Ben Hurst interview at SAGExpo (July 3, 2005)

From Sonic Retro

The following is an IRC chat log from the channel #sagexpo captured during the tenth Sonic Amateur Games Expo. In it, Ben Hurst, main writer of the second season of Sonic the Hedgehog, fields questions from those who were in attendance. It occurred on July 3rd, 2005. It has the distinction of being the first interview with a professional in the event’s history.

The log has been edited, with many segments unrelated to the core interview removed for brevity. Certain elements, such as improper spelling and grammar, have been preserved. In the transcript below, Ben Hurst goes by the handle Sonic_Writer.

The Interview

[17:20] * Sonic_Writer has joined #sagexpo
[17:21] PerfectChaosZero: Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present, Ben Hurst
[17:21] Sonic_Writer: Hello everyone. I hope all is well with ya'll

[17:23] ila: So, Mr. Hurst, you wrote the Doomsday episodes?
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: ila yes.
[17:23] ila: Okay at the very end, who did that set of eyes belong to?
[17:23] ila: Peeking out of the rubble.
[17:23] Sonique: Naugus
[17:23] Sonique: ask questions we don't all ready know XD
[17:23] ila: Sorry but I don't
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: We actually plotted all 11 episodes to work in the second season as though they were a feature film - though each episode also stood alone.

[17:23] DeusEx: How old is Ben?
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: 54

[17:24] Bartman|AnimeRally: Okay, Hurst, where are you working, now?
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: Bartman, I work in a lot of different areas.
[17:24] Bartman|AnimeRally: Still write for TV shows?
[17:24] ZZT: What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: I'm a concept designer for Museums - and for theme parks.
[17:25] Sonic_Writer: Okay, we need to slow this down just a touch so I can keep up.
[17:25] Sonic_Writer: Though, I do appreciate the references to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
[17:25] Sonic_Writer: I don't work in animation or television anymore
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: Though if it were offered to me, I would.
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: My most current project is an exhibition for the Smithsonian Institution
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: And a movie (we finished first draft yesterday yay!) live action, that I'm writing with Len Janson.
[17:27] Sonic_Writer: For those who don't remember - he was our story editor on Satam.
[17:27] Sonic_Writer: We're still good friends - and the movie is a comedy
[17:27] Rayzor-FUS: what is it about?
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: I'm not revealing the subject matter yet, but I will release it first through Sonique - probably in about two months.
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: It's highly unique and inspired by a historical character.
[17:28] Alicia_R: Do you plan on adding injokes pertaining to your earlier work?
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: Already did.
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: One character says "OhmyGod"
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: And the lead character at a key moment says, "Way past cool.
[17:29] Smidge204: ANy chilidog references?
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: And the chilidog reference is a good idea. I think I can work that in, too.

[17:29] Sonic_Writer: So, let me lay out a few things before we get into any more questions.
[17:30] Sonic_Writer: First. Pat Allee and I are next door neighbors and best friends. And we work together in the museum and theme park fields.
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: I am indeed currently trying to resurrect the idea of a third season or Sonic film, but will not discuss the hows and wheres
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: And my only restriction in this chat is that I will not respond to any questions regarding the conflict between myself and that certain comic book writer. That's a closed subject.
[17:32] PerfectChaosZero: Let me add, that now that you've been told, bringing up this comic writer will result in a ban.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: About the incarnation - it's a long shot, but I think I have a strategy that is unique and might prove effective.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: Time will tell.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: And no boot for mentioning his name. Just, I won't respond. :)
[17:32] PerfectChaosZero: XD
[17:33] PerfectChaosZero: You're the boss Ben.
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: Okay, I've not chatted on mIRC for a long time. What does XD mean?
[17:33] Sonique: XD = laughing face
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: Ah!

[17:34] RoboAshura: What was supposed to happen in the lost season?
[17:34] Sonique: Robo, you can go to FUS and read about that
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: Lessee.
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: As Sonique said, I've written about that already.
[17:35] DeusEx: GOnnamake this quick Ben, as I'm at a family BBQ... should Season 3 be put out, how do you see the animation to look like? Surely not the anime-ish style of the SonicX series.
[17:35] Sonic_Writer: And I've also done some more recent writing (last year) that started to lay out more specifics.
[17:35] Sonic_Writer: The animation would be very much like Season II
[17:35] Sonic_Writer: If I had any control over it.
[17:36] Sonic_Writer: Now, the specifics of what will happen in Season 3 will have to remain unknowns, but I can tell you a few things.
[17:36] Sonic_Writer: Trying to decide which one.
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: There's a season 3 in my mind - either feature film or episodes.
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: And I'm trying to turn it to reality, but that's happening behind the scenes.
[17:37] Rayzor-FUS: which would you prefer? film or episodes?
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: Episodes, definitely.
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: Because that could possibly ressurect the series.
[17:38] Sonic_Writer: Snively becomes supreme...for a while.
[17:38] Sonic_Writer: Sonic will go through a character transformation - a temporary one, only, but will become quite different for a time.
[17:39] Sonic_Writer: And Sally will be romanced by someone other than Sonic.
[17:39] Sonic_Writer: Finally, Dulcy would mature and come into her full powers and prove to be a dominant force.
[17:40] Sonic_Writer: And that's all the info on 3 I feel comfortable talking about.

