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Today I’ll be connecting Sonic The Hedgehog (yes “The” is capitalized; it’s Sonic’s actual middle name) to Donald Trump. But don’t worry, this isn’t a politically proselytizing episode. I’m simply taking advantage of the politically charged atmosphere here in the US. I’m selfish. Last week I connected Mario to Hillary Clinton. Watch that episode here:

You know that social theory that everyone on earth can be connected to anyone else by no more than 5 intermediaries? They call that 6 Degrees of Separation. I do the same thing here, except I connect video game topics in strange ways using 6 Degrees of Pixelation.

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Welcome to 6 Degrees of Pixelation, the show that brings the social theory 6 degrees of separation to video games. I’m Caleb. This is my abode, and today I’ll be connecting Sonic the Hedgehog to Donald Trump. And don’t worry, as I said in the last episode, this isn’t a politically proselytizing episode. I’m simply capitalizing on the general US public’s captivation with the presidential election. I connected Mario to Hillary Clinton last week, so be sure to check that out, too. During that episode I also explained why I’m connecting Clinton and Trump to Mario and Sonic. The short reason is, the mascots history as the go-to video game nemeses makes them great proxies for political nemeses.

And Donald Trump is a unique nemesis for this series, unique in that it’s actually a bit too easy to connect him to…anything. Trump has associated himself with just about everything, whether by way of his business dealings, his high-profile television appearances (Miss America, The Apprentice), or his vitriolic rhetoric insulting every culture, and by proxy every person, on the planet. He’s everywhere.

I’ll prove it to you. Sonic the Hedgehog was the very first video game character to have a Macy’s Day parade balloon, 1993. The creator and namesake of the parade, The Macy’s Department Store, decided to stop offering Donald Trump merchandise in 2015 after he referred to immigrants from Mexico and other countries as “killers and rapists.” Sonic to Macy’s to Trump. That’s only 3 degrees.

But the 6 Degrees of Pixelation series is about having fun with trivia (and having a name that’s closely aligned with 6 Degrees of Separation), so I won’t settle for only 3 degrees. To do so, I’m going to avoid connections by way of Trump’s ignorant comments about non-rich-white-guy cultures, and instead focus on actual trivia. After all, to know how disgusting Trump is isn’t trivia. It’s common knowledge.

Let’s begin with Sonic the Hedgehog and his connection to Felix the Cat.

1 & 2. Sonic the Hedgehog > Felix the Cat

Felix the cat is the first thing many of us think of when we hear the phrase old timey, black and white cartoon cat. Obviously the accuracy of that statement assumes there are enough of us out there who hear the phrase “old timey black and white cartoon cat” often enough to make a valid sample size. If you’ve never heard that phrase, then here’s your homework: work the phrase into your next conversation.

Felix the cat made his debut in 1919, appearing in print comic strips as well as animated features. Felix the Cat is actually the first animated character with enough popularity to draw in movie audiences.

The question of Felix’s origin is debated. Australian film producer Pat Sullivan owned the Felix character and produced the first Felix the Cat silent cartoons, and claimed to be the sole creator. However, Otto Messmer is believed to be the actual artist and animator, despite Sullivan’s name being all over the final products.

Similarly, the question of how Felix factors into Sonic the Hedgehog’s origin isn’t entirely clear. Naoto Oshima, Sonic’s character designer, claims that he “just put Felix the Cat on the body of Mickey Mouse.” Though it’s easy to see the inspiration, believing that creating Sonic was that simple is a bit harder to swallow.

But if that connection isn’t strong enough for you, I can jump back into the Macy’s Day parade. While Sonic the Hedgehog was the first videogame character to have a balloon, in 1927 Felix the Cat was used as the likeness for the very first Macy’s Day parade giant balloon ever! I didn’t want to lead with that connection, though, considering in the intro I already traveled the parade route (rimshot).

Felix must feel at home in the air. Not only did NYC parade organizers simply let the Felix balloon fly off into the sky after the parade, rather than deflate it, Felix also found himself in the role of co-pilot to famed aviator Charles Lindbergh…

3. Felix the Cat > Charles Lindbergh

1927 was a year of not just a Felix balloon flight, but also of a Felix airplane flight. On May 21, 1927, the aviator Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. This is incredible, of course, and he became quite famous for the task, but I’m mostly interested because his copilot for the journey was Felix the Cat. A Felix the Cat doll, to be precise. He didn’t carry a 2-dimensional cartoon cat across the ocean…though, some people did, well as 2-dimensional as a coat of paint can get. A strike fighter squadron, known as the “Tomcatters,” stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana used the callsign “felix” and other Navy squadrons would use Felix the Cat as their emblem. Charles Lindbergh even visited the USS Saratoga on February 8, 1929 and while he was there he was invited to fly a new Boeing F3B-1. A plane which was emblazoned with Felix the cat.

