And it's one that's very special to me, because it involves one of my childhood heroes, Sonic the Hedgehog.
And it's every bit as awesome as it sounds.
But first, some backstory. After the end of both Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the other show, Sonic the Hedgehog (aka SatAM), DiC Entertainment decided that they wanted to try their hand at making a Christmas special and decided to combine elements of both shows and create a special that will hopefully unite the fans of both shows and join them in the holy war.
...unfortunately, since this special is basically Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog with some minor SatAM elements, it largely didn't work. Oh well, they tried at least. Barely.
What also didn't work was the original title. Sonic Christmas Blast was originally called An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas in order to promote Sonic X-Treme (aka one of the most infamous cancelled videogames of all time) but Sega was having some problems with that game and therefore, they changed the name to promote the game that actually did come out, Sonic 3D Blast. Somehow, that just envelopes this entire special with a subtle blanket of sadness. I know that while I'm watching this, I'm going to imagine the dying hopes of hapless X-Treme programmers from Christmas Past.
I will say this though, hopefully to lighten the mood. While doing some light Internet research on this special, I found the best out-of-context line I have ever discovered in a fan wiki page. While taking a sip out of my lukewarm eggnog, I came across this: "This was the final episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Therefore in that universe, Sonic is now permanently Santa Claus." If that doesn't put you in a holiday mood, then you are beyond help. By the way, spoilers.
Now with that out of the way...
Availability: On DVD
Yes Virginia, there is a Sonic Christmas special. And what else heralds this beautiful concept than a Christmas remix of the main theme (which is basically In the Hall of the Mountain King on speed) for a theme song. Course, while DiC Entertainment had enough of a budget to make a brand new song, they didn't have enough for a unique title sequence, so instead of going the whole hog (get it?) and making a snow-covered version of that infamous piece of animation where Sonic's running through bizarre loops and Yellow Submarine-esque landscapes adorned with his name, we just get clips from the actual episode. And not only that, but the clips spoil incredibly major plot points, giving away the ending and everything, before the cartoon even starts. I guess you can't win them all.
The clips in the title sequence also illustrate a major difference in the production values. You know how Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is normally extremely cheap in its animation, to the point where you can make a very compelling argument that this cartoon was drawn entirely by a troupe of trained chimpanzees? This animation is smoother, and they use actual drop shadows, making this special actually look like something that was animated in the 90's. If only the other DiC productions looked this nice. Maybe then my opinion of Street Sharks would be something other than "an assault on my eyes".
Sonic's also a different, softer shade of blue than the one I'm used to, but now I'm just being a stickler.
|Why hello, awesome-looking city. What are you doing in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog?|
I have three theories on why there's such a big discrepancy between the lifeless deserts and grasslands Sonic likes to speed through and what I'm viewing now. Theory one is that the economy finally got back on its feet and there was a massive baby boom and later population migration to the more urban areas, finally turning Mobius from third world developing nation to first world developed nation with high HDI. Theory two is that only half of the planet was wiped out by World War Three or that massive cataclysmic outbreak or whatever and some parts of the planet, due to climate or natural barriers, was able to avoid that and still thrive despite the massive death and mutation affecting most of the citizens.
Theory three is that Mobius is just like Earth in that there are just areas with less people, and Sonic just happens to prefer places like Death Valley or Wyoming as his running grounds instead of this planet's equivalent of New York City to avoid slamming into parked cars or pedestrians, but that's no fun.
|WAR IS PEACE|
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Also, get used to this strange hairless primate of a kid with one of the blandest, most forgettable designs in television history. He even gets more lines than Tails even though his role could've been easily filled by that less repulsive character. Hey, cartoon? Why even have Tails if most of the time, you don't even use him?
|"Mom, can you get me Sonic X-Treme for Christmas? I can't wait for that game to come out!"|
Come on, people. Robotnik didn't even disguise the arm joints and bolts. It's like he knows this planet's populated by morons.
|"BEEP BOOP. AFFIRMATIVE. I AM COMMENCING RETIREMENT. BOOP. |
GIVE ALL POSSESSIONS TO GLORIOUS LEADER ROBOTNIK."
