Friday, December 23, 2011

Sonic Christmas Blast

Yes, I realize I've taken two "breaks" within the last couple of months. In my defense, Christmas means family and finals, and family and finals means "go from staying up all night working on group projects to having to clean up the house and getting ready for a party that includes at least twenty other people". Which means less updates. I feel kind of bad for leaving this site to its own devices, so to speak, and not giving any new content, so to make up for it, I'm doing one more Christmas special.

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...

Sonic Christmas Blast

December 24, 1996

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?
Speaking of me being a stickler, the fact that the first thing this episode opens is on a very advanced city filled with actual crowds is extremely different from what I'm used to. Whatever happened to those desolate landscapes devoid of intelligent life? Why are there massive civilizations all of a sudden? Why does the city actually look like it can hold a sustainable population, as opposed to the haphazard crumbling ruins they usually depict whenever Sonic enters a town?

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.

The camera focuses on an annoying kid that, judging from the opening, will be in this special a ton, blabbing to his unseen parental figure that Santa's gonna be on the massive Big Brother-esque TV all the citizens are gathering around. Yes, my friends. Like quite a few cartoons of this era, in this universe, Santa's existence is not only believed to be true but is a widely accepted fact, and he even makes public appearances. This means that we're not getting the "main character struggles with his belief in Santa Claus in a big faith-based metaphor" plot today. Instead, I know something's gotta happen to Santa in order to ruin Christmas. Being Santa kind of sucks when every cartoon villain ever wants to destroy you in order to gain street cred.

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!"
On the TV, Father Christmas shakily climbs out of his smelly prop reindeer sleigh with a candy cane (get it?) and immediately announces his retirement. People are understandably upset, because what's a Christian holiday ruined by commercialism without its patron saint of spending tons of money? In fact, they're so upset that they don't seem to notice that Santa's movements are a little...what's the best way to put this? Robotic.

Come on, people. Robotnik didn't even disguise the arm joints and bolts. It's like he knows this planet's populated by morons.
But don't worry, everyone. The most wonderful person in the whole world (and yes, Santa-bot actually says this) will take Santa's place and make sure that this is the best Christmas ever!

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...
Behold, Robotnik Claus in all of his nightmare-inducing glory! Like all cartoon villains, our loveable bowl of hateful jelly decides that he's going to try his hand at "ruining Christmas" too, and he's going to pull out every cliche in the book. He's going to dress up like Santa, he's going to steal presents, and you better believe that his selfishness is going to cause the death of Tiny Tim. But, to be fair, this cartoon kind of knows its doing the obvious replacement Santa stock Christmas plot and just runs with it, letting us know that it's having a blast with the material it was gifted. For starters, Grotesque Hairy Claus does his "I'm so not an evil Santa" act with lot more flair and enjoyment than your average "I'm going to be an asshole to people because I'm mean!" villain that you get in these cartoons. He just looks so awesome as the perverted image of Christmas. It's probably the fact that, while he's doing it, he has a robot chicken and a robot tank as cheerleaders. Name one other villain that has that.

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!"
Robotnik goes on, mentioning that there will be a few small changes to the holiday now that he's in Kringle's festive shoes. If you've watched any cartoons at all during the holiday season in the past twenty years, you could probably imagine exactly what Robotnik says without me actually saying it. To sum it up, he's going to ruin Christmas while acting like he's saving Christmas, because he's a big fat jerk that eats puppies and craps evil. It's not the most creative of acts.

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.
Luckily, this ends rather quickly, and I get the one scene I wanted the most (and just in time for Christmas too!) from Dr. Robotnik dressed in a very tight, revealing Santa outfit. In other words, we get to see the Eggman himself scarily try to be a mall Santa for small children and asking the snot-nosed brats what they're going to give to him for Christmas. No other words are needed to describe this beautiful piece of magic grazing my screen. It basically sums up the entire reason why people still watch this cartoon.

