Like Day and Night: The Animation Cel versus the DVD

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A month ago, I talked a little about how beautiful Inspector Gadget's original animation cels look when compared to what we see on today's official DVD editions. Following up on that, I decided to post some more cels I found online; complete with their matching - and faded - episode screenshots.


Once again we start with a cel from Down on the Farm (right below); this time a great picture of Gadget investigating inside M.A.D.'s giant rocket ship. I love how fresh and strong the colors of this cel appear... just look at that brilliant blue on the machinery in the background! It certainly shines above the weak and unfocused quality of the DVD screen shot (below underneath).

Down on the Farm: The Cel

Down on the Farm: Official DVD Screenshot

Jumping to the episode Haunted Castle, we find another great cel example (right below); with matching lackluster screenshots from the episode (below underneath). One thing I love about seeing the original cel is all the additional picture information we get. The background in this Haunted Castle cel is really nicely painted... and while it doesn't exactly look bad in the episode, seeing it like this is truly an eye-opener. It just makes you appreciate the craft so much more.

Haunted Castle: The Cel

Haunted Castle: Official DVD screenshot 1

Haunted Castle: Official DVD screenshot 2
(Minor note: As is often the case when animation cels are reconstructed for sale, not all the layers in this Haunted Castle cel are exact matches of the episode moment. This is why I had to find two matching screen shots for comparison (above); one of Gadget and Brain, and one of the puzzled villain looking at them.)

The below cel from A Star Is Lost may not have suffered quite as much of a quality loss in the episode, but the sharpness of the drawn lines still says it all. And notice how we can actually clearly study the background details, like the pattern in the loud speaker seen between the agents. In the DVD screenshot (below underneath), this pattern is reduced to a gray spot.

A Star Is Lost: The Cel

A Star Is Lost: Official DVD Screenshot
(Minor note #2: The cel from A Star is Lost seems to have the same issue with the animation layers as the Haunted Castle cel. It appears that when the cel was reconstructed, the layer of the M.A.D. agent with the blue wig was placed underneath the layer with the photographer agent... whereas in the production of the original episode, the blue-haired agent was obviously shot on top of the photographer, so that his hand could tap the photographer on the shoulder to get his attention.)

The last example we're gonna showcase is perhaps the most striking of all. First, take a look at the below cel from the episode Amusement Park... then compare with the DVD screenshot from this dramatically aged episode:

Amusement Park: The Cel

Amusement Park: Official DVD Screenshot

See what I mean? Over the years, the circus tent's vibrant green has actually aged into a completely different color! Who knows how many "wrong" colors we might be looking at when viewing an Inspector Gadget episode today?

Of course, we don't know for certain that the episodes ever looked quite as good as the animation cels do. It depends on many other factors besides just aging... like, how good was the camera equipment with which they originally shot the episodes? But I think it still boils down to the same bottom line: Inspector Gadget is overdue for a high-quality restoration. The animation cels brim with details and sparkling colors, and it's a pity that the faded prints of the TV episodes have no chance of living up to that. Plus, restoring the episodes would help ensure that this classic show can live on in the modern world of HD TVs and Blu-ray. It's a win-win situation, Cookie Jar... it would definitely pay off in the long run! Go Go Gadget High Definition!
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