Dic Geeks: Inspector Gadget (1983)

Go Go Gadget Podcast! This week on DiC Geeks; DiC’s foray into US-Centric animation, racial stereotyping and cross-dressing dogs as we look at 1983’s ‘Inspector Gadget’!

DiC Geeks is our weekly(ish) podcast in which we journey through the many realms of DiC Entertainment, a company that (for most of the 80s and 90s) was synonymous with both early morning cartoon blocks and generally mediocre animated tripe. This week we watch their first US series ‘Inspector Gadget’ to see how well it has held up over the years.

DiC Geeks – Inspector Gadget (1983)

At the start of of the 1980s the American animation giant Hanna Barbera shared a studio in Taiwan with the then Paris-based DiC Audiovisuel, which is how it came to the attention of then Hanna Barbera writer and editor Andy Heyward. At the time DiC’s animated output had been mostly limited to advertising and industrial films, but they were making moves towards the entertainment industry. Heywood struck up a deal with DiC that saw him moving to Paris to work alongside their team with a view to branching out into the American television market.

Inspector Gadget creator and apparent spectacle-collector Andy Heyward

Heyward was asked to create them something that would appeal to kids in the States and so, soon after the foundation of the US branch  he came up with the idea of Inspector Gadget.

Inspector Gadget’s design doesn’t stray too far from its inspirations. Having been created by a former Hanna Barbera story writer, it should be unsurprising that both the idea of an android hero full of gadgetry and the idea of a hapless hero whose dog did all the work came from an existing Hanna Barbera property; Dynomutt The Dog Wonder, a show starring a Batman-knockoff assisted by a transforming dog made of gadgetry.

“He was a kind of a superhero who did everything wrong” Said Haywood in a 2006 interview, “and nothing he did came out right except that he did have a dog that was pretty smart. And I thought ‘hm, there’s something there.’ ”

The original character design also had a moustache, but that was removed after MGM sent a cease and desist letter, complaining that with his moustache, trenchcoat bumbling antics, Inspector Gadget was far too similar to Inspector Clouseau, Peter Sellers’ character from ‘The Pink Panther’ than was strictly comfortable. The super-spy gadgetry and theming of the villains came straight out of Get Smart, as did the actor and comedian Don Adams, who provided his voice for Gadget.

DHX Media’s Inspector Gadget in all its creepy-looking glory

Inspector Gadget is DiC’s most successful franchise, spawning several spinoffs (many of which we will have to cover), two Disney movies, and a plethora of toys and video games. It’s also the only DiC original franchise (that we know of) that is still in active production, with a 3D-animated series currently available on Netflix.