With a CGI reboot about to hit Netflix, now is a perfect time to think back to Inspector Gadget. The classic cartoon ran original episodes for only three seasons, from 1983 to 1986, but played in syndication throughout the remainder of the decade, and well into the 1990s, and motion pictures were made about the dimwitted cyborg detective, who needed the help of his niece Penny and her dog Brain to defeat Dr. Claw and his M.A.D. henchmen.
1. THE MAIN INFLUENCE BEHIND THE SHOW WAS A CARTOON ABOUT A ROBOTIC DOG.
Andy Heyward worked on the Hanna-Barbera show Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, which began in 1976 as part of Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour before joining Scooby’s All Star Laff-A-Lympics one year later. The Blue Falcon hero needed the help of his dog sidekick Dynomutt, who was always outfitted with a bunch of contraptions. Heyward remembered the Blue Falcon not being the smartest of heroes, and he came up with the Inspector Gadget concept from there.
2. GET SMART WAS ANOTHER INSPIRATION.
Don Adams played secret agent Maxwell Smart, TV’s “bumbling detective” archetype. In addition to Adams voicing Inspector Gadget, Get Smart writer Jack Hanrahan was the main writer for Gadget’s second season.
3. THE INSPECTOR WAS FORCED TO GET RID OF HIS MOUSTACHE.
After viewing the pilot episode, MGM called Heyward and DiC Entertainment to complain that their main character had another obvious influence: their own Inspector Clouseau. You can judge for yourself below, and hear famous voice actor Gary Owens unsuccessfully audition for the title role.
4. THE MAYTAG REPAIRMAN ALSO TOOK A SHOT AT VOICING GADGET.
Jesse White, who played the Maytag repairman in the company’s commercials from 1967 to 1988, took over for Gary Owens and re-recorded his lines in what was initially titled “Gadget in Winterland,” but Adams was the final choice.
5. M.A.D. MAY OR MAY NOT STAND FOR “MEAN AND DIRTY.”
While it has been written as fact that Dr. Claw’s evil agency is an acronym for “Mean and Dirty,” no full explanation was ever given during the series and presented as canon. Some speculate that it stands for “Malevolent Agency of Destruction,” while others think it’s short for “Men Against Dogs.” And some people reason that M.A.D. isn’t an acronym at all, it’s just a play on super evil organizations like SPECTRE in the James Bond books and films or KAOS in Get Smart.
6. THE THEME SONG IS BASED ON A CLASSICAL TUNE.
Haim Saban and Shuki Levy’s composition has some elements from Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” in it. You’ve probably heard Grieg’s work before.
7. JIM CARREY AUDITIONED TO PLAY CORPORAL CAPEMAN.
Capeman was an unpopular season two addition to the series, and was voiced by Townsend Coleman. Coleman would later voice Waldo on Where’s Waldo?, Wayne Gretzky on ProStars, and (most notably) Michelangelo on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. In 1984, the year Capeman made his debut, Carrey got his first lead role on a short-lived NBC comedy called The Duck Factory, about a young animator starting his career at a low-budget animation company.
8. PENNY WAS VOICED BY DR. CLAW’S DAUGHTER.
Don Francks asked producers if his daughter, Cree Summer, could audition for Penny, which led to her first acting credit (she has continued to do voice acting and starred in The Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World). In season two, when production moved from Toronto to Los Angeles, Summer was replaced by Holly Berger.
9. CHIEF QUIMBY WAS BRAIN ON ANIMANIACS.
Maurice LaMarche made a living pretending to be Orson Welles, voicing him on The Critic and in the movie Ed Wood. The voice actor who played the Metro City police chief in seasons two and three was also Egon in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon.
10. DR. CLAW’S FACE WAS REVEALED AFTER THE SERIES ENDED.
The writers purposely wrote every episode in a way that would make the audience believe they would finally show Dr. Claw’s face, but it never actually happened. Viewers had to wait until 1992, a full six years after the series ended, to see his face—as an action figure. And even then, you had to buy it to see it. Today, thanks to the Internet, you can just click here.
One year later, the same face was utilized for Claw in a Super Nintendo video game for the series. Fans of the series were annoyed at Rupert Everett’s portrayal of Claw in the 1999 live-action movie, because he purposely never wore any sort of mask.
11. INSPECTOR GADGET’S BACKSTORY IS JUST AS RIDICULOUS AND TRAGIC AS YOU WOULD THINK.
Another important aspect of Inspector Gadget that never came up during the show’s original run was how or why he became half-man, half-machine. But an official 1991 trading card answered those questions. Inspector Gadget was an “ordinary police inspector” named John Brown, who fell down a flight of stairs after slipping on a banana peel. When he awoke from an operation, he had “more than 13,000 crime-fighting gadgets attached to his body.”
12. SOME PEOPLE BELIEVED THAT DR. CLAW AND INSPECTOR GADGET WERE THE SAME PERSON.
According to one Inspector Gadget theory, Dr. Claw was a human detective who was the victim of an explosion, and as a result presumed dead. Penny recreated her uncle as Inspector Gadget, while her real uncle became Dr. Claw, a still living, but horribly disfigured man. This explained why Penny was never harmed, but after the trading card reveal and the unveiling of Claw’s face, this idea stopped making sense.
13. THE M.A.D. AGENTS ALL HAD NAMES.
Character designer Brian Lemay gave all the M.A.D. henchmen names in order to help him differentiate between his eight creations. This prompted the writers to begin using their names in the scripts, even though their names were never mentioned. Someone once asked Lemay if he made Fred, Dick, Pops, Jarvis, Bruce, Slick, Lenny, and Squirt look Russian because of the Cold War when, in reality, any seemingly Russian attributes were a coincidence.
14. THE M.A.D. AGENT LENNY WAS MODELED AFTER LENNY FROM OF MICE AND MEN.
More specifically, Lenny was modeled after actor Lon Chaney Jr.’s interpretation of the classic character.
15. IT TOOK A VERY LONG TIME TO GET INSPECTOR GADGET JUST RIGHT.
Because it was difficult to break down all of Gadget’s parts, it took the crew 350 drawings before settling on the final design.
16. INSPECTOR GADGET AND HEATHCLIFF LIVED IN THE SAME UNIVERSE.
Since Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats was another DiC produced cartoon, Penny would sometimes watch it, while Heathcliff‘s Grandpa Nutmeg enjoyed watching Inspector Gadget.
17. IT WAS UNOFFICIALLY REBOOTED 20 YEARS AGO.
Gadget Boy & Heather/Gadget Boy’s Adventures in History was an animated series by DiC, starring a bionic kid detective who acted like Inspector Gadget, and was also voiced by Don Adams.
18. A SEQUEL TO THE INSPECTOR GADGET MOVIE WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.
The 1999 live-action Disney film version of Inspector Gadget, starring Matthew Broderick, actually made more than $134 million worldwide. But it was a critical bomb, even after being cut down from 110 to 78 minutes after a lot of negative feedback during test screenings. In 2003, French Stewart replaced Broderick as the eponymous hero in a straight-to-video sequel.