Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Revision as of 19:49, 14 March 2012 by David The Lurker
From Sonic Retro
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (occasionally shortened to AoStH) is an American animated television series created by DiC Entertainment. First airing on September 6th, 1993, the series (along with its darker, network-broadcast sister show Sonic the Hedgehog) was the face of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise through the mid-90's. Focusing more on slapstick humor and cheap gags as opposed to the more story-driven Sonic the Hedgehog, the series has nevertheless gained its own distinct fanbase. Being originally packaged and sold as a syndicated series, the program continues to air on numerous stations across the globe, a continued testament to the character's popularity.
The setting and characters of the show also served as the inspiration for the Sega Mega Drive game Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, a localized version of the puzzle-game Puyo Puyo utilizing the design of Dr. Robotnik that populated western media, especially in Europe and Australia.
Each episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog follows the exploits of the titular hero Sonic and his best friend Miles "Tails" Prower as they have various adventures across the planet Mobius. More often than not, these adventures pit the duo against the nefarious Dr. Ivo Robotnik and his mechanical henchmen, Scratch, Grounder, and occasionally Coconuts, along with a variety of other occasional and one-shot robots the mad doctor builds over the course of the series.
Though it is never explained how Robotnik and Sonic first met, or what plans the blue blur spoiled, the first episode produced for the series introduces the main robotic henchmen, the pair of Scratch and Grounder. Designed to be the leaders of the Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad, the duo were meant to be just as smart and cunning as Robotnik believes himself to be, although every time without fail Sonic is able to put a stop not only to his henchmen, but to Robotnik's every scheme. The occasional third member of the robot underlings, Coconuts, was for some reason demoted to a janitorial position, and since has done nothing but plotted how to not only capture Sonic but beat Scratch and Grounder to the punch, wanting to one day become the head of the S.S.S.S.S. Squad. Though the episodes like to play around with the fact that Coconuts is actually more intelligent than Scratch and Grounder, and can even look beyond Sonic's frequent disguises, Coconuts is still unable to get his way. If he makes any headway whatsoever and receives the promotion he seeks, he loses it before the episode is over, restoring the status quo.
Due to it's lose continuity and standalone episode format, more often than not actions happen for the sake of happening, with little ever being explained or followed up on. However, there are moments when history is expanded upon, such as the episode "Tails' New Home" which explains how Sonic first met "Tails," the young fox being an orphan and thinking he was a bird due to his ability to fly. There is also quite a bit of focus on Robotnik's history and parentage, such as the pinning over a schoolyard crush, the desire to build himself a son to continue his legacy, and the continued appearances of his crazed mother.
There are also a handful of characters that appear multiple times over the course of the series that are not part of the main cast, such as the good-intentioned yet absentminded Professor Von Schlemmer, the Phil Silvers-inspired salesman Wes Weasley, the robotic female hedgehog Breezie and Professor Caninestein, who is an essential part of the four part Chaos Emerald saga that begins in "Blackbot the Pirate."
With the success of the first two Sonic games, Sega wanted to capitalize on the marketability of their mascot, and strike while the iron was hot. Recalling how such rivals as the Mario series had gone about promoting themselves, Sega of America contacted the American animation studio DiC Entertainment to develop a television program using the main cast of their gaming franchise. Having previously done The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, The Legend of Zelda and wiki:Captain N: The Game Master, it only made sense for the studio to begin work on yet another video game-based cartoon.
One key player recruited by DiC was cartoonist Milton Knight, a relative newcomer to the industry tasked with designing the characters and being in charge of storyboarding for many of the episodes. Though the look of Sonic and "Tails" were relatively close to how they had been portrayed in the west, the character of Dr. Robotnik was completely redesigned. Exaggerating features such as his weight, his mustache and being given a greater eyespace than his Japanese counterpart to promote expressiveness, Milton Knight also gave a great deal of focus to the physical and emotional state of Robotnik.
Transforming him into "Animation's Sexiest Fat Man!," Robotnik became just as important a focus in the show as the title character, Knight not wanting Robotnik to be a stale, generic villain but an intriguing and (most importantly) funny character in his own right. Though initially voiced by Jim Cummings in the unaired pilot, Long John Baldry, a British crooner from the 60's and 70's was given the role once production for the show went underway, his expressive delivery matching the character's intent in the show. Cummings would go on to voice Robotnik in the darker Saturday morning program.
