon today, and there's nothing I want more than to see this great music spread legally on a good CD edition. (Which it promises to be, I think - I've already ordered my copy.) Therefore, as tempting as it is, I will not be sharing anything from my "Inspector Gadget - The Music" CD today...

.....ohh, who am I kidding?? I can't resist sharing just a couple of tracks with you! Consider this a teaser for what you'll very likely be getting on the new Télé 80 CD. Here's a track that can be heard on both the French LP and the Australian LP/CD, the eerily beautiful "Ghosts". (Compare with a fan rip from the 1983 French LP here.)

And below is one of the rarer tracks released only on the Australian soundtrack, "Italian Gadget". I'm only sharing the first half of this one, though... you'll have to buy the new CD to get the rest (as well as the instrumental "Brain The Dog", the alternative "Mad's Theme", etc...).

I'm hoping these excerpts give you an idea of the CD's sound quality. At least in my ears, the CD version of "Ghosts" sounds far better than the LP-ripped version... which should bode well for Télé 80's edition.

All that being said, the 1995 Australian CD is still shrouded in mystery. Why is it so unknown compared to the Australian LP? As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I did find one trace of the CD's existence on the site Australian Television Memorabilia, in the soundtrack section for the ABC TV series Swap Shop. Under a listing for Swap Shop's 1989 LP soundtrack, it says: "(Re-issued in 1995 in a double CD pack with “INSPECTOR GADGET”)." The year of release fits, as does the publisher, ABC. I contacted the administrator of the site, but he didn't know anything more about the Gadget CD than what was posted online. Personally, I'm thinking that perhaps this double pack reissue of both Swap Shop and Gadget was a very limited one. The fact that the two CDs were a combined reissue might indicate that it wasn't a particularly widespread release, just two old children's TV soundtracks bundled together in a CD package for the few kids/parents who might want them (the "ABC for kids" logo also seems like a hint in this direction). This is only speculation, though. Maybe we'll dig up some facts in the future.

Learning about this CD's existence has been a fascinating experience. It reminded me that the internet doesn't know everything. But now, at least, the internet knows a little more.

Here are some high-res scans of the CD's cover art, label and booklet to round off...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Inspector Gadget's Original Model Sheets (A 30th Anniversary Tribute)

As promised, here's the special birthday surprice that I was talking about in my previous post: A collection of high-resolution, original model sheets from the 1983 series!

I aquired these a few months ago as part of a package that I'll tell you more about later. I think the majority of these drawings have never been released on the web before... or any other place, for that matter. Some of them were included on Shout! factory's 2006 DVD set (which also has some sheets that my collection lacks), but those were in low resolution and often edited: for whatever reason, the DVD presentation removed any visual sign of the show's French or Japanese production origins. The great thing about the package I bought is that it includes many model sheets both in their cleaned-up versions and in their original sketch form, often with French notes and names on the sketches! (Two of the sheets also have some Japanese notes for the overseas animation crews.) Obviously, the model sheets were sketched in DiC's French headquarters, then traced for the final, English-language versions to be used by Nelvana's crew in Canada. In the cases where a sketched model sheet closely resembles a cleaned-up sheet, I'll try to present the sketch together with the clean-up. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway - here's to you, Gadget. Let's enjoy this rare artwork in celebration of one of the quirkiest, most entertaining and most charming television cartoons ever.

I love, love, LOVE these sketches! So many great expressions!

Above is a size comparison guide for the main characters. Notice that, with the exception of Gadget, all the characters are listed with Japanese names. Not to mention that Gadget has a small mustache, indicating that this sheet was drawn early on in the production of the regular series. (The same mustache can be seen in early model sheets by Nelvana character designer Brian Lemay, who used Gadget as a size guide when designing M.A.D. agents etc.)

This mouth chart for Gadget was one of the sheets included on Shout! factory's DVD set,
but without the Japanese name at the top.

But now, let's look at some gadgets! Many of them in sketch form with French descriptions...

Arguably the best gadget ever: The Gadget Teeth!

And in the end, some more clean character sheets...

Inspector Gadget, Penny and Brain - clean model sheet

Inspector Gadget, Penny and Brain - PMS sheet
The above PMS sheet is interesting: the color codes we see here actually reveal the exact, original colors that DiC intended for Gadget, Penny and Brain.

Inspector Gadget with an unusually small copter

The package also contained a few logo sheets. This is not my favorite version of the logo, admittedly. It's not the logo seen on-screen in the series, but rather the logo that has been used on promotional material in the U.S. pretty much since the show started in 1983. (And as we can see above, it was also used on the show's cleaned-up model sheets.) Even this logo gets a PMS guide.