Recently, I wrote an article devoted to Sonic the Hedgehog’s best animated series, Sonic SatAM. Now, it is time for me to tell you about the other Sonic cartoon that debuted in 1993 and which remains fondly remembered among fans for a variety of good and bad reasons. The cartoon in question is Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. This was the series that was meant to be shown on ABC, but was passed over in favor of the more dramatic Sonic SatAM. As such, it went into syndication, where it lasted for a single season of 65 episodes. I shall now describe the series, and add my thoughts about it in the process.
Unlike SatAM, Adventures was a much sillier show, akin to the Looney Tunes and Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of yore. Sonic had many of his trademark qualities, such as his attitude, his love for chili dogs, and, of course, his speed. In this show, he also had his crazy sense of humor, which would often be beneficial for him. His only regular partner in this show was Tails, the two-tailed fox, who could fly and likewise loved chili dogs. The two characters were the biggest thorns in the sides of Mobius’ dictator, Dr. Robotnik, and his mechanical minions.
Robotnik was the ruler of Mobius, as he was in SatAM, but instead of being menacing and wicked, he was buffoonish and comical, despite his supposed high IQ level. He wanted nothing less than to be rid of Sonic for good, and in every episode, he would come up with some sort of plan to help him attain that goal. His plans would range from having a train filled with missiles delivered to his factory to inventing a chip that would greatly increase his brain power to creating a robot designed to destroy all music. Needless to say, all of his plots would be foiled by Sonic, and it did not help that he had assistants in the form of three rather stupid robots.
Two of these robots, Scratch and Grounder, were members of Robotnik’s Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad. Scratch was a tall, mechanical chicken who saw himself as being Robotnik’s favorite because he was the first of the two robots to be made. He was known for having a distinctive laugh and his plans for squashing Sonic. Grounder was a diminutive blue robot with drills for his nose and arms and treadmills for his feet. He could use his arms for other features, and kept a phone in his chest to keep in contact with his master. On occasion, Coconuts the mechanical monkey would also try to stop Sonic, when he was not stuck doing janitor duty. All three robots often failed in their duties on account of being greatly outsmarted by Sonic, and would find themselves on the receiving end of Robotnik’s rage.
The cartoons were rather like the old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons in that Robotnik and his minions would try and capture Sonic with a variety of traps. Most of the time, they were unsuccessful; and even when they did catch him, such as the time when they sealed him inside a force field, he would still manage to escape and foil their plans. Tails would do some heroic acts of his own: in one episode, Sonic had been turned to stone, and it was up to Tails to outwit the robots using some Home Alone-style devices until he could restore his friend to normal. On other occasions, he would be captured and Sonic needed to rescue him. As in the games, their friendship was quite strong and they proved to be a great team.
One popular way for Sonic to outwit the robots was to wear a variety of disguises, ranging from a doctor to a school crossing guard to a muscle-bound hedgehog. Most of the time, it was quite clear that it was Sonic, but the robots and even Robotnik, being as dumb as they are, rarely put two-and-two together, making Sonic’s victories even easier to accomplish. In the end, Sonic’s speed and brains proved to be too much for his adversaries.
Robotnik would get frustrated by his defeats, often exclaiming “I hate the hedgehog!” at the end of the episodes. Meanwhile, Sonic and Tails would enjoy their success, at least until the next episode.
A variety of characters would show up from time to time to help, or hinder, Sonic and Tails’ efforts. There was Wes Weasley, a salesman with a number of devices that would try to stop Sonic, but they tended to fail. Breezie was a mechanical hedgehog designed to win Sonic’s heart and lure him to his doom, but she ultimately changed her evil ways. There were also one-shot characters such as the obese super hero Captain Rescue, TV superstar Edgar Eagle, and Robotnik’s relative Warpnik, all of whom would play important roles in various episodes, from aiding Sonic and Tails to holding them prisoner in another dimension.
Many elements of the games were included in the series. The theme song included portions of the title song of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis. Some robots from the older games popped up, as did areas such as the Casino Night Zone. One episode even promoted the then-new Sonic Spinball game by having Sonic fight through Robotnik’s volcano. Then there was the four-part saga in which Robotnik traveled back in time to try and collect the Chaos Emeralds needed to make him extremely powerful. As a result, the show was closer to the games than SatAM was, albeit in a silly fashion.
Ah yes, the silliness. Adventures was full of it, from the animation style to the fittingly zany music. Many cartoon effects were seen, from having characters melt to giving the sun a face to characters only being hurt in a cartoon fashion. It is as if the series was created with Sonic’s younger fans in mind, as it hardly took itself seriously unlike the SatAM version. There were no deaths, hardly any emotional moments, and Sonic was rarely in any real danger due to the stupidity of his adversaries. It is the polar opposite of SatAM in every way possible, though its goofy persona did fit in quite well.
At the end of every episode, there was a brief segment called Sonic Says (or Sez), in which an important lesson was taught to the young viewers. Often, these lessons related to the episode just aired. There were lessons in sharing, not using guns, eating healthy foods, and much more. Some of these segments have become Internet favorites for being more “adult” in tastes. They include one in which Sonic talks about inappropriate touching, one where Tails chokes on a cigarette which shows the dangers of smoking, and one in which Scratch and Grounder become tipsy from drinking too much booze. I kid you not: these were aimed at children, but are clearly more enjoyable when viewed by adults since they better understand the messages and find them to be funny.
Looking back, the series seemed to be more childish than Sonic SatAM, with every episode being a Looney Tune stretched to thirty minutes. The animation was often unappealing, looking like a 1940s cartoon on acid. However, I still find it to be enjoyable in a nostalgic sense, with the humor generally being funny and the story lines being fun, if not necessarily strong. The voice work was also good, with Jaleel White being a nerdy, but cool, Sonic; Long John Baldry making Robotnik into an enjoyably-clownish villain; Christopher Welch making Tails into a rather cute sidekick; and Phil Hayes and Gary Chalk laughing it up as Scratch and Grounder, respectively. The show was an after-school favorite back in 1993, and it still shines in its own little way in 2009.
It should be noted that a “finale” of sorts did not appear until 1996, three years after the show aired its last episode. Sonic Christmas Blast, which aired on the USA network, featured a similar zany atmosphere, although the animation was greatly improved. Most of the original cast, with the exception of Christopher Welch, would return, and proved that they had not lost their touch when it came to performing their respective characters. One new addition was Princess Sally, from the SatAM cartoon, only here she had pink fur and black hair (like in the early issues of the comic book) and did not speak at all. I guess they could not get Kath Soucie or a reasonable sound alik
e for her. This show is often seen as an unofficial finale of the series, despite its debut three years after the fact.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog remains fondly remembered to this very day. For years, it had been popular in syndication as well as on Toon Disney, and now that it is on DVD and YouTube, old and new fans alike can see just how silly Sonic can be. From the goofy puns to the zany atmosphere, the show has it all, and remains a favorite of mind. While I still feel that SatAM was the better show, Adventures is enjoyable in its own right, and did what it set out to do: make Sonic into a silly and lovable character while still keeping his trademark features intact. I would love to see Sonic in another DIC cartoon series, as it would be interesting to see what else (besides placing him in a rock band with his siblings) they could do with him.