No amount of therapy will remove Robotnik's hideous grinning visage from that kid's nightmares.
Of course, Bland Child Protagonist (he never gets a name in this special) refuses the mighty Robotnik Claus and his reversal of the normal roles of the giver and the receiver (so basically this kid is hates Robotnik because he asked the kid for a present?), but I just have to take the time and compliment the animators here. They really go out of their way to make His Royal Fatness look as grotesque and as frightening as humanly possible and, for the most part, they've succeeded. Just look at how deformed he looks here with this forced perspective. Robotnik Claus sees you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake. And if you're not good for goodness sake, Santzilla will pounce upon your damned squishy body and eat you. Ho ho ho!

"Sir, the mall staff says that you need to stop eating the children. They've been getting too many complaints."
What's the kid's punishment for speaking up against Robotnik Claus and causing a scene? Why, he's going to get kidnapped by a robot (who comments on how feisty he is, by the way, making this scene so much worse) and later chained up in the nearest robot factory, of course! That way, he can think about what he's done while he slaves away for the rest of his soon-to-be short and malnourished life as he loses fingers, limbs, and later his life to the unforgiving heavy machinery that occupies the many robot mills that litter the areas underneath Robotnik's jurisdiction.

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!
Since that's a pretty depressing plot point for a Christmas cartoon, the animators hastily add in a cross-dissolve, one that will appear in every single scene transition on account an underpaid editor was bored one night at DiC Entertainment. It's hard to describe it since I can't really screencap it, but imagine your basic PowerPoint "fancy" special effects, the stuff that instantly make your presentations look childish. That's basically what they used and it's annoying as hell. And don't ask why I spent a paragraph griping about this since this is my blog.

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 right, the plot. Sonic says that he's going to get Sally some presents while she just stands there with her mouth hanging open, and he quickly runs off to play with his mutated friend Tails. We then get to see how awkwardly they shoehorn the SatAM elements into this special when we hear Sonic say to his mutant fox friend that they're going to Robotropolis (weirdly pronounced Robot-tropolis here) in order to buy Sally some Christmas presents. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of SatAM can instantly pinpoint the error here. Namely, the fact that Sonic is heading towards a dystopian deathtrap of a city filled with roboticized citizens, nuclear waste, horrible pollution, and airtight security, in order to knock some items off his shopping list. Sonic, there's a fine line between being a badass and just being a moron and you just crossed it.

"Oh boy! I love shopping at the suppressed, horrible dictatorship that roboticized most of my loved ones!"
Speaking of shoehorning some stuff in, we get a scene where a bird examines Sonic's ring and points out some mystical symbol on it that will definitely come up later in the plot. This bird (or should I say Flicky) exists because, at the last moment, this Christmas special had to tie-in with Sonic 3D Blast instead of that ill-fated piece of vaporware so they had to throw something in. I love it when cold facts such as these just make this cartoon look like such a commercial byproduct.

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!
Freaky Deformed Fox Sidekick argues with his corporate mascot of a friend that going to Robotropolis is a pretty idiotic idea considering it's, you know, Robotnik's fortress filled with robotic slaves and all that. Sonic counters this by saying that Sally is even more dangerous than Robotnik when she doesn't get her presents and the argument is over. Hah hah, women, am I right?

Sonic; a real man's man.
So Mario's greatest enemy speeds off to his doom and...okay DiC Entertainment. Where did you get the budget all of a sudden? This city and these backgrounds actually look pretty damn impressive for a company that typically depicts buildings as a series of shapeless boxes set against a stark pastel void. Even the sky has more thought put into it than normal! Am I really looking at the same cartoon that typically depicts towns in a way that makes me envision pestilences or harsh famines? Where's the wastelands of Mobius that I'm used to?

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.
Meanwhile, in Robotropolis, we see Scratch and Grounder bugging random citizens with their humbuggery and horrible Christmas spirit. Since they're not on hedgehog duty, their job is basically going from door to door and demanding that random strangers give them things. This starts out cute, on account they're doing this while wearing little Santa hats, until we hear a man frantically beg for the robots to have mercy on him because he lost his job, his wife is sick, they sold all the furniture to pay their bills, and that the house is all they have left. Then this scene quickly takes a turn for the terrifying when we see these two robots essentially repossess a destitute man's house, leaving him and his wife to die out in the streets. Man, Robotnik must've done some serious reprogramming to his toady robots in time for the holidays because holy crap.

