Sonic Underground: Volume 1
R0 - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Rob Field (17th December 2007).
The Show

I remember the summer of 1991 when I bought my first Sega Genesis. I had an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System which was okay, but I wanted something better than what the NES had to offer. I kept seeing the commercials about a 16-bit system called the Sega Genesis. There was also a new lower price of about $99.99. At the time that was pretty sweet for a top-of-the-line console like that. What was more, it even came with a free game. Yup, you guessed it : "Sonic the Hedgehog". At the time, it was an awesome game with awesome graphics. It was also Sega's answer to Nintendo's "Mario" character. However, the game grew old very quickly and I moved on to other titles. Although I didn't add any more Sonic titles to my Genesis collection, I paid attention as more and more Sonic titles were released. And more systems came by Sega's side: Sega CD, the 32X, the Game Gear, the Saturn and the Dreamcast. At least one "Sonic" title was developed for each of these platforms. The titles eventually spread to PC's. The "Sonic the Hedgehog" line stayed with these two until the fall of the Sega Dreamcast to the Sony PlayStation 2. When Sega decided to become a third-party company, they released many of their "Sonic" line on other consoles. That much I knew. When it came to the cartoon shows, those must have slipped under my radar somehow. Looking up "Sonic" on the Internet Movie Data Base, I found that "Sonic" had a range of cartoon shows. In 1993, "Sonic the Hedgehog" was released. That same year, "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" was also released. "Sonic" also had his own movie called . . . "Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie", which was released direct-to-video in 1999. In 2003, "Sonic X" was released. "Sonic Underground" was released just before "Sonic X" in 1999. At this point, "Sonic the Hedgehog" still continues to hold his own in both video gaming and apparently children's television programming to this day.
"Sonic Underground" (1999-2000) is the story of how Queen Aleana (voiced by Gail Webster) gave birth triplets: Sonic, Sonia and Manic (all voiced by Jaleel White). Once they were born, Dr. Robotnik (voiced by Gary Chalk) reared his ugly head and took over their home planet Mobius, transforming the once-beautiful world into a wasteland. Its people were enslaved by Robotnik, and Queen Aleana and her children were outlawed. One day a prophet came to the mother and told her that she and her three children were destined to one day overthrow Robotnik, for they were to be the Council of the Four. But for this to happen, she would have to give up her children. She does this grudgingly by leaving each one of them on the doorstep of a different caring couple. Cut to years later when they are of age. Each one of them has inherited a medallion capable of allowing its owner to bring their music forth from their hearts, as well as tap into other powers. Each one of them has also learned to play a particular instrument, which helps their power manifest. It was only inevitable that Sonic would end up finding Sonia and Manic and forming the 'Sonic Underground' with them. It was also inevitable that they draw the attention of Robotnik, who vows to stop them upon learning who they really are. He goes so far as to recruit two bounty hunters, Sleet (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) and Dingo (voiced by Peter Wilds). The bounty hunters soon capture the guardians of the three triplets, allowing Robotnik to turn them into robots. It is now up to the Sonic Underground to fulfill their destiny of freeing Mobius from Robotnik and finding their mother, Queen Aleana, in the process. Only then can they become the Council of the Four.
I really liked the animation used in this series. While it's not Animé, it has quite a flawless flow. The scenes just go from one frame to the next. The liquids flowing and the hedgehogs super speed movements are also amazing to watch. Even the mouth movements match the voices exactly. I was also impressed with the music segments and videos. The music is from different genres and usually tries to teach those who listen a lesson, like the value of working together for example. I was also amazed at how the scenes in these videos can sometimes overlap one another without flaw. It's amazing how far animation has come since the first cartoons. The storylines for each cartoon are also well-written. The bad guys are not always making plans that don't work. Sleet and Dingo aren't just blind minions. I'll admit, when I first saw these two I started to think, "Oh no! Not another Rocksteady and Bebop . . ." These two, by the way, are from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon series (1987-1996). I say this because every time these two went up against the turtles, they didn't show much brain power and always got the short end of the stick. It's a wonder that they were never replaced. No, Sleet and Dingo actually know how to think and don't always rely on Robotnik to do their thinking for them. Sleet and Dingo have proven time and again that they aren't just a minor threat to the Sonic Underground. I think it is this element that helps keep the story going.
The only thing I didn't like here is that I didn't see Robotnik going out himself much. He'd just assume have everybody do his work for him. I guess this is the typical main masterminded bad guy in most cartoon series. Still, I would like to see a series where the leader actually does the work himself. Being that I'm an adult and not so much into video gaming anymore, I probably won't look at watching any further series of "Sonic the Hedgehog" because it's not my thing. The kids love Sonic or there wouldn't have been as many series as there have been. "Sonic Underground" is definitely a winner here for them, or for anyone who likes this sort of stuff.

"Sonic Underground" is a 4-disc set with 2 discs to a plastic slim-case, all placed into a single cardboard case. The first 3 discs are the DVD's and the last one is a CD with 8 cuts featuring the greatest hits from "Sonic Underground". A 4-page booklet is also included. Although this set is not labeled as such, it only collects the first 20 episodes of the series. Another volume should be forthcoming later down the road. The episodes included in this set are:

- "Beginnings : Origins: Part 1" (21:44)
- "Getting to Know You : Origins: Part 2" (21:42)
- "Harmony or Something : Origins: Part 3" (21:42)
- "To Catch a Queen" (21:42)
- "Mobodoon" (21:43)
- "The Price of Freedom" (21:42)
- "Underground Masquerade" (21:42)
- "Tangled Webs" (21:42)
- "The Deepest Fear" (21:42)
- "Who Do You Think You Are?" (21:42)
- "Last Resort" (21:42)
- "Come Out Wherever You Are" (21:42)
- "Winner Fakes All" (21:42)
- "A Hedgehog's Home Is Her Castle" (21:42)
- "Artifact" (21:42)
- "Bug!" (21:42)
- "Sonic Tonic" (21:42)
- "Friend or Foe?" (21:42)
- "Head Games" (21:42)
- "When In Rome..." (21:42)

