Frame By Frame Review: Sonic Underground Wedding Bell Blues
These reviews will look at a single episode of a show, usually an incredibly silly one, and go through it bit by bit looking at each stupid moment in turn. This time we’re looking at the infamous 1998 Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon, Sonic Underground.
This is the third and final American made Sonic cartoon following ‘Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog’ and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (known in fan circles as SatAM). Why was it infamous? Well put simply it’s Alvin and the Chipmunks meets Sonic the Hedgehog, with the “serious and dark” world from the SatAM cartoon and mixed it with the “comedy” tone of Adventures. Sonic now has a brother and sister, they’re the abandoned children of the Queen of Mobius, and are a rock band with “musical numbers” in every episode. Sonic had a tenuous background at best in the games but with each cartoon series they seemed to get further and further away from that. Any one of those elements they might’ve been able to work but all three are slammed together and both the music and being children of the Queen aren’t well done or that relevant to most episodes.
It’s a mess of a show and I’ll be looking at the first episode I ever watched, which is number 4 or 30 depending on which messed up episode listing you look at. Not that it really matters as I jump into:
A quick look at the intro. We have a musical narration giving us an info dump on the premise of the series. The Queen gets warned by a seer that Robotnik is invading and she needs to run away while leaving her young hedgehog triplets in the care of three random homes. They grow up, reunite, lead the freedom fighters against Robotnik, started a band, and search for their mother. The Queen had this to say at the end of it, “I long for my children but I have to wait. To act too soon could seal their fate.” Why? How? Is any of this ever explained? Not really. But I’m sure she’s not just going to randomly pop up to save her kids then bugger off with no real explanation.
It’s actually not that bad of an intro info dump. It’s gets across the relevant info that Sonic fans would need if they came into the series blind and the music’s probably the best in the show. Though there is the wonderful animation goof when they needed to have the Queen crying again so they just reversed the footage of her crying from earlier. She really knows how to suck up those tears.
So let’s get into the episode proper as we hear the Queen narrating plot points to us. She says that, “becoming the legitimate king of Mobius is Dr Robotnik’s most deepest dangerous dream.” Yeah I doubt that very much. He’s already taken over and become a dictator, being the “legitimate king” isn’t going to do squat if you rule the entire planet. People would still rebel against him regardless, the legality of it doesn’t matter. If he was the dictator of a single country then I’d understand since he’d want to legitimise it so other countries would recognise it and hopefully not attack or invade him for overturning a monarchy. Oh and if this is the “most deepest dangerous dream” of his then what does she call the “Roboticization” of all life on the planet? Turning every living thing into robot slaves of his, or in this shows case:
Robotnik’s happy daydreams hard at work
They’re cyborgs instead of full robots like in the games and the SatAM series. I have no clue why other than because it looks stupider. Maybe the designers were fans of the Borg from Star Trek, the original kinda gimp suit looking versions obviously.
In any case we’re now introduced to the triplet stars as Sonic stops by a literal walking Chilly Dog vender cart. His siblings join him as they pull up in their van, which has their band logo on the side making it completely obvious they’re part of the underground freedom fighters. His sister, Sonia, scolds him for making them late for their “important mission” aka her hair appointment. Because as we all know the best hair stylists are in desolate dystopian dictatorships. Look at those Roboticized citizens, someone has to do the half of their hair they’ve got left. Then we get this shot of Sonic eating one Chilly Dog whole while saying he, “always looks good.”
The title character of an entire franchise, everybody
I’m not touching that one. We then get the last sibling, Manic, who steals mustard packs or coupons, it’s not really clear, from the robot vender cart. Why? So we can see his main personality trait is that he’s a kleptomaniac, just like Sonic’s is that he loves Chilly Dogs and running fast, and Sonia’s is that she’s a rich pampered girly girl. It’s a little wrong that the stereotypical girly girl seems the more well rounded of the main cast, and worrying too.
Now’s a good time to point out that all three are voiced by Jaleel White (best known for playing Steve Urkel in Family Matters) and whoever thought of that should’ve been laughed out of the room. The problem is either him not being a very versatile voice actor or the voice director not being very good, though I suppose it could be both. He’s obviously trying to keep changing his voice for all three and he can’t keep one of them consistent. So all of them sound really off and slightly different between scenes, and sometimes sentences even. Worse is definitely Sonia who sounds very screechy and unfeminine for a character who’s supposed to be a girly girl. Thankfully he doesn’t provide their singing voices, though that doesn’t really make the music any better.
