From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.181
Hello ya’ll, long time no see, welcome back to our all ages column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week we take a look at the latest TV show of that video game hero, Sonic the Hedgehog, who just made his way back to video games, TV, and comics, with the cross-media franchise Sonic Boom!
Airs: Cartoon Network
Production: Sonic Team/Sega/OuiDo! Productions
What ever happened to true bad guys in cartoon shows?
It’s true we still get true villains in things such as anime, but in the light of money makers, like Adventure Time, villains feel less and less like villains in American produced animated productions, and more like a step back towards Hanna-Barbera cartoons, like Wacky Races. I bring this up from the get go because this is the biggest problem the new TV program Sonic Boom suffers from.
Here we have Dr. Eggman, once known as Dr. Robotnik in America, a character who since Sonic’s debut has 95% of the time been seen as a true villain. However, in Sonic Boom the mix of comedy and action gives way to the episodes being really 95% comedic, with the side effect of causing the Eggman to lose any of his villainous charm. Here we now have a world where there is a lack of urgency and gravity. Sonic, Tails, and the gang don’t seem scared of him. There’s really nothing even driving them to fight him most the time. They pretty much treat the mad scientist as nothing more than an annoying roommate, their battles feeling as important as someone swatting a fly that’s bothering them on a summer day.
There are so many things we can blame this on. The first being the other game hit, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, carries a similar tone and treatment of its villains. That said, the Pac-Man games never had the Inky, Blinky, and the others, in the same villain’s final boss end game as Dr. Eggman, therefore translating them to the cartoon feels like we can go in any direction, and one can’t really say it was the wrong call to present them this way. Also Pac-Man’s only other previous time animated was a pretty gentle Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the 1980s, fondly remembered but vastly improved upon by Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. Sonic is not the same case as Pac-Man; in fact the previous Sonic 1990s cartoon was written with as many serious moments mixed in as X-Men, Batman, or any of the other animated programs at the time. Comparing Sonic Boom to the 90s Sonic cartoon is like comparing tea and coffee, and one can only say in terms of writing the franchise has taken a major step back.
The second thing we can blame this on is Adventure Time‘s Ice King and America’s love for him. The comical wizard has become loved by millions, and his relationship to Finn and Jake is a love hate one that shows through on screen and has become a highly entertaining element to absorb on a weekly basis. Watching Sonic Boom you can almost sense the staff wanted to model Dr. Eggman on the Ice King and develop a similar relationship, but two things work against their favor. The first is all of us who play the games, read the comic, and know of the 90s cartoon are suddenly getting a completely different kind of Eggman from what we were built upon to know for 20 plus years. The Ice King didn’t have 20 plus years of fandom to deal with; he was what he was from the time we got him. The second thing is for the writers, the stories they are telling on Sonic Boom are not of the same quality and caliber of imagination that Adventure Time embodies and dishes out (at least not of anything that’s aired as of the time of this article being published). The episodes feel like miniature 11-minute sitcoms, which include about a minute and a half of Sonic fighting some sort of robot to appeal to boys who buy toys.
So if Sonic Boom is trying to be the next Adventure Time or the next Pac-Man and The Ghostly Adventures, it has failed on all accounts, not just in terms of its villain, but in terms of any imagination in which its predictability makes it easy to yawn at. Sonic Boom has more in common with an NBC show that is cancelled after three episodes than with anything else on air.
If there is one saving grace, one thing that will get you through watching it, it’s the outstanding animation by OuiDo! Productions. In those terms, it far surpasses Pac-Man and other CGI animated shows currently on the air waves. The very short action scenes are amazingly animated and everything looks fairly sexy in HD.
So the question is: do you want to watch something for entertainment or as an animation study?
For what is supposed to be the next wave of the long running franchise, Sonic Boom is not doing so hot. Aside from what we can’t deny is a poorly written cartoon, there seems to be a ton of bad feed back on the video game entries, and the new comic book tie-in from Archie is getting only middle of the ground reviews (but praised as probably the only good thing to come out of this, partly due to the fact it is not written like the TV show).
I always like to never 100% discouraged one from watching/reading anything I hate on, I myself love plenty of things others deem bad, so I will say if you have on-demand on your cable, which most folks do these days, watch an episode and decide for yourself. I wouldn’t get up at 7 AM to watch, I’d sleep in. If it comes out on DVD, I certainly wouldn’t encourage you to spend your money on it. Simply if you don’t have to go out of your way or spend extra cash and happen to come across it, give it a look. Animation fans will at least appreciate the quality of the animation, but really at the core this is a show destined to be forgotten and to end up on whatever the equivalent of a Buzz Feed list is 20 years from now.