I don't even need to say who's going to replace Santa Claus. It's that obvious. Sonic never was known for its subtlety or having intense, Inception-level plot twists, after all. I do have to wonder what someone would think if they've never heard of Sonic the Hedgehog and this is how they were introduced to the main villain.
|Dear lord, that body hair...|
Oh, and those R's on Scratch and Grounder's sweaters? They look suspiciously like Robin's insignia from the Batman comics. Who knew those two were secretly nerds?
|"To protect the world from devastation!"|
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
Personally, I just wish we saw more of the urbanites' reaction to the fact that they walked outside and were standing outside in the snow for a glimpse of Kriss Kringle, and instead get over forty feet of loose, exposed jiggling fat and skin covered in bear fuzz projected from a high-definition TV with surround sound. Not only is it disappointing, but also disgusting. Robotnik Claus is dangerously close to violating public indecency laws here.
|I find it both hilarious and sad that Robotnik's too fat to fit in a Santa suit.|
|No amount of therapy will remove Robotnik's hideous grinning visage from that kid's nightmares.|
|"Sir, the mall staff says that you need to stop eating the children. They've been getting too many complaints."|
Wait, this cartoon is seriously saying that Robotnik's punishing a kid by enslaving him and neither the authorities or that kid's parents can do anything to stop him? Damn. That's not a very festive plot point there, Robotnik Claus.
|Child kidnapping sure puts me in the holiday spirit!|
But ignoring that, Sonic finally enters the scene with his delightful Urkel voice. And Sally Acorn of all people is with him, and she's sporting her classic pink-furred look from the SatAM pilot just to make things even more surreal. As you would imagine, this is the scene everyone remembers, because Sally Acorn in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is just such a mind-blowing, reality-destroying concept that most Sonic fans don't remember anything else from this special. Which is funny in retrospective because Sally doesn't get one line of dialogue, nor does she do much. The most memorable moment in this twenty minute cartoon is a cameo. That's sad.
Speaking of cameos, I like how little this special gives a crap about the other Sonic cartoon, even though this was billed as a combination of both cartoons. They managed to round up the entire cast from AoStH and for the most part keep to that show's tone, and yet they only grabbed one SatAM character and she doesn't even get any lines. How is this fair? At least throw Antoine in a random crowd scene or something!
|"Man, Sonic X-Treme is going to be awesome! I bet it'll even sell more copies than Super Mario 64!"|
|"Oh boy! I love shopping at the suppressed, horrible dictatorship that roboticized most of my loved ones!"|
Oh, and that ring is a gift from Sally. For some reason, Sonic isn't at all worried about the fact that Sally gave him a ring for a present, especially one with a special symbol on it that draws the attention of strangers. Considering Sonic, I wouldn't be surprised if he just tuned her out and didn't even hear the words "engagement" or "fiance".
Incidentally, this ring is such an important plot point that the animators can never remember to draw it on Sonic's hand. Which is kind of embarrassing, since it's not exactly a complicated article of clothing they need to keep track.
|Fun fact: Sonic 3D Blast wouldn't be enough to save the Saturn and |
the console became a dismal failure. Happy Holidays!
|Sonic; a real man's man.|
Or, here's a better question. Why couldn't the rest of the series look this good? This special is proving that you could have the lighthearted, slapstick-filled cartoon have decent animation and backgrounds; why wait until a special that takes place three years after the show's end to do this?
|Pictured: Effort in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Apparently it does exist.|
Again, why couldn't we have this in the actual show? It's a great way to end the series I guess, but a little of this in the actual episodes would've been nice.
|"Now, I lent you some money, and I don't see it. Do you know what happens when I don't see my money? |
People get hurt. People like you get hurt. Do I make myself clear?"
"Please don't take my thumbs, Scratch! The money's on the way! Honest!"
And, from the looks of the robots stealing all the presents, Robotnik really goes all the way with his "ruining Christmas" stunt. You have to admire a man who's taking a page out of The Grinch's book. I'm half expecting the cartoon to start narrating the actions in rhyme.
|Robotnik's as cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel.|
Oh, and this annoying little brat broke free from his chains and fled the robot factory off screen, and we never see nor hear any details about his daring escape. You buy that, viewers? Because I certainly don't.
|"And then, after slitting the throats of the two head guards, I climbed into the air vent and made my way to the command center, where I reprogrammed the security cameras and laser grids so that the exits were unguarded..."|
"Awww, that's so cute!"
Unfortunately, they're going to get points deducted for revealing to Sonic in the form of villainous gloating that the Santa on TV was actually a robot (and he's, for some reason, riding the machine of mass destruction with them, probably to make the death trap more festive) and that the real Santa is being held captive somewhere, but I guess they're taking baby steps with this whole "actually a threat" thing.
|Scratch, Grounder, and Santa Claus. Together, they fight crime!|
|"Eat overly elaborate and easy to dodge death, punk!"|
It sounds like I'm making too big of a deal about this, but that's because plenty of cartoons like to use the "it's not violent if it's a robot" rule. Would Sonic be this violent to Robotnik's creations if they had flesh and blood? I'm guessing no, because Sonic thinks robots aren't really people even though these two have proven that their AI's powerful enough to give them sentience. That monster.
|Just because they're robots doesn't mean they don't have hopes and dreams, Sonic!|
|"I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took a hedgehog to the knee."|
...yes, this is really what happened and yes, it's as stupid as it sounds. And Scratch and Grounder were doing so well earlier.
|"Uh, Mr. Garbage Man? Why are you walking around in freezing temperatures without any pants?"|
|Yes. This makes total sense.|
|If I was in the same helicopter as a deranged fat man dressed like Santa, I'd be making that exact same face.|
Uh, no offense, Robotnik, but if you have highly advanced robots that you're using to guard Santa, why don't you send some of them to capture Sonic too? Scratch and Grounder have already failed today and have failed this job a countless amount of times. Do you honestly believe that they're going to succeed if Sonic already knows how to deal with them?
