Les Shadoks is a French animated TV show created in 1968 by Jacques Rouxel, which ran for four seasons, the second and third in 1969 and 1972, and the last one in 2000. The show has no dialogue except for the narrator, French actor Claude Piéplu.
"It was a long, long, long... long time ago. In that time, there was the sky. To the right of the sky, there was planet Gibi. It was flat and tilted from left to right. So sometimes when too many Gibis were on one side on the planet, it tilted too much and some Gibis fell into space. It was a big problem... especially for the Gibis. To the left of the sky, there was the planet Shadok. It had no exact shape, or rather... its shape kept changing. So sometimes some Shadoks fell in space. It was a big problem... especially for the Shadoks. And on the middle there was Earth, that was round and moved".
You guess what's next: the story is about the Shadoks' and the Gibis' rivalry for Earth, a planet "that seemed to work better". The Shadoks are stupid and mean-spirited birds who can't fly (their wings are too small) and the Gibis are unidentified intelligent animals with a little hat to say "hello". The show is about pumping, space conquest rivalry, a mean insect named Gégène and criticism of the institutions: government, science, religion... This last point is particularly significant as the show was broadcast just a few weeks before the events of May, 1968 in France.
The other important aspect is that the show is mostly hilarious nonsense. Expect many crazy shout-outs that come out of nowhere, barely any consistency and plenty of fourth wall breaking.
Les Shadoks has become a rare example of French cult pop culture, though it's mostly unknown outside of France.
The second and third seasons had barely any plots (or more precisely many subplots with nothing really linking them together), but are popularly believed to be the funniest series of the saga, due to being even crazier and more creative than usual.
Les Shadoks provides examples of:
- 90% of Your Brain: Parodied. The Shadoks use their brain plenty... but it has only four boxes. Which means that a Shadok can know only four things at a time. For example, if a Shadok knows how to ride a bike and wants to learn how to read, and if his brain is already full, he will have to unlearn how to ride a bike.
- The Alcoholic: The Sailor Shadok. "While most people of his kind spend their time putting a small boat in a bottle, he spent his time putting bottles in his little ship."
- Artistic License – Statistics: Parodied; the Shadoks' goals during Season 1 is to fail to launch their rocket 999,999 times because they calculated that it had a one-in-a-million chance of launching successfully. It doesn't work.
- Arch-Enemy: Gégène and the Shadoks, after the Shadoks made a total mess on Earth by trying to completely separate each geographical element such as seas, mountains or forests from each other, causing him to furiously banish them to the moon, with the Shadoks swearing to get revenge on and exterminate him in return.
- Author Catchphrase: Repeated during the third and fourth seasons as it had become cult-ish.
- "Better to pump even if nothing happens than to risk something worse happening by not pumping."
- "The more one fails, the more one has chances that it works."
- "Why keep it simple when you can make it complicated?"
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Sailor Shadok may be alcoholic and have his own quirks but he's still more level-headed than the rest of his brethren, does find a way to sail across the cosmos with his ship, and in the end he and his men are the only Shadoks to survive and definitively manage to live on Earth.
- Complexity Addiction: A running gag is the title characters' ridiculous and nonsensical so-called "proverbs". Among one of the most popular is: "Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué ?", which is a parody of the French counterpart to "Why make it complicated when it can be easy?" Guess what it means? "Why make it easy when it can be complicated?"!
- Cool Starship: The Gibi rocket has separate floors for a heated swimming pool, a games room, carnival rides, and an arboretum!
- Death Takes a Holiday: In the fourth season of Les Shadoks, the Shadoks have discovered that their world is going to be destroyed in the near future, and they can't do much to stop it. So, to avoid being killed in the catastrophe, they decide to arrest the Grim Reaper and sentence him to death. However, the Shadoks are so mean that their main distraction is to kill and torture each other. The Grim Reaper reminds them of that, and gets away. In the end, the apocalypse does happen but the Shadoks eventually find another world to live on, though not as convenient as the one they had.
- Determinator: Despite their stupidity and their countless, and often spectacular, failures and misfortunes, Shadoks are extremely stubborn and tenacious, never giving up on their goal to reach and live on Earth
- Drives Like Crazy: The hatless Gibi after he comes to believe that he's a Shadok, and takes control of the Gibi Rocket in an attempt to go to Planet Shadok, causing mayhem in the cosmos.0
- The Emperor: Chief Shadok.
- Flat World: Planet Gibi.
- Floating Water: The Sailor Shadok claimed that he could reach planet Gibi to steal their rocket with his ship. But the sea stops at the limits of planet Shadok, so he has his crew take the water behind the ship and put it in front so the journey can continue.
- For the Evulz: Shadoks are very mean and sadistic, with for example one Shadok devouring another's leg and later his entire body just out of sadism, while upside-down Shadoks make and open traps below the Goulp just to see the Shadoks from above imprisonned here fall to their doom, for their own amusement.