But Felix’s high-flying adventures don’t stop there. In 1927 Ruth Elder attempted to be the first woman to duplicate Charles Lindbergh’s Paris flight. Mechanical problems caused her to cancel mid-flight, but I believe things could have been worse had she not carried with her a Felix the Cat doll. At least that’s my interpretation. It’s a lucky charm, thing, which is why I’m carrying a Felix the cat doll with me on every flight from now on.

Charles Lindbergh is probably on par with Emilia Earhart and the Wright Brothers in terms of aviation icons, and any of these four individuals could have been the subject of the statue heist in our next degree of pixelation. But it was a statue of Lindbergh who would be kidnapped in Disney’s 1991 film, The Rocketeer…is it too soon for a Lindbergh kidnapping reference?

4. Charles Lindbergh to The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer is a superhero period film about a stunt pilot who finds a jetpack that allows him to fly around and fight crime. Also there’s nazis.

Full transparency, I haven’t seen The Rocketeer since I was a child, but even then I remember being completely underwhelmed. Sure, the idea of flying around with a jetpack was interesting, but defying gravity is inherently interesting. I don’t need the boring 1930’s backdrop or the completely unnecessary nazis (not to imply that nazis were ever necessary). Just give me the jetpack. Oh, and for the sake of this video anyway please also keep the admittedly clever use of a stolen Charles Lindbergh statue being used as a test dummy for the jetpack’s inaugural flight. I like that. It makes this degree of pixelation possible. It would have been just as clever if they had used a Ruth Elder statue, but I don’t think women were allowed to be statues back then.

I wasn’t the only person unimpressed with this movie. Critics didn’t treat it very well. With all this negativity it almost seems reasonable then that the 1993 Super Nintendo port, from an earlier PC adaptation, of the movie would be rated Worst Movie-to-Game by Electronic Gaming Monthly. The game is a basic collection of mini-games very loosely based on the film. You fly, but mostly in airplanes. Then you fight gangsters, but you don’t have a jet pack while doing it. And then…you fly more planes. You know, because your entire reason for existing in the popular consciousness is because you are a standard pilot who likes to punch. Not because you have a rocket pack, right?

That prestigious honor of worst movie-to-game would be passed along in 1994 to Home Alone 2…

5. The Rocketeer > Home Alone 2 game

Sure, it’s great to be the best at something, but even being the worst demands a level of exceptionalism. And by that logic, Home Alone 2 is truly exceptional. In addition to winning worst movie to game, in 1993 Home Alone 2 was awarded worst sequel by Electronic Gaming Monthly.

This game is unfortunately representative of most licensed games in the 1990s. It is far too obvilous that far too common developers would create a game without having any worthwhile experience with the source material. Either that, or it was envogue to re-skin games for a quick buck. I can understand re-skinning a proprietary IP, like what Nintendo did with Super mario Bros. 2. The expectations for how a sequel to Super Mario Bros should look and play could be controlled. There was only one game prior. So sure, take Doki Doki Panic and put some Super Mario characters into it. But when we’re dealing with a movie, a medium defined by its visuals and by its story, it would seem important to at least honor those visuals and story as much as possible. But Home Alone 2…and far too many other licensed games of the 90s…did not give a shit. This game has suitcases, and vacuum cleaners, and I think toasters trying to kill you. The movie contained none of these. Harry and Marv and Tim Curry as Mr. Hector all make appearances, which is more aligned with the source material than The Rocketeer ever was, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

The movie, on which the game was based, is actually quite good. I watched it again recently, for the first time in 15 years, and it holds up. But be willing to suspend your disbelief–Kevin’s traps are absolutely ludicrous–but that’s not why we watch. We watch to witness a child use his wits to escape danger. We watch to maybe find a demon toaster somewhere in the background that we must have missed during the first viewing. We watch to…holy crap, is that Donald Trump???

6. Home Alone 2 movie > Donald Trump

It is. Donald Trump. Pre-candidate Donald Trump was often seen as a stand-in for rich new yorker. Sure he was always crazy, but he was crazy in the sweet little billionaire doing his sweet little billionaire things kind of way. Nobody was seriously concerned that he may one day be president of one of the world’s largest economies. But here we are, just months from this possibility. But that’s the American dream right, that one can start off as just a cameo in a Macaulay Culkin movie and one day be a serious contender for the office of President of the United States…and hopefully lose that race and quickly be reduced to just a cameo in the footnotes of history.

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This has been 6 Degrees of Pixelation, from Sonic the Hedgehog to Donald Trump. Be sure to check out my previous episode, from Mario to Hillary Clinton.

If you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up. I desperately rely on the validation of others. I know it’s not healthy, but it’s true. Please, give me a thumbs up. Validate me.

You’ll find a link in the description to a Google Doc with my script, notes, and sources so you can dig in more if you’d like.

Special shout out: Console Wars.

Until next time, I’m caleb, is that an old timey black and white cartoon cat (see it’s easy) and we are Burning Books.

Research/Sources/Credits/Inspirations (this is not a comprehensive list, as that would be impossible, especially the “inspirations” items)

Music Credits