ⓘ Sonic the Hedgehog (TV series)

                                     

ⓘ Sonic the Hedgehog (TV series)

Sonic the Hedgehog is an American-Italian animated television series based on the video game series of the same name. It was story edited by Len Janson and produced by DIC Productions, L.P., Sega of America, Inc., and the Italian studio Reteitalia S.p.A. in association with Telecinco. It is the second of DiCs Sonic cartoons, following Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. It features a more dramatic and dark story than the lighter Adventures series, depicting Sonic as a member of a band of freedom fighters battling to overthrow Doctor Robotnik. To distinguish it from other Sonic the Hedgehog media, the series is commonly referred to by fans with the identifier "SatAM", in reference to its Saturday morning timeslot.

The program aired for two seasons and 26 episodes on ABC from September 18, 1993 to December 3, 1994, and continued in reruns until 1995. A third season was planned, but ABC canceled the show, ending it with a cliffhanger. Despite its cancellation, a fan following has elevated the series to become a cult hit. The show also inspired a video game, Sonic Spinball, and a long-running comic book series of the same name.

                                     

1. Plot

The series takes place on Mobius, a planet mostly populated by anthropomorphic animals. The Kingdom of Acorn, based within the city of Mobotropolis, was at war with an unseen enemy. The King recruited a human scientist, Julian, to build war machines to end the war with a victory. However, during peacetime, Julian and his nephew Snively launched a coup detat against the kingdom. The King is banished to another dimension, the Void, and the citizens are captured and transformed into robot slaves, through a machine called the Roboticizer. Julian renames himself as Dr. Robotnik, now the ruthless dictator of Mobius. Mobotropolis is renamed Robotropolis, a polluted, industrial cityscape.

Robotnik finds himself at odds with a small collective group called the Freedom Fighters, who operate out of the hidden woodland village Knothole. They are led by Sonic the Hedgehog and Princess Sally Acorn, the Kings sole heir. Other members include Sonics best friend Miles "Tails" Prower, computer genius Rotor the Walrus, French coyote Antoine Depardieu, half-roboticized Bunnie Rabbot, and Dulcy the Dragon. They act as a rebellion against Robotniks regime. Sonic uses the Power Rings to gain a temporary boost in power. Both the rings and the Roboticizer were designed by Sonics uncle Chuck, one of the victims of the machine.

Early on in the series, Sonic uses a Power Ring to restore Uncle Chucks free will in his mechanical body. Chuck decides to act as a spy for the Freedom Fighters, operating from within the city. He is eventually discovered by Robotnik in the second season, and escapes to Knothole. Sally searches for her father during the series. He is found alive within the Void, shared with a sorcerer, Naugus, who was also imprisoned within the dimension by Robotnik. Naugus attempts to escape the Void, but both he and the King discover their bodies turn to crystal whilst back on Mobius, and are forced to return to their prison. The heroes gain other allies, including Ari the Ram, and Lupe, leader of the elusive wolf pack.

In the series sole two-part episode, "Blast to the Past", Sonic and Sally use the Time Stones to travel back in time, in an attempt to prevent Robotniks planned takeover. They fail, but manage to get their younger selves to the safety of Knothole, with help from Sallys nanny Rosemary Woodchuck. In the series finale, Robotnik builds the Doomsday Project to destroy the population. The Freedom Fighters launch a full scale attack against Robotnik, with Sonic and Sally destroying the Doomsday Project with the power of the Deep Power Stones. Robotnik is killed, and the Freedom Fighters declare victory, with Sonic and Sally kissing.

In a final scene, Snively becomes the main antagonist, accompanied by an unseen ally with red eyes. Ben Hurst, one of the series writers, confirmed the figure was Naugus.

                                     

