Earlier this year, Nintendo announced that they'd be remixing their classic 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, which, to the surprise of no one, sold out almost immediately when it went on sale on November 11. Not even a week after that announcement, it was reported that pre-orders for the 16-bit Sega Genesis were being taken, primarily because the system is still a hit in Brazil. Given that the system's biggest star, Sonic the Hedgehog turned 25 back in June, it was a fitting return to one of the '90s finest video game machines.
For those who forget (or were too young to truly experience SonicMania as a kid), Sonic was the man. And he was popular as hell. Sega has sold 140 million copies of Sonic games in the last quarter century, and the character has spawned a long-running, successful comic book series and multiple cartoons. If you wanna read more about Sonic and his success as a whole, you can do that here. But I specifically want to talk about Sonic as a cartoon character. Because what you might not realize is that for the better part of the last two decades, Jaleel White, the actor most famously known for playing Steve Urkel on ABC's Family Matters, voiced the loveable blue hedgehog.
In an interview released with a Sonic the Hedgehog box set, White said that he wanted to have his own cartoon and in the early '90s, ABC had purchased the rights to broadcast the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon (which debuted in September of 1993) primarily because it was easier to sell Urkel as the voice of Sonic than someone else. He made sure to note that, while he was a black guy playing the role of Sonic, he wasn't attempting to give Sonic a definitive "race" or anything; he just wanted to make him a "hero." While you may not have noticed it at first, but with the knowledge that White did the voice, you can hear a bit of his inflection in there.
The man behind Urkel voiced Sonic over multiple Sonic shows. He started out in 1993 with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, voicing the character for a 65 episode run. That turned into 26 more episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog, which ended its run in 1994. From there he did a Sonic Christmas special (Sonic Christmas Blast!) in 1996, and in 1999 did more Sonic work for 40 episodes of Sonic Underground. It looks like he was even set to voice Sonic in the 2011 Sonic Generations video game, but because the "Classic Sonic" of the previous games didn't speak, that idea was ultimately scrapped. But here's the real kicker: Jaleel White was brought on to voice Sonic in a 2013 fan-made film entitled Sonic.
That move made sense; for fans of the game and the cartoon series, the ability to nail the original voice of the Saturday morning cartoon was vital, and truth be told, a HUGE score for the fan flick.
These days, Jaleel White is still very much in the industry. He's done a number of episodes of TV over the last few years on shows like Survivor's Remorse, Hawaii Five-O, and Castle, among others. To most of his fanbase, he'll always be the uber-nerd Steve Urkel, but for the fans who have sore thumbs due to late-night gaming sessions, Jaleel White will always and forever be the true voice of Sonic the Hedgehog.