ANIMATION SPIN
November 2, 2021 posted by Greg Ehrbar

DIC’s “Inspector Gadget” on Records

A Go-Go-Gadget global gaze at the recording career of a character who helped redefine the landscape of broadcast animation.

INSPECTEUR GADGET
Bande Originale de la Serie TV
Featuring Apollo (Jacques Cardona)
Saban Records (Polydor) 815 171-1 / Zag Records LC-24761 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)

Released in 1983 (France). Producers: Haim Saban, Shuki Levy. Running Time: 39 minutes.

VOCALS: “Inspecteur Gadget (Inspector Gadget),” “Le Thème De Sophie (Penny’s Theme); “La Chanson De Fino (Brain The Dog–The Song)” by Haim Saban, Shuki Levy.

INSTRUMENTALS: “Gadget Sur Mars (Gadget On Mars),” “Le Fantôme (Ghost),” “Musée De L’ Art Fou (M.A.D. Art In Museum),” “Gadget Au Japon (Gadget In Japan),” “L’ Usine De Chocolats (Chocolate Factory),” “Rodéo (Rodeo),” “Thème Du Dr. Gang (M.A.D.’s Theme),” “Le Thème De Sophie (Penny’s Theme/Instrumental,” “Héros Dans La Jungle Africaine (Heroes In African Jungle),” “Gadget Chez Les Incas (Gadget With The Incas),” “Fais Gaffe (Look Out),” “Gadget En Difficulté (Gadget In Trouble),” “Désert D’ Arabie (Arabian Desert),” “Gadget Le Sophistiqué (Sophisticated Gadget),” “Thème Du Train (Train Machine),” “Le Royaume (Kingdom),” “La Course De Voiture (Car Race),” “Les Pharaons (Pharaos),” “Thème D’ Ouverture (Opening Theme/ Instrumental)” by Haim Saban, Shuki Levy.

When Inspector Gadget became one of several weekday animated series created for first-run syndication (a tectonic programming shift initiated by Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe for every studio to follow, including Disney), it also set a major new animation enterprise into motion. With The Littles on ABC and especially Inspector Gadget, the relatively new DIC Enterprises was on its way to what would be an exhaustive roster of series.

Gadget was DIC’s “Mickey Mouse” as it helped launch a major enterprise. The character was rooted in Get Smart, the Clouseau films, Dynomutt and Road Runner cartoons. Inspector Gadget also brought a look to TV animation that, while not unfamiliar, was still yet to be ubiquitous. The movement was more akin to Rankin/Bass, which also had most of its animation done in Japan since Gadget was produced at Tokyo Movie Shinsha (TMA, which later furnished Disney’s TV animation in its first few years). It also brought Don Adams back in his first lead voice role since Total Television’s Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales premiered twenty years earlier as a Saturday morning series on CBS.

DIC was also unique for its French connection. Its history is complex and convoluted, between corporate buyouts (including Disney) and re-buyouts, and the titans at the top tangling and partnering depending on the circumstances. The main names are Jean Chalopin, who founded DIC as Diffusion, Information Communications in France; Andy Heyward, who moved from Hanna-Barbera to running the U.S. division of DIC; and Haim Saban, who wrote the music for many of the DIC shows with Shuki Levy before (and after) forming his own empire, emblazoned on Los Angeles buildings and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Which circles back to the soundtrack to Inspector Gadget, with an irresistible theme song that has taken on a life of its own. Based on Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” from his Peer Gynt Suite, the Gadget theme is one of television’s most iconic theme songs and a key reason for the series’ success. Yet despite the tantalizing end credit listing “Soundtrack: Saban Records,” there was no U.S. soundtrack album released in 1983 for the series premiere.

Thanks to eBay and other web services, it is relatively easy to locate and has been reissued a few times since. There have also been countless cover versions of the theme, which first appeared in the U.S. on the Tee Vee Toons “TV’s Greatest Hits” album series.

GIVE LITTLE LISTEN
“La Chanson De Fino (Brain The Dog–The Song)” – Apollo

The Inspector Gadget LP combines instrumentals from the soundtrack, plus songs about the characters that were also background themes. “Brain the Dog” should be immediately recognizable as it was used often. The vocals are performed by Jacques Cardona, a singer who recorded animation music for Saban and Levy under the name of “Apollo.”


