So that Mushroom Planet thing in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie? It’s not a Mario reference. It’s actually another Sonic reference.
Spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie. Although very minor and honestly will probably not detract from your movie experience, the following does spoil the film’s ending. You have been warned.
In Sonic the Hedgehog, the titular blue rodent refers to a “mushroom planet” as his last resort escape route. He doesn’t really explain much about the place other than the fact it’s full of mushrooms, which is pretty much all we as the audience need to know. Then at the end of the movie, Sonic sends Dr. Robotnik to the mushroom planet to live out his days in mushroom exile.
Casual game fans probably thought the whole mushroom thing was a reference to The Mushroom Kingdom, the place where Mario and company get up to their usual hijinx vis-a-vis Princess Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser and whatnot. However, those gamers would be wrong.
Welcome To The Mushroom Jungle
The actual reference is to Mushroom Hill Zone, the first level of Sonic & Knuckles on the Sega Genesis. Or it’s the seventh level of the combine Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, which makes it one of the first expansion pack levels ever created.
As the name might suggest, Mushroom Hill Zone is full of mushrooms, but it’s not just mushrooms. There are other plants and trees and grasses too. It’s a lush forest with a diverse ecosystem that Dr. Robotnik tries to destroy using a new weather machine he’d created for the task.
Getting through Act 1 suddenly sees the Mushroom Hill Zone rapidly progress from spring to summer to autumn and finally winter. Sonic saves the day by smashing the weather satellite which causes Dr. Robotnik to try to make his escape.
A Mushroom Kingdom In Name Only
Conversely, The Mushroom Kingdom is actually not nearly as full of mushrooms as the title would suggest. The name appears to be a reference to the inhabitants of The Mushroom Kingdom, which are a strange race of people called “Toads” that appear to be dwarves with mushroom caps for heads. There are also Goombas, a race of sentient and angry mushrooms that work for Bowser.
While Mushroom Hill Zone is just a lush forest, The Mushroom Kingdom actually spans quite a few different biomes, including plains, deserts, islands, forests, mountains, snowy areas, and even volcanoes. Mushrooms are not endemic to any particular location, although they can sometimes be seen emerging from blocks after being struck by a particularly well-hardened cranium.
The Mushroom Kingdom is ruled by a monarchy, while Mushroom Hill Zone is ruled by nobody in particular. The Mushroom Kingdom has mushroom people, but Mushroom Hill Zone has mushrooms that act as giant springs so that Sonic can be catapulted to hard-to-reach places. And also so he can go really fast.
And now you know the difference and why a movie about Sonic the Hedgehog would hide a mushroom Easter egg. You’re welcome.
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