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Article 26—Sonic The Hedgehog 3 world premiere (1994)


Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog 3 made its public debut in the small town of Punxsutawney,
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Pennsylvania, of all places. The self-described “weather capital of the world” hosts an annual ceremony where hundreds gather to see if legendary groundhog prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil will see his own shadow, which is said to predict a delay in the onset of spring weather. But on February 2, 1994, Phil saw an even bigger shadow: that of the Sonic balloon from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Sega completely
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invaded Punxsutawney that day, affixing a Sonic 3 button to every lapel and giving the locals a taste of its latest Genesis cartridge on demo kiosks installed at Punxsutawney Junior High.

This video is a VHS rip of the Sonic 3 satellite feed provided by Sega’s PR firm at the game’s launch. It includes interviews with Punxsutawney residents and the tuxedo-clad “inner circle” of luminaries who care for Phil and preside over the event each year. It also shows some behind-the scenes footage of the Sega event staff unrolling and inflating the Sonic balloon. Watch for a brief shot of the huge “instruction manual” sign explaining the
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order in which the balloon’s compartments were to be inflated; it's fascinating. (Apparently, some sections contained helium, others contained air and some had a precise mixture of the two.)

The Sonic balloon seen here made its first appearance in the 1993 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where it had a disastrous showing. Strong winds blew it into a light pole, which punctured the canvas. This caused Sonic to deflate and collapse to the ground, where he broke the shoulder of an off-duty policeman! Still, Sonic’s appearance made him the first-ever video-game character balloon to appear in Macy’s parade. And he was obviously repaired in time
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for his big day in Punxsutawney (where the wind wasn’t much calmer, as this footage indicates).

The video also includes an original Sonic 3 TV commercial with a Punxsutawney theme, some game footage and interviews with two industry insiders. One was a buyer for the Wherehouse retail chain, the other was the senior editor of VideoGames magazine. Yep...that’s me, yammering about Sonic 3 in full 1990s SoCal Game Magazine Editor regalia: V-neck VideoGames sweater, popped collar and metal mullet. (Hey, it was my first time on TV; cut me some slack!)

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© 2011 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.