INSPECTOR GADGET: CURSE OF THE PHAROAH
Original TV Soundtrack
Peter Pan Book and Recording #2021 (7” 45 RPM with Book)

Released in 1983. Head Writer: Peter Sauder. Music: Haim Saban, Shuki Levy. Running Time: 10 minutes.

Voices: Don Adams (Inspector Gadget); Cree Summer (Penny); Don Francks (Dr. Claw, M.A.D. Thief #2); Dan Hennessey (Chief Quimby, M.A.D. Agent, M.A.D. Mummy); Greg Duffell (M.A.D. Thief #1).

This is a rare treat from Peter Pan Records and a marvelous and historically significant gift for enthusiasts because it is the only record or cassette taken directly from the series soundtrack. “The Curse of the Pharoah” is episode #18 from the first season, premiering in most cities on October 5, 1983. Since there were never any Tennessee Tuxedo records even though there was an episode where he and Chumley cut a disc of the melodic “Abra-Cadabra-Change-O-Range-O-Ree,” so this is the sole vinyl example of Don Adams’ work in animation.

It is also the debut of an actor who has become one of the greats in voice acting, Cree Summer. Her father, Don Francks, asked if she could read for the part of Penny. In doing so he helped give the world Princess Kida of Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Continent, Cleo of Clifford, the Big Red Dog; Susie Carmichael of Rugrats; Elmyra of Tiny Toon Adventures and hundreds more.

Don Francks was a popular singer and actor in Canada before moving into American television with the ABC action series Jericho and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1968 musical, Finian’s Rainbow [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziNmd7g7__A] with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. He was in Mister Rogers’ stock company and did countless voiceovers, including the opening for the original Epcot “O Canada!” Circle-Vision 360o film at Walt Disney World in Florida. In the sixties, he recorded a unique version of a 1932 Disney novelty song for one of his Kapp albums, giving the usually peppy ditty a smooth, romantic approach: “What, No Mickey Mouse? What Kind of Party is This?”.

GIVE ANOTHER LITTLE LISTEN
Inspector Gadget: Curse of The Pharoah

The person who posted this shortened the pause between the page changes. Peter Pan Book and Recording sets, for some reason, always had especially long. silent pauses between page turns that completely interrupted the audio, sometimes in the middle of music and songs.


INSPECTOR GADGET SHOW ‘N TELL PICTURESOUND PROGRAMS
Child Guidance (7” 33 1/3 RPM with Filmstrip)
Music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy

# 54950 Inspector Gadget: There’s Something in the Air / Song: “What’s a Toy?”
(1985, 7 minutes)

# 54951 Inspector Gadget: The North Pole Plot / Song: “Don’t Talk to Strangers”
(1985, 6 minutes)

Show ‘n Tell devices started in the sixties and by the time these came along, home video was just about to make them obsolete. A record would play on top of the device, which resembled a small TV, and as the disc turned, it made the filmstrip move up and change the images on the screen.

Few Show ‘n Tell records featured original voice casts (Sesame Street was a major exception). Don Adams used to joke that everyone around him started talking with his “William Powell voice” after spending a while with him, but the uncredited actor here sounds as if he put extra effort into capturing other nuances of Adams’ vocal style. And the theme music is included in the background, which is rare for these records.

GIVE YET-ANOTHER LITTLE LISTEN
Inspector Gadget: The North Pole Plot

There was something or other on side two of a Show ‘n Tell record. The early General Electric Disney titles sometimes contained material from Disneyland records, but eventually, it was all either library music licensed from the Thomas Valentino music service, rhymes, educational material, or original songs, like the two creations on these records. They have only a passing connection to the story but do not refer directly to it or the characters.

18 Comments

  • In the first decade of the 2000s, I assisted with the directing of a high school play version of “Get Smart.” Our young actor in the lead role did a spot-on impression of Don Adams, yet at the time the original “Get Smart” series was not much in circulation. I asked him how he happened to be so familiar with the voice characterization, and he said that he was imitating Inspector Gadget! Thus the persona was carried on for another generation!