[17:40] Sz: Ben, have you read NetRaptor's fanfiction (the best Sonic fanfiction there is, if I may say so), and (related question), have you considered putting other "SegaSonic" aspects into the story if SatAM was somehow reborn?
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: I can't read fanfiction for legal reasons.
[17:41] Sz: Not altering the core universe really, or doing some Archie alternate universe rubbish, but tossing in aspects that are in the games?
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: And I've never read the comics. Though I do read some of the reviews of them.
[17:42] Sonic_Writer: And the legal reasons are because if I read other works - then I can't use anything they come up with.
[17:42] Sonic_Writer: If I keep my "hands clean" - so to speak, then I'm free to just create.
[17:43] Sz: Is it plausible that if you ran across a particularly brilliant idea, you could ask the creator for permission to use it?
[17:43] Sz: (purely hypothetical, just wondering)
[17:43] Sonic_Writer: I won't be running across ideas, so that's a moot point.
[17:43] Sonic_Writer: I avoid all other incarnations of Sonic like the plague.
[17:43] Nelson: Let me guess: You haven't watched Sonic X either, right?
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: Nelson:no.

[17:41] Jackel: What about Antoine, would he have gone through any changes in character in season 3?
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: Big surprise in store with Antoine.

[17:42] Ice_Dragon: Ben: According to IMDB, you've written episodes of The Real Ghostbusters as well as, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. Seeing as how both of these series consumed much of my youth, I'd like to know, which one did you enjoy working for more?
[17:42] Sonic_Writer: Sonic wins my vote, hands down.

[17:44] Nuckles87-FUS: Ben, I got a question. How exactly did you become involved in Sonic the Hedgehog originally? Were you part of the original pitch, or did you get involved later on?
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: I'll take the Nuckles question...
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: I was an episodic writer on the first season - with Len Janson as story editor. I'd worked with him on a number of previous series.
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: Then, he approached me and Pat and we decided to become a team and map out the second season as though it were pieces of a feature film.
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: AOSTH - I pitched, but the story editors didn't like me and Pat, so we never got to write for it. Ironic, that.

[17:45] DeusEx: I have to apologize Ben, but one more and I'm going to log off. Would you aim the episodes (Season 3) more so on the younger audience, or toward the followers who, such as myself, are already well into their adult lives. ...(And are sick and tired of SonicX and Heroes...)
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: And as for writing - we just write good stories. No regard to age.

[17:46] Falc: Sonic_Writer, Did you enjoy working on SatAM?
[17:47] Sonic_Writer: Falc - very much so. It was a good team in many ways.
[17:47] Sonic_Writer: The artists were so excited they would drag me down to their floor to show me backgrounds.
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: Especially for BtotheP

[17:48] Falc: Sonic_Writer, You say about this good team, are you working with the same team in Season 3?
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: Falc: yes

[17:47] Meta-Knight: Would you mind telling us why is the SATAM universe seems to be so dear to your heart?
[17:49] Sonic_Writer: SATAM was "dear to my heart" because the characters came alive for us.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: Len's editing, Pat's dialogue and my plotting almost seemed to interweave themselves.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: And everyone on the team was excited. We all gathered on Friday nights for Pizza and to watch the raw footage come back from Asia.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: I've never been on a cartoon series where anyone did that.

[17:50] Falc: Sonic_Writer, Do you have any idea how long Season 3 will be?
[17:51] PerfectChaosZero: JTE: He's TRYING to setup a season three, it won't be any time soon and may be a movie instead, if he can set it all up.
[17:51] Sonic_Writer: And that really is a big IF
[17:51] Sonic_Writer: My approach is unorthodox - so it's a gamble.
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: So, what questions have I missed? I must say, it's a bit overwhelming.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: No apologies necessary. Just trying to keep up.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: I can help a bit. I'll summarize.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: First, I am engaged in a very long shot effort to get either a third season of Satam or a Movie that would cover the same area under way.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: I'm not revealing details because that wouldn't be smart. :)
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: If there were a third season (my preference) it would be the standard 13 episodes.
[17:57] Falc: Jackel, theres gonna be a season 3. :)
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: Falc: I have no idea. I'm just giving it the last hero's try.

[17:54] Nuckles87-FUS: Ben, could you describe to us the process in which you pitched, wrote, and formed the episodes? Or is that too long?
[17:55] Sonic_Writer: Well, as far as the episodes were laid out - those pretty much did come from me. That's my talent. I'm able to see a big picture.
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: I also created the background continuity which was dramatically different from Sega's - and Len Janson defended our continuity against them.
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: Because he felt is was better.

