Inspector Gadget: A Dumbed- Down RoboCop?

Inspector Gadget

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 M.A.D. It would lead to many spin-offs and a movie.

I had forgotten that Inspector Gadget had come out so early in the 1980s. I always thought of it as being out later in the decade. It was one of those servicable cartoons, not the greatest of all time but filled its role well. I found it was best between two other shows. It bridged the gap well and made for some pretty easy watching.

The show went from 1983 to 1986 and lasted in syndication until the late ’90s. This article will be about all things Inspector Gadget. Go-Go Gadget blog..

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The Origin Of Inspector Gadget

Credit: Wikipidia Screencap

The production company, DIC was actually a French company and didn’t have an American base until 1982. The American arm was founded by Andy Heyward who was a former story writer for Hanna-Barbera.

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-Barbara. 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 Dyomutt 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 and 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 and 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 changed to Inspector Gadget: Winter Olympics.

The first thing is Gadget would go through 350 different sketches and variations until they landed on the final design.

The other 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 say hold up on the mustache. He looked too much like their Inspector Clouseau so it was off with the mustache. It was probably a good idea because keeping the mustache would have always associated Gadget with Clouseau. And they probably would have had their asses sued off.

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 to do the voice of Gadget. 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 and you can check out the original pilot here on YouTube.

The Characters Of Inspector Gadget

Alright, let’s meet our participants!

Inspector Gadget– Gadget is technically a cyborg in that he’s half man and half machine and has thousand 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 on what M.A.D stood for during the series but it was thought that it could stand for “Mean And Dirty” or possibly  “Malevolent Agent of Destruction” and last but not least “Men Against Dogs”.

We only ever see the arms of Dr. Claw, and him holding a cat, which is kind of a James Bond rip off but what are you going to do. Dr. Claw is an evil bastard who wants nothing more than to destroy Gadget.

Dr. Claw was originally voiced by fellow Canadian Dan Francks who would do voices on the Star Wars spinoff cartoons Ewoks and Droids. And most amazingly of all he did the voice of Boba Fett in the iconic and hated Star Wars Holiday Special!

Please tell me that you’ve seen it…

The main voice would end up going to Frank Welker who did the voice of Fred on Scooby-Doo and of course, was the voice of Megatron.

Penny– Penny is Gadget’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 technology. She’s actually on 10 in the original cartoon and her meddling always ends up with her being kidnapped.

The voice of Penny would be done by Dr. Claws daughter! Cree Summer, the daughter of Don Francks, got to do the voice and she’d later go on to star on A Different World.

Brain– The other, um, 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 saving the day all the time. Brain would keep Gadget safe on the missions and Penny could spend her time trying to thwart M.A.D. He would often disguise himself while following Gadget making Gadget think he was 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 a la Mission Impossible?

Man, I’m now realizing how much this show ripped off other things.

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 jump on board with a half man/half machine. Kind of another rip off of Steve Austin aka The Six Million Dollar Man. 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 would slip on a banana peel and would fall down a flight of stairs, that’s SOO Gadget. 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 in the hell decided to do this to him and why no waiver was signed before going through a procedure like that. But now you know the story of John Brown on that fateful day…

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 as the theme song is influenced by a pretty famous piece of classical music.

Composer Shuki Levy wrote the theme song for Inspector Gadget and would also create the theme 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 Moutain King” by Edvard Grieg.  

Levy had been living in L.A but a French producer from DIC who was familiar with Levy’s previous music contacted him. Levy had music which 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 for the theme song, 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. They had already borrowed so much, what’s a little more!

Either way, it’s a theme song that’s identifiable in the first few seconds. And Levy gave us the He-Man music, the most iconic cartoon theme song of all time so we love him forever.

The Inspector Gadget Fan Theory

Inspector Gadget is actually the evil Dr. Claw.

Let’s take a look at this: 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 was dead.

Penny now is involved because due to 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 replaces him. Is this why they would never show Dr. Claw’s face in the cartoon because it was the same as Inspector Gadget?

My theory is that the man that is Dr. Claw is old John Brown from before and may very well indeed be Inspector Gadget.

Wrapping It Up

You might wonder why I didn’t touch on the Inspector Gadget movie from 1999 starring Matthew Broderick. Well, it’s just not canon to me. It did have a sequel but went straight to video so that’s probably all you need to know…

There have been a TON of various Inspector Gadget spin-offs over the years, let me share some here:

  • 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 some weird 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 hip new theme song! You could also hear more of the “Hall of the Mountain King” theme in it too. It was originally put together by Teletoon Canada.

I saw a little and it’s OK but I’m definitely not the target demographic for it. It’s good to see though that this franchise has lasted more than 30 years and there’s still some interest in it. It’s definitely a big part of the cartoon landscape of the ‘80s and remembered fondly.

I don’t know if the same can be said for Matthew Broderick’s portrayal of him though.


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