Back to the episode a sibling fight is broken up by the dumbest communication system.
I’m surprised there are any streets left
That thing just pops out of the ground next to them and starts roaming around destroying the ground. All that just so Robotnik can proclaim that he is marrying the Queen and that because it’s such a grand occasion he’ll even allow music to be played at it. Someone should tell Robotnik there are better ways to announce a wedding than ruining your capital city.
The scene’s made all the stupider when Manic is the only one to point out that this is an obvious trap. Then they immediately forget that thinking the only way the Queen would marry Robotnik was if she was forced. That if there’s even the slightest chance she’s there then they should go. So just to recap: they know it’s a trap, but are going to fall into it anyway because they hope it’s not a trap. Ah the good ol’ days of cartoons, when sheer stupidity was why the protagonists got involved in the plot.
Sonia then says she knows the perfect way to get them in, someone called Bartleby that the boys don’t seem to like. I’m sensing some wacky hijinks coming.
We then cut to Robotnik’s command chamber where he’s saying the trap has been set and that the cost of the fake wedding is bankrupting him. Well maybe if you didn’t have to keep repairing all your streets thanks to your ridiculously impractical communication system you’d have more money. I’m not quite sure how the wedding is bankrupting him, since he owns the entire planet. Maybe he’s managed to bankrupt all of Mobius, which doesn’t seem physically possible, but it’s a 90s cartoon so stupidity is a given. Sadly this is actually a plot point. We’re also introduced to Robotnik’s comedy henchmen, Sleet and Dingo.
Try and guess what annoying stereotypical accent Dingo sports
Sleet’s a wolf and Dingo’s a… I have no clue whatsoever. They’re Scratch and Grounder 2.0 from the Adventures cartoon. Dumb as a bag of hammers and constantly failing, yet they still somehow keep their job. So anyway Sleet suggests raising more “tribute” from the nobles, and guess which one they’re going after. Bartleby. Even more hijinks a coming.
So we cut to Bartleby’s mansion as the Hedgehog siblings pull up disguised as carpet cleaners. Some very familiar looking workmen too:
I’ve seen these guys somewhere before, in a video game with lots of running and jumping and mushrooms… nah.
Before the Super Hedgehog Brothers start their super show I have to ask: why bother giving Sonia a moustache if she’s not going to hide her breasts? Unless Mobius is fairly open-minded about that sorta thing I think someone would notice a guy with boobs. Somehow the bluff actually works and Bartleby doesn’t recognise Sonia till she reveals herself in order for him to let them in.
Inside Sonia tells the boys to keep their heads low and let her do the talking. Bartleby can’t spot them despite the fact that they look exactly like her brothers. He’s a posh mink, so of course he has a British accent, or what can stereotypically be called one at least. So he goes on and on about how good it is that the Queen finally came to her sense, that Sonia’s brothers are “ruffians” (does anyone use that word in non-stereotyping land?),, till Sonic can’t stand no more and outs himself to the posh twit. She gets both of them to calm down and convinces Bartleby that they all just want the wedding to be perfect. Not like these wanted freedom fighters would ever try to disrupt the royal weeding of their dictator. Of course not because along with the accent we have, ‘all posh people are idiots’ clichés at work.
While that’s been going on Manic’s kleptomania has been working overtime as he’s stealing any valuable item not nailed down. In his wake he leaves a motion blur similar to Sonic’s:
Now you see it, now you see speed lines
Hmmm so Sonic gets super speed powers, Manic gets super thievery powers, I wonder what Sonia has. I’m sure it’ll have nothing to do with being a girl, of that I’m certain. So anyway Sonic caught Manic swiping everything and told him to cut that shit out. They may be freedom fighters but stealing from the rich sympathises of the dictator is a no-no.
