Sega's Director of Animation Talks More Animated Sonic, Fan Reactions, and Tails Choking on a Chili Dog

If you're somehow not already aware, the recent animated Sonic the Hedgehog shorts -- which are readily available online in addition to being embedded here -- are an absolute delight. While they feature no dialogue, the shorts manage to convey an extremely broad number of emotions across a variety of iconic characters like Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Which is why, when the opportunity presented itself to talk to one of the people behind all of that at Sega, we jumped on it. recently spoke with Yukio Kusumoto, Sega's Director of Animation. If you didn't read the first part of our interview, you might not known that he produced both Sonic Mania Adventures for Sonic Mania Plus and Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive for Team Sonic Racing, the most recent Sonic the Hedgehog video games.

In the first part of our interview with Kusumoto, he spoke at length about how the short-form animated content came to exist at all. In this second, longer portion of that same interview, the director reveals his response to the fan feedback, the future of this sort of animated content for Sonic the Hedgehog, and his favorite part of Sonic Mania Adventures. What has the response been like to the series? How do you feel about it?

Yukio Kusumoto: It has been incredible. I've been in animation space for about 15 years, and primarily I've been producing TV shows. I never actually released anything online directly and immediately [...] within an hour all of these comments came in, and all positive comments; comments like, "this is what I've been waiting for, this is great, finally," saying I did it right. The response to Sega's previous show, Sonic Boom had been kind of mixed, I mean mostly positive, but some people weren't too sure about the take that Sonic Boom had, but Sonic Mania Adventures is all about classic Sonic, the very beginning of the Sonic iterations. And because this show didn't have dialogue, the character had a very rich facial expressions and mannerisms that people responded very, very positively to from the very beginning.

You know, given the response and the fact that there's now been two series, I have to ask, what are you working on now? Can we expect similar animated shorts going forward for Sonic titles?

I can say we have a plan of continuing this trend creating short-form content per game release, and we can't announce yet, but several projects have been planned; for those projects, we are in early development, but yes, we will continue releasing this type of content.

Now specifically for the short-form content that is already out there, is there anything you wished you could have included but didn't get a chance or that was left on the cutting room floor?

Well for these projects, the schedule is so tight that we didn't have a liberty of producing more and then cutting down. Literally what you've seen on the Internet is all we produced, actually. Then the challenge and the joy at the same time was producing a show without dialogue. It definitely created a unique challenge, but a welcoming one. We actually learned so much from that experience, but in the future we might be thinking of having dialogue, and also a longer piece, but still the short form -- it's not full series, but a bit longer than those two previous shows.

Of the stuff that has come out, what was your favorite part?

My favorite part for Sonic Mania Adventures is definitely the very last scene where [Tails chokes on a] chili dog. It was just a classic moment. That idea came from Tyson [Hesse, the director,] at the very last minute, and we were actually not sure if that type of humor will be approved by the higher management, but they did, and I'm so proud of that scene 'cause every single time I see the episode it makes me laugh. And also for the Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive, that was extremely challenging to blend hand-drawn style of character into a 3D car racing and we didn't have a multimillion dollar budget. So we really have to be clever and resourceful to [animate] the racing, yet being funny at the same time, and the production took over a year, thanks to Tyson and Neko [Productions] and my manager, Jasmine, and all their force came together and we released two episodes of Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive, and we're extremely proud of that achievement.


Have you seen both sets of Sonic shorts? Do you have a favorite part? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things gaming!


Sonic Mania Plus and Team Sonic Racing are both currently available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Sega right here.