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Ben Hurst on SatAM

8/06, Updated 11/10 - Compiled by PorpoiseMuffins

Title Screen One of the most prominant writers on Sonic the Hedgehog was Ben Hurst. Although by no means the only writer on the show, Ben wrote several of the first and second season episodes and was the main creative force behind season 2's story arc. Some time around 1997, Ben appeared on the Sonic the Hedgehog newsgroup and began speaking with fans. In the years following until his death in August 2010, he would continue to communicate with the fanbase from time to time, sharing his thoughts about SatAM, Sonic Underground, and the possibility of a third season of SatAM. Fans were blessed by Ben's good humor and down-to-earth nature. It's rare for a TV writer to make such personal connections with the series’ fans in the way that Ben did, and his authentic enthusiasm for the Sonic series was a breath of fresh air.

Because of Ben, SatAM fans were not alone in their quest to revive the series. From the show's end in 1995 to his passing in 2010, Mr. Hurst was involved in several attempts to complete the saga, including one collaboration between he and Archie writer Ken Penders that almost got off the ground back in 2000 (Read on to find out why it failed). For those who don’t know, Ben also wrote (at a rigorous pace) for the 1998 series Sonic Underground but was not involved in the original premise of the show. According to Ben, Underground was the perfect opportunity for the revival of SatAM; unfortunately, that opportunity was not seized by those in power at the time.

I've compiled this feature as a resource for those curious to know exactly what Mr. Hurst said publicly about his time on the show. I’ll let his words speak for themselves from here on out:

From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (1997/1998):

Well, bearing in mind that we were given no history of the Sonic characters when we came on board, we created a "White Paper" that created a history for the characters. This doesn't mean that what we created is the definitive backstory. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the document, but as I recall, Julian and Snively were part of a space expedition from about 2200 (or thereabouts). Julian attempted a takeover of the colony, but his technology got out of control and he wound up destroying everything, narrowly escaping with his (and Snively's) lives.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, a nuclear holocaust had destroyed human life as we knew it - and the animals who survived mutated into sentient beings and built the society which you see in the form of Mobius. Einstein's ideas of the passage of time during faster-than-light space travel kick in and thousands of years have passed by the time Julian and Snively returned to find this "Animal" world. Well, Julian's thought was that in the land of the four-pawed critters, the two-handed man is king and so he set about to take over - as outlined in Blast to the Past.

Again, this is just what we came up with and may not reflect the backstories created by the comic book writers.

Hope this helps,



From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (1997/1998):

I agree with K. Ivan about Sal. She's also one of my favorite characters - although Dulcy will always have a special place in my heart. The wonderful thing about Sal is that, not only is she strong and capable, she can give as well as get in any exchange with Sonic. She doesn't order him around - she cajoles, persuades, convinces him to go in the direction she suggests - but as we all know - if Sonic really doesn't want to go in her direction - it just plain old ain't gonna happen.

To me, what truly sets Sally aside is her heart. She has a deep well of compassion she draws from - and though Sonic is equally compassionate, Sally has the ability to articulate her heart-felt feelings (which Sonic will then agree to with a, "Yeah, that.")

For those who don't know me, I was privileged to be a part of the wonderful writing team, led by Len Janson, who had the opportunity to write for the Satam version of Sonic. In the process, I fell in love with the characters. All of the characters. But my favorites were always Sonic and Sally - and the relationship between them was a joy and pleasure to keep alive.

I have been lurking in this ng off and on over the last year when I've had time - and enjoy the active dialogue between the various (witty and quite entertaining) individuals here. It tugs at my heart everytime I hear people lamenting the lack of a third season of Satam Sonic - because, like many of you, I became deeply involved in the lives and adventures of the Sonic characters.

It is my dream to bring the story lines which were left unfinished in the second season to their final conclusion - and I'm working now to bring that to pass - though it is an uphill road and I'm afraid my chances of success are slim. Nonetheless, I'm going to give it my best shot. Believe me, I want to see this as much as all of those here who share the love of Satam Sonic.

