Roger Craig Smith – Sonic the Hedgehog, Morpho, Dave the Intern, various
Alexandre Gillet (French) – Sonic the Hedgehog
Colleen O’Shaughnessey – Miles “Tails” Prower, Zooey, various
Marie-Eugénie Maréchal (French) – Miles “Tails” Prower, Zooey
Travis Willingham – Knuckles the Echidna, Hypnobot, various
Sébastien Desjours (French) – Knuckles the Echidna
Cindy Robinson – Amy Rose, various
Naïké Mellerin-Fauveau (French) – Amy Rose
Nika Futterman – Sticks the Badger, Diane Aardvark, Staci
Claire Morin (French) – Sticks the Badger
Mike Pollock – Doctor Eggman, Mayor E. Pluribus Fink, Fastidious Beaver, Bolts, Lord Eggman
Marc Bretonniére (French) – Doctor Eggman
Kirk Thornton – Orbot, Shadow the Hedgehog, T.W. Barker, Chameleon, Froglodyte Drill Sergeant, various
Benjamin Pascal (French) – Orbot, Mayor E. Pluribus Fink, Chef Woody, Foreman Fred, Hayward
Wally Wingert – Cubot, Dixon, Willy Walrus, Froglodyte High Priest, Og, Nominatus, D-Fekt (season 2), various
Tony Marot (French) – Cubot
For the history of Sonic the Hedgehog, check out the post here.
By the close of the first decade of the 21st century, Sega had come to find that Sonic the Hedgehog’s appeal in the western markets seemed to be fading. After a number of lukewarm releases beginning with 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog reboot, they saw that sales were declining with each successive title. Sega decided to take some drastic action and create a new spin-off franchise geared expressly towards the west that would run concurrently with the “modern” Sonic games in Japan as an official alternate universe.
And who better to cater to western audiences than westerners themselves? Sega gave the project to Big Red Button Entertainment (BRB) in 2009, the studio started by Naughty Dog’s Bob Rafaei and Luxoflux’s Jeff Lander, based on Rafaei’s experience at starting successful franchises from scratch. This would be the first time a western developer would be put in charge of developing a mainline Sonic game. Sega told BRB to radically change the Sonic formula and to get away from the speed aspect, since focus groups had led them to believe that western audiences found Sonic to be too fast.
Unfortunately, Sonic Team, headed up at the time by Takashi Iizuka, had a number of problems with what they were presented. They felt it deviated too much from what the franchise was (despite that being the goal) and gave them a number of changes to bring it more in line with what they considered a Sonic game to be. Further, Sonic Team had their own intentions of tackling Sonic’s origins and didn’t want a western developer to beat them to it (even though this was supposed to be an alternate universe take to begin with). So, a good portion of the narrative was jettisoned despite traces of it remaining in the level design and backgrounds. The biggest and most project-shattering change, however, came with the news that as part of an exclusivity deal Sega’s signed with Nintendo, BRB’s Sonic game would now become a Wii U exclusive. Up until that point, the game was being developed with CryEngine 3 which was completely incompatible with the Wii U’s hardware.
With an unmovable deadline of 2014, BRB had to seriously scale back on the game’s features. 4-player co-op and online support were tossed, taking entire bits of levels with them. Characters and a collectible system were completely removed. The story itself was even heavily trimmed, taking out narrative elements and lines of dialogue. They even had to call on CryTek to help them adapt CryEngine 3 to the Wii U, ultimately resulting in their creating a special version of the engine not used by any other game. Parts of the game were co-developed by studio IllFonic.
The game, ultimately titled Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, was released in North America on November 11, 2014 with a wider release expanding to other territories in the following weeks. The game saw Sonic (Roger Craig Smith), Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), Knuckles (Travis Willingham) and Amy Rose (Cindy Robinson) pursuing Eggman (Mike Pollock) to a tomb adorned with Sonic and Tails’ visages. Inside, they encountered a powerful new foe in the form of the titular Lyric the Last Ancient (Patrick Seitz), who recognized Sonic from thousands of years ago. Lyric plotted to use Chaos Crystals to create a metallic world populated by robots, and Sonic and his friends sought to stop him. Tails developed new Enerbeams that they could all use to hang from rails, remove enemy shields, and various puzzle-solving mechanics. Each character also had their own unique abilities and attacks.