With the development of the initial pilot, DiC secured Jaleel White to voice Sonic in an attempt to help sell the show to ABC, the actor at the time portraying the part of Steve Urkel in the highly successful sitcom Family Matters. Though the pilot was far closer to the game aesthetic than any subsequent offer by DiC, the ABC network turned down the pilot. Still wanting a program staring Sonic on their weekend lineup, the network asked DiC to retool the format and make it slightly more plot-driven to appeal to a Saturday-morning audience. Instead of throwing out the work they had already done on the show, however, DiC decided to continue work on the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog concept, turning it into a syndicated series while another group began developing what would become Sonic the Hedgehog.
Though the two shows were done by the same animation house at the same time, production for the two remained separate entities. There was very little contact between either side, and the team behind Adventures never felt like they were in direct competition with the other show, as they both were doing vastly different things. One notable moment where the two attempted to interact was when the writing team of Ben Hurst and Pat Allee of the Saturday morning show pitched an idea to the story editors of Adventures for an episode. Though what the episode could have been about has never been said, the outline was ultimately never used.
One of the more memorable aspects of the show were the "Sonic Says" segments featured at the end of each episode. To help fulfill a quota of educational television on broadcast stations, these segments were planned from the beginning, an early form appearing in the original pilot animation. However, as other countries did not have the same laws over what needed to be broadcast, the segments were removed from their airings in the U.K., including any releases on VHS. However, when the series was later re-aired years later, the segments were restored, and have been included on the DVD releases in the United Kingdom.
After the completion of the 65 episodes necessary to keep the show in syndicated rotation, production ceased, DiC's resources instead focused on the second season of Sonic the Hedgehog. The characters and settings were revisited when a Christmas special was commissioned in 1996. Featuring a cameo by the original pink-hued Princess Sally Acorn, the episode was originally meant to be titled "An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas" to tie in with the upcoming Sega Saturn game Sonic X-treme. In the wake of that game's cancellation, the name of the episode was changed to "Sonic Christmas Blast" to reference the game Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, which was called Sonic 3D Blast in the United States.
Premiering on September 6th, 1993, the 65-episode syndicated show began its run in the United States, appearing on numerous weekday cartoon blocks including those owned by ABC. After its initial run ended in 1995, the series would begin airing on the USA Network, appearing in the "USA Cartoon Express" and the "USA Action Extreme Team" programming blocks, often paired with its sister show Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1998, the series found a home on Toon Disney, sometimes being part of the "Chillin' with the Villains" block. The series remained on the network until 2002. Currently, it can be watched on the This TV network, having started their airings of the show in 2010.
In the United Kingdom, the program was originally aired on Channel 4, remaining in rotation until 1997. The show was also aired on The Children's Channel from 1995-1998, and was aired in its entirety on POP! starting in 2004. In was briefly found on ITV2 in 2005, and also aired on CBBC from 1994 to 2002. It can currently be found on CITV and KidsCo.
The show has also aired in Sweden on Filmnet and TV3, the Netherlands on RTL4, Argentina on PakaPaka, Australia on Network Ten and ABC, France on France 3 and France 5, and in Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic and Russia, still airing in many of those countries. In Germany, the title of show was called Sonic der irre Igel, literally translating into Sonic the Insane Hedgehog. The series also has a home on YTV in Canada.
Initial home video releases for the series were done on VHS, the industry standard at the time. Beginning in 1993 and continuing through 1994, numerous tapes were released in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the later having more episodes released. The final episode produced would also be the last released on VHS, the Christmas special not seeing home release until 2001. The series would later get a proper DVD release by Shout! Factory starting in 2007, when the first volume of 22 episodes was released in the United States. The next set would be released the following year, the final episodes not seeing the light of day until 2010, the third volume released exclusively through their website. The entire series was also released in the U.K. (minus "Christmas Blast") in 2007, but without the special features found in the U.S. release. The sixty-five syndicated episodes were once also released in France by Declic Images over four volumes, containing only the French audio.
Numerous single disc releases have also been released since the first volume in the U.S., each containing a handful of episodes based around a specific theme. Produced by NCircle, they are meant to be impulse purchases for casual fans as opposed to the collector sets containing the entire series.