I'm happy to see so many sharing a passion for a simple blue hedgehog.

Ben Hurst


From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (1998/1999):

I posted this to Ron's email list - and to a few websites, but following is a report on my meeting on DIC to keep you up to date.

As you have heard, I had a meeting at DiC to start the process towards possibly re-awakening interest in a third season of Sonic in some incarnation. I met with Robbie London, one of my favorite people. It was an interesting conversation and helped to crystalize my thinking on how to proceed. I also learned a little more about syndication and the thought-processes of network executives in selecting shows to be produced.

I am proud of the efforts of many of the Sonic fans in assembling petitions to try to return SatAm to the air and I will utilize these petitions as I continue my quest. But the problem with Sonic all along has been a lack of popularity. Though there is a core of steadfast fans, Sonic has never generated the big numbers that keep a show on the air. There are a number of reasons for this. Poor airing schedules, shows pre-empted by sporting events (at least in the U.S.), tough competition (Power Rangers) and perhaps even lackluster marketing (think about it: did you ever see mass-marketing tie-ins for Sonic Underground? A heavy wave of commercials?).

Whatever the reasons, Sonic has never had the kind of "groundswell support" of mass numbers, has never generated a "Ninja Turtles" or "Power Rangers" type of popularity required to keep network executives interested in continuing the show. Sonic fans, please note the words "mass numbers." Again, your efforts have been Herculean and your devotion has been unwavering, but the big numbers simply haven't been there to make "bottom line-conscious" executives sit up and take notice.

I know it sounds like I'm painting a bleak picture, but this is the reality of network television. I won't even go into the syndication market possibilities because that area is flat right now and syndicated shows are at an all-time low. So how can Sonic fans create a demand? I am of the mind that email is not as powerful as many think. And after talking with Mr. London, I was reminded of something I learned from my advertising days: the power of a good, old-fashioned letter. Corporate entities take letters more seriously than they do email. Fact of life. Letters can be felt, touched and read. I think they seem more "real" to the powers-that-be. And I think they are more effective.

I encourage fans who wish to see SatAm (the first two seasons) returned to the airwaves to generate letters or petitions. Not to Dic or SEGA, but to their LOCAL NETWORK AFFILIATES and to organizations such as NICK or the CARTOON NETWORK. Why? Because they have the power to buy. They have the power to pass requests up the corporate ladder. SEGA is fully aware of the fan base, but they are the executive producers, creating a product to sell. DIC is a hired gun. Corporations come to them with funds and they produce the episodes. They only license a character or series if they feel they can sell it. They can't survive otherwise.

I can not emphasize enough the power of a letter. Petitions can be printed and mailed, along with letters from the fans demanding the return - or more favorable airing of a show. I know that in the case of Sonic Underground, the show was aired at odd times and on sometimes unpredictable schedules. Letters could possibly change that, but again, those letters should be directed close to home - to the people who make the schedules - the local affiliates. And it wouldn't hurt to direct those letters to ABC or Disney either. Again, those are the people who make the decisions to air a show.

At this time, it would be terribly difficult for me to pursue a third season of Sonic as a network show. Too many hurdles, the aforementioned lack of mass numbers and a general industry inertia are formidable arguments against that course of action. Direct-to-Video is slightly more likely, but again, there has to be a known demand before any company will risk the many millions required to produce this kind of product. And it all starts close to home. If a demand were created by fans, this could possibly change.

Perhaps the most viable option is an animated feature film. Mr. London gave me names at SEGA to contact and I am attempting to set up meetings with them to pursue this avenue. My marketing strategy is simple: a great film could create an awakened interest in Sonic, breathe new life into the existing produced series and increase the marketing and merchandising possibilities for the little blue guy. So, that's my "state of Sonic" address. It ain't all pretty, but it's based in the realities of the business. I will continue to pursue this course until I either prevail or find every door closed. If fans wish to assist, I am of the mind that good old, fashioned letters would prove to be their most potent weapon.