The resulting game ultimately proved a disaster, scoring negatively with both critics and fans. Many found the level designs repetitive, the puzzles and combat dull and tedious, the camera system broken, the controls unresponsive, and bugs and glitches galore (including one that allowed Knuckles to basically leap over entire parts of levels). Not to mention long-time fans had a problem with the new character designs when they were first revealed. A Nintendo 3DS game, Shattered Crystal, was developed by Sanzaru Games and released at the same time as Rise of Lyric with identical game design. It fared a bit better in reviews, but was still widely panned. Both games were announced by Sega as being the worst-selling games in the franchise.
So, what does this have to do with Saturday mornings, the reason we’re all here? Well, part of Sega’s plan to reinvigorate their western audience was to not only hit them on home consoles, but on television as well. They entered into a deal with French animation studio OuiDo! Productions (later Technicolor Animation Productions after they were acquired by Technicolor SA in 2015) to produce an animated series for western TV along with Sega of America. They decided to enhance the brand synergy by making BRB incorporate elements of the show into their game, such as the name, while the show also took some inspiration from them.
Sonic Boom was developed by Evan Baily, Donna Friedman and Sandrine Nguyen, with Baily and Bill Freiberger (who also voiced several characters) serving as showrunners. The series was set on Seaside Island, primarily Hedgehog Village (formerly Unnamed Village), where Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy lived along with a variety of other animal characters (the production usually let the animators decide what kind of animal each would be unless they needed someone to be something specific). Sonic and his friends, known as Team Sonic, were often tasked with stopping Dr. Eggman’s elaborate schemes at conquering the island (and turn it into a theme park) which in turn would allow him to conquer the entire world. All of the game’s voice cast reprised their roles for the series, with voice director Jack Fletcher also working on the show.
Besides the setting, another change from previous Sonic media was the characters’ appearances and, in some cases, their personalities. 15-year-old Sonic remained a good-hearted hero with supersonic speed who often was oblivious to the feelings of others and extremely impatient. For the first time, his arms were covered in blue fur and he was given a scarf (playing into the action-adventure trope), as well as additional spikes (to help differentiate him from the Japanese Sonic, since both looked so similar). 8-year-old Tails continued to be Sonic’s sidekick and served as the team’s mechanic, pilot and inventor. He was given a pair of goggles and a tool belt, as well as a tendency to be blunter and more skeptical at times. 12-year-old Amy Rose was the peppiest member of the team who served as their organizer and archaeologist, as well as the mature voice of reason. Unlike other versions of Amy, this one was shier about her attraction to Sonic and was given an outfit to make her seem more like the adventuring type proficient in hammer-based combat. 16-year-old Knuckles received the most drastic makeover of all the characters, being made significantly taller than the others and bulkier to emphasize his role as the team muscle and removed his ability to glide as they couldn’t fit it into their stories. He was also made dimwitted and gullible to the point that he often exasperated his friends. His trademark boxing gloves were changed to regular ones in order to allow his hands to be as expressive as the storytellers needed them to be. The sports tape Sonic and Knuckles sported were inspired by fighters and American football players to make them seem more grounded and less vain, which to the producers meant more heroic.
Newly created for the franchise was Sticks the Badger (Nika Futterman), Amy’s best friend who replaced her as a playable character in Shattered Crystal. Sticks was a free-spirit who came from the jungle. Although she’s a skilled fighter proficient in boomerangs and homemade weaponry, it’s often overshadowed by her extremely paranoid nature and wild habits. Despite coming off as a little mad, that unique worldview often pushed her towards genius in finding solutions that none of the others could even begin to consider. Freiberger created her as a sort of surrogate for himself. She was meant to bring in a healthy dose of cynicism to contrast with the unwavering heroism of the others, as well as add more humor and surprises.
Eggman lived in an island fortress off the coast of Seaside Island, where he possessed unlimited resources to come up with new robots and devices meant to darken the heroes’ day. Eggman was often buffoonish and his schemes more zany than threatening, and at times seemed to almost be on friendly terms with Team Sonic. Eggman’s primary henchbots were Orbot (Kirk Thornton), who was wise and often spoke bluntly, and Cubot (Wally Wingert), who was dimwitted and often misunderstood the meaning of statements characters made. His main army were the Badniks; foot soldiers who resembled various animals. In keeping with their perception on vanity and heroism, Eggman was made extremely vain and was often seen caring about his appearance and that of his robots. Other previously established foes included Metal Sonic, Eggman’s robotic duplicate of Sonic, and Shadow the Hedgehog (Thornton), who was depicted as being even more aggressive and vengeful that other versions with a desire to beat Sonic at all costs.