[17:55] Ritz: 'Ey Ben, how much do you get paid for this stuff? :P
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: We were well-paid, but we never receive residuals in animation :(

[17:57] TurquoiseStar: Sonic_Writer, have you ever met the Sonic Creator, Yuji Naka?
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: TurquoiseSTAR: No

[17:48] Ice_Dragon: Ben: What advice would you give to someone that wants to write professionally?
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: Advice to writers:
[17:58] Sonic_Writer: There are many paths to writing.
[17:58] Sonic_Writer: And your creativity as a writer has to be matched by your creativity as a marketer.
[17:59] Sonic_Writer: they=then
[17:00] Sonic_Writer: Mark Twain said, "Write for free for a year. If at the end of that year no one has offered money, then go back to sawing wood, which is what you are intended for."
[17:00] Sonic_Writer: I think that's a little harsh, but not far off the mark.
[17:01] Sonic_Writer: If you're a good writer, and you diligently submit samples to those who can do something with them, you'll get a response.
[17:02] Sonic_Writer: In today's market, it's complex. But, there are guides, like "Writer's Digest" - they have a website - that can help you find the market for your work.
[17:03] Sonic_Writer: And if you're wanting to write animation - contact active animation companies - ask for sample scripts on active series (like Disney, Nick, etc.)
[17:03] Sonic_Writer: Then...
[17:04] Sonic_Writer: Subscribe to Hollywood Reporter.
[17:04] Sonic_Writer: Every week, they have a list of shows that are accepting freelance submissions of sample scripts.
[17:04] Bartman|AnimeRally: Ah yes, those are called Spec-scripts too, right?
[17:04] Sonic_Writer: Yes, Bart.
[17:05] Sonic_Writer: Okay. Short break while I read back and see which question is next.

[17:56] Smidge204: SEGA has continuity?
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: There was a question about continuity from Sega. They did have a continuity, but it was not clearly articulated and pardon the expression, it didn't "hang together."
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: Even fantasy worlds have to make sense.

[17:58] PerfectChaosZero: Hey Ben, I got a question. Often in the show, Snively showed himself to have more common sense than Robotnik, even be smarter at times. Does this mean Snively is perhaps more dangerous than his uncle? Or does he lack Ivo's strength and ambition?
[17:07] Sonic_Writer: Chaos, you asked about Snively
[17:08] Sonic_Writer: In the continuity that was never released...Snively was Robotnik's relative. In season 2 we were building his resentment...
[17:09] Sonic_Writer: And in season 3 there was going to be a dramatic transformation.
[17:09] Sonic_Writer: If, in two years I have not been able to execute a further incarnation of sonic, I'll write up the third season in narrative form and send it out to ya'll.
[17:09] PerfectChaosZero: Ben: Transformation?
[17:10] The_Ultimate_Lifeform: What was Snivleys role supposed to be in in Season 3?
[17:10] Sonic_Writer: Yes , a major character transformation.
[17:10] Sonic_Writer: That's as much as I will say about Snively at this point. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: Could someone do a double-check and see which questions I've missed, please?

[17:11] Fester_Blatz: [here's mine, reposted] Speaking of the other series... I don't know about anyone else, but i'm curious about the closure of the sonic underground storyline. I don't think the show got its props considering the conditions under which it was produced.
[17:12] Sonic_Writer: Fester first then.
[17:12] Sonic_Writer: Sonic Underground - this will take a few minutes for me to write up, so be patient.
[17:13] Sonic_Writer: In the early days of the company that became DIC, people at the head of the company discovered they could make as much or more money from song royalties as they could off of animation.
[17:13] Sonic_Writer: And the songs were the driving force (monetarily) behind Sonic Underground.
[17:14] Sonic_Writer: The people who created the continuity for SU just slapped it together without a great deal of thought - and with no regard to SATAM.
[17:14] Sonic_Writer: Pat Allee and I wound up as story editors after we wrote the first episode. It was so much better than the existing story editor's episode that they fired him and hired us.
[17:15] Sonic_Writer: And put us on a two-script a week schedule.
[17:15] Sonic_Writer: The reason the series is any good at all (not being humble here) is because Pat and I wrote a bunch of them - and Len Janson wrote a bigger bunch (if you remember, he's the story editor from Satam)
[17:16] Sonic_Writer: The songs were particularly difficult to work in.
[17:16] Bartman|AnimeRally: Who wrote the songs? Or were they just tacked on? =P
[17:17] Sonic_Writer: They got songwriters in the LA area to sign off most of their ASCAP/BMI royalties to DIC - and remain anonymous in the process.
[17:17] H_Hog: Hm. So faceless songs by faceless artists, huh
[17:17] Sonic_Writer: yep.

[17:18] Jackel: Were there ever plans to bring knuckles into SATAM? I remember wondering where he was when I was a kid, hoping he'd show up in "this episode" or "that episode"
[17:18] Sonic_Writer: Knuckles would have figured prominently into season 3 - towards the end - and would have been the pinch or turning point for season 4

[17:18] Sonique: Jaleel White
[17:18] Bartman|AnimeRally: Which reminds me
[17:19] Bartman|AnimeRally: Have you ever met him?
[17:19] Sonic_Writer: Jaleel? Yes. A very nice guy. Modest. Humble.
[17:19] H_Hog: Wait wait... Jaleel Urkel did the voices for ALL THREE siblings? I did not know that one. o_O;;
[17:20] Sonic_Writer: AFTRA (union) rules are that you can pay an artist for one voice and he can be required to do three. Now, does that make more sense?
[17:20] Bartman|AnimeRally: He just gets the same pay, right?
[17:20] Ritz: During the recording sessions, were people struggling to hold their laughter in?
[17:20] Sonic_Writer: Bart: yes
[17:21] Sonic_Writer: Our pace was such that we couldn't attend the recording sessions.

