Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween with Dick Dracula!

Just in case people thought we're dead over here... no, in all honesty, that's not the case. I've just become so busy lately that it seems like it (again). So on this, the day when the dead rise from their graves, I thought it was high time to bring this blog back to life.

(And I know what you all want to see - my commentary on this. And it's coming. Really. Hopefully very soon - really. But I wouldn't have had the time to finish it up today, and I wanted to post something for Halloween, so here we are.)

As far as Gadget-related activities go on such a day, I can probably do no better than recommend a watching of the arguably spookiest episode of the original series: "Haunted Castle", in which Gadget, Penny and Brain travel to Transylvania to investigate suspicious activities in the former castle of Count Dracula himself. Here's a cel of the episode's "Dracula" M.A.D. agent to get you in the mood...

...and believe it or not, as I was initially typing the above, I didn't recognize (or had forgotten) that this vampire guy is actually one of the regular agents! That's how good his disguise is, I guess. Here we have him in his undressed model sheet flesh... M.A.D. agent "Dick", as he was nicknamed by character designer Brian Lemay.

My current personal nickname for the guy is "Dick" Dracula, though. This dude's got acting skills!

Of course, "Dick" Dracula is only one of the many great elements of "Haunted Castle". More importantly, the atmosphere of the episode as a whole is spooky. The background designs are moody and beautiful.

The animation and character styling is superb, among the finest of the entire series.

Make no mistake, either: strong animation and design is extremely important to capture and bring out the mood this episode required. One of the lesser animation studios working on the series could not have handled it half as convincingly. Kudos to the entire Japanese crew working on this.

And adding to all that, the script writing is sharp. Without giving away too much (for the few reading this who haven't seen it yet... anyone?), there's some terrific character writing for all the main players - including Gadget, Penny, Brain and Dr Claw. Claw's first line, brilliantly performed by Frank Welker, sets the tone just right: "This nasty Transylvanian atmosphere is goooood for my health!" And that's only the beginning. This script gives Claw numerous chances to really act, and Frank is up to the challenge one-hundred-and-twenty percent... as are the other voice leads.

Through and through, it's the attention to detail - in writing, acting, direction and visuals - that makes this episode a standout.

But I've been pitching it to you long enough. So settle down and watch it... if you dare.


  1. Me and my family here in Canada will watch this episode for sure tonight. Thanks for the recommendation. Please post your opinions on the new Gadget reboot very soon. I think fans worldwide needs to know what to feel and think about it. Its not urgent, we understand you are busy, but it would be really helpful and waiting makes one impatient. Its kind of difficult to form your own opinion on it, as we don't have the sufficent background as the people who run this website does.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for the feedback. :) It's gratifying to hear that this made you want to watch the episode... hope you and your family enjoy it!

      RE: The reboot series commentary - I do hope to get it out real soon, and I realize that a lot of readers are likely waiting for it. Thanks for understanding about the time issue. :)

      "I think fans worldwide needs to know what to feel and think about it. (...) Its kind of difficult to form your own opinion on it, as we don't have the sufficent background as the people who run this website does."

      I'm honored that you think so highly of my opinions. :) But I feel the need to say here that my commentary, once it is posted, will not tell fans worldwide "what to feel and think" about the preview clip. It will tell other fans what *I* think about the preview clip. And then it's up to each and every one to agree or disagree. Having background information (assuming that's what you mean by background) can be nice... but it's not essential to form a subjective opinion about the 3-minute clip. There's plenty of info on the new series to be found in the clip itself.

      Oh, and RE: "...the people who run this website..." Not to brag or anything, but it's always just been me running the site. ;) Mesterius is only one guy. While I've sometimes felt it could be nice to have other people helping out with news reports etc, I also like that this is a personal project. (Plus, I get help sometimes from fellow fans through the comments... that happened as late as yesterday in the comments section to my previous post.)

    2. Thanks for answering! I understand what you mean, Mesterius. I guess I am just not a fan of having my own opinions when there is other people with far superior knowledge on the matter. Its kind of like if your toilet is broken. You get a plumber, right? What's the point of having your own opinion about how to fix the toilet when the plumber knows better anyway. Get what I'm saying? Its the same thing when it comes to authority on all things Inspector Gadget I feel. Its like that, you know. There's a difference between opinions and facts. Anyway, looking forward to your post!

  2. Happy Halloween! And great article about one of my favorite episodes! :)

    Can we take a moment to appreciate Gadget driving like a complete bat out of hell down the dangerously narrow roads? Always loved that crazy animation of the Gadgetmobile, really fun animations all over the place this episode in general.