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!"
Meanwhile, Sonic catches wind of this, not from the yellow man and his wife dying of hypothermia (I find it rather chilling that we never see or hear of this couple ever again in this special), but by finding out that the stores are empty because robots are raiding them and stealing everything that isn't nailed down. I like how the hedgehog found out about Robotnik's misgivings from the most selfish way possible. Sure, some poor jaundiced family just got their only possessions taken from them, but oh no! Sonic might not buy a Christmas present for his princess girlfriend!

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.
But then, that kid from earlier (you know, the one that was enslaved in the mall at the beginning of the special) catches Sonic's attention and informs him of the plot so far. I love this scene, if only because this kid says "and Robotnik Claus sent me to a robot factory" and that the robots are now after him in a voice that makes it sound like only a minor inconvenience. Geez, kid. It's not like you dropped your ice cream cone or stubbed your toe. You were forced to provide child labor for a hideous, unforgiving dictator! You could stand to be a little bit sadder about that experience!

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!"
Since this kid is apparently on the lam, Bebop and Rocksteady show up in a giant, ridiculous death machine (the best kind of death machine) and, for the first time in this show's history, they're extremely menacing. Christmas has come early for this blogger, because this is the best thing this cartoon could possibly do. Scratch and Grounder are already the main reason people watch this show; the idea that they'd actually be adequate villains with real firepower instead of just minor inconveniences to Sonic is something that's almost too awesome to be real. It truly is a Christmas miracle. Now all they need to do is add them in the Sonic games. Shut up, I can dream!

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!
I'm gonna also deduct points for their "death trap", because, now that I stop and really examine it, is probably the stupidest machine in this entire show. Their plan to kill the blue menace is to drive a very slow-moving tank into view and, through the use of a slow-moving magnet operated by a slow-moving lever, drop a heavy present with spikes on top of them, all while cracking puns ("Merry Crushmas!" and "Smashing New Year!" are both used) in their direction. From the size of the present (I'm positive a regular person can dodge that) and how Sonic is the fastest thing alive, you can already tell that they're going to fail without even seeing the results. Come on, Scratch and Grounder. If your hero can run fast, maybe you need to make weapons that take that power into account and make something that's actually fast. If you can waste materials constructing an overly elaborate magnet and weight system to kill your foe, then you can build a more conventional weapon. I'm sure you can make decent-enough Christmas puns for a flamethrower or some missile launchers.

"Eat overly elaborate and easy to dodge death, punk!"
As expected, Sonic makes pretty quick work of all three of them, even though the Santa Robot really didn't do anything wrong besides be an accomplice for fraud. It's pretty gruesome work at that. With the extra money flowing into this cartoon's production values like an emergency blood transfusion for a dying patient, that gives the artists extra freedom to draw more detailed and downright cruel robot carnage throughout this entire episode. At one point, you even see the severed cables in their body parts, because when I think Christmas, I think someone's veins getting cut in a horrible act of assault and battery.

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 do like how quickly Tweedledee and Tweedledum literally pull themselves together after each trashing scene, though. They're just that used to having their body parts fly off from hedgehog-related accidents so they just shrug off the pain (and yes, they can somehow feel pain despite being robots) and attach their limbs back on their bodies so they can continue fighting the enemy that they've known since their creation. They're still idiots pursuing an impossible task but you gotta love their persistence. 

"I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took a hedgehog to the knee."
Okay, so Felix the Cat's cousin beat his two incompetent adversaries and knows that Robotnik is holding the real Santa Claus captive. Now all he needs to do is learn where Santa Claus is being held. Luckily, there's a really simple way to get that kind of information from Scratch and Grounder. All Sonic has to do is simply dress up as a garbage man and flat-out ask the two robots where Santa is.

...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?"
Back to Robotnik Claus, a premise that I'm still surprised actually exists. We find that, while Scratch and Grounder were committing heinous acts of repossession in his name, he suffered through a massive stroke and told his robots to randomly build a fortress with thousands of chimneys attached to it. Because he's Santa. I like how you can pinpoint the very moment that the cocaine in the DiC Entertainment water supply started to kick in for the writers.
Yes. This makes total sense.
Why does he want more chimneys anyway, a robot that looks suspiciously like one of the robots from Mean Bean Machine questions his fat lord and master. Because on Christmas night, everyone else in the entire world is supposed to use them in order to give Robotnik tons of presents, in a very bizarre reversal of the trademark Santa Claus myth. Okay. Can't argue with logic that insane.