And for some reason, Scratch has weird heel talons in this episode. I don't remember him having those before. Odd Christmas gift from Grounder or is Scratch experimenting with body alterations?
|I call this particular brand of villain logic "Bebop and Rocksteady Syndrome".|
And wait, how far is Robotropolis from the North Pole? Somehow I don't buy the idea that Robotnik would have his base of operations in an extremely cold and snowy climate. If you have the resources to build a city, build it in a place that's more temperate.
|Oh, and Sonic has a sled now. I'm guessing he stole it from someone off-screen.|
|Yes, I clearly remember this from the other Sonic cartoon.|
By the way, dig those survival tactics the robots exhibit. When they're about to plummet in freezing arctic water, their strategy is to stand perfectly still in the exact same pose while gripping the guns they never used tightly to their chests. No wonder Robotnik keeps employing the same chicken and tank combo if this is how his other robots react to the hedgehog.
Of course, Santa's there and I'm pretty sure this small scene where Santa is making with the merry and the ho ho hos while interacting with one of my childhood videogame heroes is probably the meat of the entire episode, the reason why this exists. This is what we came here to see. We wanted to see Sonic shooting the breeze with Kriss Kringle himself, and they certainly delivered.
I'm not a historian of all of the Santas that exist in this medium, but this one is alright in comparison to the others. In an odd change from the normally deux ex machina-y Santas that litter Christmas specials the world over, this one is more vulnerable and never does anything magical in this entire episode. Sure, he doesn't wave his mighty gloved hands and sprinkle fairy dust over the plot to instantly resolve all of the conflicts, but on the other hand, we never get to see him do anything as simple as going down a chimney. You'd think the Santa that lives in a world with robot chickens, mutant blue hedgehogs, and...whatever the hell Robotnik is supposed to be (and don't say human; no human has demonic eyes that glow with the lights of Hell), he'd have more powers. But no, he's just some useless fat man that managed to squeeze himself into an iconic suit.
I kind of wish we actually did get to see Robotnik kidnap Santa Claus, if only because I'm picturing robots armed with guns versus tiny toyshop elves and the resulting carnage. It would also help explain why Mrs. Claus and Rudolph are totally absent from this special and why Santa Claus is unreasonably depressed.
|"This seems to happen every year. If it's not Robotnik kidnapping me, it's some kids from Halloween Town, |
or King Koopa, or Shredder..."
I also have some serious problems about this scene because it's basically saying that presents are what Christmas is all about without anybody correcting the main characters. What about the ending of How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Whos were able to celebrate without gifts? Is this seriously the message you're feeding your young, impressionable viewers here? That Christmas is ruined if someone takes your gifts? That's not filled with the holiday spirit; that's just greedy!
The most depressing thing is that this special is not the first to do the whole "Christmas is all about the presents" moral completely straight, and it's certainly not the last. I guess I expected more from a cartoon that has Steve Urkel shouting "Gotta speed, keed!" ad nausem.
|"Man, if only I had some sort of flying sleigh and the ability to travel across the entire world |
and to every household in a single night. That would certainly solve our problems!"
Man, I wish there was some sort of plot point presented at the beginning of the cartoon that was just swept under the rug and quickly forgotten on account none of the animators would remember to draw it on Sonic's hand. Maybe that will cure the heroes of their inexplicable funk that they're in.
|And there it is!|
What does this have to do with Christmas, by the way? Is the Secret of Ultimate Velocity a really subtle metaphor on how fast positive feelings, being friendly to people in your life, and being tolerant of your neighbors around the holidays will transform you into a nicer person, or did the people working on this write themselves into a corner and figured they could solve any plot holes by saying "Wait, what if Sonic could run even faster than before?" in hopes we'd find this cool instead of stupid? Guess which one I think it is.