2.1. Characters Knothole Freedom Fighters

  • Nicole – A portable computer that Sally uses to hack into Robotniks technology. Nicole speaks in a female monotone, and exhibits artificial intelligence. It is indicated that Sally received Nicole from her father. She is voiced by Kath Soucie.
  • Tails – A young fox who idolizes Sonic. While usually left behind in Knothole, he proves useful in deadly missions. He is voiced by Bradley Pierce.
  • Dulcy – A young dragon, who provides the Knothole Freedom Fighters with transportation. Sporting powerful lungs, Dulcy can blow enemies away and freeze them with ice breath. She has trouble landing, and often crashes mid-flight. She was introduced in Season 2. She is voiced by Cree Summer.
  • Antoine "Ant" Depardieu – A coyote with a French accent whose awkwardness often places the others in danger and gets him captured. He has some difficulty speaking English. He has unrequited romantic feelings for Princess Sally, and attempts to impress her. However, his selfishness hinders this goal. Sonic often bullies Antoine over his shortcomings. He is voiced by Rob Paulsen.
  • Rotor – A walrus, and the mechanic of Knothole Village. He provides the Knothole Freedom Fighters with useful inventions, and accompanies them on infiltrations. He is voiced by Mark Ballou season 1 and Cam Brainard season 2.
  • Bunnie Rabbot – A rabbit with a southern accent. Half of her body was roboticized, leaving her left arm and both legs mechanical. She is skilled in martial arts, and desires to be returned to normal. She is voiced by Christine Cavanaugh.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog – Sonic is the main protagonist of the series. He is able to run at superhuman speed, and is the only freedom fighter capable of using magical rings called Power Rings. Sonic has an impatient and head-strong personality. But is also fearless, heroic, and well-meaning. He always mockingly refers to Robotnik as "Ro-butt-nik". He is voiced by Jaleel White.
  • Princess Sally Acorn – The rightful princess of Mobotropolis and Sonics love interest. As a strategist for the Knothole Freedom Fighters, she is knowledgeable and the voice of reason. However, Sally tries to keep Sonic grounded. She is voiced by Kath Soucie.
                                     

2.2. Characters Villains

  • Cluck – A robotic chicken, and the only creature Robotnik shows affection towards.
  • Naugus – A powerful sorcerer, who resents Robotnik for imprisoning him within the Void. He desires retribution, but he cannot escape without crystallizing. He is voiced by Michael Bell.
  • SWATbots – Robotniks primary henchmen. They are voiced by Jim Cummings and Frank Welker.
  • Dr. Julian Robotnik – A warlord who seeks to cover Mobius in machinery, and transform its population into robotic slaves. He is chiefly opposed by the Knothole Freedom Fighters. Robotniks obsession with destroying Sonic is often his downfall. In this version, his real first name is Julian, adopting the moniker "Robotnik" after his takeover. He is voiced by Jim Cummings.
  • Snively – Robotniks assistant and nephew. He is constantly abused by his uncle. As such, Snively hates Robotnik and plots behind his back. He is voiced by Charlie Adler.


                                     

2.3. Characters Recurring

  • Ari – A Freedom Fighter who worked as a double agent for Robotnik, only to be betrayed later and trapped in the Void. He is voiced by Dorian Harewood.
  • Lupe – Leader of the Wolfpack Freedom Fighters, and one of the Knothole Freedom Fighters allies in the fight against Robotnik. She is voiced by Shari Belafonte.
  • Sir Charles "Chuck" Hedgehog – Sonics uncle, and the inventor of the Roboticizer before Robotnik stole it. He was roboticized and made into one of Robotniks slaves, until Sonic restored his memory. He serves as a spy for the Freedom Fighters. He is voiced by William Windom. According to Robby London, he was named after the writer and animator, Chuck Menville, who passed away in 1992.
  • King Acorn – The former king of Mobotropolis and Sallys father. He was banished to the Void during Robotniks takeover, and like Naugus, cannot escape without crystallizing. He is voiced by Tim Curry.
                                     

3. Production

According to Robby London, DiC originally made a deal to produce only the darker, more story-driven Sonic cartoon for ABC to air on Saturday mornings. However, DiC also wanted to go further and have it air in weekday syndication as well, similar to what DiC has previously done with The Real Ghostbusters, but Mark Pedowitz, the then-senior vice president of business affairs and contracts at ABC, who expected the Sonic cartoon to air exclusively on ABC, rejected the idea, saying that if DiC puts the show in syndication, then it wont be on their network. ABC wouldnt agree to the deal until London came with a proposition that DiC would produce a separate, vastly different Sonic show for syndication instead, the end result of which became Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

                                     

4.1. Broadcast and distribution Initial run

The Saturday morning series differs from the daily Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which premiered the same month. While Adventures is lighthearted and comical, Sonic the Hedgehog featured a comparatively complex plot and dramatic atmosphere. It explored unusual story concepts for animation, including losing loved ones to war and relationships focusing on young couples. At ABCs request, the second season included episodes devoted to humor, while darker and dramatic elements were reduced. Other changes include Princess Sally donning a jacket for season two, and Rotor receiving a new design.

ABC also ended up, in some weeks, airing back-to-back episodes of this show during the 1st season, while in Season 2, each time slot for the show was for a single episode only.