    Thank you for the side reference to Don Francks. I mainly know him from my annual St. Patrick’s Day viewing of “Finian’s Rainbow” His rendition of “What? No Mickey Mouse?” is a fascinating take on the 30’s hit song. I’m wondering if the Noah’s Ark verse was incorporated into the song for this recording. Certainly puts it in an interesting context. And this time around, I notice that Mickey Mouse is not “Bolshevik-y”! I wondered how this later recording was going to handle that lyric. I guess that was the best possible way…by leaving it out!

    • A local high school here also put on “Get Smart”, at the time that the film version was released in theatres several years back. But I don’t think the kids had ever seen an episode. Without the lead doing a Don Adams impression, it just wasn’t the same. (The film had the same issue!)

  • Wowsers! What a pleasure to hear a paean to Inspector Gadget sung in the Gallic tongue. From the late ’60s onward, I was very conscious of a marked decline in the quality of TV animation. “Inspector Gadget” was the first sign of a reversal in this trend, the first new cartoon show since my childhood that I really enjoyed and looked forward to watching. Sure, the stories were formulaic, but it was a formula that worked. It was also great to have Don Adams, who by this time had been reduced to doing commercials for auto parts stores, back in a leading role again.

    The instrumental track “Gadget au Japon (Gadget in Japan)” brings back memories of that episode. At one point a group of sumo wrestlers were greeting each other with “Ohaiyou!” (“Good morning!”) Gadget, clueless as always, thought they were playing a geography game and responded with “Oklahoma!” Then there were the incompetent ninjas who kept banging their heads together whenever they bowed. Really funny stuff.

    I’m sorry to hear that there were never any Tennessee Tuxedo records made. I’ve always preferred his “Abracadabra” over the one by the Steve Miller Band. There was also a Christmas episode with an original song, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to You”, that might have had some potential as a holiday single. But that was recorded by a studio chorus; Don Adams, Bradley Bolke et al. didn’t lend their voices to it.

    • I love those parts of the episode “The Japanese Connection” myself, especially the Ohayo/Ohio scene. 😉 It’s also fun to see the series parody itself, with Japanese alter egos for both Penny and Dr Claw.

  • Greg, thanks for posting this record. Weird stuff… but I still appreciate being able to hear it, as I’ve been curious about this record when seeing it pop up on eBay from time to time. 🙂 If you’re inclined, I wouldn’t mind hearing the first side too.

    I’m the one who uploaded the video you’ve embedded of the “Curse of the Pharaoh” Book-and-Recording. It’s interesting that you say the pauses between page changes have been “shortened”. As I explain in the video description: while the book scans are my own, the audio file I used came from a web site I no longer remember the address of (it may be ripped from the parallell cassette edition), since the vinyl I bought with the book way back was in almost unusable condition. I was never aware of the pause sounds being shortened myself. But looking at a few other Peter Pan Records posted on YouTube, the pause sounds or “pings” do indeed seem to last a bit longer, and also have slightly more space around them. Unfortunately it’s been really long since I tried listening to the bad-condition vinyl, so I can’t say anything about what the pauses were like there.

    But I don’t think it’s correct – as you write – that the pauses between page changes have been “shortened” in this audio file. You say that Peter Pan’s Book-and-Recordings “always had especially long. silent pauses between page turns that completely interrupted the audio”. But this Book-and-Recording instead has a “ping” sound that completely and awkwardly interrupts the audio. In fact, if you watch the video from the start, you can hear “Barney the Book Bear” state that this ping sound will be used whenever it’s time to turn the page. I can’t hear any signs in the audio that the ping sound has been edited… and if you watch other Peter Pan Records uploaded on YouTube,

    • Sorry about the unfinished comment above. I pressed “post” by mistake while in the middle of writing it, and as such, the last paragraph doesn’t make much sense. (It was a mistaken assumption on my part, which I ended up correcting while writing the comment, but I didn’t get time to erase the old, erroneous paragraph before posting the whole thing by accident. I also intended to write a bit more about the Show ‘n Tell record.)

      Anyway, I contacted the webmaster about deleting the comment so I could afterwards write a full, correct version of it, but no response so far. So I’ll just leave this explanation here for now. (Incidentally, for the past two days the Cartoon Research website hasn’t even been accessible through my home PC for whatever reason; I’m writing this from a library computer.)

  • It’s such a shame that a great deal of Shuki Levy’s music for the show has never been released on any audio format.

