Les Shadoks is a French animated TV Show created in 1968 by Jacques Rouxel, and which had four seasons, the second and third in 1969 and 1972, and the last one in 2000. The show is speechless 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 tilting 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 trouble... especially for the Gibis. To the left of the sky, there was planet Shadok. It had no precise form, or rather... its form kept changing. So sometimes some Shadoks fell in space. It was a big trouble... 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 was seemingly working better". The Shadoks are stupid and mean-spirited birds who can't fly (their wings are too small) and the Gibis are unidentified kind and intelligent animals with a little hat to say "hello". It 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 part is that the show's mostly hilarious nonsense. Expect many crazy shout-outs that come out of nowhere, barely any consistencies 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.
It got three more seasons. The second and third 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 to launch successfully. It doesn't work.
- 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 do simple when one can do complicated?"
- 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's 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 get 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 in, though not as convenient as the one they had.
- 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.
- 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 — because, say, 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.
- Hive Mind: The Gibis' brain is in their bowler hat. When a Gibi thinks about a problem, it goes to 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 that. 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 reasoning made on the show by the Shadoks run 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 machine prototype, the animographe, and paper offcut. The prototype was out of function after the first series but the following seasons kept quite the same 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 enjoyable 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.
- 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.
- Surreal Humor: Professor Shadoko's theory on strainers. "There are three kinds of strainers. Strainers that let water pass and not the noodles; strainers that let the noodles pass and not the water; and strainers that let pass 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 autobuses. To make a strainer let water past and not noodles, just make the holes thinner than the noodles. To make a strainer let the noodles past and not the 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.
- Violation of Common Sense: The Shadoks do that to make things work.
- The Virus: The Fall-o-Virus of Season 4. It makes things... fall.