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April 22, 2018 in Sonic TV/Film
This is a bit of an appreciation topic for "Man of the Year", a short 2D animation that was hosted in Sonic Jam, 1997. Developed by TMS Entertainment.
The reason for this topic? It's because it is simply the best animation featuring Sonic the Hedgehog ever made, either in 2D or 3D.
The animation bit itself is barely 1:20, yet manages to establish the setting and contained universe (arguably among the best Sonic canons from simply what is inferred) wonderfully, gives us good insight into out two protagonists, Sonic and Eggman and what they are all about, and a super entertaining plot that takes advantage of their many features to the max - without any words.
The animation immediately opens with two skyscrapers composing most of the shot, then quickly panning up to show the true scale of the city. The camera quickly moves to the northwest over a small sea to show a small island (suspiciously smooth in appearance - artificially created at this strategic spot?) which is covered in different sorts of machinery from pipes to what looks like a big torque converter - anyway, the golden statue of Eggman triumphantly holding a wrench ( giving pleasant nods back to AoStH Robotnik's base - an intentional nod? If so, I approve.) should indicate who lives here. The removal of Eggman's home from the rest of the city should show to someone new to Sonic that this guy is removed mentally from everyone else. It's not groundbreaking technique but it is very effective establishment of the setting.
The pan to this golden Eggman also carries over to the next shot, as we know that this next shot takes place on this isolated island. This next shot is composed of a large, hopelessly messy room. There are piles of books and disparate objects like hammers that show that the individual is childlike yet probably quite intelligent - or mad. Probably all three. Actually, most definitely. The madness is confirmed by the left wall covered in papers, looking eerily close to one of those "conspiracy" webs. His chairs are very stylish, looking like giant chickens. The shot then turns from a distant to a close one, finally revealing up close who is responsible for this area. He's wearing pink pajamas, yawns with the newspaper and a coffee (or...some sort of red liquid) in hand. This pushes the child part even further. The background here is composed of a number of those aforementioned papers, showing Sonic scribbled and crossed out several times, with other newspapers with marker on them. His chair is also a broken egg - nice touch.This is the first establishment of Eggman's rivalry with Sonic to anyone who is new to Sonic. Next to these is a giant picture of Eggman looking smug with a crown drawn over him. This along with the fact his base is a giant version of himself should show exactly what kind of egoistical man we are dealing with.
Eggman, with his default tired state looks at the newspaper and immediately does a comedic spit take with everything on the desk jumping with him, including several opened books and a can of some sort. Late night last night, Eggman? Or he hasn't moved those in weeks. This is where the animation starts getting great, with great squash and stretch Eggman frantically stares at the paper with his hat flying off his round head. It should be said you never get to see Eggman's eyes directly, only those glasses so his facial emotions are represented largely by his mouth and fold. This transcends just this animation, but this fact is always fascinating, as it manages to make Eggman emotive yet eerily inhuman all at once as eyes really do represent a lot of emotion. The shot changes to show the newspaper of controversy - none other than Sonic himself, a subconscious answer to the papers on the wall just a second ago, and so his surprise at the newspaper is satisfactory after everything shown before.
The picture of Sonic is one of him winking with a great thumbs up foreshortened to the max. Manages to make Sonic look triumphant, but also as obnoxious as possible from the perspective of the doctor. The headline in bold is "Man of the year SONIC!". Eggman is physically shaking from frustration at the damn thing. The emotiveness is fantastic. The shot changes back to Eggman's front as he lurches up to fill nearly the whole shot for a moment, showing his presumed dominance at the situation. With this dominance, he tears the newspaper to pieces and collects them into a large ball and with the scowliest scowl ever, gives it a energy filled overhand throw offscreen, with explicit motion lines on the ball. This immense energy raditating from him in contrast to his morning studders and yawn just seconds ago show how invested he is in the game with his largest enemy.
The paper ball hits an inactivated monitor and with yellow shock lines bounces off the screen to be unseen but not forgotten, as the tap activates the monitor to give Eggman a little more torment. The monitor flickers to show us a polis looking area filled with animaniacs-style looking humans in the city shown at the very beginning. We cannot hear anything from the monitor, but an adjacent speaker vibrating clearly indicates the energy of what is happening on the screen. A lanky looking reporter lips quickly into his microphone and then consecutively waves energetically and fanfarically. The monitor shows us Sonic in the flesh for the first time, now looking more aggressive than in any of Eggman's pictures. Perhaps this is meant to be a "takeover" of sorts in Eggman's mind as the pictures of Sonic before were obnoxious and aggrandizing, but now Sonic looks more confident than ever, his eyes could be peering straight at Eggman from the other side. A quick aside, this is the best Sonic has ever looked in animation. He looks like SoJ box art, just now with some tweaks for cartooning purposes. Next to Sonic are the words, angled, flashy in pink and green, MAN OF THE YEAR SONIC. This is being comedically pushed on Eggman now. The shot changes to a scene of diverse kids all shouting into a microphone with great enthusiasm.