  • The character’s last gasp on TV, “Inspector Gadget’s Field Trip,” was done on the cheap and produced to satisfy stations’ E/I quotas. Basically live action footage of various countries with animation of Gadget superimposed at random. At least it had Don Adams, describing the footage of whatever country Gadget was supposedly in.

    • There’s been multiple DTV movies and continuation Gagdet TV Shows. The last one was the 2015 CGI TV show and unsurprisingly, it was awful.

      • 2001’s Gadget and the Gadgetinis was, I believe, the first series to air without Don Adams as the voice of Gadget, with Maurice LaMarche as the voice of Gadget. Before Adams’ retirement he had played Gadget on one of the live action segments on The Super Mario Bros Super Show and occasionally did the voice for TV spots and the like; I think that’s LaMarche on the Show and Tell record posted here, or at least I don’t think that’s Adams. It was a fairly high profile show in Europe with a tie-in video game, but it was never aired in the US for whatever reason. It wasn’t a particularly good series, at times indeed, particularly an episode where Brain returns with a Woody Allen-esque speaking voice to reveal his experiences with Gadget have traumatised him to the point of becoming a recluse, frankly awful, but there have been far worse shows that aired in full in the US.

        • It’s definitely not Adams on the Show ‘n Tell record. I don’t *think* it’s LaMarche either… it seems to me he always did a better Don Adams impression than that, even though he doesn’t sound 100% like him either. (Compare LaMarche in “Gadget & the Gadgetinis” or “Inspector Gadget’s Last Case” to Adams in the 1983 series, and you’ll definitely hear a difference.)

          “Gadget & the Gadgetinis” is certainly not on par with the original show, but it is at the very least better than spinoffs like “Gadget Boy” or “Inspector Gadget’s Field Trip”, which actually did air in the U.S. Gadgetinis not getting shown in the States seems to be connected somehow to Disney buying the Fox Family network, where the series was slated to air… but I’m still not entirely clear on the details in that. Whatever the explanation, it must have sucked for DiC, because Gadgetinis was produced as Inspector Gadget’s big animated comeback in the early 2000s.

          The 2015 CGI series was better in my eyes, even if (of course) it too made changes I didn’t care too much for. Unlike Gadgetinis, it actually did get distribution in the States, albeit on Netflix rather than a television channel.

        • I saw that Brain episode of the Gadgetini show. I found the whole concept of Brain being traumatized by Gadget to be far too depressing. As for the 2015 series, the it thing I approved of was making Penny an active agent. Everything else didn’t work, especially the portrayal of Dr. Claw as a bungler.

  • There’s one other name involved with the founding of DiC Enterprises that deserves a mention here, as he was credited in the original series: the late Bruno Bianchi. Also, before The Littles, and even before Andy Heyward became associated with the company, DiC already had one successful series under it’s belt, Ulysses 31.

    • Yes, Bruno Bianchi definitely deserves mention in this article. He’s credited as one of the defacto creators of Inspector Gadget, and was largely repsonsible for developing the show’s visual look, as well as directing the production in Japan.

      Bianchi wasn’t involved with the founding of DiC as such, though; Jean Chalopin originally founded the studio in Paris in 1971, and Bianchi only joined several years later. But he was definitely an important designer and director in DiC’s early years after breaking into the U.S. market; on shows like Gadget, Heathcliff and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.

      As for Gadget’s music and amazing opening theme, Shuki Levy probably deserves mention over Haim Saban, at least when going by what Levy has said in interviews: that for the most part he did the composing, while Haim Saban was more occupied with running the business side of things.

      In addition to Ulysses 31, DiC scored another huge hit in France in the fall of 1983 with The Mysterious Cities of Gold, airing concurrently with Inspector Gadget on French television. (Cities of Gold was produced in ’82 and had premiered in Japan that year, but in France the series had to wait until ’83 to reach airwaves.) Both Ulysses and Cities of Gold were directed by Bernard Deyriès, another key figure from DiC’s early years. Neither of these series became very well-known in the States, though — it probably didn’t help that the English-language versions of both were pretty bad, as they were dubbed rather awkwardly from French into English. Starting with Inspector Gadget and The Littles, all DiC shows were produced in English language first, a natural result of DiC aiming for the American market.