[17:21] Sonique: Ben, I know a lot of people who worekd on SatAM liked it... did they try and put up a fight for it when SU was announced?
[17:21] Sonic_Writer: No. Without an effective union at DIC, people who objected to strenuously were simply shown the door.
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: And as for SU - the first I heard of it was after the development was already done.
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: I addressed that particular issue in here a few days ago. If you could refer to that log, my fingers would thank you.
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: DIC is basically "for money"
[17:22] H_Hog: Are they still around, even? Haven't heard much of DiC in the past... few years, even.
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: Nah, Saturday morning animation has had the same hit that TV has - reality shows and cheap production shows from Canada taking over.
[17:22] Bartman|AnimeRally: The boss of DiC is Andy Heyward, right?
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: I worked on ten shows for DIC - but never met Andy. I saw him in the hall, but never once met him.
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: Animation is very expensive compared to live action. When we were producing Sonic, it cost about a quarter million an episode.
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: Sonic=Satam

[17:39] DimensionWarped: 250k/ep... what was the typical production time of an episode?¤
[17:40] Sonic_Writer: Typical production time of an episode was two weeks from start to finish.

[17:24] Ritz: What other shows have you worked on, besides SU and SatAM?
[17:25] Sonic_Writer: Dragon something or other, Beverly Hills Teen Club, Ghostbusters, Captain Planet (story editor), Hello Kitty (sorry!) and some others.
[17:26] Alicia_R: Oh, wow. Captain Planet? How'd that go?
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: We did two years of CP and it was great. Got to do an episode on AIDS
[17:26] Alicia_R: I don't think I've seen the AIDS episode.. when did it air?
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: Also worked on Captain Planet when it moved to Hanna-Barbara.
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: Alicia - I don't remember.
[17:27] Sonic_Writer: We were proud to get that one through. Pat felt very strongly about it and she kicked ass to get it done.
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: Pat's a strong woman writer in a man's world - and she
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: She's the lead writer on our Smithsonian project and she's got people racing around doing her every bidding. It's fun to watch.
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: Funny story about CP
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: The artists tried and tried to get a look for Captain Planet...
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: But the producer, Nick Boxer wasn't happy with any of them.
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: finally, they just drew his face for Captain Planet...
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: And he loved it.
[17:33] Alicia_R: "The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode titled A Formula For Hate (1992) was the first time that an American animated cartoon show did a story about AIDS education. The story involved a high school basketball player (Named "Todd") that is accused of having the disease and the villian Verminous Skumm brainwashing the school into thinking that the disease can be spread through casual contact."
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: We were proud to get that one done.

[17:28] Ritz: Say, after all of this is over, what do you have planned for the future?
[17:30] Sonic_Writer: Ritz - I'm in process on a number of projects.
[17:30] Sonic_Writer: I just finished writing the first draft of a comedy movie with Len Janson (and already edited second draft of act one yesterday)
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: I have a traveling exhibit that starts at the museum of the Cherokee Indian - then to the smith, then to the British Museum in London - then back to America.
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: I'm working on a television museum/theme park
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: And a few other projects that are more dull. Plus, I'm the principal writer for a big museum in Fort Worth.
[17:32] Rolken: I might be writing software for the FW Museum of Science and History; is that it?
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: Small world. Were you at the recent charrette, Rolken?
[17:33] Rolken: I wasn't
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: Because I was moderator for one of the groups. Van Romans is my old contact from Disney.
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: Rolken, who you working for at FWMSH:
[17:35] Rolken: I'm not actually working for them yety
[17:35] Sonic_Writer: Who's your contact?
[17:35] Rolken: they just asked for a quote for some software for an exhibit
[17:36] Rolken: where kids can take miniquizzes and such on monitors and then it returns results to the teacher
[17:36] Rolken: I'm not in direct contact, but rather subcontracting
[17:36] Rolken: have yet to see if it pans out at all though
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: Rolken - let me know if I can help. I'll be involved in the new incarnation of the museum. I worked with the current president for 15 years when he was cultural affairs director at Disney.
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: Contact me through Sonique.
[17:37] Rolken: Sweet, will do.

[17:38] Alicia_R: So, Ben. In your spare time, are there any television shows or video games that you watch/play frequently?
[17:38] Sonic_Writer: Alicia - TV shows: Scrubs-Gilmore Girls-Judging Amy (cancelled) West Wing, Smallville(rocks!) 1 Tree Hill....
[17:39] Sonic_Writer: Games - I loved the old Might and Magic series even though it was clunky - and I still love Descent
[17:39] Bartman|AnimeRally: Yes, speaking of video games, have you played any of the recent Sonic games?
[17:40] Sonic_Writer: I have to confess, I've never played a single sonic game.
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: Oh - and a big fan of American Idol (ref TV)
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: I would like to be involved in creating the games. I think that all games need more story.
[17:43] Sonic_Writer: Well, the issue with Sonic continuity is that there have been so many incarnations.
[17:43] Sonic_Writer: And I think ongoing stories work well. But they have to be carefully planned out in advance.
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: The first season of Satam wasn't planned at all.
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: The second season was planned by me.
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: Sorry for the immodesty on that last one, but I laid out the 11 episodes.
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: Then, Len and Pat helped to modify and move things around to make them work better.

[17:44] DimensionWarped: So, would you say that Satam was going to have more continuity in the second season?
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: Dimension - do you mean 3rd season?
[17:45] DimensionWarped: ah, yeah
[17:45] DimensionWarped: 3rd
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: Third season would have been tight as a tick.
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: And would have launched a major fourth season.
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: Well, losing two episodes to those comedy 11-minute bits hurt.