Eggman then extends and stretches as far as he can towards the screen, teeth gritted, vibrating with rage. All the attention gained by Sonic obviously has now pushed Eggman even further to the edge, more than before. But he then lurches too far, looses his balance and falls comedically off the screen, with a whole plethora of objects being flown into the air along with dust clouds taking his place. The shot changes showing the pile of forecefully rearranged objects on the floor with Eggman bursting out of the top, another one of his many messes. He now holds a bloody Sonic doll, waving it over his head and thrashing it in circles before bringing it to the camera as close as possible while he strangles the living fuck out of it. Perhaps the foreshortened doll, just as large as Eggman in the shot is meant to show the dominance that Sonic is having in Eggman's life. Anyway, Eggman is as cross as he can be. But this immediately changes, with a squash and stretch, his expression goes from rage to a realization unkonwn to the audience, as with his "o" mouth and one frame of this glasses being larger than the other with raised eyebrow. While this happens, the Sonic doll reduces in size as Eggman pulls it back, indicating that Eggman may now have a way to get even with Sonic.
His face now changes to the famous classic Eggman grin and he rushes off at great speed out of the shot. With pieces of something blown behind him, showing the instantaneous speed as a reaction to his newest plan. The next shot is set further back, showing the room in perspective. His desk is large and in front as is now a relatively familiar location so far. A black door with red ovals sits smaller at the further end, drawing suspicion. Eggman is so filled with glee he skipps with the Sonic doll in hand as the door slides open for him, revealing a room much more indicative of a laboratory setting, blindingly white walls, generic dials and some keypads strewn on the wall. We only see this little part of the room for about 2.5 seconds, reminding us of the mysterious elements Eggman sports as well. He runs around a corner and the door slides shut, both to the room and to this part of the animation.
The next shot is back in the city. This is now important as we've had a lot of buildup to this setting, both from the beginning and from the monitor. But now we are close and personal to it for the first time. We get a good look at the "concrete canyon", two lines of skyscrapers surrounding a six lane highway showing what a large place this is. This should tell you what a big deal Sonic is to get such a reputation in a place analogous to New York City and why Eggman is so upset at this, for multiple reasons. This is also the first time we get some real action and the first time a shot pans, apart from the very first. This starts with the still look at the buildings, nothing moving apart from the street far below. But then a dot shows itself on the left wall of buildings. It approaches at a rapid pace and the camera pans back at a slightly slower speed as the dot. The "dot" catches up quickly and details are added just as so. It's Sonic in the flesh. He jumps from side to side far above the street showing his agility and as a result his confidence as he does all this with his trademark grin. We see all this from above. He then goes up, comes straight at the camera with spines upright and takes a turn, being just about as close he could be to us. He then goes back down the building and then goes eye level with the camera, jumping side to side and evading the camera altogether not before jumping down to street level, disappearing from sight. The fluidness of the animation here is on par with Sonic CD and shows what Sonic is capable of, a conclusion to all the the pictures and stills of Sonic looking so confident before.
The shot changes again, this time now from an alleyway. We see Sonic run by in side profile on a larger street. But in the foreground is a suspiciously looking Sonic leg and shoe, with a rocket booster and rollerskates attached underneath. Clearly someone looking to imitate Sonic. Can you guess who it is? Suddenly the boosters fire to life with yellow hot sparks eminating as he accelerates. The camera stays close to the ground to give a larger feeling of motion. Eggman, now fully revealed in his ridiculous Sonic suit, turns and flails his arms like a chicken, waiting to fall on his face, but regains balance onto the big street. As Eggman regains balance, he then puts his arms strongly behind him and blasts off to speeds on par with Sonic's. This is also the first time we see the people in the flesh, standing on the sidewalk looking aghast as this blue thing explodes past them. He winds in an s-pattern down the street.
The shot changes to looking down at the street at a 50 degree angle. Sonic himself speeds by, unbeknownst to what's about to ensue. Eggman follows just as fast but takes a different path from Sonic. This is the first time we get a look of him from the front in the Sonic costume, with the most Eggmany grin ever, complete fun and frivolousness. The mayhem ensues. A side shot now; a calm looking woman with a yellow coat and purple pants (hey, it was the nineties!) walks slowly with a huge paper bag of groceries. Eggman, now going so fast there's really little difference between him in this form and Sonic himself speeds by, the force of the air emits torque on the woman and she spins like a top with food flying everywhere aided by those huge motion lines again. This scene becomes complete with a look at a street gang with apples and a loaf of bread shoved into their mouths all with eyes gouging. It's quite funny really.
