Inspector Gadget: A Cartoon Version of RoboCop?

James Logie
Photo via YouTube

Everyone watched Inspector Gadget at some point. It has an unmistakable theme song and was a go-to cartoon choice during the ‘80s.

Inspector Gadget came out in 1983 and was produced by DIC Entertainment.

It follows the story of a dimwitted cyborg police inspector as he investigates Dr. Claw and his crime organization MAD. It would lead to many spin-offs and a movie.

This article will be about all things Inspector Gadget.

The Origin Of Inspector Gadget

The production company, DIC, was actually a French company and didn't have an American base until 1982.

Andy Heyward, who was a former story writer for Hanna-Barbera founded the American arm.

Inspector Gadget would be one of the first productions for the American-based DIC.

Heyward had developed the idea of Inspector Gadget based on a show from when he had been working at Hanna-Barbera.

The show was called Dynomutt, Dog Wonder from 1976 and was part of the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour.

Dynomutt was the sidekick of The Blue Falcon, and Dynomutt would always be outfitted with a variety of different contraptions.

The Blue Falcon himself was written as not the sharpest tool in the shed, so Heyward combined this dimwittedness and the contraptions as the basis for Inspector Gadget.

It’s also hard to ignore the influence of Maxwell Smart from "Get Smart. This had definitely inspired Inspector Gadget.

This “bumbling detective” always plays well and there was no reason that it wouldn’t in cartoon form.

In fact, Don Adams who played Maxwell Smart would voice Gadget. One of the Get Smart writers, Jack Hanrahan, would become a writer on Inspector Gadget.

Developing Inspector Gadget

The pilot of Inspector Gadget had to go through a few changes before it got on the air.

The pilot episode was first going to be called "Gadget in Winterland" but was changed to "Inspector Gadget: Winter Olympics."

The first issue was the original Gadget had a mustache. And it probably looked a little too familiar having an inspector with a mustache.

MGM would contact Heyward and DIC Entertainment to remove the mustache. He looked too much like their Inspector Clouseau.

The mustache was removed. It was probably a good idea because keeping the mustache would have always associated Gadget with Clouseau.

There was also the voice issue. Gadget would end up going through two other voices before they ended up with Don Adams.

They started with famous voice actor Gary Owens who had done a voice on the Dynomutt show.

He wouldn’t last, and in the pilot, they also used the voice of Jesse White who was the original Maytag repairman.

Ultimately, Adams would be the final choice. The show has a whole different feel to it with Gadget in a mustache and a different voice. You can still see the original pilot on YouTube

The Characters of Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget- Gadget is technically a cyborg in that he’s half man and half machine. He also has thousands of high-tech devices and instruments on this body.

He’s not the brightest but is still very dedicated to the law. He has the clear look of Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies but is more of a dimwit and gullible character.

Despite all the assistance he gets, he is the one that ends up saving the day--most often without realizing how he did it.

Dr. Claw- The main antagonist of the show, Dr. Claw, is the leader of an evil crime syndicate called M.A.D.

There’s never a clear definition of what M.A.D stood for during the series. It was thought that it could stand for “Mean And Dirty,” or possibly “Malevolent Agent of Destruction.”

We only ever see the arms of Dr. Claw, and him holding a cat, which is a nod to James Bond. Dr. Claw wants nothing more than to destroy Gadget.

Penny- Penny is Gadet’s niece and the real brains behind the operation. She’s the one who always ends up foiling Dr. Claw by using a lot of various technologies.

She’s actually only 10 in the original cartoon and her meddling always ends up with her being kidnapped.

Brain- The other brains of the operation, Brain is Penny’s dog and somehow adopted brother.

Brain is the only one who really knows that Penny is the smart one and is always saving the day.

Brain keeps Gadget safe on the missions so Penny can spend her time trying to thwart M.A.D.

He often disguises himself while following Gadget, making Gadget think he is a M.A.D agent.

Chief Quimby- Setting the stage for Mayor Quimby from the Simpsons? Chief Quimby is the boss and chief of police.

He would usually pop up at the beginning of each episode and hand Gadget a piece of paper that would describe his mission.

Once it was read, the paper would self-destruct, blowing up in Quimby’s face. This was a nod to Mission Impossible.

Some More Backstory On Inspector Gadget

Did you ever wonder how Inspector Gadget became a cyborg? It was never fully addressed, and we just had to accept him as a half-man/half machine.

Well, it turns out this was answered on a Topps trading card from 1991.

It turns out that Inspector Gadget started life as John Brown, an ordinary police detective. One day, Brown slips on a banana peel and falls down a flight of stairs.

Somehow, he was rescued and sent to a hospital. When he woke up from an operation, he found that he now had 13,000 crime-fighting gadgets attached to his body.

Topps wouldn’t tell us who did this to him.

The Iconic TV Theme Song

Like most things, the accompanying theme song had a big impact on the success of the show. It created a mood and a tone and was instantly recognizable.

Turns out you might have recognized it from something else: a famous piece of classical music influenced the theme song.

Composer Shuki Levy wrote the theme song for Inspector Gadget and would also create themes for He-Man and Power Rangers.

Levy wanted to make something memorable and also somewhat familiar.

You probably can sing or hum a majority of the song and it takes some of its influence from “Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg.

Levy had been living in LA but was contacted by a French producer from DIC who was familiar with Levy’s previous music.

Levy had music that had been popular in a lot of countries and was asked to come up with the theme song for a new cartoon.

On the morning of the recording, Levy still didn’t have a song, and it popped into his head on the way to the studio. He also took some influence from the Pink Panther theme song.

It’s a theme song that’s identifiable in the first few seconds.

The Inspector Gadget Fan Theory

Inspector Gadget is actually the evil Dr. Claw.

The idea is that the cyborg that is Inspector Gadget is a duplicate of the man that Dr. Claw once was.

The man that he used to be had been in a terrible explosion that was so bad all his friends and family thought he didn't survive.

Penny is now involved. Because of her smarts with technology, she recreates her uncle as a crime-fighting robot—not knowing that her real uncle is still alive.

Dr. Claw now wants revenge on the machine that replaced him. Is this why they would never show Dr. Claw’s face in the cartoon—because it was the same as Inspector Gadget?.

Wrapping It Up

There has been an Inspector Gadget movie and many cartoon spin-offs, including:

  • Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas (1992)
  • Gadget Boy & Heather- Gadget Boy was about a younger version of Gadget (1995)
  • Gadget Boy’s Adventures In History
  • Inspector Gadgets Field Trip (1996)
  • Gadget and the Gadgetinis- This is a French version from 2002
  • Inspector Gadgets Greatest Gadgets- A clip show only released on VHS in 1999
  • Inspector Gadgets Last Case- (2002)
  • Inspector Gadgets Biggest Caper Ever- A 3D animated version made in 2005

Netflix released a CGI animated version in 2015 that had a new theme song. You can hear more of the “Hall of the Mountain King” theme in it.

This franchise has lasted over 30 years and interest still remains. It’s definitely a big part of the cartoon landscape of the 1980s and remembered fondly.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.


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