- Grand Finale: The final episode of Les Shadoks et le Big Blank consists of Big Blank finally succeeding in his plans to destroy the Shadoks' planet. The Shadoks find a new planet, but end up dying there. However, the Sailor Shadok and his men survive, finding home on Earth.
- Gravity Screw:
- There are two sorts of Shadoks: those with feet pointing down, which live on top of the planet; and those with feet pointing up, which live on the underside. The purpose of upside-down Shadoks is to hold the planet up with their feet; if they don't — for example, if they lie down instead of standing — the planet risks falling.
- Because the Shadoks repeatedly failed to launch their rocket upward into space, they decide to launch it downward (i.e. dropping it). It actually works, but only because the upside-down Shadoks had the opposite problem while trying to launch their rocket downward into space. The two spacecrafts collide in the "middle" and support each other, resulting in a flying pile of destroyed spaceships.
- Harmless Villain: The Shadoks are far too stupid and incompetent to pose a threat to the Gibis, who are instead amused by them, and to Gégène.
- Hive Mind: The Gibis' brain is in their bowler hat. When a Gibi thinks about a problem, it goes into his hat then passes to the other Gibis' hats so they can resolve the problem together. So when a Gibi loses his hat he becomes no much more than a mere Shadok.
- Hulk Speak: The Shadoks have only four words, "Ga", "Bu", "Zo" and "Meu", and a complete universe to name with just those words. This explains why they're so incompetent, for example at space travel.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The Shadoks are so cruel and so stupid that they may eat each other. Especially the Down-Under Shadoks.
- Insane Troll Logic: Pretty much every piece of reasoning made on the show by the Shadoks runs on this trope.
- Letters to the Editor: Between the first and second seasons, ORTF aired "Les Français écrivent aux Shadoks" (The French Write to the Shadoks). The shorts consisted of actor Jean Yanne as host reading (often angry) letters to the television station regarding the show. The letters would be punctuated by snarky asides from Yanne, and fast-paced edits of Stock Footage used for humorous effect.
- Limited Animation: It was originally released in 1968. It was French TV, not exactly Hollywood. Plus, it was made with a prototype machine, the animographe, and paper cutouts. The prototype stopped working after the first series but the following seasons kept a very similar style — it would betray the spirit of the series otherwise.
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: The Gibis are able to become allies of Gégène by charming him with their music. The Shadoks later attempt the same thing (in order to assassinate Gégène) but predictably fail.
- Negative Continuity: Happens too many times to count. Lampshaded in the last episode of Season 3: the Shadoks and Gibis don't care about the fact that it's the end of the story and that they're going to die because by that point, they've all died so many times that they're sure they will recover from that one too.
- Only Sane Man: The Sailor Shadok is the only Shadok to realize that the Shadoks rocket is never going to work, and that the best solution to reach Earth is to use the Gibis' infinitely superior rocket.
- Previously on…: Since the first season had a Story Arc spanning the entire season (i.e. the Shadoks' and the Gibis' space race to the planet Earth), every two-minute short in the first season began (after the intro) with ten to twenty seconds of exposition in the format of a scrolling comic strip. As the story arcs got shorter, this device was used less and less in the subsequent seasons.
- The Professor: Professor Shadoko... though he has his own logic.
- Rule of Fun: The Gibi way of life.
- Sanity Slippage: One Gibi becomes insane after losing his hat. He later comes to believe that he's a Shadok due to him spending too much time watching them on TV, and intends to go back to his Shadok family.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Professor Shadoko and the Divine Plumber constantly fight and try to one-up each other at everything.
- Surreal Humor: Professor Shadoko's theory on strainers. "There are three kinds of strainers. Strainers that let water through and not noodles; strainers that let noodles through and not water; and strainers that let through neither the noodles nor the water. Those ones are called pans. There are three kinds of pans: left-handled pans; right-handled pans; and no-handled pans. Those ones are called buses. To make a strainer that lets water through and not noodles, just make the holes thinner than the noodles. To make a strainer that lets noodles through and not water, just make the holes thinner than the water..."
- Tailor-Made Prison: The "Goulp".
- That's All, Folks!: A screen with a Shadok making musical sounds followed by text saying "C'est tout pour aujourd'hui!" ("That's all for today!") falling on it appears at the end of every episode.
- Too Dumb to Live: Miraculously, the Shadoks survived two or three extinctions.
- Troll: The Gibis often take pleasure into pranking the Shadoks and watching on TV the Shadoks' pointless schemes and efforts to steal their super-fuel, the Cosmogol 999, or their rocket.
- Violation of Common Sense: The Shadoks do this to make things work.
- The Virus: The Fall-o-Virus of Season 4. It makes things... fall.