Sonic: Christmas Blast (1996)

Sonic: Christmas Blast

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The titular speedy blue hedgehog just wants to go out and buy his girlfriend a Christmas present. But unbeknownst to him, Dr. Robotnik has kidnapped Santa Clause and taken his place, so that instead of handing out presents, he can use his army of robots to demand them from stores and people instead. So now it’s up to Sonic to rescue Santa and save Christmas.

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And now for something completely different. I was doing a cursory search for holiday films when I happened to stumble upon this little special. Based on the cover art Tubi TV is currently showing, which uses an updated character model, I assumed it was a quick outing somehow related to the recent movie or video games. But color me surprised when I realized it was from 1996, and a remnant of my youth. Except I couldn’t ever remember watching it. So I had to do a little research.

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You see, to those who don’t know, in the early 90’s there were two Sonic animated series. The first was The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which was a lighthearted adventure comedy, and the second was titled simply Sonic the Hedgehog, and is a darker look into an alternate timeline where Robotnik was victorious. Now, the first was only a single season, and the second ended prematurely at two, meaning both of these series were done and over with by 1994. So where did this little movie come from? The short answer is: I don’t know. The longer one suggests that it was originally meant as some sort of marketing tie-in to the Sega Saturn game Sonic X-Tream, which itself doesn’t exist, because it was cancelled. So instead they changed the title to tie it into a game that does exist, Sonic 3D Blast, added a quick scene involving a similar bird found in the game and called it a day. Why do I bring all this up? Because, unlike what one might expect regarding series progression, this holiday special is not a continuation of the latter Sonic the Hedgehog, but is instead considered the series finale of the earlier series, The Adventure of Sonic the Hedgehog, including much of the original voice cast, which ended three years earlier. This explains why I have no memory of this special, because by the time it came out I had long since moved on. But to make matters even more puzzling, the creators added in elements from the second series, including Sally and some Swat Bots, yet cut out the remaining second series characters, and kept the original series’ lighthearted tone for the special, likely because ‘dark and moody’ didn’t fit well into a Christmas special vibe. So just a bunch of weirdness all around, and I haven’t even gotten to the weirdness contained in the special itself yet.

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Like, why do the robots have an ass, animators? Is Robotnik a freak? Was that there in the original? Are you bastards going to make me go and check?

As holiday specials aimed at young kids go, I’d actually put this on the lower wrung, quality-wise. The story itself is painfully simple, to the point where even the youngest of viewers can understand it: Santa is in trouble, the hero must save him, hi-jinks ensue, something something, Christmas is saved, the cast waves, cue credits. As far as plots are concerned, that’s pretty bare bones. Yet despite it’s mediocre story, the episode still manages to add in it’s fair share of oddities. For instance, a large chunk of the plot centers around how Sonic must overcome a series of obstacles in order to gain Super Speed, which is somehow faster than he can already go, just so Santa can finish delivering presents in one night. A plight which Santa spontaneously decided was suddenly impossible, despite the fact that he is literally known for doing that exact same thing every year, but he can’t do it this year because….. Reasons, I guess. I don’t know. Seems to me it would have been faster to just let Sonic and Tales help deliver presents than waste all that time on supposed “trials”, but what do I know. I guess it was more important for Sonic to complete such heroic deeds, like climbing a mountain, and participating in events that I expect were holdovers related to the cancelled X-Treme sports game, in order to fill some air time. And they call it trials, but what we’re really just doing is watching Sonic snowboard, hang glide and bike down a mountain, and if that’s some of what he was supposed to be doing in that Saturn game, then I fully endorse it’s cancellation, if for no other reason than knowing that was the reason I was forced to watch that stupid and pointless sequence of events.

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I mean, seriously dude, you can run over water, what the hell you need a bike for?

Another quality knock to the production is the inconsistent animation. In a lot of the scenes, it looks like the character models are squashed down for some reason. At first I thought it was just a cruddy digital transfer, but then another scene would pop up and everyone would look properly proportioned. So I’m really not sure what’s going on, but I have a feeling the fault lies with the original animations which, let’s face it, weren’t all that great to begin with, but still shouldn’t have ended up looking quite this bad. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the original cells, or if the production was just rushed to the point of minimal quality control. But it is noticeable, especially in scenes where there was questionable camera placement and framing to begin with.

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Why!? Why, for all that is holy, would you be compelled to frame a scene like this!? WHY?!?

So, Sonic: Christmas Blast is a pretty piddly Christmas special. It’s simple, generic children’s fare that aspires to be nothing more than it is. The plot is generic, the music is generic, and even the backgrounds look generic. The animation looks kinda funky, and the humor, which was a drawing point of the original show, is also substantially toned down. On the plus side, it does manage to retain much of its original voice cast, and there are a lot of references to the games and other shows and comics. But unless you’re a hardcore Sonic fan, or just looking for a nostalgia trip, then there’s not much else here to recommend.

Sonic: Christmas Blast is available on a variety of streaming services.

It is also available on DVD.

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Michi

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