As many will soon realise, as I unpack my videogames and begin reviewing them, I am a big fan of Sonic the Hedgehog and all the characters that surround the franchise. So, when a new movie featuring Sonic was announced some time ago, like many fans I was looking forward to finding out more, however the new design for Sonic in the upcoming film isn’t exactly what everyone was expecting…
Last week a teaser moving poster was released showing a blue light rushing from side to side before an outlined and shadowed Sonic the Hedgehog is posing in a crouched position. Like many people I saw this poster and assumed it was a joke, surely Sonic wouldn’t look like that in the film. But like it or not, the poster turned out to be real (a second leaked poster of Sonic’s legs confirming this) and rather than bring a community together in support of the movie, it’s caused many to get upset, some even angry. Many are upset by the overall furry look to Sonic. This seems to be a new theme with these live action movies based on videogame characters, to make them look more realistic in our world – the new design for Pikachu in the new Pokémon movie is an example of this. However the furry design isn’t the only issue, and more disturbing is the overall muscular/human look to Sonic’s arms and legs and the worrying speculation as to what his eyes will look like, with Sega being the biggest critics of Sonic’s apparent new eyes.
Change will always bring criticism
Whether you like the new design or not, changing anything about Sonic’s appearance was bound to bring up criticism. Any characters, especially videogame ones are loved by fans who naturally hate any redesign to their beloved heroes. But this movie is not the first time that Sonic has undergone some redesigns. When the blue blur first hit home consoles back in 1991, the design for both the Japanese and American boxes were very different. The Japanese version of Sonic featured a very similar design to what you saw in the Mega Drive games while the American design took on a more cartoonish feel with Sonic having a fatter stomach, different ears and a smile which gave the hedgehog some character.
In the late 90s, with the release of ‘Sonic Adventure’, the whole cast of characters underwent a redesign which gave their eyes different iris colours, and their overall bodies appeared taller and changed. These designs, while staying faithful to the overall look, did change the way Sonic looked and not all fans at the time were pleased with the changes. Several years ago, with the released of a new game and television series titled ‘Sonic Boom’, the main characters, including Sonic, once again transformed with another redesign. Fans weren’t as pleased with the new designs, with the character of Knuckles bearing most of the criticism due to the overall muscular look he had, which was also accompanied by a less intelligent mind.
Sonic’s been through many redesigns and many fans like me may wish to criticise the new look, just like many are now doing with the new Sonic movie which is due for release in late 2019. A redesign of a much loved character will never go down well with hardcore fans of a videogame franchise. However, who should we really be blaming if we don’t like the design, and should we be blaming anyone at all?
Is it Sega’s fault?
Sega itself is not happy with the new Sonic design for the movie. They have been remarkably quiet on social media about the upcoming movie, and are known to have deep reservations about the design of the new Sonic’s eyes, which we still haven’t seen yet. Many former employees of Sega who worked on Sonic games have voiced their criticisms over the new look the hedgehog has been given. You almost feel sorry for Sega for how the movie studio is going to treat their mascot. But, is Sega to blame for all of this in the first place?
When a film studio is going to make a movie of a well known character, they have to get some permission, some rights from the owners of that character to do so. This happens all the time with both book authors and videogame publishers giving the rights to movie studios to create films of their beloved characters. But when this happens contracts are written up and need to be signed by the owners of the characters before any films can begin to be made. Sega must have signed a contract of some sort to allow Sonic to be used in a film, and while it is very common to give full control over to a movie studio, Sega could have surely written a clause into their contract that meant they could have final say on the character design, or that the character design could not deviate too much from the original. However Sega have let the movie studio have full control over how the movie is made and ultimately Sonic’s design, It’s Sega’s mistake and they know it.
Will the new movie turn out to be a disaster? Although I have my own reservations about the design, I would never make an opinion about the movie being bad before seeing it. Although Sonic may look different, the film may be a very good one and I hope that fans will try to see beyond Sonic’s external features and see into the heart of the movie before judging whether it’s good or bad. This should be the case with all new things, whether a new book, film or game. We should always judge the individual media with fresh eyes rather than let previous bias get in the way.
Whether people end up liking this film or hating it, at least one good thing seems to have come out of it…the very fractured Sonic fanbase seems to be united for once in its dislike for the new design!
-The Sonic movie is due for release in November 2019
-All images are copyright of the studio and/or creators and are shown here under fair use.
Are you a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog or other characters or not? What do you think about the any redesigns of beloved characters? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