Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Sonic Christmas Blast (1996)

Over here at Film Thoughts, my on-going devotion to Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t come up much. Back in the nineties, there was a brief period when the Sega Genesis and its blue dude with ‘tude actually outpaced Nintendo and Mario in popularity. That period in time was short-lived. Though Sonic’s made some in-roads here of late, thanks to a sort-of well liked cartoon and shake-ups with the comic book, fans of the blue hedgehog are still looked down upon in most corners of the interwebs. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Back in 1996, Sonic was still somewhat popular. Looking to cash in on that popularity, and playing off both of the cartoons that where still relatively fresh in the kids’ minds, a Christmas special was created. Yes, “Sonic Christmas Blast” exists and it’s bad. So why do I own it?

The folks on Sonic’s home world are shaken, especially the kids, when Santa Claus announces to the masses that he’s retiring. As his replacement, he’s nominated Dr. Robotnik. The obese mad scientist wildly abuses his new power as Robotnik Claus. He forces children to give him gifts and punish those who do not. Naturally, this is all a scheme by the villain. The real Santa is imprisoned. When Sonic the Hedgehog gets a whiff of his arch-enemy’s latest ploy, he races into action to set things right. Oh, also there’s a magic ring and not the usual kind of magic rings either.

There were two Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons in the nineties, both of which aired simultaneously. The Saturday morning cartoon, simply known as “Sonic the Hedgehog” but referred to by fans as “SatAM,” remains well regarded for its serious writing, grim setting, and ensemble cast. The daily “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog,” meanwhile, was goofy as shit. “Sonic Christmas Blast” is, naturally, set in the latter’s world. (Sort of. More on that in a minute.) Therefore, the Christmas special is chockablock of low brow, utterly inane slapstick humor. While dressed as Santa Claus, Robotnik’s gut shows. His henchmen, Scratch and Grounder, attempt to crush Sonic. All they do is reveal their boss’ plot because they’re idiots. Afterwards, Sonic dresses up as another character to dispose of them. This is just the tip of the moronic iceberg that is “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.” Befitting that series’ style, the animation is incredibly loose, lacking in detail and structure.

Weirdly, despite featuring lots of misbegotten humor, “Sonic Christmas Blast” actually isn’t as focused on dumb jokes as you’d expect. The Christmas special, even with only a thirty minute run time, attempts to squeeze in a real plot. Sonic rescues Santa Claus from Robotnik’s Arctic prison. For reasons I can’t remember now, Santa has Sonic perform a series of tests in order to determine his worthiness. All of this is blatantly setting up the special’s last act. Santa is safe but there’s still not enough time to save Christmas. “Gee,” the special makes its viewer wonder, “I wish there was a character with super speed near-by!” Yes, using a plot device handed to him by his love interest earlier in the special, Sonic zips around the world, delivering presents and humiliating Robontik. Christmas is saved, you guys. Hoo-ray for Sonic Claus.

About the only reason “Sonic Christmas Blast” is of interest to obsessive-compulsive Sonic nerds like me is because it weirdly blends elements from the different cartoons. Like I said, the special is seemingly set in the world of “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog,” due to its setting, character designs, and generally ridiculous tone. Yet there’s weird remnants from the Saturday morning series. Sonic and Tails refer to a battalion of Robotnik’s robots as “SWATBots,” a concept exclusive to that series. Most importantly, Princess Sally appears in the special. Hilariously, she has no spoken dialogue. When she has an opportunity to talk, Sonic instead buries her in a pile of gifts. She does not factor into the finale. What, Kath Soucie wasn’t available? I’m sure this is reading like Chinese to most of you. To people familiar with Sonic the Hedgehog and its bizarre tangle of continuities, you’ll appreciate how weird and dumb this all is.

Why Do I Own This?: Okay, so “Sonic Christmas Blast” isn’t good. Obviously. I didn’t even have to watch it to tell you that. An animated special whose premise boils down to “Sonic saves Christmas!” was never going to be good. Despite that, there’s a very simple reason why I own this. It’s Sonic, you guys. Truthfully, a Sonic Christmas special is such a bizarre, dumb concept that there was no way I wouldn’t own it. Occasionally, I inflict it on friends at parties which, you know, has made me very popular. Oddities like this, regardless of quality, are one of the reasons I adore this character and his stupid universe. [4/10]

(Oh yeah, I’m going to start updating Hedgehogs Can’t Swim again soon, starting in January. I regret nothing. Merry Christmas.)

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