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UNDERDOG

From '60s Cartoon To 21st Century Film Hero
By the time the 21st century rolled around, it seemed that today's tough world was in dire need of Underdog's return. At Classic Media, an Entertainment Rights group company based in New York that owns the rights to Underdog as well as whole array of classic pop-culture characters including Lassie, Mr. Magoo, The Lone Ranger and Boris & Natasha, the feeling was that Underdog, with his willingness to always try no matter how overwhelming the odds, was an especially resonant hero for our times. So they were excited to team up with producer Jay Polstein of Maverick Films to finally give Underdog a silver screen debut. Polstein and Classic Media then approached the producing team at Spyglass Entertainment with the opportunity to adapt the adventure-comedy classic in a whole new way. 

Their idea was to bring Underdog to a new generation of family filmgoers in a modern adventure that would also pay homage to his humble beginnings. 

"So many of us remember the cartoon fondly,” notes Spyglass's Roger Birnbaum, "which combined two things people will always love – dogs and superheroes – so it felt like a natural. But the question was: how do you re-imagine Underdog here and now? Ultimately, we took the source material, with all its great characters, and turned it into a movie that we imagine as the prequel to the UNDERDOG story.”

From the beginning, both Classic Media and Spyglass agreed that a new look at UNDERDOG would mean taking the character beyond the limitations of the cartoon realm into flesh-and-fur reality. The notion of telling the story with real, live dogs sparked the creative team's imaginations. "We saw the chance to appeal to every dog lover's fantasy that their pet can actually communicate, that their dog actually understands what's going on in the world and is a superhero who can save the day,” says Spyglass' Jonathan Glickman. 

"There are some wonderful underlying emotional themes that the movie hangs on,” adds Glickman. "It's truly an ‘underdog story,' about a small dog who starts out believing that he is a failure but along the way he discovers that he is actually worthy of greatness.”

With a screenplay that spotlighted the comedy inherent to UNDERDOG, along with a very contemporary story of family, Spyglass brought the project to Disney. "We always knew that the greatest thing we could do was to combine the fun of UNDERDOG with the wonderful family brand of Walt Disney,” explains Spyglass's Gary Barber.

Now the search was on for the right director – someone who could bring a fittingly waggish sense of style to Underdog's life in Capitol City. It soon became apparent that Frederik Du Chau, a native of Belgium who began his career as a storyboard artist for legendary cartoon animator Chuck Jones and recently directed the animal-filled comedy "Racing Stripes,” was a great match for the material. He arrived with an obvious passion for the characters of UNDERDOG – but also a vision for bringing them into the future. Ready to create a reality-based world for UNDERDOG from the ground up, Du Chau brought to his very first meeting with the producers a series of detailed storyboards he'd already drawn in a flurry of inspiration. He even came prepared with some original conceptions not yet in the script—including the sequence that would later become Underdog's accident-prone "first flight.” 

Says executive producer Todd Arnow of Du Chau: "Frederik's a really creative guy. He brought with him a very strong, smart sense of both animation and live-action. He's very nimble and able to change on a dime and when you're working with animals and children that is a real gift.” 

For his part, Du Chau was thrilled to take on the challenge of updating the iconic character. "It was always important to me that this UNDERDOG be based in reality,” he says of his vision for the film. "I wanted it to h

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