The feature film Underdog hit movie theaters this weekend and earned an estimated $12 million. In Hollywood terms, that’s a far cry from a box office hit but it’s certainly not a bomb either. The film begins with a glimpse of the beloved animated series on which it was based but otherwise has little to do with the original material. Many fans are understandably disappointed by the departure but what do the creators think?
Underdog was created over 40 years ago by a team of New York ad executives. Chet Stover happened to catch the episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy (Lucille Ball) tries to impersonate Superman (George Reeves) for Little Ricky’s birthday party. The next day, he told artist Joe Harris that their next project should be a “superdog” of some kind. Teamed with musician W. Watts “Buck” Biggers, the three created The Underdog Show that ran for 124 episodes and is well remembered by babyboomers. The three signed away ownership of the series several years ago but still hold the rights to the show’s music.
When Harris first heard about the concept for the new movie, he was less than pleased. He felt that, if Underdog ever made the jump to the big screen, it should be in a similar style to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with a blend of live-action and animation. One of the movie’s executive producers, Bob Higgins, told Harris that times had changed and that the concept had to be updated for modern audiences. Now that Harris has seen the movie, what does he think?
“Underdog was a character and a series that was designed for kids of all ages, and the lead character is a kid himself, just a very powerful one, ” Harris says. “The screening I attended was filled with children who seemed to love the movie, which means quite a lot to me because this franchise has been so close to my heart over the years.”
Biggers agreed, saying, “Disney has taken the themes and the spirit of the characters from the original series and adapted them beautifully. To me, Disney has surpassed expectations in bringing our loving hero to the big screen. There’s no better way to ensure that the movie would be open to all audiences, especially families, than having Disney adapt it.”