Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Time : 11:32 AM
Well, Happy 20th Anniversary to the Sonic Saturday morning cartoon show. That's right, it's been 20 years ago today that this overly popular portion of the Sonic franchise debuted. It debuted around the 7:30 AM/8 AM time slot and since then has garnered a fan base like no other. The first season originally ran from September 18 to December 11, 1993.
When I look back as a fan at the impact that this show has had on the franchise and on the fan base which I am proud to say I'm a part of. It's no wonder why fans look back on it with such fondness and why new fans who get introduced to it, often wonder why they never heard of it or wish they were around when it originally aired on ABC. Because when you compare it with its "Adventures" counterpart which debuted about two weeks earlier in syndication, the comparison/difference is night and day.
With the syndicated version of Sonic, you had a show that was more closely related to the games then anything at that time and was more dependent on the Tex Avery style of slapstick then it was on an actual story, you could also see that the syndicated version was targeted towards a younger audience.
Now SatAM was the complete opposite of the syndicated one. And the reason it was the complete opposite, was because it was targeted towards an older audience and had a darker tone, focused more on the action/adventure, as well as had a more dramatic tone to it then the syndicated version. True, the Saturday morning show did have some slapstick moments to it, but unlike the syndicated counterpart, those slapstick moments were toned down and only used it when necessary.
Now as far as my own personal experience as a fan of the show goes, I remember 20 years ago, me and my family were living in Kansas, and were less than a month away from moving back to California. Now me and my sisters had two different rooms, and of course I had a television in my room, so did they. And I remember the night before, when networks like ABC would still air these preview specials, I remember watching the Saturday morning preview special, which was hosted in character by the cast of Family Matters. Now you might wonder, why did they have the cast of Family Matters host this preview special in character, very simply because their breakout star Jaleel White was chosen to be the voice of Sonic in both the syndicated and the Saturday morning shows.
The episode that was previewed during this special and then fully aired the following Saturday morning, was "Super Sonic". And I have to give the writers of that episode a lot of credit, because it made you believe that season one was going to be spent having Sonic trying to rescue both Sally and Bunnie from Robotnik;s mind control. That's how good the writing was for this episode and gave you the idea and showed you that the writing for the entire series with a few exceptions would only get better in time.
What's funny however, is "Super Sonic"was not the pilot episode, no, the pilot episode which usually is aired first and would give you an idea on who the characters were and what the show was going to be about, the pilot episode actually was the last episode of season one to be aired, and I remember watching it on December 11, 1993, when me and my family were living with my grandparents at that time.
Now you may ask yourself, what was the season one finale, which episode? Well, according to the DVD set, "Sonic Past Cool" is the last episode, which is understanding, seeing how it is the only episode in the first season to have all the characters on an adventure. However though, I look at "Sonic And The Secret Scrolls" as being the season one finale, mostly because of how it ends with Robotnik vowing revenge on Sonic and The Freedom Fighters, which traditionally with shows like this leads you into the following season. However we may never know.
The first season was more of an introductory season, it introduced you to who the characters were, what the mission was about, and it even gave the characters back stories that the games never did. And the back stories, specifically for certain characters would be explored more so in the second season.
Speaking of the second season, I watched and tried my best to record that entire season on one VHS tape, and what's funny about this, is I started watching the series in Kansas when it originally began the year before, and now here I was, a year later watching the second season as it originally aired, and I was back in Kansas with my father due to some personal family reasons. But I can say this, I watched the pilot episode twice, once in California and secondly in Kansas. But getting back to recording or at least trying to record the second season, I took a page out of my cousins playbook, you see he loved watching the 1990s X-Men cartoon, that he dedicated several six-hour VHS tapes to recording each episode of each season. So I took that play out of his playbook and used it to try to record the second season of SatAM. Unfortunately I was only able to get six out of the 13 episodes, the reasons being, 1. When the season two premiere episode came on, I over slept, and was only able to catch the last 10 min. of the episode, 2. Secondly, after I recorded "The Void" episode, which was a prelude episode to the final four episodes of the series or as we thought at the time the second season. Me and my dad's VCR decided to die out, or at least the recording function decided to die out, because I remember when I put the tape in there the following week, and I pressed record, I thought I had the episode, well after the episode was done, I decided to play it back to see how it came out and imagine my surprise when I saw nothing but fuzz where the episode should have been. So I tried one of my variety tapes, and I got the same result, which basically told me the recording function was dead. Because the play function was all right, the recording function however just went to crap. And all I can say this, let this be a lesson, never buy a VCR from a secondhand pawnshop, unless they test it out for you.
So yeah, with just a few episodes of season one scattered about some variety VHS's that I had recorded other shows on and with only six episodes of the 13 second season episode recorded, I still had enough to suffice me, but still a part of me wanted the rest of the second season.