[17:45] Alicia_R: I know there's a rather nasty backlog of questions, but - Was there anything you wanted to add to the second season that was either rejected, cut for time, or anything like that?
[17:46] Alicia_R: Aside from the Wolf Pack?
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: I had ideas for other freedom fighter group discoveries and interactions.
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: And I lost the development of Tails that I had done.
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: He would have had a much bigger role in Doomsday.
[17:47] Sonic_Writer: If you remember - he was training with Sonic in one of the episodes (where the excavation for the power stones was taking place - episode name slips my mind)
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: And I was going to bring him along into a vibrant, insane adolescent with an attitude.

[17:47] Smidge204: Why didn't Sonic & Co. ever just... kill Robotnik?
[17:48] Bartman|AnimeRally: Robotnik just flipped a switch and got away
[17:48] Bartman|AnimeRally: Like all other asshole badguys
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: LOL - Robotnik didn't flip a switch and get away.
[17:48] Bartman|AnimeRally: Right, he got in the Egg-O-Matic and flew off!
[17:49] Sonic_Writer: No. He was captured.
[17:49] Cheezmatt: Captured by Nagus, but we all know this surely. :P
[17:49] Sonic_Writer: Yes.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: And the scenes with him and Naugus were going to be highly entertaining.

[17:50] Mogzin_Thunder: I'll try again. Is it bad for a show to do a large ongoing story that connects episodes together? Do your bosses say you can't do a show that requires viewers to watch previous episodes and instead has to stand alone?
[17:51] Sonic_Writer: Each of the Satam season II shows connected to the overall season build - but you could watch each as an individual episode without any feeling of missing anything. They were designed that way.
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: It's harder to write that way, but much more effective.
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: The only show that season that had to been seen with the other was Blast

[17:53] DJ-Neo: Out of curiosity, I dunno if anyone asked this yet or what.
[17:53] DJ-Neo: How was the series supposed to 'end'?
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: Ah.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: I can't answer that.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: Because the final chapter hasn't been writen.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: And there still exists a remote chance that we will start again.

[17:53] stiletto: Ben, any suits ever get in your way?
[17:54] stiletto: at DIC or SEGA
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: Suits in my way? Yes.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: I had a forty-five minute "discussion" with a suit at ABC who wanted to kill Rosie out of Blast...
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: because they didn't want to add new characters.
[17:55] Sonic_Writer: She was sure the audience would expect her to be a major part of the story.
[17:55] Sonic_Writer: Rosie was the Nanny who Sonic saved with a warning - thus "changing the past" against Sally's admonitions.
[17:55] Sonique: no Ben, Sally warned her
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: First goes the memory. :)
[17:56] Sonique: just wanted to remind you
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: That's okay.
[17:56] Bartman|AnimeRally: So now one of the SatAM writers changed the past to make Ben forget that
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: LOL

[17:57] Sonic_Writer: One of the things that Len Janson always insisted on was that we would have wins and losses in each episode.
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: Thus those touching scenes in the grotto with Sonic depressed at the end and Sally cheering him up.
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: Or vice versa, maybe. I don't trust my memory now.
[17:59] Sonic_Writer: Wins and losses: There had to be things the freedom fighters won - a new piece of information, the freeing of a character - or the loss of a character or major plan.
[17:00] ila: Thanks for the explanation.
[17:00] Sonic_Writer: pleasure, ila

[17:00] Bartman|AnimeRally: Were we going to lose any of the main Freedom Fighters?
[17:00] Bartman|AnimeRally: If you can shed some of that plan for us?
[17:00] Sonic_Writer: That I won't reveal. I hated it when Rawlings told us we were going to lose a character in the last Potter book.

[17:03] Sonic_Writer: Was Sonic & Sally where we discovered Roboticisze people were still aware deep inside?
[17:04] stiletto: Sonic Conversion
[17:04] Bartman|AnimeRally: Ben, help us out, you wrote for the show =P j/k
[17:05] Sonic_Writer: I've written over 200 episodes of animation. They sort of run together.

[17:05] Bartman|AnimeRally: Heres a serious question, unless its been answered
[17:05] Bartman|AnimeRally: Whats stopping SatAM from getting back on the air
[17:05] Bartman|AnimeRally: Or going on DVD and what not?
[17:05] Sonic_Writer: I think I have a very simple answer for that one, Bartman.
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: Lack of vision and planning at the upper levels of Sega.
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: In any series, you need one person in charge.

[17:07] Ritz: Did you ever consider building upon the Cat scenario in future episodes? I mean, he just... dissapeared. He could have been roboticized, as we were led to believe, or he could have escaped. There's a lot of flexibility there.
[17:07] stiletto: Ben didn't write the episode With Cat
[17:07] Sonic_Writer: I don't understand Cat.
[17:08] Sonique: Cat was in Sonic Boom
[17:08] Ritz: Oh? Well, nevermind. D:
[17:08] Sonic_Writer: Ah, that was first season.