Onward and upward,

Ben Hurst


From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (1998/1999):

Pat Allee and I were invited to a cattle call of writers under the original story editor. We were immediately assigned an episode. Upon reading it, the original story editor was let go and we were brought on board. We did our best to embrace the spirit of the original SatAm characters - but we were not allowed to change the "new vision" of the show. We also endeavored to inclued SatAm's original story editor - Len Janson - to whom the credit must go for the high standards of that show. It was his insistance that there always be "wins and losses" for the good guys - and his development of the Sonic/Sally relationship that made the show sparkle. Len wrote about 8 of the episodes for SU and you can see the spirit of Sonic best in his scripts.

There was also another team of story editors for a short while - but they moved onto another show, but not before completing a number of episodes that I felt weren't really in the spirit of Sonic. Nothing I could do about those - but we tried our best to incorporate as much of the humor, wit, action and adventure of the original Sonic SatAm continuity as we could.

I think we had mixed results, but there are certain episodes and sequences and dialogue exchanges that I am very proud of.

I'm sorry if Sonic Underground was a disappointment to some of you. But hopefully, SEGA will decide to do another and maybe this time I'll have a hand in the development. That would be nice.

Take care,

Ben Hurst


From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (1998/1999):

There are no third season scripts. The only thing in existence is the sketch that I did of the third season. There are many twists and turns that I shouldn't disclose, just in case my efforts toward continuing these character and story lines is successful. But, if I can't get anything moving on this project - I will reveal them or possibly write them into a "profic" as it was called by someone.

Ben Hurst


From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (2005):

Hello fans of SatAm,

Sonic Underground was a sad, sad story. With the opportunity looming large for the third season of SatAm, DIC made a creative decision to trash that continuity and strike out in a new direction. The reason: because they could add songs with the whole Sonic, Sonia and Manic thing and collect extra residuals from ASCAP/BMI (the group that pays song royalties - DIC makes deals with songwriters to split or sign over the rights to their compositions - exactly the same way that they force the writers and story editors to sign over all rights to their stories.)

All residual payments for cartoons go to DIC - even the royalties set aside for creative people in Europe (based on blank videotape and audio cassette sales). There have been legal battles about that (through the Writer's Guild), but the only reputable animation producer in America (to my knowledge) to hand those monies over to the writers - was Warner Brothers. I've actually received royalty checks from the European release of episodes that Pat Allee and I wrote for "Tiny Toons."

Here's how Sonic Underground happened. After SatAm was canned because of a change in leadership at ABC and low ratings caused by multiple pre-emptions caused by sporting events and finally - being placed up against the red-hot "Power Rangers," (now there's some genius programming strategy) - a new version of Sonic was created: Sonic Underground.

Did they ask me or Pat or Len Janson to develop the series? No. In fact, I never heard of the series before a DIC story editor called and asked me and Pat to come to a cattle call for Sonic Underground. I refused (we don't do cattle calls - which, for those of you unfamiliar with the term - is where they bring in about 20 writers to learn about a series and pitch written premises (for free) in hopes of snagging an episode or two). The story editor got us there by guaranteeing us at least a few episodes. So, off we went to a conference room at DIC.

We got there and yep, twenty writers. They showed an episode of SatAm (first season) to "illustrate the background" of the characters. It wasn't one of mine or Pat's - it was one of the other episodes. After they described the marvelous new direction (Siblings, Music, Missing Mother, Stupid New Characters) they ended the meeting. We were taken into another room with the story editor who told us he wanted us to write the pilot episode. We did. SEGA read the script, then the story editor was fired and we were hired. They also hired another team of story editors - who survived through about 8 episodes before they left. We also got a few fledgling writers shoved down our throat by the producer (results: I had to rewrite their damned unusable scripts from page one - they still got paid for the script - I got nada)

We tried our best to get some lore going, but DIC was racing through the series at 2 episodes a week - an insane pace and one calculated to maximize their profits. We managed to get a three-part origin story through, but with the limited time, we were unable to tie everything together. The only bright spot was that we assigned 6 scripts to Len Janson, who wrote some damn nice stuff.