    As you said the art is really fantastic here, I wish the whole series could have had this quality. I freaking adore this styling with the rounded 'fluffy' look, everything looks very solid and full while remaining very toony as well. I also like this scene of Dick Dracula's shadowy hands reaching out and kidnapping the guard: There are so many great little things in this episode I could sit around making GIFS of it all day.

    1. Happy Halloween, Cortoony, and I'm glad you enjoyed the article! :) This whole post happened pretty spontaneously and was just a lot of fun to write. It felt liberating to suddenly just talk about something I unabashedly love, rather than doing (for instance) a news report where I tend to get more critical as well as obsessive about the research part. Sometimes this blog can really just feel like a chore. It felt good to be reminded that it can also be fun.

      (Of course, if I was to write a full-blown review of the episode, I could probably find some elements to criticize as well. But there's so much GOOD stuff here, anyway.)

      And ooh, yes, Gadget's driving on the narrow roads. Out-of-this-world insane. I mean, in *general*, the creators obviously inserted Gadget's reckless driving as a character trait; yet another (of MANY) clues as to what an oblivious klutz he is. But this episode takes it to a new level. Even before I clicked your GIF of the Gadget Mobile, I was actually picturing that exact scene: the Gadget Mobile at one point literally driving in mid-air, next to the road, then the car wheels on the left-hand side go out and the car somehow, miraculously, bounces back on the road. And all the time during that shot, Gadget is TALKING CASUALLY! :P

      The animation of the car there is fabulous, of course. As is much of the animation overall in this episode, as we both agree on. :) So cartoony and exaggerated, yet so solidly and precicely drawn. It's the kind of quality you just don't see in television animation, let alone back in 1983. But you see it here.

      And it's so marvelously un-generic, for lack of a better word. In many scenes, even the hands of the characters have a unique look to them, with the fingers often bent in specific ways. Check out the hands of Dick Dracula in the framegrab above, for instance, or Penny's fingers in those frames where she ends up in an extreme (and wonderfully drawn) pose.

      If I could have chosen one animation and design style for the series as a whole, I think it would have to be this one. (That said, I also like seeing how different animation directors approached the designs... but the best animation in this ep is just sooo good...)

      Your other GIF is a great little moment as well. I also love the animation in the shot immediately following that moment, where the whole hut goes completely rubbery as Dick Dracula and the guard fight inside it.

    2. ...added thought on the "dangerously narrow roads": I suppose the main reason they decided to make the driving so completely insane in this episode is to make the viewers feel that the characters really are in danger at any given time. And simultaneously, of course, they reinforce how completely oblivious Gadget is to the danger. So you get sort of a horror comedy feel established from the start. (Yeah, pretty obvious point, probably.)

    3. Whoops, my internet was knocked out for two weeks earlier this month so I'm slowly getting back around to responding to everything.

      That's cool, spontaneity is good! Remember to have fun and take breaks if you feel burnt out. :)

      I could criticize that the spring launcher trap didn't really pose much of a threat to Gadget, Heck, he's fallen off of buildings without taking barely any damage... BUT, it did lead to the great "WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THE MOAT?" conversation so I forgive it. Also the other traps were quite deadly so it's more than made up for.

      Maybe the the reason they started making the Gadgetmobile talk was because they were too lazy to create anymore fun and crazy driving animations. Wonder if we'll get anything fun out of the Gadgetmoble from the new series. Although it looks a lot like the same deal we had in Gadgetinis what with the nonsensical transformations and everything. It seemed they gave up on the Gadgetmobile being a source of humor by that point.

      I do appreciate the nicely drawn hands this episode, I like that you mention that because it's something I've always taken notice of. I have difficulty with getting hands to look right, they make it look so easy here.

      Yeah, I agree that the variety of different artists taking on the designs was fun to see. It'd be neat to see a side by side comparison of how the styles differ.

      The lightening strike after the Gadget Van transforms was perfect too, even mother nature is out to kill Gadget this episode, haha.

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  4. Yes, this episode's got some really great animation. Very cartoony and full of life. There were some other episodes apparently animated by this same team ("All that Glitters," "Gadget Goes West" and "Launch Time," for example) but the animation wasn't as full of life. Maybe DiC told them to tone it down or something?

    I also made a "YouTube Poop" of this episode for last year's Halloween as well...
    (Though I used the time-compressed Bohbot print, since I ripped it off my Shout! Factory DVD set, but since this was a YouTube Poop, it didn't matter!)

    Quite a bit of Shuki Levy's music would be played at a much faster speed at times in this episode, too, probably for comedic effect.