[17:07] H_Hog: Oh, oh, I dunno if you can answer this one, but I've always wondered between the connection between SatAM and the Genesis game "Sonic Spinball". As most SatAM characters made cameos in that game, you see.
[17:08] Sonic_Writer: As for SATAM characters making cameos in the games - that was completely done away from me. I had no knowledge or involvement.
[17:08] Sonic_Writer: I sound like a polititcian. :_
[17:10] Sonic_Writer: That just illustrates my point about the need for one person to be in charge of a character-driven series.
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: Then, cognitive decisions can be made about important issues - and can be applied to all incarnation such as games, comics, movies, etc.

[17:11] ila: The games depicted being roboticized as "being stuck inside a robot" SatAM turned them into robots, and I was wondering if you had anyway explanation as to how it was done?
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: ila - the roboticiser was invented by Uncle Chuck
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: It comes from my own predictions about the future.
[17:12] Sonic_Writer: I believe there will come a time in the next 50 to 100 years when we can transfer our brainwaves into digital storage - and transfer them back into new bodies.
[17:13] Sonic_Writer: So, Uncle Chuck invented the roboticiser as a way to allow older people to have mechanical, strong and pain free bodies.
[17:13] Sonic_Writer: Robotnik stole it and perverted into a "slavemaker"
[17:14] Sonic_Writer: It was originally designed to replace just parts of the body - but Robotnik modified it into the monstrosity.
[17:14] Sonic_Writer: Robotnik didn't realize the people were still conscious, but helpless within.
[17:14] Smidge204: So is there ANY organic material in a fully toboticised person?
[17:15] Sonic_Writer: Good question, Smidge. We never really addressed that, but it would need to be addressed at some point.
[17:16] Joan: From what I read from Drazen's fics, the vital organs are still organic
[17:16] Cheezmatt: Conjecture on Dan's part, though.
[17:16] Sonic_Writer: For those of you who came in late, I never read Fanfics or Comics.
[17:16] Sonic_Writer: Not out of arrogance but for legal reasons.
[17:17] Sonic_Writer: If there should be a new incarnation of Sonic, I can just go in the direction I was going to - and not worry about what anyone else has done because there's no paper trail to me.
[17:17] H_Hog: Or have permission in advance, at least
[17:18] Sonic_Writer: No, this way requires no permission. I make my own decisions.
[17:18] Sonic_Writer: The path of permission is one of lawsuits and messy things.

[17:18] stiletto: would you rather work by yourself or with others
[17:18] Sonic_Writer: I'd like to work with my original team.
[17:18] Sonic_Writer: Pat Allee and Len Janson.
[17:18] stiletto: Isn't Len retired?
[17:19] Sonic_Writer: If being in the fifth year of working on a novel - and just finishing the first draft of a comedy movie with me two days ago is retired, then yes, Len Janson is retired.
[17:19] stiletto: oh, thought you said he did
[17:20] Sonic_Writer: He's retired from animation.
[17:20] Sonic_Writer: But, he'll come back for me.

[17:20] Rolken: How many manhours does it take for the average animated show? I heard you say 2 weeks earlier, but how many people is that?
[17:21] Sonic_Writer: I'm not sure about the man hours - that would be hard to calculate.

[17:21] Nuckles87: Ben, I was wondering. Are their any animations not written by you that you enjoyed?
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: Absolutely. I still love all Looney Tunes.
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: I worked for Mel Blanc for seven years. The last two as his director.
[17:22] Sonic_Writer: And "The Tick" was hysterical.
[17:22] Bartman|AnimeRally: Wait...Mel Blanc
[17:22] Bartman|AnimeRally: Is he the original voice actor of Bugs and such?
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: Yep. And Bugs and Porky and Yosemite and Daffy and Tweety and Martin the Martian and Sylvester and I could go on and on.
[17:23] Sonic_Writer: Probably the best years of my life working with him. And I was his voice student as well.
[17:24] Nuckles87: My fav was always Taz.
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: He did him too.
[17:24] stiletto: you ever voince anything?
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: Just a couple things. The 7-up dots and I was the logo guy for Nike.
[17:24] Sonique: oh you guys remember spot =D
[17:24] Sonic_Writer: :)
[17:25] Sonic_Writer: I started my career originally as a disc jockey. That's what I wanted to do since I was ten.

[17:26] Joan: Ben, I've always wondered, what were your sources of inspiration when writing for SU?
[17:26] Sonic_Writer: Joan: This is not sarcastic...
[17:27] Sonic_Writer: But it was trying to pull the show as close to the continuity of Satam as possible. That's why I did the three-part origin story.
[17:27] Sonic_Writer: I was trying to give the show some underpinnings since it had virtually none at all when we came in.
[17:28] Sonic_Writer: The people in charge only wanted to get it finished it. To them it was just a money machine. Get it done, move on to the next project.
[17:29] Sonic_Writer: Well, I'm on the same page as ya'll. They didn't consult me for SU - they just laid it on me after it was underway.

[17:29] NikJam: Did SATAM have a song in it at any time? I forget
[17:29] stiletto: he sings in Head or Tails
[17:29] stiletto: and again in Sub-Sonic
[17:30] Sonic_Writer: Satam only had the opening and closing song, to my knoweledge. And good memory stilleto.