So that's the saga of SU. As I rewatch some of the episodes, I'm surprised it's as good as it is. I'm fully aware it doesn't match up to SatAm and I would give my eye teeth to be hired to do the SatAm third season. But the only way for that to happen would be for some visionary exec at DIC to realize they're sitting on a gold mine.

I did consult with DIC to see if there was a way to generate some enthusiasm for a feature film to be the "Third Season" of SatAm. I was given the name of a SEGA executive and had a most pleasant conversation. She had to go to a meeting, but said she would like to talk to me more about the idea.

The next day, I got a call from Ken Penders, who had been alerted by his contact in their office that I was interested in getting a Sonic movie going. I generously offered to include him in the effort and told him my strategy. Get SEGA to become invested in the idea by hiring us to interview their creative game designers, execs, etc and see if we could develop a story line that would fulfill the third season - and simultaneously give them creative ideas to develop new games. A win-win, situation.

Then, I called SEGA back, but I was shocked when the exec "lit" into me, telling me, "People pay US to develop Sonic product, we don't pay them!" Then she hung up on me. Obviously, Penders had related my strategy to them in a less-than-flattering way. Thanks for the knife, Ken.

So, I gave up. Later, I was informed by friendly fans that Penders had written in his message board or some such place that "Ben Hurst doesn't know how movies are made in Hollywood." (Hey Ken, read "Adventures in Screenwriting" by William Goldman and get some humility) Then he dropped hints that HE would be the writer for a big Sonic Feature Film. That was three years ago.

So, if you're reading between the lines, you can see I don't hold out much hope for seeing the third season of Satam - or being the one who does it if it happens. And that makes me sad. Because if it were to happen, those 13 episodes would sizzle.

But this I've learned: Never leave a series on a cliffhanger unless you have a contract for the next year. And be more careful in my choice of people to confide in.

May this find you all in good health and spirits - and who knows? Miracles could still happen with Satam. But I think the odds of hitting the California Lotto are slightly better.

Best to all,

Ben Hurst


From the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog newsgroup (2005):

Just for the record: Ken [Penders of Archie comics] has often said (paraphrasing here) that "Ben Hurst says the torch has been passed to me for Sonic the Hedgehog" - usually expressed in a way to make it appear that I passed the torch to him. Not true. I was just trying to be nice. What I said was that since the comic was ongoing and the animated series was over, the torch had been passed [by default] to him. I was just trying to prevent a flurry of inquiries from fans pitting his opinion against mine on how the Sonic Universe should be sculpted after SatAm ended. The way he has expressed it in the past seems to convey the impression that he has my approval of his work. He doesn't. I've not read a single comic.

Best to all,

Ben Hurst


From Fans United for SatAM (2005):


Here goes: I'm sorry if people misunderstood my feelings for SU. There was a post on the alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog group that said something to the effect (I'm paraphrasing) that "the storyboards for this series would have sold if the series wasn't so crummy." It was more an explanation of how the series came about and what involvement Pat and I had in the development which was precisely zero. However, we did manage to create a three-part origin story and even at the insane pace we were forced to write, it didn't come out half-bad. We were able to write some of the key, pivotal episodes ourselves, but the biggest boost for this series was that, with only a very few exceptions, we were able to assign scripts out to very experienced writers, i.e. other story editors, including the "King" (my personal opinion) Len Janson (he wrote 8 episodes), who goes all the way back to the Smurfs. He was also the story editor for Satam.

Len has over 1000 written/story edited episodes under his belt in both live action (he and his incredibly-talented partner Chuck Menville (who unfortunately died of brain cancer well before Sonic) created "Land of the Lost") and animation (everything from the aforementioned Smurfs to Tiny Toons, Ghost Busters and others too numerous to mention). But, crippled by the need to include a song in every episode, even the best writers struggled and the result was a rushed series filled with unimaginable compromises.