If I was in the same helicopter as a deranged fat man dressed like Santa, I'd be making that exact same face.
Unfortunately for Robotnik's good mood, Scratch and Grounder show up and tell their bloated asshole of a creator that they've crapped up. We then get the trademark "Robotnik points a finger and verbally abuses his children" scene, a scene that crops up in possibly every single episode of this show's existence, but then he quickly gets over his anger and we learn that he's going to alert the Swat Bots (more SatAM references!) in order to protect Santa while Scratch and Grounder fetch him Sonic for a Christmas present.

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".
So we find Sonic and Tails journeying to the North Pole, and Tails, possibly in an attempt to make us be grateful for the fact that he doesn't get many lines of dialogue, whines like a little baby about how he wish he brought some clothes on account he's in freezing temperatures while completely naked. Even as a little kid, I disliked how half of Tails characterization was "complain about the surroundings" while Sonic's just expected to take it. Although at least he actually gets more screentime than the SatAM Tails. Man, this character got gypped in these cartoons.

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.
But then, Swat Bots attack them! Fans of SatAM might want to look away for the next couple of minutes, because unlike Sally, these robots don't even try to resemble the other cartoon and choose to instead look like Mega Man rejects bundled up in snow gear even though they have no body heat to preserve. You'd think the people behind this cartoon could spare the time to pull up some documents of the other show that included the Swat Bot character designs, what with this Christmas special being billed as a crossover, but I guess that would've cut into their recreational cocaine-snorting time.

Yes, I clearly remember this from the other Sonic cartoon.
And, as always, Sonic just kind of destroys the robots without even breaking a sweat, defeating the purpose of even bringing up the Swat Bots in the first place. Why even call them Swat Bots if they're no different from any of Robotnik's other creations? I think the only reason SatAM fans weren't more insulted by this special and the utter lack of respect for their cartoon is because I seriously doubt any of them watched this. I've seen the old Sonic websites, after all. Most SatAM fans like to pretend this show doesn't even exist to make themselves feel better about the whole "their show only had two seasons and then was unceremoniously cancelled on a cliffhanger while this show had three full seasons" thing.

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..."
So they head to the jolly red man's workshop (never saying how they get there), but it's too late. According to the only elf that appears in this entire special (on account of the previous mentioned robot on toyshop elf massacre that occurred off-screen, killing all of his coworkers), Robotnik stole everything. And, with a sad sigh, Santa sits on his jolly red rear end and says that Robotnik Claus has destroyed Christmas without even trying to use any of his own powers. Way to be totally useless, Santa. 

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!"
In fact, according to the Santa that doesn't even try to use his godlike abilities to help "fix Christmas", this job is so big that not even Sonic's speed will do the job, which causes Sonic to become equally depressed and useless. This scene where everyone is declaring this situation as hopeless and doomed from the start without even trying is just incredibly hard for me to buy, because this cartoon has proven time and time again that Robotnik is largely not a threat, save for some exceptions. Why is this the one time that he's actually won? Why is Santa just rolling over and giving up when some asshole has intruded on his holiday? Fight back, Saint Nickolas!

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!
And sure enough, some ancient cave drawings in the cave that Santa was being held captive explain exactly what that ring, some random present that Sally got Sonic one Christmas, does. Faster than you can say either "Ass Pull" or "Green Lantern Rip-Off", Santa explains that whoever owns the ring can unlock The Secret of Ultimate Velocity, aka The Power of Running Really Really Really Fast. All Sonic has to do to receive this kind of redundant power is to complete several impossible tasks that I'm sure were impossible to just normal people with regular powers, but will take a hideous mutant with supersonic speed no time at all. Especially considering how the special's over halfway over.

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!
Yes, this is seriously our next plot point. Sonic unlocking the powers of the magic ring Princess Sally got him for Christmas in order from him to be fast enough to steal the presents from Robotnik. This Christmas special is degrading in quality faster than a fruit cake.