[17:30] Cheezmatt: SatAM-wise, I've always wanted to know more about the characters' backstories, including enigmatic ones like The King and Nagus. Not spoiler-rific, but additional stuff that wouldn't normally fit into an episode.
[17:30] Sonic_Writer: Here's the story on the backstory.
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: I wrote an elaborate backstory before I plotted out Blast to the Past.
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: It involved how the sentient animals came to be - why Robotnik and Snively were the only humans and the backstory of the King
[17:31] Sonic_Writer: And to this day, I can't find it.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: I promise if I do, I will share it.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: Interestingly, I shared it when it was fresh with one fan.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: And he dissed it.
[17:32] Sonic_Writer: Because it involved the nuclear destruction of humans.
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: Which triggered the genetic mutations of sentient animals.
[17:33] Nuckles87: Weren't Robotnik and Sniv part of a space expidition
[17:33] Sonique: he's getting to that
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: Yes.
[17:33] Nuckles87: Sorry
[17:33] Sonic_Writer: That's okay.
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: Anyway, they came back to the planet - and according to Einsteininistic stuff - many years had gone by and now he was the only one - along with Snively.
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: But the fun part - is that left a colony out there that could discover a faster way to return - and that could remain as a possible story element.
[17:34] Sonic_Writer: Never explored that far.
[17:35] Sonic_Writer: The fan I shared that with felt it was cliche. Was pretty rude about it too.
[17:36] Sonic_Writer: Because animals exist in the non-human populated areas that would have been spared the blasts. And that doesn't mean there aren't humans somewhere on the planet in some form.
[17:36] Sonic_Writer: Like underground.
[17:37] Cheezmatt: Personally, I'm more interested in the character's backstories than the planet's history. More personal. :)
[17:38] Sonic_Writer: Cheez - need the planet backstory to get to the characters. But, me too.

[17:37] Jamie-SwiftRunner: Oh, Ben, did you ever find the answer to my question? About Manic's new power in SU's second season?
[17:37] Sonic_Writer: I looked through everything and didn't. Where did that idea come from? Was it in an episode?
[17:40] Sonic_Writer: Well, I coulnd't find anything other than the earthquakes.

[17:39] Delta_Boomer: Mr. Hurst, if you were a mobian, what species do you see yourself as? If season 3 ever gets made, you could cameo.
[17:40] Sonic_Writer: I would be whatever species that would be compatible with Sally because I'm in love with her.

[17:40] Sonique: hey Ben: Tails... male or female =D
[17:40] Sonique: ?
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: Tails male

[17:40] Sz: Ah, Ben. I've got a question... Did you have any knowledge/any plans to incorporate the chaos emeralds into SatAM at any point?
[17:41] Sonic_Writer: Chaos Emeralds - were not a part of our stuff when we were writing.

[17:41] Rayzor-FUS: Ben, how long did it take to plan out the 2nd Season?
[17:42] Sonic_Writer: Two weeks, Rayzor.
[17:42] Sonic_Writer: Two very long weeks.

[17:43] Sonic_Writer: I have a story about Nicole.
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: My girlfriend's little girl was my number one fan. She visited the offices, got to see the artwork, etc.
[17:44] Sonic_Writer: She was 6 at the time.
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: And when the episode aired when Sonic shook Nicole to get her to "speak English," I got a call from her. She was sobbing and admonished me to never have Sonic shake Nicole again!
[17:45] Sonic_Writer: Took me hours to calm her down.
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: Needless to say, Sonic will never shake Nicole again.

[17:46] DimensionWarped: So... what was more expensive? VA or Animation?
[17:46] Sonic_Writer: VA?
[17:46] H_Hog: VA = Voice Acting
[17:46] Bartman|AnimeRally: OH!
[17:47] Sonic_Writer: Over the long haul, probably VA (which I now as VO which is Voice Over

[17:46] Nightwolf: Ben, I do have one question that I've wanted to ask: Did you plan on there being more freedom fighter groups assembled to the cast had there been more seasons?
[17:47] Sonic_Writer: Nightwolf - absolutely more freedom fighter groups.
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: Some had to be cut when the 11-min dual episodes were enforced on us. You remember those goofy two per half-hour things?
[17:48] Sonic_Writer: There were some good moments, but it really messed up our plans. We had to do some fast juggling.
[17:49] Nightwolf: Well, it's only too bad the wolfpack never got more air time. They were such an awesome freedom fighter faction.
[17:49] Sonic_Writer: Pat will be happy to hear it, Nightwolf. Lupe and her people came from Pat's imagination - her babies.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: We had a jungle freedom fighter group.
[17:50] Sonic_Writer: And also on the Lupe thing - Pat is an expert on Native Americans - and the wolfpack was patterned after Eastern American tribes.

[17:50] Jamie-SwiftRunner: Did you ever have any plans for anything involving the personal history and/or parents/relatives of the FFs besides Sonic, Sally and Dulcy? (Tails, Bunnie, Antoine and Rotor?)
[17:51] Sonic_Writer: We would have gotten around to all of them in turn.
[17:51] Sonic_Writer: See, it was a weird situation. All those disparate characters in search of a backstory.
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: So, we were in some ways, making it up as we went - and then I was trying to create continuity on the fly.

[17:52] Rayzor-FUS: WAs Rotors model change in Season 2 just to compensate for the Voice change?
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: And Rotor de-volved because he was Len's least favorite character.
[17:52] Sonic_Writer: Len is Sonic.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: He's now 62 years old and plays 16 hours of basketball a week - against 20 year-olds.
[17:53] Sonic_Writer: Kicks their butts. He's in perfect shape.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: And he's funny. And loved by everyone. Doesn't have an enemy on the planet.

