All right, so Paramount dropped the official trailer for the live action Sonic The Hedgehog movie on Tuesday, and it's fair to say that it didn't go down especially well.
There's plenty to like about it; the whole setup seems to be playing things for dark, knowing laughs, and Jim Carrey as arch-enemy Dr Robotnik looks like inspired casting to us. The problem, though, is the character design (opens in new tab) of Sonic, the titular blue high-speed cartoon hedgehog.
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The challenges in bringing a cartoon character from a video game to the big screen are immense; hardly anyone's ever got it right, from the bizarre 1993 Super Mario Bros. film onwards, and this Sonic effort's not doing anything to break the mould. How do you transplant a cartoon character into the real world? You either have a cartoon-style animated character mixing with real people, which can sometimes work really well (think Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) but can also look really incongruous, or you update the design to look more, well, realistic, but still looking like the original character, kind of.
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That's really risky, and sometimes it pays off a treat; just think of Paddington. Everyone was horrified when the CG design of Paddington was unveiled, but the end result has been a pair of brilliant, much-loved films, so go figure.
Paddington, of course, is a character from children's books who's been portrayed and animated in different styles over the years, so it's easier to take liberties with his appearance and get away with it. When it comes to Sonic, however, while the character has been tweaked and refined over the years, his general look remains instantly identifiable, and this version... just doesn't do it.
The first leaked Sonic images (opens in new tab) a couple of months ago suggested something might be a bit off, and this trailer confirms those suspicions. It's a Sonic from the uncanny valley, and while we don't hate it as much as a lot of the fanbase does, you can see the problems immediately. Those human teeth. The weird eyes. The sort of person-shaped body. It's as if when Jeff Goldblum got into his teleportation device in The Fly, he didn't notice proper cartoon Sonic hiding in the corner, and the two got fused into Homo Erinaceus, with horrific consequences.
And naturally the internet backlash has been brutal, to the extent that the film's director, Jeff Fowler, hit Twitter last night to announce that they're going back to the drawing board and redesigning Sonic.
Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear... you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be... #sonicmovie #gottafixfast 🔧✌️May 2, 2019
We're a little disappointed; no-one's ever going to be happy with this sort of character design enterprise, and we kind of wish the Sonic movie team had held their nerve in the face of a million angry video game fans.
It also raises issues of how this redesign is going to affect the film's schedule; however this pans out, we suspect a lot of 3D artists are going to have to put in a lot of overtime over the next few months, and we hope they get suitably recompensed.
This being the internet, people are already coming up with their visions about how a movie Sonic should look; here's one of our favourites:
Sonic Movie paintover! I got inspired by a lot of artists that did their own version of a live-action Sonic. This is my take on it! Basically just a more realistic 3D version of his iconic design. #SonicTheHedgehog pic.twitter.com/93GogF5qHmMay 1, 2019
And honestly, things could have been a lot, lot worse.
Which one is the real Sanic pic.twitter.com/9z6maG7axNMay 1, 2019