18 Things You Might Not Know About Inspector Gadget

Image credit: Watson.ch

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.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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