And where the hell did Sally even get that ring anyways?
|Hand + Ring = Plot Resolution!|
On the bright side, these challenges remind me a lot of my favorite Sonic level of all time, Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3. I don't care if the impossible challenges are just "climb this mountain" or "snowboard down this cliffs" in this episode, exhibiting just how creative the writers can be at DiC Entertainment, because all I can hear is this in my head. If this episode had only done a remix of that song somewhere in this episode, it'd instantly gain the "Best Sonic episode ever" award I just made up despite its faults.
|Man, Sonic sure is X-Treme!|
|This is what happens if you don't go to college, kids.|
And now I'm kind of depressed that, since Sonic Christmas Blast is technically the last AoStH cartoon, we're never going to get anymore episodes with this level of quality.
|This is from the same cartoon.|
|"Way to fold under pressure like a cheap suit, Claus. I bet the Easter Bunny wouldn't have given up this quickly!"|
...don't ask why Sonic stripped Robotnik down to his underwear. I don't know why he did it and, to be frank, I don't want to know.
|To be fair, The Flash does this to the other members of the Justice League all the time.|
I will admit, the moment the world popped up, I simply had to freezeframe in order to see the continental structure of Mobius. I'm kind of disappointed that Mobius doesn't have one giant supercontinent, choosing instead to look like Earth as envisioned by a five year old. Oh well. Can't win them all.
|If he does this backwards, he can travel back in time and prevent Lois Lane's death from ever happening!|
Come to think of it, why does he even have a major role in this special? The kid doesn't do anything besides punch a fake Santa in a gut and later get sent to a factory with lax child labor laws for it. That's not very remarkable. I think the only thing I really like about this kid is the fact that his eyebrows are not anchored to his body, choosing to instead float around in his hat area like mystical rabbit droppings. I wish I could do that.
|Dear Sonic, don't you ever subject me to a child protagonist this nightmare inducing ever again. Signed, me.|
I know Sonic and Tails are always roughing it in the wilderness in this show, choosing to live the lives of either fugitives or nomads in their noble quest to take down an obese man with an obsession for chimneys, but you'd think Sally of all people would have a place to stay. Seeing her like this is pretty depressing.
|"It'll have equal representation of both cartoons, they said. You'll have plenty of lines |
and screentime, they said. Wait until my agent hears about this..."
|"Don't ask me where I got the money to buy these gifts. Let's just say that Robotnik's wallet helped."|
|So basically, Santa did nothing this entire episode. Thanks, asshole.|
The worst part of all of this is that Sonic accepts. Sure, there's a brief moment where he looks like his perception of the world's laws has shattered all around him, but then, after ten seconds of soul-searching, he likes the idea of there being a Sonic Claus and happily takes Santa's place.
Uh, Sonic? You do realize what you're getting yourself into, right? I'm not sure how one would balance robot-fighting with being Santa, and I'm sure Sally sure isn't going to like the idea of becoming the next Mrs. Claus and having to spend most of her time surrounded in elves with pointy shoes.
And then, possibly to soften the blow that is Sonic becoming the next Saint Nick and possibly gaining the immortality and the powers and the reindeer (which are mysteriously absent for once in a Christmas cartoon), a blue hedgehog with a freakish cyclopian eye with two pupils and a useless fox with two tails growing out of his spine wish me a Merry Christmas "for the rest of your life" while waving to the camera.
Also, don't hedgehogs (at least the ones in the colder climates) hibernate during the winter months? Sounds like Santa reeeeeally didn't think this through.
So, Merry Christmas then. Sonic's gonna be Santa for the rest of his life. That's what we're ending this on.
The Moral of this Cartoon
Robots hate Christmas, and the ring that your loved one gives you as a present could end up being an ancient artifact capable of giving you godlike abilities.
Three words can sum this special up, and they're words I use to describe this series as a whole. Stupid but fun.
As you can tell, this special makes no sense, but there's a real sense that they at least had fun making it. The animation is easily this show's best, the slapstick is great, the villains are great, and even the heroes are great. It's just one of those specials where you're not there to learn a moral; you're there to kill twenty minutes and have a good time. This is purely sugar for your eyes as far as animation goes. It won't teach you anything, but it's well-aware of that.
I think that's probably why I'm not too bugged by the focus being on getting the gifts back and how it's a cartoon promoting commercialism and how Christmas is all about the presents. I guess if this were any other show, I probably would've griped about this more, but it's Sonic. It's stupid, but not offensively stupid.
I think my only problem, besides the goblin-looking kid that cropped up, is that Santa Claus is the exact opposite of the Santa from Frosty the Snowman. Besides giving some exposition on the ring, he really doesn't do anything, choosing to waste most of his holly jolly screentime bemoaning the fact that Christmas is ruined. This is Santa at his most depressing and really, it's just frustrating to see him not help beyond pulling the whole "your ring is really magic!" plotpoint out of his rotund ass.
But other than that, it's a cute little special. It's hard to really hate this thing for being so stupid and so obvious in its attempts to promote the Sonic videogames because it's essentially harmless. This isn't one of the Christmas specials I watch every year, but it's still enjoyable.
Have yourselves a Merry Crushmas and a smashing New Year!