Sonia convinces Bartleby to supply the music to the wedding so the siblings can pose as the musicians. Before they get any further Sleet and Dingo arrive to collect the tribute. Naturally they see the multicoloured hedgehog carpet cleaners and don’t put two and two together that they look exactly the same as the triplet leaders of the freedom fighters. Bartleby agrees to pay half the tribute and supply them with some musicians. Which begs the question why Robotnik is going broke over the wedding when he can demand every inch of it paid for free in tribute form. But then getting the Sonic Underground into the wedding would require an extra moments thought and we can’t have that.
We cut to the hedgehogs now disguised as classical musicians going into the royal place for the wedding. Once they get to their rehearsal room they ditch the classical instruments and pull out their own. They each have medallions that can become their own unique instruments, somehow. Magic I guess. Same reason these electric instruments can function without any power source. And now we get to the song segment. This is so stupid I’ll just give you a link to the song:
Watch at own risk.
OH where to start with this one. First off the editing is atrocious and it looks like the editor just got Windows Movie Maker that day and was fiddling around with the settings. Aspect ratio changes out the arse, quick cuts to stock footage, black & white colour changes, split screen, all just shoved in there because no one knew how to make a music video. Then there’s the fact that this song has no purpose. Usually one of these things fits the theme or Aesop of the episode, but here it makes no sense. That’s made even worse by the fact that something was supposed to be happening during the song, namely Sonic scouting out the palace. But they don’t use these 50 seconds to show us that, we’re just told that after the fact.
After the song is thankfully over and we’re told Sonic scouted out the north wing with no sign of the Queen and Sonia questions if he might’ve been spotted. Sonic’s indigent about that, saying he’s too fast to be seen. Cut to Robotnik looking over security footage of Sonic’s random blue blur. He zooms and enhances to see Sonic and gives us his best evil laugh.
Back at the rehearsal room the triplets decide to spilt up to either look for their mom or Robotnik’s real plan (here’s a hint, it’s trap for you three, ya morons). Manic finds a secret passageway by accident, from the looks of the shoddy animation at least, Sonic’s going to continue to run around Smallville Clark Kent style, and Sonia debut her super power by turning her jacket inside out, ripping her trousers, and spinning around really fast.
I’m no expert but that doesn’t seem scientifically possible, even by hedgehog standards
So her brothers get cool useful powers, she gets to make formal gowns? No, just no. Yeah the Sonic franchise isn’t the bastion for feminism but they should at least try with their few female characters. Sadly this is not a new low for it, only a new middle.
Back to the episode Sleet and Dingo are setting a trap by having Dingo turn into a Chilly Dog cart. Using those shapeshifting powers orange Dingo’s are known to have, of course. He also fills Dingo-Cart up with some red hot chilly and hot dogs to compete the trap. Naturally Sonic sees this and given Sleet’s not even bothered to cover his face Sonic’s completely fooled.
How has no side won given they’re all so stupid? Wait I just answered my own question
So here’s a thought, they should just poison every Chilly Dog cart if they know it’ll attract him to even the most obvious of traps. Hell Robotnik must have them made and stocked since they’re robot carts! There must be a factory somewhere pumping these things out so why not use that to kill the hero? Oh wait, because we wouldn’t have a show or that stupid Chilly Dog reference.
So Sleet makes Sonic a Chilly Dog then has Dingo turn into a giant Venus Fly Trap and eats Sonic. He then throws his Chilly Dog into Dingo’s stomach which makes him puke up Sonic. This is despite the fact that he must have a bucket full of chilly in there already since we didn’t see what happened to the chilly Sleet put in him. Can’t expect the writers to remember something over a minute ago, that would be expecting too much it seems.
As Sonic pegs it we cut to Manic wandering around the many secret passageways every royal palace has. He stumbles on a scene of Robotnik trying to put on a girdle that I’ll spare you an image of. Each of the siblings manage to find their way to the bridle chamber where… urg.
They’re not even trying anymore
Yup that’s Sleet and Dingo with Dingo in a wedding dress. Despite the fact that he can shapeshift they just stuck a dress on his natural form. Why? So it makes it even dumber for everyone. All of them think it’s the Queen even though “she” has giant orange muscle arms! I give up, this world clearly has everyone rolling 1’s on their perception checks. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for this nonsense.
