Auto Pilot: Sonic the Hedgehog

With a new Sonic game in the mold of the original classics that is apparently pretty great, it seems like the perfect time to revisit another beloved piece of the Sonic canon, the second animated series from the 90’s, Sonic the Hedgehog.

Episode Title: Heads or Tails

Original Air Date: December 13, 1993

Did I Know Anything Going In?: I remember seeing episodes of this as a kid and knew most of the side characters the show introduced like Princess Sally, Antoine and Bunnie Rabbot.

As was the case for a lot of 90’s cartoons (and possibly still today) “Heads or Tails” was the first episode in the production order and Episode 1 when listed in the complete series DVD but it actually aired as the final episode of season 1 of Sonic the Hedgehog which, after watching it, makes 0 sense because at least a 1/3 of it is expository dialogue explaining characters and setting up the world, which most viewers would hopefully be up to speed with by the 13th episode of the season.

The show was the second Sonic animated series created by DiC Entertainment and actually was airing during the same time as it’s predecessor, the much more cartoony and wacky Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.  Sonic the Hedgehog is slightly more serious and deals with a group of animal freedom fighters battling against Dr. Robotnik, who wants to turn them all into robotic soldiers in his quest to conquer the world of Moebius.  Jaleel White aka Steve Urkel voices Sonic in both series and the rest of the cast is basically like 80% of 90s cartoon characters including Jim Cummings, Kath Soucie, Rob Paulsen and the late Catherine Cavanaugh.  Cummings in particular is great as Dr. Robotnik, who sounds way more intimidating than he actually is.

The plot of this episode is that Robotnik has returned from some unspecified trip off world and is looking to get back into the swing of killing Sonic and crushing the rebellion and tries to lure Sonic out by siccing a Buzzbot bee robot on Tails but Sonic easily defeats it and is then tasked by Princess Sally to sneak into Robotnik’s main city and steal some pins for their defense catapults.  Sonic takes Tails with him and they run into Muttsky, the now robotic dog that used to belong to Sonic’s Uncle Chuck, the person who invented both Robotnik’s “Roboticizer” machine and the Power Rings that allow Sonic to move at even faster speeds and warp out of danger.  After escaping a group of robotic soldiers, Sonic gets back to the resistance just in time to help defeat Robotnik’s fleet of Buzzbots, who are carrying a bomb designed to blow up the resistance’s home in Knothole Village, by distracting them while Sally and the freedom fighters launch water balloons at the Buzzbots (Robotnik should probably go back to the drawing board for that one).

Going back now, I honestly cannot take Sonic or Tails.  Sonic is an arrogant moron who is constantly fishing for compliments about how awesome he is and just barely escapes the predicaments he gets into because of his speed, if he wasn’t “the fastest thing alive” he probably would have been dead or turned into a robot years ago.  His introduction in the episode is especially painful as he tries to turn his horrible catchphrase “Way Past Cool!” into a rock song for Sally.  Tails is also annoying and much younger than I remember, he’s practically a baby who can’t fight and is actually so helpless he spends most of the episode in Sonic’s backpack.  There isn’t a lot of time spent with the Freedom Fighters but I believe they all get more fleshed out as the series went on and I think things got slightly more complex and dramatic as well.

Sonic the Hedgehog is definitely the best of the many Sonic cartoons that have aired but going back, this first episode is pretty rough.  There’s an excellent voice cast but Sonic himself is just a terrible character who is just the worst personification of 90’s “edginess” and “too cool for school” and the show indulges in some painfully long bits that are not funny instead of on the action or other characters.  I think they figured things out as the series went on and I can kind of see why they put this one off until later in the season now, even though it is technically the pilot and first episode.

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