                                     

4.2. Broadcast and distribution Syndication

After the programs initial run, it appeared on the USA Networks Action Extreme Team block from June 1997 to January 1998. ABC did not replicate this, replacing Sonic with reruns of Free Willy. Sonic the Hedgehog aired in Canada on the CTV Network, with a bonus summer run between June 10 and September 2, 1995. It has not been rerun on broadcast or cable television in Canada since its cancellation on CTV, but was present on the Shomi video-on-demand platform until its November 30, 2016, closure. From 1994 to 1996, it had a complete run on the UK television on ITV and Channel 4, In December 1994, the first season was broadcast in the Republic of Ireland on RTE Two. On September 2, 2016, reruns of the series began airing on Starz.

                                     

4.3. Broadcast and distribution Broadcast UK history

  • POP 2004-2009
  • The Childrens Channel 1990s
  • Channel 4 16 October 1994 - 30 June 1996
  • ITV2 2005
                                     

5. Cast

  • Cree Summer as Dulcy the Dragon
  • Rob Paulsen as Antoine Depardieu
  • Charlie Adler as Snively
  • William Windom as Sir Charles Uncle Chuck
  • Bradley Pierce as Miles "Tails" Prower
  • Cam Brainard as Rotor the Walrus season 2
  • Christine Cavanaugh as Bunnie Rabbot
  • Jaleel White as Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Jim Cummings as Dr. Julian Robotnik
  • Mark Ballou as Rotor the Walrus season 1
  • Kath Soucie as Princess Sally Acorn

Home media

This show has never been reissued on DVD after its expiration in 2012, but the remaining copies are available on Amazon and eBay with expensive prices. However, the complete series is available to purchase and download on iTunes.

                                     

6.1. In other media Comics

Archies Sonic the Hedgehog comic book was initially based on the Saturday morning cartoon. From its earliest issues, the book shared the characters and story premise established within it. However, the comic differed in that it featured humorous plots modeled after the weekday show. After writer Ken Penders had the opportunity to view the Saturday morning program, the comic gradually became adventure-driven. The comic series shifted focus again after ABC cancelled Sonic the Hedgehog, developing into a relationship-based superhero story, and following a reboot, Archies Sonic was primarily inspired by the video game series. Nevertheless, the characters and locales from the Saturday morning cartoon remained prominent until the comics cancellation in July 2017.

                                     

6.2. In other media Video games

Several video games were intended to use elements from the TV series, although only one was completed. This was Sonic Spinball, released in 1993 for the Sega Genesis. It contained characters from the show, including Princess Sally, Bunnie Rabbot, Rotor and Muttski. The characters were also planned for use in another game, tentatively titled Sonic-16. A prototype was created by the Sega Technical Institute. Yuji Naka disliked the project, and it was cancelled without further development. Directly afterwards, the same team worked on Sonic Mars. Prior to cancellation, this would have featured Princess Sally and Bunnie Rabbot as playable characters.

                                     

6.3. In other media Cancelled film

In 2002, writer Ben Hurst attempted to pitch an animated film in order to revive the series. Ken Penders, head writer of Sonic the Hedgehog comic series by Archie Comics, apparently scrapped his attempt and later bring up to Sega his own concept for a movie, titled Sonic Armageddon. He created four concept arts and a homemade pitch video, but the project was eventually scrapped. According to Penders, it was cancelled in 2007 due to a "massive corporate upheaval".



                                     

7. Reception

Sonic the Hedgehog initially ranked #9 in its time slot with a 5.2 rating, an estimated 4.8 million viewers.

Patrick Lee of The A.V. Club gave it a positive review, saying that "the show pushed its cartoon animal characters to the most dramatic places they could go without venturing into self-parody. Over the course of the series, the characters dealt with loss, romance, and death The entire series successfully pulled off that sort of balancing act, and even 20 years later, it’s still a solid Saturday morning cartoon". In contrast, Mark Bozon of IGN criticized the show as dated, considering it "so bad, its good." Writing for DVD Talk, Todd Douglass Jr. remarked that Sonic didnt stand the test of time. Overall, he considered it to be of low quality, although he found the stories "Ultra Sonic" and "Blast to the Past" to be "the creme of the crop." Luke Owen of Flickering Myth felt Sonic aged better than is often supposed, praising its well-executed characterizations and treatment of war, although he considered Antoine to be "one of the worst characters committed to a cartoon series." GamesRadar listed the show as one of "the worst things to happen to Sonic." It criticized its plot and characters as "unwanted". Escapist journalist Bob Chipman credited the series with providing a viably menacing take on Doctor Robotnik, and an engaging narrative. Bob Mackey of USgamer wrote that the cartoons writing didnt live up to its intriguing premise. In particular, he argued that the Antoine character perpetrated negative French stereotypes. Doug Walker of Channel Awesome considered the series "a great show," and better than he remembered. He praised it for "literally taking nothing and turning it into something," with a strong story and good character development, as well as a subtle environmental message.