Well, years later, a fellow Sonic fan that I met at of all places, The Acorn Café message board, decided to help me out and mail me a copy on VHS of the final episodes or at least three of the final episodes of season two that they had. Okay, that brought my count up to having nine out of the 13 episodes of the second season. But still I wanted to complete the season in full. Well, basically many years later, actually about 2 to 3 years later, a fellow fan by the name of Rachel Avery a.k.a. RaphaelaXD decided to help me out, she help me out because I helped her out, I can't remember what I did to help her out, but an in exchange she sold me at a decent price, her VHS recordings of the entire Saturday morning show on VCD. That's right she used her computer to transfer her VHS recordings of the entire show to VCD, and she would sell copies of the show on VCD to financially help herself out. And I appreciated it, because now I had the entire series in my possession. And at the same time, I was also the owner of my first DVD recorder, which was an Apex, and I used the six hour function to record 2 singular DVDs, one dedicated to season one and the other dedicated to season two. So for a few years, that really sufficed me for while. It also helped me to create and improve on making my fanvids, and sharing them with fellow fans as best as I could, even before uploading video sites came into being.
Now imagine my surprise, a few years after I got these these VCDs, that I hear/read the announcement, that Shout Factory is going to release a complete series set of the show in March 2007. Just like many fans, I was blown away at this news. And what made this even better, was Brian Ward of Shout Factory, wanted the fans to help make this the DVD for the fans. And how would this happen, by allowing fans to submit fan art to Shout Factory and Brian Ward, and have it displayed as part of the outside and inside covers of the DVD set, which like I said, made it a DVD by the fans for the fans.
This however wasn't the first time the series was released onto DVD, you see three years before the complete series release, Loin Gates home entertainment and Trimark home video released a singular DVD, containing four episodes of season one and a bonus episode of season one. Now even though, these were just random episodes from season one that had been released onto DVD, fans like myself were happy that at least the show was finally being released in some ways onto DVD. However this first release would not last long, for you see Buena Vista home entertainment had the DVDs pulled from the shelves, because DIC entertainment didn't get their permission to have an outside company distribute the series in any way on DVD. But ironically, 2 1/2 years later, after the licensing expired for BVE on the DIC properties, only then were they able to negotiate with the likes of Shout Factory and finally get the show released as a complete series DVD.
As a fan, the announcement and timing of this news couldn't have been better, around this time, I had just started working as an unloader for Walmart. Now when you're an unloader, you unload and see items that are not intended to be released until a certain time. Well again, imagine my surprise as I'm walking in the back, and one day walking by the storage aisles for the DVDs, video games, etc., Imagine my surprise when I took a peek into one of the boxes containing soon to be released DVDs, and I saw in one of those boxes, a bunch of DVD complete sets of the Sonic Saturday morning show. When I saw this, I was smiling like a Chester cat, because as far as I was concerned, before any other Sonic fan in Lawrence, Kansas, I had laid eyes on the complete series DVD.
So on March 26, 2007, because I have SSDI, I could only work a certain amount of hours or at least a certain kind of schedule, so after me and the other unloader's clocked out for the night, I went to McDonald's to get something to eat and bide my time, so finally when 11:50 PM hit, I went back into Walmart and I waited until midnight hit, and when it did, and they wheeled those boxes of DVDs, games, etc. out to the other customers who were waiting to be the first to grab a hold of what ever movies or games they wanted, I remember looking at a certain box that I knew contained the complete series DVD of the SatAM show, and as soon as they opened that box, I snatched a copy of the series and I went to the checkout line upfront, paid for it, exited out the doors and went home. I did document me buying the DVD set to share with other Sonic fans, unfortunately that document was lost, when my second main channel was deleted from existence. And along with it, went my documentary of me buying the DVD set during its original midnight release.
But I did make up for it though, for you see, to make sure I would have a copy, I pre-ordered and bought from places like Amazon, Hastings, Best Buy and even once again at Walmart, I bought several more copies. I sent two copies, one to Rachel Avery for helping me out, and the other to JayFoxfire because she help me out I believe with a commission of some sort I can't remember. And then I sent a copy to my cousin in Hayward California, and then one to my 18-year-old nephew in Modesto California, when he was 11 1/2 years old. As for me, I have my viewing copy, and a copy which for 6 1/2 years since its original release, has yet to be opened. Kinda tells you how big of a fan I was and still am.
To say the impact of this show for the past 20 years has been influential and felt throughout the entire franchise and fan base, would be an understatement. For you see the show in some ways, influenced a live stage show down in Sydney Australia at one of the many indoor SegaWorld theme parks. And what was unique about this stage show, was yes, you had Sonic, Tails and Robotnik in it, but imagine the surprise of many fans who never knew about this stage show outside of Australia, when they found out that Sally was also costarring with Sonic and Tails in this stage show. From what I understand, the stage show went through two different versions, one I believe I've heard consisted of people in costumes, while the other version consisted primarily of puppets. Not to say Sally's popularity didn't take off to an all time high because this stage show would be an understatement as well, because just like Sonic and Tails, she too had merchandise based around her. Merchandise that ranged from overalls, plush dolls of various sizes, cups and mugs, you name it. Speaking of the plush dolls, I have a medium-sized Sally plush doll from the Sydney show, that I had spent days, and wee hours to obtain on eBay. And obtain that plush doll I did, for around $250. Because of that, I can say that I do own a Sally plush doll.
