Movies & TV / Columns

Can Paramount Fix Sonic the Hedgehog?

May 4, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Sonic the Hedgehog

Let’s take a moment and think about something. How often do people watch a trailer or see a picture from the set of a movie or TV show and then turn to social media to complain about it? Pretty regularly.

How often does a studio actually listen to the feedback and say they’re going to do something about it? Not too often.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing for future projects but it makes things more interesting while we find out.

Sonic the Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler has heard the fan criticism over the appearance and design of the leading blue hedgehog and took to Twitter to let everyone know that design changes are “going to happen.”

“The message is loud and clear,” Fowler wrote. “You aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going tp happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be…#sonicmovie #gottafixfast.”

The trailer came out on Tuesday and reaction on the Internet was immediate. Comments focused on Sonic having human teeth on Sonic, as well as his legs being very human like. Which is weird on a hedgehog.

Even other directors weighed in on the controversy. Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman spoke to The Verge saying he “just heard about the Sonic situation 15 minutes ago,” adding he didn’t envy the position that Fowler and Paramount have found themselves in. Making the decision to alter a character’s design just months ahead of its release date is no easy task, Letterman says. He couldn’t speak to Fowler or Paramount’s process into reworking Sonic’s look but did offer some insight into how impossible it would have been for his Detective Pikachu team to take on such an undertaking.

“There’s no right or wrong to how you make one of these movies,” Letterman says. “It would be very difficult for us to redesign anything. We spent a year designing all the characters ahead of shooting so that we could get it all right. If we were off by an inch on Pikachu, [actor] Justice Smith’s performance would go right out the window. For us, it would have been impossible — but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes — they’re in a difficult spot.”

Absolutely this will be difficult. And costly. Massively costly. The budge for Sonic is said to be around $90 million. Going back to change things will add to that greatly when you consider that not only do artists have to redesign elements of the character, but they also have to reinsert it into every scene of the movie and then render it, which takes a lot of computing power and time.

Which brings it back to Paramount. Fans spoke and they listened.

“This demonstrates the power of social media and the value it can bring to filmmakers and studios in terms of providing direct feedback from the fans who, at the end of the day, are the folks you ultimately want to please,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This type of organic social media-based conversation provides de facto real time market research and, when respectful and constructive, can be highly valuable to studios and producers looking to get the best results from their films,” he said.

Let’s just hope it pays off in the end or studios might be more apt to cover their ears and eyes when it comes to fan reaction online.