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STUDIO: Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME: 480 Minutes
- A Conversation With Artist Milton Knight
- How-To-Draw: Sonic The Hedgehog
It’s like playing the video game without the effort.
The voice talents of Jaleel White and other people who weren’t on Family Matters.
On planet Mobius, Dr. Robotnik and self-created cronies Scratch, Grounder and (sometimes) Coconuts constantly are planning new ways to exploit of the varied peoples that populate the planet, generally through some scheme involving robotics and treachery. Luckily for Mobians, they have the best freedom fighter available – the spunky hedgehog Sonic and his orphaned sidekick Tails – to constantly foil any of Robotnik’s evil schemes.
As a product of the nineties I can boast (wrong word usage there, assuredly) of spending many an hour on my Sega Genesis with the likes of Shaq Fu (Nezu will fuck you up), Joe Montana Football ’94 (Summerall somehow presciently predicting his stroke victim-esque delivery on air in the following years), and of course, Sega’s flagship character, Sonic the Hedgehog. The time burnt in the Casino Night Zone level constantly hitting the slots must’ve actively eliminated numerous useful bits of information from my brain. However, despite my time wasted collecting rings and bouncing off various robotic contraptions at the end of each level, I never spent any time watching the animated show during my grade school days (this was going up against Power Rangers, so the fucker didn’t really have a chance with me – animated hijinx or giant robots fighting rubber monsters was no contest) so this was an opportunity for me to see if there was something admirable about this early-morning staple of many a childhood.
"Someone’s calling on the Dali phone!"
Unfortunately, there really isn’t that much to this program that can be enjoyed by adults, which isn’t to say it’s a bad cartoon, it’s just decidedly kids orientated. Sure, they slip in a little bit of business every now and again (the gambling episode’s populace being sheep was a nice touch), but on the whole this is amateurish slapstick aping the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd dynamic with Sonic constantly taking on disguises to trick the buffoonish robots into falling into their own traps. The animation style became more loose as the set wore on, allowing for more stylistic flourishes to keep the show visually inventive if not still derivative of those shows which came before it. But that’s a hollow criticism of something that’s aiming only to please those which are easily pleased, as I doubt the young demographic of this program would have such criticism for the show. Jaleel White is cast pretty well as our titular hero, as he brings the childish annoyance mixed of his Urkel character to the table while also adding a bravado, making it easy for one to understand the mounting frustration of Robotnik throughout the series.
One thing that really baffled me as I watched all of the episodes was the political landscape of Mobius. Sonic and Tails are consistently referred to as ‘freedom fighters’, which would suggest Robotnik is the tyrannical ruler of the planet. However, he seems to hold no dominion over any part of the land visited at any point in the series and seems to operate out of his evil lab/fortress for the entire series. Even though that’s the case, he acts in numerous tyrannical ways, suppressing any literature or music that dares defy his splendor (the basis for a couple of episodes, actually). So who’s in charge here? Perhaps the creators are making some sort of sly ‘emperor has no clothes’ type statement here, or more logically, it’s never thought of enough to actually be addressed. For the most part, this series is pure kids stuff; silly jokes, bright animation, and a very-much-so shoehorned (often times not even congruous with the main plot line) moral at the end of every episode in the form of ‘Sonic Says’. The slapstick is amusing enough in small doses and there is worse source material to cull from besides Looney Tunes: Still, the entire set was a slog for me to get through and I can’t really recommend it to any adults, even those on a nostalgia kick. However, it’s inoffensive and silly enough to be worthy of your kids corneas, so on that level I will give it a slight recommendation.
The cover art is perfectly acceptable for a set of this nature and since Shout! Factory tends to deliver the goods in the packaging department (responsible for the greatest television box set in history, after all), this disc doesn’t disappoint. The four discs are spread over two snap cases housed in the box. The picture quality isn’t poor, but the colors are a bit saturated, as tends to be case with shows from this era, but it isn’t so washed out as to dilute the pleasure of viewing. In terms of extras you get two featurettes on the last disc: ‘A conversation with artist Milton Knight’ and ‘How-to-Draw: Sonic the Hedgehog’. The former is informative and delivers a few bits of interesting information regarding the production of the show while the latter should more honestly be called ‘Watch Milton Knight draw Sonic the Hedgehog’. It’s interesting (to me, at least) to watch an artist bust out a sketch of one of their characters quickly and effortlessly like this, but it’s misleadingly titled. Not a lot of extra stuff here, but the sheer bulk of episodes helps defuse that.
6.0 out of 10