So, as of this writing in 2014, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, complete with the common video game tie-ins. This was buzzing around the internet for the past couple of days, most notably because everybody couldn’t stop complaining about everybody’s character redesigns.
Tails going “Have you *seen* what these jerks on the internet have said about us??”
After that announcement, I realized that this will be the fifth cartoon featuring that blue hedgehog in the past 23 years. So for this particular post, I decided to watch a handful of episodes of the previous iterations of Sonic in cartoon form: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X.
As a fair share of cartoons back then really didn’t have season-long story arcs, I figured a sampling of each series was good enough. This also gives me a chance to experience my vague memories of two of the series, and whether or not they held up.
I will say upfront that I am not an authority on Sonic the Hedgehog. I was a big Nintendo kid until about the mid-2000s, and while I had a Genesis and played Sonic in its heyday, it never really grabbed me until years later. The most recent Sonic game I played was Sonic Generations, and despite fan praise, It wasn’t really that fun to me. Before that, it was Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Battle and Sonic Rush, all games that I never really finished and found too frustrating in spots to complete.
While I’m not one of those people who goes “maybe Sonic was never good,” I am going at this with a more critical eye than someone who praises the blue blur to the high heavens. But enough about that, let’s take a travel through time and look back at Sonic’s cartoon past.
This took me about an hour to make. Reminder that I am a writer, not a graphic designer.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Originally airing in syndication from 1993-94, this was DiC’s first animated Sonic cartoon, and the one that I remember a watching a lot when I was younger.
Running for 65 episodes, the storyline for each episode was similar: Robotnik would hatch a scheme, get his minions Scratch and Grounder – based on characters from the actual games – to fool Sonic into falling for said schemes, Sonic stopping Robotnik’s plans, and Robotnik screaming in anger at his failed plan. Every time. You could make a supercut of Robotnik going “I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!”, he says it a lot throughout the series.
Oh yeah, Sonic also was a master costumer.
Jaleel White, better known as Steve Urkel on Family Matters, was the voice of Sonic for Adventures, as well as the two cartoons that followed. Robotnik was voiced by noted blues singer Long John Baldry (1941-2005), whose cries of hating that hedgehog and general dramatic demeanor gave Robotnik that cartoon villain attitude which perfectly worked with the rest of the show. Naturally since this came out after Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Tails (voiced by Christopher S. Welch) joins Sonic on these shenanigans.
Since there was only a handful of regular characters, a bunch of the plots would involve guest characters that would come and go. While there were some repeat visitors, often they would only appear for a single episode. There’s one episode I remember featuring a country singer named Catty Carlisle, which is one of those “only adults will get this reference” things I mentioned earlier.
Oh Robotnik, you fat, lovable goof.
Adventures had lots of goofy cartoon antics, jokes, and other silly things that fit right in line with old Looney Tunes cartoons. It’s clearly meant for kids, though it had its moments where adults may find the jokes and more obscure references enjoyable. Like, there’s a handful of scenes has Robotnik’s naked or in a bikini. It’s all goofy stuff.
After every episode, there’s the rather… infamous Sonic Says segments. Basically Sonic and Tails are giving kids life lessons. This was before it was required for American television to plan at least three hours of programming a week to educational content, so they probably thought ahead on these.
I wish I could say these were entertaining, but they’re not. They come off as a rip off of stuff like the famous PSAs for G.I. Joe, or the “Planeteer Alerts” from Captain Planet and the Planeteers. They’re just silly commonplace stuff that a parent should be telling you about, not some blue hedgehog.
It gets even weirder. Some of these “Sonic Says” bits have gained viral video status such as one where Sonic talks about sexual harassment. I am not making this up, I swear. You need to see it to believe it.
Out of all the Sonic cartoons, this one is the best. It’s cheesy in a typical kids cartoon sort of way, though not incredibly stupid and surreal all the time like Spongebob Squarepants tends to be. Despite the weird “Sonic Says” PSAs at the end of every episode, the show is still entertaining and goofy to this day. Though, it is something you can really only watch one or two episodes of before you get sick of it.