[17:54] Elbot: Um.. quick question about Sonic Underground, if you don't mind.
[17:54] Sonic_Writer: Sure Elbot
[17:54] Elbot: Um, well I've always wondered why Knuckles was included in the storyline, but Tails wasn't.
[17:55] Sonic_Writer: Elbot, that was all decided by unknown forces before Pat and I took over as story editors.

[17:55] Jamie-SwiftRunner: Ohh. That leads me to another SU related question. How did you come to decide to use Athair instead of creating a completely new character? And why such a drastic change in model?
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: That brings up the short-lived story-editing team that did a couple of episodes. Those fell under their control - and I had nothing to do with that. So, no answer.

[17:56] Nightwolf: This question may have been asked before, but do you feel the comic has lived up to its original standards, Ben? I don't think it does. It hasn't for a long time.
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: I don't read the comic.
[17:56] Sonic_Writer: Never have.
[17:57] Sonic_Writer: As I said before, if I should be so fortunate to launch a new incarnation, I don't want to be polluted by other ideas.
[17:59] Sz: Also, I find it interesting that you consider more ideas a bad thing... I always like to gather as many different plotlines in my head, to figure out what's cool and what's not.
[17:59] Sonic_Writer: Sz, the one thing I don't lack is ideas.

[17:59] Jamie-SwiftRunner: You've likely been asked this already, and feel free to slap me if so--But would you have ever decided to use more game characters in SatAM? Knuckles, Amy, Metal Sonic, etc.? And if so, how would you work them into the story? (Obviously, Knuckles couldn't have been the guardian of the Floating Island for one thing)
[17:59] Sonic_Writer: Jamie, that takes me to process.
[17:00] Sonic_Writer: If I were to go forward again. And if I were under the copyright umbrella of Sega, I would examine many things at that time and do a thorough analysis.
[17:01] Sonic_Writer: I would try to pay tribute to that which worked - and I would gracefully remove that that I felt didn't.
[17:01] Sonic_Writer: And that's all opinion.
[17:01] Sonic_Writer: But until tht day comes, I have to stay clear of all incarnations but those I was a part of.

[17:01] Nightwolf: Ben, do you think it's Sega that ultimately holds back SatAM's greatness?
[17:02] Sonic_Writer: Night, I think that there is a lack of continuity in Sega's marketing.
[17:02] Sonic_Writer: And they need to take a broad overview of where they've been - and put some real work into planning out where they're going.
[17:03] Sonic_Writer: It seems to me that they're always just shotgunning semi-related ideas. Very corporate - Not creative.

[17:03] Joan: I wanted to ask that, since Mobius is practically Earth's future, how come there wasn't any remains of the previous human civilization, and instead there are ruins of an ancient culture...
[17:03] Sonic_Writer: Joan, that would have been addressed in season 3.

[17:04] stiletto: Ben, I've always wondered, why was such a strange creature like Nagus brought in?
[17:05] Sonic_Writer: He was created in Season One - before I had any major input into the series.
[17:05] Sonic_Writer: I resurrected him in "the Void" as part of the new continuity.
[17:05] stiletto: but he never appeared in season 1
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: Hmmm. I thought Jules Dennis wrote him into season one.
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: He sort of talked like Yoda. Maybe I'm mixed up.
[17:06] Nuckles87: There was no Nagus in season 1, to my recollection/
[17:06] Nuckles87: Yeah, Lazzar fits.
[17:06] Sonic_Writer: You're probably right.
[17:07] Sonic_Writer: Well, then, you just caught me in a brain fart. So, I guess I created Naugus.
[17:07] OmegaHedgehog: Lazar reminds me of Yoda somehow...
[17:08] Sonic_Writer: Lazar reminded you of Yoda because Jules sorta borrowed Yoda's speech pattern.

[17:09] Rayzor-FUS: Ben, if you did manage to get Season 3 restarted I gather you would want all the original cast involved, but do you think that if you couldn't get a majority of them that it would put a dampner on it? (Sorry if that was worded awkwardly but it.s 4AM, :D )
[17:09] Sonic_Writer: If I get Season 3, I will either have a free hand, or I won't do it.
[17:10] Sonic_Writer: So, as many of the original cast as I can get - and improvise the rest, Rayzor.

[17:11] stiletto: you ever meet Jaeel White (SOnic)?
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: And yes, I met Jaleel - nice guy.

[17:11] Nightwolf: Ben, you might not know the answer to this question, but do you think Sega has most of the rare SatAM cels locked up in some leaky basement, or DIC?
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: And I don't know where the cels are.
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: I was fortunate enough to get a few.

[17:10] Sonic_Writer: And on that note...
[17:11] Sonic_Writer: It's just about time for me to go...
[17:12] Meta-Knight: Take care. We appreciate you coming and tolerating our questions.
[17:12] Rayzor-FUS: Thanks for talking too us
[17:12] Sonic_Writer: No, thanks to all of you. It's most gratifying to know how much you care about the series.
[17:12] Sonic_Writer: Take care, all. Thanks again.
[17:13] * Sonic_Writer has left #sagexpo

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