A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sonic Underground's story line is separate from those of the other series starring the titular character, including The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. In this case, Sonic works as part of a family team to overthrow the oppressive regime of the city's leader. Because he's not a solo act, he must learn along with his brother and sister how to combine their talents and work as a unit, which has positive messages about teamwork. Younger kids may not understand (and thus might be frightened by) the actions of the villain and his underlings, who flaunt their power over the general population by arresting dissenters and turning them into programmed robots. For those who can follow the complex story, though, the heroes' selfless devotion to the cause of freedom for their people has some positive qualities.
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What's the story?
Years ago, the cruel Dr. Robotnik (voiced by Garry Chalk) seized control of Mobotropolis from its beloved ruler, Queen Aleena (Gail Webster). He promptly transformed the place into a wasteland and enslaved its people with threats of turning dissenters into robots under his control. Queen Aleena was forced to flee her home, separating her three youngsters -- Sonic (Sam Vincent), Manic (Tyley Ross), and Sonia (Stevie Vallance) -- and handing them over to strangers to raise out of sight of Dr. Robotnik and his armies. But a prophecy foretold that when the time was right, Aleena would reunite with her children, forming the Council of Four and working alongside the Freedom Fighters to take back control of the city. Thus begins the quest for Sonic, Manic, and Sonia to discover their collective powers and to search for their long-lost mother, who will lead them in their charge against the tyrannical Dr. Robotnik. At the same time, they combine their talents in their hot new rock band.
Is it any good?
For a kids' cartoon, SONIC UNDERGROUND has some surprisingly dark themes more commonly associated with dystopian fiction for the older set. Though the content never feels truly threatening and Dr. Robotnik's evildoing is offset by the quirky trio of heroes and their often-comical escapades, this is still a story about an enslaved people rising up against an oppressive tyrant and his powerful armies to safeguard their personal freedom. Kids who watch may have questions about the characters' actions and their motivations, but if yours are ready for it, this can start some thoughtful conversations about these issues.
Content-wise, there isn't a lot here that will surprise kids familiar with similar cartoons. Violence is more about flash than it is about packing an actual punch, and characters are rarely hurt in the action. Sonic and his siblings learn about teamwork the hard way, but the end result is a good one. And central to the story is the age-old struggle between good and evil that's not easily resolved. The bottom line? Sonic Underground has some good things to offer kids, but only if they're ready for the complexities of its story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the type of society portrayed in this show. Do individual freedoms exist? What are the penalties for exercising freedom? Does anyone benefit from such a setup?
Do you believe in destiny? In what ways do we decide our own fate? How might this ability be different in a dystopian society like the one in this show?
Sonic, Manic, and Sonia show that sibling relationships aren't always easy. How do you resolve differences that arise in your family? Conversely, in what ways does your family serve as a source of strength for you?
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