In the Television section of the New York Times on the 19th, an obit (by Daniel E. Slotnik) for W. Watts Biggers, creator of the tv animated cartoon Underdog (a show that gave me much pleasure when it first came out and now does again, as I watch it on DVD with my grand-daughter).

The beginning of the obit:

W. Watts Biggers, who with a partner created the 1960s cartoon “Underdog” as a way to sell cereal and wrote its infectious theme song, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Manomet, Mass. He was 85.

Mr. Biggers was an account manager at the advertising firm Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the early 1960s when he and Chet Stover, a copywriter, began conceiving a cartoon show to advertise General Mills cereals.

Mr. Biggers and Mr. Stover talked over dozens of ideas, but nothing seemed right. They knew that they would be competing for a morning time slot with Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who had created “Rocky & Bullwinkle.”

“We were going to be the underdog,” Mr. Biggers recalled saying to Mr. Stover. The idea stuck, giving birth to Underdog, a humble shoe shiner who would be  transformed into a superhero, especially whenever the reporter Sweet Polly Purebred was threatened. It won the slot and made its debut on NBC in 1964.

Voiced by the character actor Wally Cox in rhyming couplets, Underdog battled villains like the evil scientist Simon Bar Sinister and the wolf gangster Riff Raff. Underdog’s segments on the show were interspersed with those of other cartoon characters like the Go Go Gophers and Tennessee Tuxedo.

The theme song on YouTube:

There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here.

When criminals in this world appear,
And break the laws that they should fear,
And frighten all who see or hear,
The cry goes up both far and near for

Speed of lightning, roar of thunder,
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog, Underdog.

When in this world the headlines read
Of those who’s hearts are filled with greed
And rob and steal from those in need.
To right this wrong with blinding speed goes

Speed of lightning, roar of thunder,
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog, Underdog.

Underdog in action:

And the wonderfully named villain Simon Bar Sinister:

As with Rocky and Bullwinkle, there’s a lot of verbal play in the cartoon. And then there’s those rhyming couplets.


5 Responses to “Underdog”

  1. bratschegirl Says:

    I always thought it was “speed of lightning, POWER of thunder.” One (or more) of us has been Mondegreened.

  2. Matt Groening « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Posting on Underdog reminded me that this would be a good time to pay homage to that animated monument of language play, Matt Groening’s The Simpsons (along with his Life in Hell cartoons, many of which are linguistically interesting). […]

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    Listen to the YouTube clip. Definitely roar.

  4. Ellen Says:

    “Of those who’s hearts”?

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