He was a SEGA boy… We said see ya’ later boy

Online Backlash Follows Sonic’s New Look

Mary Kelley, Scarlet Staff

Ten years after Nintendo’s Mario changed the face of “gaming,” SEGA debuted their competing mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. Sonic quickly became a much-beloved character, collecting gold rings and delicious chili dogs. He was designed to “exhibit a cool attitude” as inspired by the rockin’ 1990s in America.
Through the years there have been many Sonic games and a whole slew of characters were created to populate his fictional homeworld, Mobius. His friends include Amy Rose, Tails, Knuckles, and the infamous Dr. Robotnik. There is a rich world of comic books, video games, and animated television series of lore, all of which were set to be captured in a live-action film. Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” was originally announced in 2014 and took nearly five years to complete production.

April of 2019, the “first look” trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film, which at the time was set to be released on November 8th, 2019, caused extreme internet outrage. The designers had worked tirelessly to create a vaguely humanoid version of Sonic, making him a more “realistic” looking cobalt blue anthropomorphic hedgehog which online commenters deemed disturbing. The internet then seemingly changed the entertainment industry forever by convincing the director, Jeff Fowler, to completely scrap the original CGI model. The crew set out to avoid a complete overhaul of the film but rather “simply” rework the Sonic design, without altering the story itself. This was seen as a huge win by the fanbase, as the re-released trailer included a more cartoony Sonic character model and a closer look into the video game world, including the iconic Green Hill Zone.
The crux of the actual fanbase upset is the storyline depicted in the trailer. James Willems is an internet personality and a Sonic the Hedgehog enthusiast, utilizing his platform to express his appreciation for Sonic, even the original live-action, creepy, humanoid Sonic. Willems expressed his appreciation for the character and the rich lore that he grew up consuming. Rather than express his discomfort of the original design, he focused on the apparently subpar plot focusing on a human world with a hedgehog thrown in for seemingly no reason. The focus is placed on James Marsden’s cop character who helps the displaced hedgehog. 

Willems even speculated that there would be portions of the film where the beloved mascot is in a knapsack or conveniently out of the shot, as to avoid the painstaking animation. Willems and his fellow personalities featured on the YouTube channel, Funhaus, offered their “ideal” versions of the film, changing the focus from the “real world” to the picturesque Green Hill Zone, seen in the re-released trailer. They also desired a more relatable protagonist, if Sonic could not be the sole protagonist, a child who is brought into the beautiful fictional world and forced to fight Dr. Eggman or gather Chaos Emeralds.
More than anything, Funhaus offered a more knowledgeable perspective about the behind the scenes world of creating a “blockbuster” film. They emphasized the short end of the stick that the editors and creative minds behind the animations were being dealt. They spoke honestly about corporate greed and the sheer number of people involved in the creations. They commented on the “template” style of the adaptation, which was uninspired and left something lacking for die-hard Sonic fans. These are all aspects that have to be acknowledged by the quick to tweet, slow to pay, people who fought to change the film.
The character design of Sonic now fulfills the nostalgic desires of his fanbase, but the film itself still doesn’t look great. Will these fans who fought for this idealized Sonic actually pay $20 to see this film in theaters, to ensure that this film that went way over budget to please the fans? Most likely not. The original fans are millennials, used to streaming movies for free months after they have been released. This is no fault to the fans or the studio but a bump on the road to a more modernized Hollywood, a Hollywood that recognizes the decline of traditional physical theaters. Similarly, as the internet has made the consumer voices far more pronounced, studios have to decide where and when they will absorb the criticism. Is this the beginning of a more interactive fan to editor creative process? 

Personally, I believe it is our civic duty to pay to see this film. As a public invested in the content created, even contented clearly aimed toward children, we must reap what we sow. We, as a collective group, bullied Paramount into spending significant amounts of money into reworking this film. We have to follow through and prove that the “internet generation” is an audience that appreciates being listened to, an audience worth selling to.