We knew that Sega had sold the movie rights for Sonic the Hedgehog for a while, and when news started ramping up about the flick’s production, everyone braced themselves for the worst. Sonic usually gets a bad rap that isn’t always deserved, but him and Hollywood paired up together? It seemed like a ticking time bomb, if there ever was. The trailer dropped in 2019 and all Hell broke loose, mostly because of Sonic’s nightmare fuel design. The backlash was so bad the design was changed, and now we’re seeing supposed “leaks” of it online. Believe it or not, it’s great!
Sonic’s original movie design suffered from the same bizarre Hollywood logic that nearly destroyed Detective Pikachu. For whatever reason, having cartoon animals coexist with humans died with the Hollywood potential for Looney Tunes, so now they have to be all textured and realistic. Except, instead of realism, Sonic just looked like a fuzzy skeleton demon wearing a Sonic costume (presumably to infiltrate his home and consume Tails’ innocent, young soul). The internet had a field day with the trailer when it dropped, and eventually the studio hit the panic button.
It was announced that Sonic the Hedgehog was going back to the garage for a bit, to change Sonic’s ghastly visage, and it would reappear in February 2020. Now, at this point, I wrote one of these articles with my eyebrows raised. I can practically guarantee the art department on this flick knew the Sonic design wasn’t going to land well. After all, art people are nerds. But that was what they had to go with, and they did their jobs. At that point, the movie was only a few months away, and we all know how valued creative labor is in the world.
I was worried that the folks who did the design work they were asked to do would now be in a position of horrible crunch, in order to fix a mistake some suits and executive-level people made. Labor is a huge issue, and there’s no way the team would have been compensated fairly for having to crunch out an entirely new model and design for Sonic. Obviously, I can’t say for sure–this is just conjecture and educated guessing on my part. But luckily, my worries were settled shortly after I wrote that piece, as director Jeff Fowler finally announced a significant delay. Hopefully, this meant the people with the dirty work on their plates were able to do what needed to be done, all without killing themselves to do it.
It seemed to work out. Some supposed leaks of the new design were floating around a bit, and frankly I didn’t believe they were real. But then, just like the first reveal, a picture of a big movie theater standee emerged. I have a much easier time believing those, as a former movie theater drone myself. The design looks amazing, really capturing the spirit of the character without totally compromising the Hollywood vibe. Sonic still has the weird fur textures and his proportions are a little more human-like than in the video games, but his face looks like it should, he’s wearing the silly Mickey Mouse gloves, and even his shoes look a little more vintage.
I’ll never be able to say for sure whether or not my fears were founded, if they were addressed by the delay, or if everything was terrible for the crew. I really hope that by pushing the Sonic the Hedgehog release date out to February 20, 2020, everyone had the time they needed to adjust. Either way, the work happened and the result is amazing. I hope the fans, even if they still hate the movie, give the art folks the props they deserve for pulling this magic out of their hats. Sometimes, fan outrage is a terrible thing and sometimes it goes unheard, but perhaps this time, it may have worked out.