For further demonstration of the rose-tinted nature of nostalgia, people who are old enough to remember watching "Underdog" as a child should check out its 30-years-later revival on video.
The cartoon about the atomically superpowered Underdog, who lived Clark Kent-like as the meek and lowly Shoeshine Boy, came out in the wake of "The Bullwinkle Show," and that show's influences are obvious.
The simple graphics of the animation are "Underdog's" strongest element, and on both DVD and VHS, Golden Books' restored retrievals offer beautiful samples of cool and kitschy cartooning — check out the groovy colors and trippy-chic shapes in the mad scientist's laboratory when Underdog goes up against Simon Barsinister.
But that's about it — at least if you're an adult looking for something to watch. As it turns out, "Underdog" is great children's entertainment in that old-world way when children's entertainment didn't try to appeal to adults, too. So, Underdog's adventures in saving Sweet Polly Purebread from the dastardly schemes of scoundrels such as Riff Raff (not the cross-dressing alien of "Rocky Horror" fame, this Riff Raff is a double-breasted-suit-wearing wolf) don't aspire to anything more than simple, iconic fun.
It's almost too simple. For those who can't remember or haven't seen Underdog, imagine "The Bullwinkle Show" without any of the irony or subtext, without any of the surface silliness or hidden humor. Come to think of it, without anything other than this weird little dog that flies around and speaks in rhyming couplets (the most famous being, "have no fear, Underdog is here").
Kids will enjoy "Underdog" (available as three videos or one DVD disc); parents will wonder why they ever watched; and for those in between — who knows? Maybe this wimpy-weakling superhero dog (with the warbly voice of Wally Cox) will be a hit with today's edge-seekers always on the lookout for a new and obscurely hip mascot. As this compilation confirms, the "Underdog" tattoo possibilities are plentiful.
Unrated. With the voice of Wally Cox. DVD and VHS.