Eggman then travels towards the camera on a shiny sidewalk grinning massively. He stops in front of three young girls who saw the motion and apparently assumed Sonic was approaching as they are impulsively holding out a sheet of paper hoping their idol obliges. Eggman approaches with a marker, and proceeds to draw all over their faces, all while looking as happy as happy can be. He then impressively stops after winding his marker around and does a quite humerous "ta-dahh!" pose before jumping with what must be all 400 pounds of him out of sight with rockets blaring. We then see the kids turn towards the camera and the gone Eggman, with lines and symbols all over their faces. The Sonic doll the middle girl holds (apparently the same sort Eggman had?) has an x on the face. They look flabbergasted as you would if an Egg Man dressed as a hedgehog drew all over you face.
Eggman then goes full-on violent mode. He jumps from car to car, making each wind out of control with his bounces (and at his size? That's a lot of inertia!). With the convertible he adds a special flair; doing a full-on spin jump! The shot changes as the still spinning Eggman smashes into a stool with a painter on it who proceeds to fall and splatter spring green paint. An adjacent boombox player loses his balance. He then bounces and spins through a pile of cardboard boxes on a truck making them pile everywhere before approaching a traffic light pole and bends it with people behind running and screaming. As he leaves the shot via another bounce, a red car smashes into the pole. This is one of the most impressive shots of the whole animation, as everything happens one immediately after the other in just 4 seconds. The next shot is a far away one showing the full impact of what's just happened. 12 vehicles all sit in a crash, with a thirteenth approaching and hitting as well, and more coming from the other street. Absolute chaos. As the camera pans up we can see Eggman disappear around a corner in the long distance. Then we get a throwback to earlier. Upon a monitor is a picture of Eggman sticking out his tongue and pulling down his eyelid dressed as Sonic. Next to this reads in the same stylish letters, WORST OF THE YEAR SONIC. We then see all the people from before molested by Eggman angrily thumbing down what they believe is Sonic, including the girls, the gang members, the painter and some others. We then see a large crowd of apprehensive looking folk looking at the monitor before Sonic himself speeds in behind.
He gives a large unheard "hey!!" before everyone turns towards him. Sonic starts tapping his foot waiting for celebration. Instead we get a back shot of Sonic, looking small in the shot surrounded by dozens of disgruntled people angry at "his" performance earlier. We then get the most personal shot of Sonic yet, perhaps because now Sonic's role has been shrunken down from deeply admired to undesirable as opposed to only the faraway shots we got earlier saying indirectly "Sonic's too cool for you!" to the audience. That's how I see it at least. Anyway, Sonic looks puzzled and but this expression turns to shock. We see Eggman still in the Sonic costume laughing triumphantly with the camera below him, now showing his triumph. It pans out to show the crowd of people all yelling at the now vulnerable Sonic. Then we get the traditional black circle not fading on Sonic but Eggman, who despite his triumphant position almost falls off his perch comedically, reminding us this is all still the silly guy from the beginning.
Eggman is the real star of this animation, and we see all sides to him from rage to pure unbridled joy. He's obviously upset and jealous of Sonic's highly role and wants it for himself. Eggman thinks he's a genius and should have that role for himself. That's why he wants to tear it from Sonic so bad. All at the same time we see the manchild side of Eggman, having so much fun in his reckless way, going to any length to get what he wants, even something as silly as reputation in some city. Sonic of course radiates emotion too, from arrogance to confidence at the beginning to his shock at the end, showing he is vulnerable to failures too. It's such a brilliant display of both their characters in such a fun medium, with the techniques of film and animation only adding to the situation at hand massively. The story for as simple as it is is handled incredibly well and remember there is no dialogue at all. It all happens in barely 1 minute and 20 seconds. The animation itself is absolutely fluid and gorgeous and is so much fun to look at. It's also so cool in how it uses animaniacs style people next to Sonic and Eggman, it looks great. And like how I said, this is probably the best Sonic and Eggman have ever looked in an animation. Such a wonderful animation.
I wish more stuff was based on what this universe offers to us as there is so much bloody potential there.
Still to be continued after 20 years.
I love this. It's like if sonic boom existed in the 90s, there would've been an episode with a plot like this.
Man, wouldn't it be cool if mania adventures did a callback to this short?
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