Now throughout the past 20 years, the Saturday morning show has had its ups and downs. Most notably, in the mid-1990s, USA Network had obtained the rights to air both Sonic cartoons as a part of their action extreme weekday morning block, now if you're a fan of the Saturday morning show, you think this is great news, unfortunately it wasn't, because even though I only caught glimpses of the show on USA, because I was taking a two-week vocational summer program, where I was living with other people, kind of getting the idea of what it would be like living in a college dorm room, I was only able to catch a few glimpses here and there. So I had no idea, that USA had, as some fans put it, butchered the series, in other words cut out certain scenes from the episodes for time restraint reasons, but when I finally did see what they were talking about through various online sources, I could definitely see that it's run on the USA Network was not the best idea for the show.
Now between all that, apparently Ben Hurst was planning on somehow making season three a reality. For you see, season two ended on a cliffhanger, and Ben didn't want to give too much away about what was to come in the third season, if he was able to finally make it a reality. So from what I understand, he wanted to go in several directions, the first of course, was to try to get the third season made and aired in someway, the second choice was to do a movie, basically taking I'm assuming the best elements of season three and putting them together into a movie that would make up for the long lost season three that was never aired. And I guess thirdly, he was probably planning, from what I understand, a possible direct to video approach. Unfortunately none of this came to pass. He did however work with Ken Penders on possibly making a movie happen, but Ken decided to go off and do his own thing.
So around 2000 I'm guessing, he did an online chat, where I guess he finally revealed what season three was going to be all about, and he did the same thing in late 2006/early 2007, were again he revealed what was going to happen and a little bit more, because as he put it the questions had gotten more mature by the fans who asking them.
Now there is speculation, that Ben Hurst had more than season three planned out. Now I read this somewhere years ago, I can't remember where, but from what I read and understood, this speculation was, that Ben and I'm guessing several of the other writers on the show, were planning out future seasons, either planning them out in their minds and discussing them with each other, or maybe even writing them down to remember them for future use. But apparently, the speculation is, that Knuckles would arrive on the scene towards the end of season three and be more involved in the show and with the characters in the fourth season, which from the speculation was also going to introduce Amy rose as well. Remember now, this is all speculation that I had read somewhere many years ago, even before the DVD set was scheduled for release or even was being considered. Again this was pure speculation and rumors that I had read somewhere online. But yeah, that was what the fourth season was being planned out to be like, according to speculation/rumors.
However what's ironic, as you have a fan base nowadays, that is ready, willing and able to make that third season a reality. For you see, there is a group of fans that have come together and have created a web comic series based on some of the ideas that Ben Hurst had originally written down for the first few episodes of the third season, as well as putting their own original ideas as to how they feel the third season could have panned out. But you see this group of fans are determined and have showcased that they are going to take this to the next level. Because they are planning to release the third season in animated form as an online exclusive show. A show that will be seen exclusively on sites like YouTube, blip.tv and Dailymotion, among many others. And they are doing their damnedest to make this a reality. For they have gone to several conventions over this past year, the super convention in Florida, and most recently the San Diego comic con a few months ago. Were they have showcased at both conventions the progress in animated form of what they are doing. And so far they have gotten strong positive feedback from those they have shown the footage too.
So if you were to tell me back in 2003, which was the 10th anniversary of the show, that 10 years later, the third season would finally see an animation debut of some kind, honestly I would have believed you, my only question would be how that would happen. And it seems we have gotten that answer.
In closing, let me say that as I reflect back at the past 20 years, to say it has been one heck of a ride, would be a true understatement. Because here you had a show and a fan base so dedicated to the show, that they stuck with it through thick and thin. I mean even when ABC had to move it to earlier timeslots due to college football and other sports like it, fans still did their best to watch it. I remember a few times living in California with my grandparents, that even though me and my family shared the same bedroom, I would do whatever it took to watch the Saturday morning show, knowing that it had been moved to a certain time slot due to college football. Fortunately it didn't do it as much if at all in the Midwest when I was living in Kansas. But even then I would get up early to watch and even record the show.
So again, to say it has been a heckuva ride for the past 20 years, would be a true understatement. But now we're in a generation and a time, where we thought 13 years ago and even 18 years ago wouldn't be possible has become possible.
So here's to the past 20 years of Sonic SatAM! And to a very bright future, especially in the hands of those that are determined to make that which should have been, a reality!
Wednesday September 18th, 2013
ending time : 1:40 PM