I've been told by Sonique (yes, we do speak frequently) that it has been stated that even if a third season or a Sonic movie were to be done, it would supposedly would not be satisfying to fans. I also read the rationale supporting that faux-thesis point and I'm afraid I have to regard it as specious at best, defensive and self-serving at worst.

So, here's the facts, Jack: if given the opportunity to do either the movie or the third Satam Season - it wouldn't suck. It would simply pick up where Satam left off. Same writers, same continuity - but incredible new developments because - and this is MY thesis point - because, unlike writing a script-a-week during a deadline-driven season of television animation, I've had years, YEARS, to think of what would happen next, how the characters would develop and how the stories would unfold.

I'm not here to raise false hopes, but know this: I am as much a fan of Satam as all of you, if not more. I have written on numerous shows, created large outdoor spectacle attractions for special events and theme parks, written and served as concept developer on exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution (with another one currently in development) and for entire museums - and I've served as consultant to develop storylines for theme park attractions and museums around the country and around the world. In short, my life has been an amazing adventure filled with incredible experiences - but - and I emphasize this - of ALL the storylines I've had the pleasure to participate in, the one that has captured and held my heart is the saga of the little blue Hedgehog.

People ask why I decided to comment after all these years? I'll tell you. There was a two-part script I had poured my heart into. A two-part script that I fought battles over with both SEGA and ABC executives in order to bring it to the light of day. This script was, in my opinion, the defining moment of Satam. I'm sure you've already guessed it was "Blast to the Past." I was supported in my struggle by both Len Janson and Pat Allee and we prevailed. They also had a large hand in the writing and editing and without them, it would have never shined as brightly as it did.

So, what was the personal defining moment that made me decide to speak out about past events? Well, I discovered someone had sold a copy of my script on ebay. In a way, that person did me a favor, because it opened up a market for the storyboards that were collecting dust in boxes in my garages and got them out into the world of fandom where they belonged. On the other hand, considering the history, it was infuriating to see that person make a profit from MY handiwork. That boiled inside me for awhile until a series of personal tragedies (friends and family members dying - believe me, watching loved ones go changes your perspective and priorities) removed a good portion of my personal restraint - and I decided to unload.

I have no regrets, because the outpouring of support for Satam, for me and for my fellow animation writers has been incredibly gratifying. I have received personal emails that almost brought tears to my eyes as people shared their love for the characters, the stories and most importantly, for the relationship between Sonic and Sally.

Although the odds are stacked against my participating in another incarnation of Satam, don't ever for a moment believe that I have given up hope. Don't ever for a moment believe that ideas aren't percolating inside me every day. Not a day goes by that I don't jot another post-it to add to the very large pile (big thanks to the incredible fan who provided an entire box of them imprinted with an image of Sonic). The odds are beyond-belief long - but I now have yet another reason to reignite my desire to continue on my Quixotic quest to complete the work I started on Satam.

On April 1st, I sat in a hospital while my best friend (and wonderful husband to my lovely sister) of 35 years was undergoing what we thought was a routine surgery for a minor cancer. Then, I sat in shock as the surgeon came out of the operating room two hours early and told me that he had found cholangiocarcinoma - a rare form of cancer known for its "stealth" ability to hide from x-rays and catscans. It had spread through most of his major organs and his body cavity. In shock and sorrow, I held my completely devastated sister and after we finally managed to pull ourselves together, she asked me to tell him the dreadful news we had just received from the surgeon: He only has between three to six months to live - nine months to a year if he takes chemotherapy. (Never in my life have I more wanted to hear someone say the words, "April Fools!" but on this particular April first, that was not to happen.)

I'll spare you the sad details, but after the initial shock, my brother-in-law shook his head and quite calmly accepted the news. He's decided not to take the chemo (he saw the effects it had on my mother, robbing her of any joy in life and taking away her will to "seize the day") - so instead of moping about or being sad, he's making plans to visit places he and my sister have wanted to visit. He plans to use his remaining time to celebrate all that is good about life and to realize some of the dreams he has postponed. As Obi-Wan would say, "The Force is strong in this one."

