“There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!” Those familiar with the classic 1964 cartoon know how ironic those words can be, coming from the sometimes dimwitted hero Underdog. Well, the loveable Shoeshine Boy and his heroic alter-ego are coming to the big screen but will we or even Sweet Polly Purebread recognize him?
The animated series Underdog debuted back on October 3rd, 1964 on NBC. There were 120 episodes aired over three seasons and the series went on to become even more popular in syndication. The cartoon series told of the exploits of sweet Shoeshine Boy who, whenever there was a call for help (particularly from reporter Sweet Polly Purebread), would rush to a phone booth and become the super-powered Underdog.
Unlike most heroes, Underdog’s powers were provided by an Underdog Super Energy Vitamin Pill that he would keep hidden inside his special ring. Like all of the characters in the series, Underdog wasn’t too bright but he always prevailed when pitted against such classic villains as evil scientist Simon Bar Sinister and his hulking assistant Cad, gangster Riff Raff, Overcat, and others. Underdog and friends were voiced by such notable voice talent as George S. Irving (the narrator), Wally Cox (Underdog), Norma MacMillan (Polly) and Allen Swift (Simon Bar Sinister, Riff-Raff, and others). Though the character has rarely been seen outside the classic series (except perhaps as a balloon float in the Macy’s Day Parade or in a brief appearance in a 2005 Visa commercial), Underdog remains a favorite of baby-boomers today.
Well, like many affectionately remembered series, Underdog is getting the big-screen treatment. Slated for release on August 3rd, 2007, Underdog will soon be soaring into theaters everywhere — though in a different story and form than what most may expect. The new Disney film will be a live-action, CGI-enhanced movie and Underdog will be played by a real dog (left, via MovieWeb).
The movie will tell the story of a diminutive beagle named Shoeshine (voiced by Jason Lee) who gains superpowers and the ability to speak after an explosive accident in Simon Bar Sinister’s underground lab. Shortly thereafter, he’s found by a Dad (Jim Belushi) who takes him home to his 12-year old son named Jack (Alex Neuberger). Jack and the hound form a close bond and end up sharing the secret of the pooch’s powers and Underdog identity. The canine’s abilities are put to the test when evil scientist Barsinister (Peter Dinklage) and his assistant Cad (Patrick Warburton) threaten Capitol City and, of course, spaniel Sweet Polly Purebread (voiced by Amy Adams). The film is directed by Frederik Du Chau, who also directed Racing Stripes and the animated Quest for Camelot.
I’ll reserve judgement until I see the Underdog film but quite honestly it sounds like the movie has little to do with the classic series, expect for the character names. Kids may enjoy it but anyone expecting the same humor or charm of the original series could be in for quite a surprise. Time will tell so… stay tuned!