I'm convinced there's a patron saint for fools and animators," says Underdog creator Joe Harris in the bonus feature interview on disc one ( Perils of Sweet Polly), also available separately, as are the other two discs in the Ultimate Collection. What surprised me in the interview was Joe holding up a copy of Animato!, a late, great animation magazine I used to write for, and of which the publisher sent me a signed copy of Joe's wonderful Underdog cover. This interview is the number one reason to get this set, but there are plenty more.
Underdog hit the airwaves in 1964 with humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy, AKA Underdog, voiced by kid favorite "Mr. Peepers", Wally Cox. This box set includes three discs, each with six two-part Underdog episodes (three story arcs) and about ten supporting cartoons drawn from various incarnations of King Leonardo and His Short Subjects and Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Those include The Hunter, Klondike Kat, Tooter Turtle, the King and Odie, Tennessee and Chumley, and Commander McBragg. The favorite was probably Go Go Gophers, voiced by NY kids' TV host Sandy Becker, and which spun off as its own show in 1968. These supporting cartoons include titles, but not their original theme music. Although these shows came from Total Television, the whimsical, stylized look was so similar to the Jay Ward shows, both inspired by the modern UPA cartoon style, that reviewers often confuse them with such Ward characters as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Hoppity Hooper, and George of the Jungle. They were known as "cliff-hanger" cartoons because they drop off at the end, so that each Underdog story runs for two two-part episodes (four parts).
The only thing slightly annoying about this set is that the discs open with ads for the Harveytoons Collection and a new CGI Casper movie, Casper's Scare School. The amazing thing, however, is how good the Harvey 'toons from Famous Studios look, and the Casper film, unlike many CGI direct to DVD films, seems to be reaching for the high standard of the Pixar- raised bar. This set comes through Classic Media, now part of Entertainment Rights (although Classic has a lot better logo) and is released through Genius Entertainment. The opening Underdog theme is also the abbreviated one used for syndication. Disc two, however, includes a bonus feature Underdog sing-a-long.
A previous three DVD Underdog set, also released as three individual discs, appeared in 2002 from Classic Media through Golden Books and Sony Wonder. The three discs were called Collector's Edition, The Underdog Chronicles, and Underdog Nemesis, and collected cartoons previously released on VHS. The surprising thing is that these are not the same 'toons as on the Ultimate Collection. Joe Harris says there were 124 segments of Underdog made, meaning 62 episodes. 18 episodes down in this set leaves, amazingly, 44 episodes to go. there's reason to hope they will all be forthcoming, as the new logo for Underdog on this set ties in with the live-action Underdog movie. All in all, this set is a great deal, with 18 Underdog two- part episodes and about 30 other cartoons, not to mention numerous extras and great packaging.
The Underdog cartoons in this set include:
Volume One, Perils of Sweet Polly: the Big Dipper, The Gold Bricks, Fearo the Ferocious
Volume Two, Simon Says Melt: the Great Gold Robbery, The Big Shrink, The Marbleheads
Volume Three, Riff Raff's Greatest Hits: Weathering the Storm, Riffraffville, Round and Round.