Today, I had a long conversation with him, filled with laughter and memories, including how he, my sister and their children have always been big fans of the shows we've written on, particularly "Captain Planet" and "Sonic." He knows all about the "Sonic-saga" and all the personal storylines surrounding it. And as we were discussing it, he reminded me that none of us know how long we will be allowed to stay here on earth. Then, he put his hand on my shoulder and informed me, "Ya gotta follow your dreams,"' and with a grin, he added, "Juice and jam time for both of us."

So, I've decided that after I finish the two projects I'm working on, I'm going to explore the possibilities of pursuing the third season or the movie one last time. If I succeed, then good. If I fail, then I gave it my all. Three fans (sworn to secrecy) know there is a third option and that will be revealed if all else fails.

To all of you who have been kind and encouraging, my heartfelt thanks and best wishes - and...

Take care,

Ben (Swriter)


From Fans United for SatAM (2005):

To all the wonderful Satam fans,

I just finished reading through the comments and they give me heart, they touch my spirit and they give me hope. I wish I had the time to respond individually to each of you and I will in time, but my attention is stretched in a number of directions and will remain so for a while.

I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and feelings about Satam. And now, I'll share just a little of mine.

During the second season, I agonized over so many issues. How many new freedom fighters would be too many? What characteristics of each new group would blend with the overall story and what characteristics would demand too much time and take away from the central focus, which was always the epic struggle between what most would call between good and bad, but what I chose to call between blue and ugly.

To me, the characters of Sonic are the embodiment of the essence of life. The life force within each of us that is forced to make decisions on the fly and to celebrate the good decisions and learn to live with the bad ones. Each character plays an integral part and sometimes, the characters shift roles as they travel the road forced upon them. So Sonic is the simpler form of bravery, action and resolution. Sally is also the bravery, but her action springs from her reflective intellect - or if we were to translate that to ourselves, the part of us that is just a wee bit more grown up. I won't bore you with how all the other characters make up the whole, but suffice it to say that each plays an important role in the struggle. And woven through each character (even Antoine, in his own bumbling, frail and sometimes cowardly fashion) are the two most important elements: strong hearts and a yearning for freedom.

I know that sounds almost corny, but I'm a student of history, I'm a student of life and I'm a student of story. These three areas are inextricably woven together into a tapestry that comprises my body of work. And everyday, I feel, deep in my consciousness that this particular area - the saga of the blue hedgehog and his cohorts - this area of my life's work is incomplete.

Two things give me heart, give me hope and give me the resolution to push forward. My own need to see an epic saga continue - and the words from all of your hearts that touch me so deeply.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Every one of you. And let's keep going. Perhaps collectively, we can breathe new life into this wonderful dream.

To the future, to freedom and to you,

All my best,



I once again thank everyone for the outpouring of their thoughts and feelings about Sonic Satam. Every word I read heartens me; every word I read becomes a symbol of hope. To learn that some of you have found inspiration, to learn that some of you have gained insights into the life experience, and especially, to learn that there was so much sheer enjoyment from the work our team created - this is an experience for me that ranks right up there with some of my happiest moments.

Again, thank you for all the wonderful memories and comments. I look forward to reading more and I'm so happy to be dipping my toe back into the Sonic pool.

Best to all,


The following are chat logs from the Summer 2005 and 2006 Sonic Amateur Games Expos (SAGE). They're long, but they're both very entertaining, informative reads that should clarify a lot of questions that you may still have:

Ben Hurst Chat Log SAGE 2005 (Microsoft Word Document)

Ben Hurst Chat Log SAGE 2006 (Microsoft Word Document)

For more from Ben, check out his interview on the Sonic the Hedgehog: The Complete Series box set.

On YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2

Thanks, Ben, for taking the time to be a part of the Sonic community that you helped build through your writing. You will be missed.

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