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!
Oh, and Scratch and Grounder try to capture him while he's performing these impossible tasks to activate his ring. I apologize if this sounds like an afterthought, but that's exactly how the cartoon treated it too. How did these two go from terrorizing some bankrupt man and his sick wife to standing around in the snow, hoping that some hedgehog will step in their useless-looking bear trap? They went from being awesome to back to the way they were within the same special. Fastest villain decay ever.

This is what happens if you don't go to college, kids.
Sonic does more challenges (and they're basically extreme sports, leading me to wonder if the ring is really a sponsor of the Olympics), Scratch and Grounder are punished for being robots, and we get the typical slapstick and physical violence this cartoon is known for, all while set against backgrounds that are, for the first time, actually pretty awesome. For fun, I put a background of Sonic Christmas Blast right next to a background from one of the previous episodes I covered. Have fun spotting the one with actual effort put into it!

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.
But, despite the fact that Sonic met all the challenges and was therefore granted the powers of a god, Father Christmas still feels that it's too late to save his own damn holiday. Sheesh, thanks for the confidence boost, Santa. What did Robotnik do to you back in that prison that was so soul-crushing that it sapped away all of your backbone, leaving you a sad husk of your former holly jolly self?

"Way to fold under pressure like a cheap suit, Claus. I bet the Easter Bunny wouldn't have given up this quickly!"
So Sonic, tired of listening to Santa's whining, decides to uses the power of The Secret of Ultimate Deux Ex Machina and shows us just how fast he can resolve the entire plot by running right into Robotnik's lair, stealing every single present that he stole in about half a second, and even having enough time to spare that he can steal his clothes. Because if there's one thing that can fill me with that warming holiday spirit, it's the sight of one of the most famous videogame villains standing around in the cartoon heart print boxers.

...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.
Our spiky blue hero, somehow managing to carry all of the world's presents in his own two hands without the need of a magical sleigh or any stinking reindeer, he then travels around the goddamn world, giving the presents to all the good boys and girls somehow. Even though, without Santa's list, Sonic has no idea which household gets which gift. Whoops. Way to not fill in that plot hole, writers!

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!
We even get to see that ugly kid from earlier for one last time as he get his presents back. They don't explain how he was able to escape Robotnik's robots (he says that they were after him for escaping the robot factory), nor do we ever get to see his family or if he even has a family. We're just expected to care that he finally has his presents again and be warmed with holiday cheer as he grins like some sort of hideous chimp/human hybrid.

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.
Finally, we check in on Sally who, despite being a Princess, is stranded out in the frozen wilderness next to a dinky campfire, about ready to die of hypothermia. Fun!

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..."
Luckily, Sonic is there to put her out of her lonely, miserable existence by smothering her in presents because he loves her. During this holiday-themed act of euthanasia, Sally actually utters a muffled grunt of complaint. This is the only time in this entire special that she actually vocalizes something, and it's not even a word. Poor Sally really got the shaft in this cartoon.

"Don't ask me where I got the money to buy these gifts. Let's just say that Robotnik's wallet helped."
Instead of actually spending Christmas with the person he loves, Sonic just leaves Sally buried in a mound of presents and runs right back to the North Pole to bask in the pathetic congratulations uttered by a washed up holiday icon. Santa is overjoyed that someone else actually did all of his work for him while he sat on his ass and complained for twenty minutes. In fact, he's so impressed that he actually is going to retire and give his job to Sonic.


Wait, what?
So basically, Santa did nothing this entire episode. Thanks, asshole.
Yes, my friends. While getting captured, complaining about how Christmas is ruined, being sad that Christmas is ruined, and just standing around and twiddling his thumbs while someone else was doing his job, Santa got to thinking. He's come to the conclusion that he just absolutely freaking sucks at being Santa and figures that instead of actually using his holiday magic to do his own job, he's going to retire and continue being a lazyass for the rest of his life while dooming some other poor soul to the grueling task that is being Santa. And here I was, thinking that the only way you could take Santa's place is if you killed the guy, wore his suit, and happened to be Tim Allen.

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.

Final Verdict

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!