Looking for the complete series of 60s cartoon Underdog? Never fear... Shoooout! Factory is here.
Underdog began in the early 60s on NBC. It was a Saturday morning cartoon that starred a humble little dog who was a shoeshine boy when not saving the city or his girlfriend from Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff. Underdog was very much like Superman in a variety of ways from using a phone booth to change, to being able to fly and pack a mighty punch (amongst other powers) to having a girlfriend in journalism that often needed saving. He would need these powers to battle Sinister, who came up with all kinds of evil devices like a powerful vacuum, a gun that turned people into snow or ice, and a camera that could freeze whatever was in its frame. Riff Raff on the other hand used firearms, and was more of a gangster style character.
Underdog cartoons were usually two to four segments long, encouraging viewers to turn back in for the next episode. In addition to an Underdog cartoon, each episode also had two other short/ultra short cartoons. Go Go Gophers was about two Native Americans, a chief and his incomprehensible assistant. The US Army was constantly trying to push the two out of the area so as to annex their land. A colonel and sergeant (whose dialogue and voice-acting was just great), both some type of dog or coyote, tried in vein to get the gophers to leave but they never managed to succeed, but their attempts and failures are pretty funny.
Even better are the one and a half minute (tall) tales of Commander McBragg. These shorts were created literally to create some space between commercial breaks. In each episode, ole McBragg spins a globe, stops it with his finger, and obliges anyone around him to boisterous tale of his incredible courage. Tales such as saving a town from a dam or the time he shipwrecked on an island off of the frozen seas and had to fight off an angry bear using a slingshot made from his suspenders. These are fun, short stories that will put a smile on your face.
Presentation quality is fairly consistent across the set, but there are some significant lulls where a better copy of the show could not be located. These episodes or segments of episodes don't detract much from the overall experience, but they do standout. At its best, Underdog looks and sounds very good, on par with other animation DVDs I have see from the 50s-70s from other studios.
I thought Shout! did a great job with the packaging, too. Each season is contained in a separate DVD case, and each case and disc art has a different color theme (yellow, blue, gray). The backside of each season case contains an episode list. The exterior box is sturdy and eye-catchingly colorful. In addition to the three cases, it has a color booklet with still images and a good article on Underdog. There is also an episode listing here too, although oddly enough it states that there is an extra feature on Season 2, Disc 3 that I cannot actually find on the disc.
As for extra features, you get about a dozen short audio commentaries from different folks involved in the production of Underdog as well as one entertaining and interesting 30 minute feature. This feature is located on disc four, the last disc of the first season. In it, Mark Arnold, an animation historian, sets up each segment with a brief intro. Then, people like W. Watts Biggers (co-creator/writer/producer), George S. Irving (voice actor), the daughter of voice actor Norma MacMillan, and animator Roman Arambula from Gamma, all reminisce (in separate interviews) about the show. You will discover how Underdog came to being, from initial concepts to the name, the theme song (only took Biggers and hour to create it!) to the inspiration of the look and behavior of the characters. It's entertaining and very informative and a positive edition to this set.
The audio commentaries I mentioned earlier break down as follows:
Disc 1: Episodes 1, 2, 4, 6
Disc 3: Episode 16
Disc 7: Episode 19 (of season 2)
Disc 8: Episode 1 (of season 3)
Disc 9: Episode 14 (of season 3)
Disc menus and options are bare bones. Each disc has a consistent looking menu with the same two options: Play All or Select Episode. There are no audio options of any kind. The episode selection shows just one episode per screen, I thought they could have condensed this better to make it easier to get to episodes quicker, and to be able to see the contents of the disc without having to scroll through each page. Furthermore, I was a little letdown that while you can see the contents of each episode, you cannot just pick a cartoon from said episode. Instead, you have to launch the episode and chapter skip as needed. Minor inconvenience, but still it would have been a plus to be able to zip right to a particular cartoon with an episode.
If I were to rank my favorite cartoons and cartoon characters, I couldnt tell you exactly where the Underdog show would end up. It's enjoyable in spurts and I think it has withstood the test of time very well, but it's hard to say it would be in my top ten. Still, it remains a well produced and quality show that series fans and newcomers alike can enjoy.