So they finally realise it’s a trap after Dingo pulls off the veil. Naturally the brothers’ escape as Sonia is captured.
just what this feminist ep needed, a damsel in distress
And now we get to the evil plot, the reason for this elaborate and bankrupting trap, and it’s a big ol’ pile of stupid. Robotnik wishes to make Sonia crown princess of Mobius and he’ll adopt her. This somehow means he’ll be the legitimate ruler of the planet and not Sonia for reasons never explained to us. So even if we assume there’s a law saying a legal guardian controls the throne still a crown prince/princess comes of age it’s still a stupid plan. What happens when Sonia comes of age? She gets control of the planet, not him. He could also just Roboticize her and make her into a robot/Badnik/Cyborg/Borg and then have her crowned. It gets rid of her as a threat and given everyone’s lack of ability to see through disguises no one would be able to tell she’s a robot. But no that’d make sense so we can’t do that.
I suppose, if I wanted to be generous, we could say Sonia being crowned doesn’t give her any real power since Robotnik still has a robot army in control of the entire world. However that would also negate the entire evil plan since Robotnik doesn’t need to do any of this.
Oh and Bartleby is there as Robotnik tell Sonia this, because he’s a posh twat so he’s spineless. He tried to convince Sonia that because of the Queen’s continued absence she’s given up the right to rule, so Sonia needs to carry on in her place. Wait… if the Queen’s been absent so long she can no longer rule then this also negates this stupid plot. It means Robotnik could become the “legitimate ruler” without having to do anything. If that’s what he wants then why is he trying to keep the old monarchy in place? This is layered stupidity; once we go past one idiotic layer there’s even more stupid below it.
So we cut to the royal wedding hall where it’s been announced that instead of a wedding all the guests are going to witness an adoption. Bartleby says this’ll happen unless the Queen appears and “fulfils the ancient laws and proves she has not abandoned the throne.” I wonder why this plot point has been drilled into our heads? Hmmmmm.
Anyway Sonic and Manic are watching this from the balcony and decide that there are too many guards for them to try anything. So Manic heads off to create a diversion. He goes through the many secret passageways this palace has to a walk in closets full of dresses. He plans to disguise himself as the Queen to halt the adoption, which would actually work considering how stupid all these people are. But he gets caught by the robot guards and thrown in a cell.
Why are the robots the smartest ones in this?
Seriously the unintelligent robot guards are the only ones that can see through disguises in this show. Then again, to be fair, they could’ve mistaken him for the Queen and locked him up because of that. There’s always the possibility that they’re that stupid, after all everyone else is.
Manic manages to escape mere seconds after his imprisonment thanks to a hairpin, of course. There’s not a cliché big enough that this show wouldn’t touch. He’s too late though and the actual Queen has to show up to stop things. She says she’ll, “never abandon Mobius or her children, as long as I may live.” Except you have done, the title sequence says so at the start of every episode. You abandoned your own children for vague and undefined reasons. So I wouldn’t take any of these proclamations to heart.
And of course her showing up and making a speech solves all the problems, except for Robotnik still ruling the planet. So in fact this has done nothing at all. Anyway everyone chases after her as Sonic manages to free Sonia and they both escape. They also think the Queen was actually Manic because even when it’s not a disguise they can’t tell it’s real.
And as fitting the episodes theme the Queen escapes by disguising a doll as her and they all fall for it.
Hey Robotnik, try marrying that. Given the track record I doubt anyone could tell the difference.
After the triplets escape they realise that was the real Queen and get all teary-eyed. And the Queen closes out the episode with some more narration, “The nightmare has been averted, but a long darkness still remains before our freedoms dawn.” What nightmare? You stopped a phoney wedding, not saved a city full of orphans from being killed. And floury language doesn’t change the fact that you’re abandoning your children again.
Anyway it doesn’t matter as the episode is finally over and so is the stupid.
This has no redeeming value. It’s stupid from start to end with terrible animation that has constant errors and really weak designs. The plot is moronic with so many holes I don’t even want to count them. The music is shoved into the episode and it could be easily removed with no damage done to the plot. The characters are one dimensional stereotypes at best and bland insults to our intelligence at worst. The voice acting is just bad and even though there’s some talent behind the mic, such as Maurice LaMarche and Gary Chalk, they’re wasted with horrible direction.
Avoid at all costs unless you’re too drunk to care.