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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Morning - Inspector Gadget

Have you ever worked hard on some project or task, and have someone else completely steal all the credit for your accomplishments?  Wouldn't it just make you go crazy with anger and fury?

Or, at the very least make you very, very sad?

I can recall a couple of school projects that I ended up doing that involved group work.  We had to work on various projects that had to do with our hometown, and we have five subjects that we had to look at.  We could choose our partners for two of these five projects, but the other three were chosen by random draw (think putting all the names in a hat and randomly pairing people off).  For the record, the projects where I could choose the partner worked out really well, as I knew what kind of work each one was capable of.

It was the game of chance that apparently didn't work too well in my favour.

One partner was fine enough.  We worked hard on the project, and we ended up doing not too badly.  But the other two were a bit harder to get a feel for.  It also didn't help matters much that both of these people were ones that I really had a difficult time getting along with outside of the classroom.  But, nevertheless, I attempted to make it work.

In one case, the above scenario took place, and I ended up practically doing the whole project at home by myself without even so much as any input from my partner at the time.  It was one of the best pieces of work that I could have ever come up with, and I was quite proud of it. 

Ironically enough, the project that I ended up doing by myself was the only project where I had received a perfect mark.  And I had to share that perfect mark with someone who basically did nothing on the whole project?

That's shameful.

But you know, it wasn't nearly as shameful as the experience that I had with my second partner, who gladly won the title of Control Freak '94.  Boy, oh, boy that was a disaster waiting to happen.  Unlike the first partner I talked about, who took a backseat approach to the project, I actually had ideas for this project.  I wanted to take on an active role in the planning process.  I wanted to feel like I had a voice in how this project should come together.

This person wouldn't hear of it.  Every one of my ideas were pooh-poohed, just like that.  This person claimed to have the perfect idea, that she would be the one to put in into place.  Which would have been fine and dandy, except that she never told me what her idea was.  Lovely communication skills that we had now, didn't we?

Had I known what the idea was, I probably would have stopped the project from going right then and there, because the end result was something that looked like a kindergarten student made.  Again, this was a project that I had absolutely no say in.  Unlike the first project, where I practically begged my partner to take a more active role in the planning process, I was effectively frozen out of the project.

Conversely, project #2 was my lowest graded project.  I'll accept some of the blame, because I realize that I could have stuck to my convictions more, but really, when you were effectively kept from the planning phases of the project from the very beginning, would it really have made a difference?

Those two projects pretty much eliminated any desire for me to work in group work settings.  From that moment on, I avoided group projects like a person in Stephen King's 'The Stand' avoided Captain Trips.  There were some aspects where I had no choice but to find people to work with, but for the most part, I chose my partners very wisely (with one notable exception from my high school years).

The whole experience did help me realize that I didn't need to wholly rely on anybody in order to put my best work forward.  I could do projects just as well by myself as I could in a group...maybe even better.  Still, when I think about those two projects, it still admittedly gets me a bit riled up.  Could you imagine doing all the work for someone else, and not getting any credit for it?  Still kind of riles me up.

Maybe I need to turn on some cartoon show to cool me off.

What a coincidence!  Today's blog entry happens to be on a show that illustrates my opening paragraph beautifully!

(Bet you didn't see that one coming, huh?)

Before I go on with why 'Inspector Gadget' is the ultimate example of showcasing someone stealing the credit from someone else, let's talk a little bit about the show itself.

Inspector Gadget was a cartoon series produced by DIC Entertainment, and what made this program unique was that several countries were linked together in its creation.

Created specifically for the American market, DIC Entertainment (which at the time was based in France) joined forces with Nelvana (Canada), Tokyo Movie Shinsha (Japan), and Cuckoo's Nest Studio (Taiwan), Inspector Gadget was first broadcast September 12, 1983, on CBS initially, and ran until 1986.  The show ran on syndication and cable channels years after its debut.  Given the number of countries involved in the production of the show, as well as the long syndication history behind it, I would think that it would be a fair assessment that millions of children watched this program at some point in their lives.

And I was one of them.

For years, Inspector Gadget was my favourite cartoon show.  I would watch it every morning on Global television before school started for much of my elementary school years.  Sure, we saw the same episodes over and over again, but it didn't matter to me.  I loved the show that much.  Heck, I reckon that I'd STILL watch the show if it still aired.

Each of the episodes (at least during the 1983 episodes) followed the same formula.  Inspector Gadget, who was based in the fictional city known as Metro City would be asked by Chief Quimby to foil one of Dr. Claw's evil schemes (don't worry, I'll talk about that later in the blog).  Every episode showed Chief Quimby hiding in some sort of costume and giving Gadget a message about his next case.  Here's an example below.

Poor Chief Quimby.  Why does he put up with him?

Probably because Chief Quimby has the idea in his head that Inspector Gadget is the best detective he has working for him.  During the course of the show, Gadget foiled several plots inside Metro City (though as of right now, in the episode I posted, he's currently in the middle of investigating a bomb plot in the new amusement park).  Gadget has also flown to several countries (some real, some fictional) to foil Dr. Claw's evil plots.  He's been to all the countries involved with the creation of Inspector Gadget at least once, and has even gone underwater and in outer space to stop Dr. Claw and his M.A.D. organization.

Dr. Claw is no nice guy.  With his trusty M.A.D. cat by his side, he watches Gadget on his what I'm sure was technologically advanced for 1983 computer, and he plots to destroy Gadget at every opportunity.  Throughout the whole series, all you see of Dr. Claw is his right arm.  During the course of the whole series, you never see Dr. Claw's face.  That doesn't mean that he doesn't have one though.  In fact, at the end of this blog entry, I promise to show you what Dr. Claw really looked like.  How's that for incentive to reading this whole entry, huh?