New foes included Charlie (Thornton), a desert rat archaeologist whom Knuckles got fired, turning him evil; The Lightning Bolt Society, a secret society consisting of small-minded small-time crooks like the teenaged Dave the Intern (Smith), egotistical spy Chameleon (who was actually a wolf, voiced by Thornton), triplets The Weasel Bandits, and Willy Walrus (Wingert); the Froglodytes, a horde of evil frogs that lived in caves beneath the island; Hypnobot (Willingham), a robot created by Tails that could control other robots and gained sentience; sentient computer virus Nominatus (Wingert) who was foe to both Eggman and Sonic; and T.W. Barker (Thornton), a dog who served as the ringmaster for a circus where all the performers were slaves and commanded a pair of stunt bears.
Sonic Boom was teased in October of 2013 with an image of the main characters’ silhouettes against a wall. Sega released the first trailer for it on February 6, 2014. It finally debuted on Cartoon Network on November 8, 2014, and made its French debut on Canal J the following week. It was the fifth Sonic series and the first to be completely rendered in CGI. Each episode was 11-minutes in length, and often paired up with another to round out a complete half hour of air time (typically a rerun once it aired for a while). Each episode took about 18 months to produce. Writers would write their scripts independently, then get together to do a punch-up session and iron things out. Voice recording typically happened over a year before an episode ever aired, with four-hour recording sessions scheduled once every two weeks. The entire production was overseen by Sonic Team; only the second time after Sonic X. Two intros were used: the full version aired in France, while a shortened version was used in the United States due to the countries’ different delivery requirements.
Archie Comics, then the current rights
holder to publish Sonic-based comics, began publication of a tie-in
comic series in 2014. The series was primarily written by
regular Sonic writer Flynn, who would also pen a season two script,
along with Aleah Baker.
He would be joined by both Freibergers to help integrate the book better with
the show. Art was provided by Stanley, Ryan Jampole, Jennifer Hernandez, Steven
Butler, Dan Schoening,
Tracy Yardley, Edwin Huang, Tyson Hesse and Diana Skelly. Despite good
sales, Archie cancelled the book after 11 issues, feeling that the stories
would be served better outside of a monthly book. No further new stories
appeared, but various issues were reprinted in the pages of Sonic Super Digest and
Super Special Magazine before their own cancellations. In France, a
series of 6
children’s books were published by Hachette Jeunesse
between 2015 and 2016. Tomy handled the toy
of the franchise, releasing action figures in single, double and multi-figure
packs along with playsets, and plush toys in standard, talking, large-headed
and clip-on forms. The toys were first displayed at New York Toy Fair in February 2014, and a
Sonic figure was offered as a GameStop
and EB Games exclusive as a pre-order
bonus for the Wii U and 3DS.
Archie Comics, then the current rights holder to publish Sonic-based comics, began publication of a tie-in comic series in 2014. The series was primarily written by regular Sonic writer Flynn, who would also pen a season two script, along with Aleah Baker. He would be joined by both Freibergers to help integrate the book better with the show. Art was provided by Stanley, Ryan Jampole, Jennifer Hernandez, Steven Butler, Dan Schoening, Tracy Yardley, Edwin Huang, Tyson Hesse and Diana Skelly. Despite good sales, Archie cancelled the book after 11 issues, feeling that the stories would be served better outside of a monthly book. No further new stories appeared, but various issues were reprinted in the pages of Sonic Super Digest and Sonic Super Special Magazine before their own cancellations. In France, a series of 6 children’s books were published by Hachette Jeunesse between 2015 and 2016. Tomy handled the toy end of the franchise, releasing action figures in single, double and multi-figure packs along with playsets, and plush toys in standard, talking, large-headed and clip-on forms. The toys were first displayed at New York Toy Fair in February 2014, and a Sonic figure was offered as a GameStop and EB Games exclusive as a pre-order bonus for the Wii U and 3DS.
“The Sidekick” (11/8/14 US, 11/14/14 FR) – Sonic looks for a new sidekick after Tails gets hurt.
“Tommy Thunder: Method Actor” (10/29/16 US, 4/8/17 FR) – Sonic lets a movie star shadow him and ends up regretting it when his ego begins making him take credit for the team’s victories.
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