Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Underdog

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 1, 2000

Savoir faire is everywhere!

Special features

DVD-ROM Enhancements3
Related Trailers5

“There’s no need to no fear, Underdog is here!” Yipes! Let’s see how many characters I can remember. Underdog, Simon Barsinister, Overcat, Sweet Polly Purebred? What was his secret identity? What was the shoeshine boy’s name?

DirectorsWalter Lantz, William Nolan
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality5
Overall Rating6
  • Television Format

This DVD was released right about the same time as a bunch of Peanuts and some Christmas DVDs.This DVD beats the hell out of all of them. “Underdog”, unlike the others, manages to top an hour of content, and includes an interview with the creator. The Peanuts Holiday discs come one episode per disc and that’s all. In a season of lots of good DVDs coming out, I’m afraid Peanuts had to fall by the wayside. But I managed to find a slot in my budget for “Underdog”. I might even have been willing to pay triple the price for the Peanuts disk if it had contained all of the episodes on a single disk. The total time would still have been less than “The Sound of Music”, and it would have been easier to use and less space-consuming.

Whatever. Let’s get on to Underdog.

What was the shoeshine boy’s name? Trick question: it was “Shoeshine Boy”. His first name was “Shoeshine”, and that’s what people called him. While his name was “Shoeshine Boy”, he was still a dog like Underdog. Most of the main characters were animals: Polly was a dog of some kind, Overcat was a cat, Riffraff was a dog. But all of the background characters and many of the other villains were humans

I’m sure there was some deep philosophical significance to it all.

I love the backgrounds on these animations. It’s in a fifties/sixties style reminiscent of other films of that era, such as (if I remember correctly, and I might not be) “Gay Purr-ee”. (Now there’s something that ought to be on DVD.)

The Underdog episodes were originally broken up within a half hour of other even shorter features. The ones I remember were Tennessee Tuxedo, Go-Go Gophers, Commander McBragg, and Klondike Kat. (Actually, I didn’t remember Klondike Kat, but I did remember Savoir Faire, his arch-nemesis. Go figure!) There was also King Leonardo (“do the bongo congo”) and Tooter Turtle. My favorite was Tennessee, voiced by Don Adams, a strange take on a Stalag movie with Tennessee the penguin, his pal Chumley the Walrus, and their captor, the zookeeper. Every episode they’d try to find some way to sneak out of the zoo for a bit of R & R or to solve a problem with the help of Mr. Whoopee.

Why do I remember the smaller features that I just said I didn’t remember? Because they package the opening for each of them on this DVD (these are the “related trailers” I listed in the feature list). Hopefully, the rest of these shorts will also be collected on DVD in the future. You could probably fit all of Tennessee on a single disk and still have room for Don Adams. That would be cool.

There are three full episodes and four short episodes on this disk, including the original pilot, “Safe Waif”, which has a slightly different feel than the rest of the series. In “Safe Waif”, Underdog is slightly more blundering than he would later become. Watch as Underdog destroys two banks to save a trapped child!

The longer episodes run about seventeen minutes each. The shorts run about five minutes each, perfect for playing just before watching a longer movie with friends. The episodes are “Vacuum Gun”, with Simon Barsinister, “From Hopeless to Helpless” with Riff Raff and Tap Tap, and “Underdog vs. Overcat” with the alien Overcat stealing all the cows on Earth because their own planet’s milk wells have run dry! The shorts are pilot episode “Safe Waif”, “Tricky Trap by Tap Tap”, “Simon Says”, and “March of the Monsters”. The DVD packaging claims that “March of the Monsters” hasn’t been seen in “over 30 years”.

It scares me that I remember it.

There is also an interview with Joe Harris, Underdog’s creator, which is fun to watch and too short. He talks about the enduring appeal of Underdog and some of the ideas that went into the creation of the characters in Underdog. There is a trivia game. Most of the answers are available elsewhere on the DVD, but some of the questions about characters other than Underdog characters are not on the DVD. So there’s a bit of a challenge there. There are a few “introductions”, those teasers that attempt to get kids to “stay tuned next week” or “stay tuned for Underdog, coming right up” as well as two introductions with the words of the Underdog song running along the bottom of the screen for a sing-a-long.

The DVD-ROM stuff was a bit disappointing. There is a screen saver and a few sound bites. The screen saver doesn’t work on Macintosh.

I’m not sure how to recommend this disk. I want to tell everyone to purchase it in the hopes that the owners will eventually put them all out on DVD! If you remember Underdog fondly, I definitely recommend it. In my case, it was better than I remembered it! I’ve recently purchased “Land of the Lost” and “Scooby Doo” on DVD, and while I’m glad I did, they just don’t survive the passage of time very well. But “Underdog” was a very pleasant surprise. If you have young children, I also recommend the purchase. If you’ve never seen Underdog, I recommend at least renting them, grabbing a big glass of milk and a plate of cookies, and enjoying! But check prices before you rent it. Depending on where you rent it and where you buy it, the purchase price might not be that much more than the rental.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorsWalter Lantz, William Nolan
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitleEnglish (CC)
Special FeaturesDVD-ROM Enhancements, Game, Interviews, Related Trailers, Sing-a-long
More links