At any rate, most of Dr. Claw's henchmen dress up in disguises.  Sometimes, they end up actually working at actual workplaces, and are M.A.D. sympathizers, such as a health club owner, a scientist, or a movie actress.  In this case, we know that the carnival game booth operator is evil, and that's even before he ended up giving Gadget that panda bear bomb.  If you noticed during the scene where Gadget is playing the duck game, each of the duckies had this symbol on their backsides.

That, my friends, is the insignia of Dr. Claw's M.A.D. crime syndicate, which presumably could have been named after his beloved feline friend.  Or, maybe not, it's hard to say.  The resemblance is uncanny though, and if you happen to see this symbol anywhere in Gadget, you know that Gadget is getting closer to the truth.

So, here we have Inspector Gadget, not even aware of the fact that his stuffed bear is filled with enough dynamite to make rubble out of a roller coaster...mistakenly believing that a ten-year-old boy is a M.A.D. agent, and follows him into a reptile show where he's about to get eaten by alligators.  Certainly not proving Quimby's belief that Gadget is the best detective there is, is there?

Wanna watch part two?  I'm certain you do.

Aha...the plot thickens.

I do believe that we have two new characters to introduce here.

First, we have Penny.  She's Gadget's niece, and she lives with her Uncle Gadget at his home in Metro City.  Though, we don't exactly know why this is the case, as the cartoon never really mentioned what happened to Penny's parents (though the 1999 live-action movie of Inspector Gadget explains that Penny's father was actually murdered by Dr. Claw himself, which would make the reason why Penny is so concerned for Gadget's safety crystal clear).

She's blonde, about ten years old, always wears the same red shirt and lime green jeans every day.  Oh, and she's a super genius of a child who has an incredibly high IQ for her decade of living.  Whereas most girls her age played with Barbie dolls and jump ropes, Penny's favourite toy was her beloved computer book (which I admit to asking for seven Christmases in a row as a gift, but unsurprisingly never got).  On the outside, it looked like an average textbook, but on the inside was a technology geek's fantasy.  Dozens of buttons, tracking devices, and bells and whistles made the book the best tool Penny had for keeping tabs on her uncle, which was good, since Gadget obviously was a bit...shall we say...distracted.

It's also here that we get a good look at why Inspector Gadget was named as such.  His entire coat, as well as limbs on his body were fitted with robotic gadgets, designed to help him get an edge over M.A.D. agents.  All he had to do was say Go Go Gadget before it, and eight times out of ten, it would work.  If he said, Go Go Gadget coat, his coat would inflate so he could float.  Go Go Gadget phone shot a mobile phone antenna out of his thumb.  His car even had the Go Go Gadget technology, transforming it from minivan to police cruiser.

You may have also noticed that Penny isn't exactly alone in her quest to help Gadget along.

Penny's dog, Brain, surprisingly enough seems to have a super human brain, which allows him to dress up in costumes, perform pantomime like actions to communicate, and at times can even possess super human strength.  Brain disguises himself to keep an eye on Gadget, and sometimes, he'll even be mistaken as a M.A.D. agent by Gadget himself, which actually worked to Brain's advantage, since Brain will often get Gadget out of harm's way.

These are all nice little pieces of information here, but how exactly does it link back to my opening paragraph?  We have Gadget, who still has no idea that his panda is packing major explosive action.  Penny, who is desperately using her computer book to track the bomb.  And Brain, who is disguised as a man selling balloons.  How will this all end?  Will Metro City's only amusement park be saved?

Well, there you have it.  Another plot by Dr. Claw foiled by Inspector Gadget.  He found the bomb, he disposed of it, and Metro City is saved.

Only, he didn't really foil the plot.  He didn't really know he HAD the bomb.  He disposed of the bomb purely by accident, and he ended up taking credit for the whole thing.

Because Penny ended up doing all the hard work.  Penny found the bomb.  Penny helped dispose of the bomb with Brain's help.  Penny solved the case.

In short...Penny is the brains behind every single one of Gadget's missions.  In every case Gadget worked on, Penny was the one who put all of the pieces together and single-handedly foiled every single one of Dr. Claw's attempts at evil doing.

Yet, she never got any credit for it.  Not a bit.  And what's even more unbelievable is that she was perfectly fine doing exactly that!  She stood back in the shadows and watched as Gadget got all the glory.

There's a few reasons I can think of why this was the case.  Most obvious one being that Penny was all of ten and no police station would even think of having a child on the force, no matter how intelligent she is.  But I think part of it could be her desire to protect her uncle.  For whatever reason, Gadget is all that she has left for family and if anything happened to him, who knows what would become of her.  For Penny, protecting Gadget is essential for her to enjoy the normal life that she currently has.

(Well, aside from all the secret spy stuff that is).

If I were Penny though, I'd at least demand a bigger room, or something to offset the lack of credit she got for her role in the series.  She at least deserved that.

That's about all that I have to say about Inspector Gadget.  But, as promised, I will now show you the real Dr. Claw, and how the design came about.

It was back in 1992.  Although by that time, the Inspector Gadget cartoon was almost as old as Penny was in the show, some toy company decided to make action figures of Inspector Gadget characters.  You had Gadget of course, but there was also one for Penny, Brain, Chief Quimby...

...and DR. CLAW!

To increase the marketing possibilities (translation:  to make sure you bought it), the company placed labels deliberately over the face of the Dr. Claw figure, so that you had to BUY the doll to see what he looked like.  Pretty sneaky, huh?

So, without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen...the real Dr. Claw.

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