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With one of the most iconic opening theme songs ever as well as the funniest character who has springs for legs, Inspector Gadget is still revered today by many who grew up watching his antics in the 1980s. The animated series spawned an entire franchise of sequels, reboots, live-action movies and comics, allowing a new generation to watch the bumbling police inspector try and bring down the criminal Dr. Claw and his M.A.D. organization. Of course, he never manages to do it himself — at least in the old days — as his niece Penny, along with her dog, Brain, might be the true heroes of the show.
Nonetheless, Gadget has, well, gadgets, and his goofy use of them has always made him entertaining to watch. Read on about the making of this classic kids’ show and how Inspector Gadget got turned into a bionic man…
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The Inspiration Behind Inspector Gadget
Co-creator Andy Heyward worked at Hanna-Barbera before leaving and joining DIC Entertainment to develop a new animated series. While at Hanna-Barbera, Heyward worked on Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, the series featuring the superhero Blue Falcon and his smart dog Dynomutt the Dog Blunder, who was outfitted with all kinds of gadgets. Heyward mashed that idea with Get Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man, and Inspector Gadget was born.
That Also Explains the Casting of the Leading Man
Don Adams, the voice of Inspector Gadget, was best known for starring as the lead character, Maxwell Smart, in Get Smart.
Not the First Choice
Even though Adams was tailor-made for the role, he wasn’t the first choice. Heyward explained that they initially had comedian Jesse White play the bionic police inspector, but during testing, “the voice characteristics didn’t work quite as we would hope they would.” They did some further auditions, including Gary Owens, who was the one who came up with Inspector Gadget’s famous catchphrase, “Wowzers!” before Adams was ultimately cast.
What Happened to His Mustache?
The show’s pilot features Inspector Gadget sporting an unmissable mustache, but his face fluff vanished by the second episode. Heyward explained that MGM filed a copyright complaint with them, arguing that Inspector Gadget looked too similar to The Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau. They removed the mustache, and that was that.
Our Bumbling Hero’s Funny But Tragic Backstory
The animated series never addressed Inspector Gadget’s origins or tried to explain how he came to be a machine man. However, an official trading card released in 1991 reveals that he was an ordinary police inspector named John Brown who slipped on a banana peel, fell down some stairs and woke up post-surgery with “more than 13,000 crime-fighting gadgets attached to his body.”
The DVD Set Replaced Its Iconic End Credits DIC Logo
The show’s original ending had Inspector Gadget move across the DIC logo frame on skates and smashing a dot atop the letter “I” with a mallet protruding from his head.
The DVDs, however, replaced the quirky logo ending with DIC Entertainment’s new logo, “The Incredible World of DIC.”
His Original Design Was Somewhat Different
While it was always the idea to give Inspector Gadget all his many mechanical contraptions, his original design had him look and function slightly differently. His copter-blade and hands came out of his back, and the front of his trench coat would open to reveal his hands coming out of his stomach, too. His shins also had hidden compartments, all of which made the character too confusing. The creators ended up isolating his body parts and simplifying their ideas to give us the robocop who can inflate himself and turn his legs into Slinkies.
The Inspiration Behind the Opening Theme Song
American composer Shuki Levy — who also wrote the music themes for Power Rangers and Digimon — based the opening of Inspector Gadget on “In the Hall of Mountain King” by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
The Reboot That Changed the Opening Theme Song
The 2015 Canadian reboot opened with a completely new and very pop-y theme song. It was composers Stephen Skratt and Asher Lenz who were tasked with the seemingly impossible: rewriting the show’s opening theme. “The old version, if you listen to it now, there’s definitely a high degree of nostalgia, but it doesn’t have a lot of energy per se,” Lenz explained. “It doesn’t sound competitive with other songs you’ll hear for other network shows.”
Brendan Fraser as Inspector Gadget?
Fraser was offered the role of Gadget in the 1999 live-action movie but turned it down to do George of the Jungle instead. Matthew Broderick would go on to star, but only after Steve Carell, Tom Hanks and Robin Williams were all considered. When the Farrelly Brothers were initially set to write and direct the movie, they wanted Jim Carrey as their leading man.
The Henchmen All Have Names
While the M.A.D. agents were never mentioned by name in the show, they were in the scripts. Character designer Brian Lemay was the one to assign them some monikers to help better identify the individual agents. You can see their names on Lemay’s character drawings below.
The Voice of Penny Has Voiced Many Other Famous Toons
Voice artist Cree Summers — whose dad Don Francks voiced Dr. Claw in a couple of episodes — has been the voice of Penny in Inspector Gadget, Elmyra Duff in Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, Susie Carmichael in Rugrats and Luminara Unduli in Star Wars: Clone Wars. She also starred in the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World.
Some of the Original Cast Members Did the ‘Robot Chicken’ Sketch
Both Summers and the voice of Dr. Claw, Frank Welker, reprised their roles for many Inspector Gadget parody sketches on Robot Chicken, including “Go Go Gadget Killing Machine,” which you can watch below.
The Animated Sequel Series
At the turn of the millennium, the original creators teamed up to produce Gadget & the Gadgetinis, a sequel to Inspector Gadget that saw our main guy getting promoted from Inspector to Lieutenant and continuing to fight crime, now alongside two mechanical assistants called the Gadgetinis.
Gadget and Brain Was Featured in a Renault Clio Ad
A Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid commercial made for France and Spain in 2022 features an animated segment with Inspector Gadget and Brain flying all over the screen and checking out the new car.