Sonic in animation: A Retrospective Part 1

What can I say about Sonic the Hedgehog? He’s definitely one of my all-time favorite video game heroes, he’s had one of the longest careers in the industry, and he’s also often the center of flame-wars between factions of his fandom. But I always find Sonic unique in his ability to transcend past the games. In particular, Sonic has had more success in animation than most game icons, including Mario (you ever watch the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, I think it steals parts of your soul). So, I hope you’ll join me on this retrospective through Sonic’s animated career, his high points and his low. And you’ll also get quite a few good clips too. Must warn you, this is a long post.

Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

Considered by many to be the first of the animated adaptions of Sega’s mascot, Adventures was syndicated and often played on weekdays in the United States. I mention this because it’ll become important later. For the most part, the series was comedy-oriented, with very little on plot. A typical episode would be Sonic and Tails traveling around the planet, Robotnik (what Sega used to call Dr. Eggman in the States before Sonic Adventure 2) would have some bat-sh*t insane plan to take control of… something, his idiot robots Scratch, Grounder and Coconuts would try to capture Sonic, Sonic would do his best combo of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, lots of sight and word gags, and then end. Rinse, repeat. One of the interesting things to note was that Sonic was voiced by Jaleel White, more famously remembered as Steve Urkel from Family Matters. There was one four parter that had a somewhat epic storyline, in which Robotnik traveled through time to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds, and Sonic and Tails had to travel after him and save the day. Another thing to note was the sheer surreal nature of the show. I’m not kidding, watch the pumpkin scene if you can find it. If you enjoy bizarre animation and slapstick, you can try it. It’s not what I’d recommend for Sonic fans, those two are coming up.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Produced and broadcast on ABC in the States, this series is called Sonic SatAM due to its Saturday morning timeslot, to tell it apart from Adventures(see, told you that ‘weekdays’ comment above was important). This is one of my favorite cartoons from my childhood, and I would tape every episode. And when the DVD set of the whole series came out, I was first in line at my local Best Buy to get it. It came out roughly around the time Sonic CD did, and Sonic 3 was in production. So the writers had only Sonic 1 and 2 to go on. So, they went in an original direction. In this series, Robotnik has taken over the world, he’s turning the anthropomorphic animal population in robot slaves, his rampant industrialization is killing the planet. It’s a dark time. The only resistance are known as the Freedom Fighters, led by Princess Sally Acorn, daughter of the rightful ruler of the planet. Sally’s childhood friend and love interest is also the greatest weapon in the fight against Robotnik (if you guessed that it’s Sonic, go get yourself a cookie now. I’ll wait). Jaleel White returned again to voice our hero. Unlike the previous show, this one had an overarching plot, lots of fun and developing characters (such as Bunny Rabbot, a Southern Belle turned half-cyborg; Rotor, a mechanical genius and Antoine, a comic relief Frenchman), a grand mythology, epic storylines, and its second season ranks as one of the best in American animation for me. It also had the most threatening version of Sonic’s archenemy ever, as this Robotnik was sadistic, cruel, and usually a step ahead enough to make sure he survived and was still in charge. The series’ final episode, “Doomsday”, ended with what seemed to be the final victory of Sonic over Robotnik, but there was a cliffhanger. Sadly, ABC was under new management, and they wanted every show to re-pitch, regardless of ratings. So, the new management decided Sonic wasn’t necessary for them, and left the series on that cliffhanger. Years later, it’s still the most fondly remembered of the Sonic animated adaptions, even if it added a lot more to the series than what was in the games at the time. If you really wanted a perfect adaption of the classic games, then the next entry is for you.

Sonic the Hedgehog the movie

Produced as a two episode OVA (original video animation) in Japan, brought to the States in time for the Dreamcast’s launch and edited to make one hour long film, this adaption is the best one to capture the spirit of the Genesis era’s games. Plot-wise, it’s set on a planet called Freedom. Eggman (yes, we’re back to his original name now) holds new characters the President and his daughter Sara hostage, asking Sonic and Tails to help liberate his home from a robot called Black Eggman (the massive batwinged bot in the trailer). Over the course of an epic fight, Knuckles the Echidna makes his animated debut, and Eggman reveals a new ace: Metal Sonic. The film culminates in a beautifully animated high speed showdown between Sonic and his mechanical rival with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. If you manage to find the DVD of this, I must implore you to NOT WATCH THE ENGLISH DUB! Never have I heard such horrible acting. And while I love Sonic SatAM as a series, this film is definitely the closest to the dream we all had when playing the classic games.

Come back next time, as I wrap up my retrospective of Sonic’s animated career. And maybe, I’ll look into more animated adaptions of gaming icons after that.

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2 Responses to “Sonic in animation: A Retrospective Part 1”

  1. Austin Alan says:

    Nice article, I remembered all of these. I completely agree about the english dub, but then again, I listen to the native language on all anime/import movies. The original voice actors often do a more realistic job. I think the only anime series I have watched in english and enjoy them were Inuyasha and FMA(original series, not Brotherhood)

    • ahmed says:

      Tell me about it (on the language thing). And I think the English dub for the original Tenchi series was pretty good too.

      Part 2 should be coming soon.

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