Monday, June 20, 2005

Underdog

In keeping with their policy of corporate and not creative movie making, Disney has o k ed the production of a favorate TV cartoon series. Here's the full story:

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According to Variety, Disney and Spyglass Entertainment are putting the final touches on a deal to bring the classic TV cartoon, Underdog, to the bigscreen as a live-action feature.

Disney has high hopes for the property as a possible franchise for its Walt Disney Pictures label.

Spyglass' Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman are producers on the pic, along with Jay Polstein (Frida), who brought them the project.

Spyglass optioned the property from rights holder Classic Media three years ago with a preemptive bid of mid-six figures against north of $2 million.

Spyglass hopes to start prep in November and begin shooting in January in Canada, possibly in Vancouver.

The tongue-in-cheek "Underdog" skein, created by Buck Biggers and Chet Stover, made its debut in 1964 on NBC and ran until 1973. The character was an unlikely superhero: a beagle who sheds his milquetoast identity of Shoeshine Boy to become a caped superdog who speaks in rhymed couplets. Wally Cox provided his voice.

Original episodes have been rerun recently on Cartoon. Underdog also is featured in a popular Visa Check Card commercial, appearing opposite an array of Marvel Comics heroes.

In the feature script, by Joe Piscatella and Craig A. Williams, a diminutive hound named Shoeshine gets superpowers after a lab accident. When he's adopted by a 12-year-old boy, the two form a bond around the shared knowledge that Shoeshine is really Underdog.

"We want to keep many elements from the classic cartoon," said Birnbaum, including mad scientist Simon Barsinister and Underdog's love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred.

Unlike "Scooby-Doo," another toon favorite that was made as a live-action feature, this pic will use a real dog for the title role, though with CGI enhancements. Underdog will talk and fly, just as in the cartoon. Spyglass is pondering a nationwide talent search for the next dog star.

Aside from Disney's plans for its new Underdog, Classic Media maintains an aggressive licensing and promotion campaign for the original toon, including a recent NASCAR tie-in and plans for a videogame.

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