Underdog is the main character of his self-titled animated television series, which aired on NBC from 1964 to 1973, with 124 episodes. Normally a humble and lovable fellow named Shoeshine Boy, the character transforms into his heroic alter ego whenever his love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred, has been victimized; Underdog generally must foil the schemes of various villains, such as Simon Bar Sinister or Riff Raff, in order to save her. All of his dialogue on the show, with few exceptions, is in rhyming couplets.
History with the Macy's Parade
The courageous canine known as Underdog first achieved 'balloon-dom' in the 1965 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, to help promote the recently-released Underdog television program, that came out a year prior. Constructed out of 700 yards of nylon fabric, he balloon measured 63 feet in length, 34 feet in width, and required 9,600 cubic feet of helium to help the beloved mutt reach fine-flying form. After the balloon's maiden flight, it was instantly recognized as a crowd favorite, becoming a frequent flyer over the next twenty years despite the show ending in 1973.
When the duties of manufacturing balloons were handed over to Kemp Balloons in 1981, all giant balloons were given refreshed paint jobs, with Underdog included. The Underdog balloon would make its final flight in the 1984 Parade, making a grand total of 20 appearances.
The following year, the Underdog balloon was brought out of retirement to fly in the Macy's-Egleston Christmas Parade alongside other retired balloons Donald Duck and Linus the Lionhearted. This would mark the balloon's final public appearance.
In 1991, the Parade Studio team conducted an air test on the balloon. Upon inflation, it was discovered that the air chambers of the balloon had rotted, making the balloon unusable. Due to this, the balloon was destroyed. A small piece of fabric was salvaged from the balloon, featuring the corner of the white letter "U" on his suit. This piece of fabric was framed and placed in the Macy's New York Headquarters and was later used in the Macy's Parade on Parade Tour in 2006. Underdog is very unlikely to return in any form in the parade due to his obscurity.
To coincide with the debut of the colossal Underdog balloon, a float based on The Underdog Show made its Parade debut in 1965. The float featured Simor Bar Sinister's evil lair, complete with beakers, busters, and evil contraptions. At the height of the float, Underdog's love interest, Sweet Polly Purebread in the dastardly clutches of his arch-nemesis, Simon Bar Sinister. Many of the show's heroes and villains also appeared on the float. The float was retired after its first appearance and was disposed of shortly after.
Below, you will find the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearances on the NBC telecast.
- Underdog Theme Song (1965-1967)
- Hokey Pokey (1968-1984)
- In 1971, Underdog couldn't appear at all due to very strong winds and rainfall, which caused all of the balloons, including him, to be grounded.
- High winds affected the 1975 Parade. Because of this, wind gusts coming off of the roofs of skyscrapers caused handlers to lose control of the Underdog balloon, sending him crashing into a streetlight tearing off his forehead, after this his right ear and right hand were deflating. Because of this, he was removed from the Parade, alongside Astronaut Snoopy and Weeble.
- In 1976, Underdog's left hand and right leg were punctured by lampposts around Times Square.
- In 1978, Underdog's right ear and left finger were deflated.
- In 1979 and 1980, Underdog's right ear was a marginally deflated.
- In 1983, the ears were marginally deflated.
- In 1984, Underdog's left ear was marginally deflated and his right hand was deflated.
- In the 1985 edition of the Macy's Christmas Parade in Atlanta, Georgia, Underdog's entire left arm was deflated, presumably due to the balloon's old age.
- In 1994, the first Thanksgiving-themed episode of NBC's sitcom Friends centered around the accidental release of the Underdog balloon, which caused everyone to go to the roof to watch and get locked out of the apartment.
- In 2008, the Underdog balloon made an appearance in a CGI ad for Coca-Cola that aired during Super Bowl XLII, where he chases a Coca-Cola bottle balloon through New York City, alongside a balloon of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, a show that was never actually represented in the Parade.