Video

All episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full screen televised format. The image seems to be totally flawless from defects. I've looked for dirt, pixels, and grain. Shout! Factor certainly went the extra mile, and an extra mile beyond that, to make sure that the transfers of each episode are top-notch. While there are moments when grain is present, it is only when the view-screens are used. This is probably intentional for the show. While the animation isn't as smooth as Animé, it seems to take on a style of its own. It looks as though all of the drawings were created and then pieced together in one continuous flow. The only thing I can say for the picture and the animation is WHOA!!

Audio

Each episode is accompanied by an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I usually keep my surround sound receiver at a constant volume setting. With only the two speakers, it sounds good enough to be a Dolby Surround 2.0, maybe even a Dolby Surround 5.1. When turning on the Surround mode, the sound seems more balanced out and not quite as loud. Like the video, even the audio seems flawless. I was certainly impressed. There are no commentary tracks or subtitles available for any part of this package.

Extras

Shout! Factory has included several featurettes, music videos, a storyboard-to-screen comparison, some bonus trailers and a CD as extras, below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

The main extras on this disc are a collection of 8 music videos which include:

- "Someday" which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.
- "Working Together In Harmony" which runs for 1 minute 13 seconds.
- "We're All In This Together" which runs for 1 minute 14 seconds.
- "Have You Got the 4-1-1?" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "I Found My Home" runs for 1 minute 16 seconds.
- "The Things You Really Need" which runs for 1 minute 8 seconds.
- "Just Like Down On the Bayou" which runs for 53 seconds.
- "Teach the Children (Light the Way)" which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds.

This disc also features three bonus trailers before the main menu, the previews are viewable before the main menu only. They are not accessible any other way and include:

- "Sonic the Hedgehog: The Complete Series" which runs for 57 seconds.
- "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" which runs for 52 seconds.
- "The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3" which runs for 45 seconds.

DISC TWO:

This disc only features 8 more music videos only, and they include:

- "Face Your Fear" which runs for 56 seconds.
- "We Need To Be Free" which runs for 1 minute.
- "Listen To Your Heart" which runs for 1 minute 14 seconds.
- "Society Girl" which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds.
- "Built For Speed" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "Let's Do It To It" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "You Can't Own Everything" which runs for 1 minute 13 seconds.
- "Never Give Up the Fight" which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.

DISC THREE:

"Developing the Underground" is a 7 minute 21 second featurette in which executive producer Robby London talks about the development of the series. He also talks about using Jaleel White as the voice of Sonic.

"Songs From the Underground" is an 8 minute 54 second featurette in which executive producer Robby London talks about the music used in the series. The first song he talks about is the opening theme, which he wrote. He also talks about how music from different genres was carefully chosen that kids might like for the series. Composer Mike Piccirillo also talks about how the series was developed around his songs, and what the songs should mean in the series.

"Storyboard-to-Screen: Opening Titles" is a 1 minute 4 second featurette in which you see the opening to the series all in storyboards. There is also a deleted segment as part of it that didn't make the actual opening.

Next up is a series of 8 "Original Concept Art" featurettes that include:

Heroes
- "Sonic" which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.
- "Sonia" which runs for 1 minute 6 seconds.
- "Manic" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.

Villains
- "Robotnik" which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds.
- "Sleet" which runs for 1 minute.
- "Dingo" which runs for 51 seconds.

Vehicles
- "Camper Van" which runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.
- "Sleet & Dingo Vehicle" which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.

"The Art of Mobius" is a 58 second featurette that shows you one image after another of some of the artwork of the planet Mobius. That's about it here.

4 more music videos are presented here in the same fashion as on the other two DVD's and include:

- "I Wish I Could Go Faster" which runs for 1 minute 18 seconds.
- "Things Are Not Always What They Seem" which runs for 1 minute 10 seconds.
- "Take a Chance" which runs for 57 seconds.
- "When There's a Will, There's a Way" which runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.

2 hidden Easter eggs can also found on Disc 3:

While on the main menu, highlight the 'play all' option. Now press up three times. You should now be highlighting a part of Manic's drum. Select it to see a 2 minute 12 second featurette called "Giving Sega the Finger . . ." where executive producer Robby London tells you why Sonic has four fingers on each hand, instead of three as is custom to most cartoon characters.

Now highlight episodes and press up three times. You should be now highlighting the bottom of Sonic's guitar. Select it to see a 1 minute 30 second featurette called "Robby London Answers the BIG Questions". You will see questions on the screen and executive producer Robby London answers them.

DISC FOUR:

This is the Sonic Underground: The Greatest Hits CD soundtrack with 8 cuts that include:

- "Sonic Underground Main Title" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "Let's Do It : from "A Hedgehog's Home Is Her Castle"" which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.
- "I Wish I Could Go Faster : from "Sonic Tonic"" which runs for 1 minute 18 seconds.
- "Where There's a Will, There's a Way : from "When In Rome..."" which runs for 1 minute 14 seconds.
- "Mummy Wrap : from "Mummy Dearest"" runs for 1 minute 6 seconds.
- "The Mobius Stomp : from "New Echidna In Town"" runs for 55 seconds.
- "We're The Sonic Underground : from "Healer"" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "Lady Liberty : from "The Pendant"" which runs for 1 minute 12 seconds.

Overall

The Show: A- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A- Overall: A+

 


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