      • Thanks for mentioningThe Mysterious Cities Of Goldand clearing up some details about it’s worldwide distribution. Here in the US, Nickelodeon had the exclusive broadcasting rights to the series, which only ran for two seasons on that network. And afaik, no other network ran it nor any syndicate ever bought the rights to reair it after it’s run on Nick ended. However, the series recently made a comeback on French television with new episodes that follow up from where the original series left off, with Estaban and his companions still trying to figure out the inner workings of the aircraft they discovered and eventually managed to set airborne. The new episodes were produced by a studio specializing in CG animation. So even though the look of the characters remains more or less the same in the new eps, the animation itself contrasts quite a bit with that of the original series, albeit richer and livelier animation than the originals.
        As for Bruno Bianchi, it occurred to me that, yes, he hadn’t been a member of DiC until at least a decade after it’s founding, as I recalled that he was already a successful producer on his own, having had a previous hit series withThe Diplodos,about a group of aliens with shape-shifting abilities that allow them to transform themselves into common household objects.

        • Ah, you have Bianchi’s career chronology mixed up a bit. 😉 Bianchi started at DiC Audiovisuel in 1977 — initially as a cel painter, but eventually he became a designer and director at the studio. In 1980 he directed a DiC mini-series titled “Archibald le magichien” (health advice edutainment in 5-minute installments), but it was “Inspector Gadget” in 1983 that became his breakthrough in the business. Following that, he directed on many DiC shows for the next few years, until he left together with Jean Chalopin in late 1986. It was shortly after that he and Chalopin made “The Diplodos” together, at Chalopin’s new French studio C&D. I’m not sure exactly how successful “The Diplodos” was (from what I’ve seen of it, it strikes me as a pretty weird show), but it’s become really obscure today. A few years later, Bianchi ended up as the chief creative leader and producer/director at Haim Saban’s animation studio Saban International Paris, where he did shows like “Iznogoud” (1995).

          I watched the second season of The Mysterious Cities of Gold for a while, and was fairly entertained by it, even though it was disappointing to me how they seemed to soften some aspects of the series for modern kid viewers. From what I’ve heard, Season 3 – which I haven’t seen anything of – is closer in storytelling and overall spirit to the first. But aside from the narrative (and the animation, which I do wish could have been hand-drawn done in Japan), I have to admit I find the new English voices pretty unbearable. Okay, sure, the old English voices weren’t always the greatest, but Mendoza’s voice in the English dub of the 80s series was actually pretty good… and the dubbers of the new Season 2 didn’t even try to match the original English voice actors. (I mean, you can hire better actors and still imitate the basics of how the characters sounded in the original show’s dub.) Initially I actually watched Season 2 in a French-language fansub, but they stopped after episode 17 or so and I fell out of it. Maybe at some point I’ll force myself through the English dub of those last episodes and then try and watch some of Season 3.

        • I should add that Bianchi was also an animator in the early days of DiC. Here are the end credits for the 1979 mini-series “Cro et Bronto” (aired in 1980), where Bianchi is credited under ‘conception’, ‘préparation’ and ‘animation’: https://rutube.ru/video/b307ac9edae8ca8060c63b45e14bf579/ You can find several episodes of this obscure DiC cartoon on Rutube: https://rutube.ru/search/?query=cro%20et%20bronto

          • Thanks for clearing up all the info on Bianchi and his relationship with DiC. I admit I’m not all that familiar with the histrionics of DiC Enterprises, or much of that of European animation, for that matter, that is until I spent a good amount of years browsing the blogs of many historians, chroniclers, fans, and even aspiring young artists who’ve provided plenty of useful information on the subject (including some contributors on this very site.) My interest in European cartoons started with Hergé’s Tin Tin, of which the English-translated version was printed as a regular feature in Highlights magazine, which I often read in my youth, then coming across an early animated Tin Tin feature film dating back to the 60’s. But, of course, when The Smurfs became a big thing here in the States, my curiosity was rekindled a bit more, even though access to European media was limited in those pre-internet days when I was just entering my early teens. I was, however, familiar with Bruno Bozetto’s animated shorts by that time, as well as the Czech animation that was becoming more renowned among fine arts film afficionados. And later on, I would come across Asterix and Obelix, perhaps Europe’s most renowned comic sensations, who would eventually find their way to feature animation.

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