Frank Welker - Cluck
Originally pitched to and rejected by ABC, The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog became a syndicated weekday program which saw Sonic (Jaleel White, who had risen to fame as Steve Urkel on Family Matters) and his partner, the two-tailed flying fox Miles “Tails” Prower (Christopher Welch) from Sonic 2, constantly fight to foil Dr. Robotnik’s (Long John Baldry) schemes to take over the zany world of planet Mobius. The show was played entirely for humor, resulting in character designs a lot more exaggerated than their video game counterparts. It ran for a single season of 65 episodes plus a Christmas special.
|Dr. Robotnik and Snively|
However, over on Saturday mornings, things on planet Mobius in the 33rd Century weren’t quite as cheery. Created by Len Janson in response to ABC’s passing of Adventures, the simply titled Sonic the Hedgehog (affectionately dubbed Sonic SatAM by fans to distinguish it from the other show) focused on the battle against Dr. Julian Robotnik (Jim Cummings, who was also originally cast in Adventures) in a much darker setting. Having conquered Mobius by overthrowing King Maximillian Acorn (Tim Curry), Robotnik sought to remove all natural elements from the planet from his home base of Robotropolis (formerly Mobotropolis)--an industrial city comprised of his many factories and populated by his various robots; including his personal army, the SWATbots (voiced by various members of the cast).
|Cluck, an example of robotization.|
Robotnik had the ability to transform flesh and blood beings into robots with his Roboticizer. The Roboticizer was invented by Sonic’s uncle Sir Charles Hedgehog (William Windom) as a medical tool, but it had the unintended effect of turning creatures into robots without free will. Robotnik stole the device and Charles was the first to be transformed, driving Sonic into the fight against Robotnik. Aiding Robotnik was his diminutive nephew, Snively (Charlie Adler), who suffered constant abuse from Robotnik, and a pet roboticized chicken named Cluck. An unused story element would have had Robotnik and Snively be time travelers who arrived from the past to discover Mobius was actually Earth after it recovered from a nuclear holocaust that mutated its surviving animal inhabitants into anthropomorphic beings. That was meant to explain why they were seemingly the only human characters present on the world (other human characters have made appearances since in the games and other media).
|Freedom Fighters: Sonic, Sally, Bunnie, Tails, Antoine and Rotor.|
|New character Dulcy the Dragon.|
|Sally puts some clothes on between seasons.|
After the first season, ABC asked for some changes to soften up the show’s tone a bit. As a result, several episodes of the season were strictly humorous while the darker overall subplot and violence were dramatically toned down. Dulcy (Cree Summer), a clumsy, loud-mouthed dragon with super breath was added to the cast as both a source of comic relief and transportation for the Freedom Fighters. Robotnik’s voice was no longer altered to be more menacing and inhuman-sounding, and his intimidation factor was reduced by turning him into a more incompetent foe. Sonic’s ego and childish antics, as well as Antoine’s clumsiness and cowardice, were increased and exaggerated. Sally was given a new vest to wear so that she would appear less naked to parents concerned about her fairly human-looking anatomy. Bunnie’s upper arm was no longer roboticized. Rotor received new coloring, as well as a reduced role in the series and a new voice actor as Ballou opted not to return for the second season. The creation of the Power Rings was also punched up to be visually flashier.
|Ixis Naugus puts Bunnie and Sally on ice.|
A third season was planned, which would have featured Snively as the primary villain after the fall of Robotnik alongside the evil wizard Ixis Naugus (Michael Bell), as well as further development for the characters and their interactions. However, the show was cancelled by the end of the second season due to declining ratings. Several factors went against it at that time: it had been constantly pre-empted in the United States for other programming, it was competing against more popular shows like FOX’s Power Rangers franchise, and the new incoming president of ABC had no investment in the show to overlook the ratings and chance another season. Hurst and his writing partner Allee had lobbied unsuccessfully for many years after the cancellation to get the third season produced, or at least a movie incorporating those elements to close out the series in a satisfying manner. DiC Entertainment would go on to produce a third Sonic cartoon called Sonic Underground, which introduced siblings for Sonic (all voiced by White) as a royal family seeking out their mother to fulfill a prophecy and save Mobius from Dr. Robotnik (Gary Chalk). It lasted a single syndicated season of 40 episodes.
|Sally, Rotor and Bunnie appear in Sonic Spinball.|
Before its cancellation, Sega had planned to integrate elements from the show, such as its characters, into future Sonic video games. Only Sonic Spinball, which put Sonic in a pinball game-like setting, ended up using those characters. Other games, Sonic-16 and Sonic Mars, were proposed or in development, but ultimately were cancelled. Princess Sally did make one last animated appearance, sans dialogue, in the aforementioned Adventures Christmas special.
|Sonic Play-A-Sound book, featuring Sally.|
SatAM was adapted into a series of books by Troll Communications and Golden Books, as well as part of Publications International’s Look & Find series. Only one of the Troll books, Friend or Foe?, adapted the episode “Game Guy” directly while the rest were original stories set in the same universe. Sally was the only other character from the show heavily featured on merchandise (particularly on items from Australia), appearing on pogs, stickers, shampoo bottles, as a water bottle, various Sega World products, and as a bendable figurine, amongst others.
|Sonic's 250th' issue by Archie Comics.|
The show’s premise and characters did live on long after the show in another form. In 1992, Archie Comics entered into a deal with Sega to publish a comic series. Because the comic and the show were being produced concurrently, the Archie team worked off of the series bible and character sheets which often led to differences in the content between the show and comic. Originally debuting as a four-issue mini-series, Sonic the Hedgehog began the following year as an ongoing series. The comic initially featured a tone closer to that of Adventures and even used some of its characters, but after SatAM became evidently more popular the comic’s tone shifted towards more dramatic storytelling and the Adventures characters were phased out. The Sonic comic became the longest-running one based on a video game, spawning several spin-off minis and ongoings with the wide array of characters created over the years; telling both original stories and adaptations of the various games in the franchise. Just before the comic’s 25th anniversary and 300th issue, Archie lost the license to Sonic and the series was abruptly cancelled mid-story. IDW Publishing picked up the rights and began a new series in 2018. While they retained the final regular Archie scribe, Ian Flynn, none of the SatAM characters had been carried over.
|DVD box art.|
After the show’s initial run, it returned to TV in 1997 as part of USA Network’s Action Extreme Team programming block, and in 2019 on Starz Encore Family as part of a two-hour block of classic cartoons. Beginning in 1994, Buena Vista Home Video released a series of VHS tapes featuring two episodes each from the series. In 2007, Shout! Factory released the complete series to DVD with additional special features, while Delta Home Entertainment released their own version in the UK (complete with a “SatAM Sonic” badge on the box). Delta also released several individual episode collections that year, while in 2008 NCircle Entertainment began doing the same in the United States (as well as releases from other Sonic cartoons). In 2011, NCircle released Sonic Mega Mix, a compilation DVD of several episodes from all three Sonic cartoons, and in time for the show’s 30th anniversary they re-released the complete series on DVD; however, lacking any of the special features included in Shout!’s release.