The Sonic the Hedgehog movie's redesign trailer has finally released, and it actually looks pretty good. Enthusiasm between fans and director Jeff Fowler seems to be shared, with both parties excited about the new redesign. It's amazing what can happen when directors listen to the fans they'll be presenting their movies to.
For those that somehow missed the hilarity that ensued earlier this year with the Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer, Sonic's original design was less than pleasing. Many fans went so far as to call the design outright terrifying or horrific. It was an attempt to make Sonic look more realistic for a live-action movie, but it went horribly wrong. He was oddly lanky, uncomfortably human, and had a mouth full of unsettling teeth.
The backlash to this design was so strong that director Jeff Fowler decided to delay the movie's release in order to redesign Sonic. Fans were stunned by this development, as it's not often that creators will make changes as huge as this in response to fan requests. The original trailer was released at the end of April this year, and now since last Tuesday, the redesign is here.
Overall, Sonic's new design is simply more cartoonish. Sonic's eyes are much larger, and take on a familiar shape from the Sonic games that players loved. This is a stark contrast from the very human eyes he had in the original trailer. His face is more rounded, with less sharp features, and his hairs are less pronounced. Some areas of hair have even been completely smoothed out, such as around Sonic's mouth. The infamous teeth in his mouth have seemingly been all but removed, and to a smaller degree, his color palette has changed slightly to be more true to the source material.
All of these changes help Sonic to be viewed more as a cartoon character or some sort of fantastical creature, rather than an animal. His small eyes, detailed hairs, and prominent teeth portrayed him as an unnatural beast. Even when animators would make him smile or act friendly, it looked strange at best and scary at worst. Sonic's voice acting and his goofy nature seems to fit so much better on a less intimidating Sonic.
Aside from the fans, Sonic's great new look can be attributed to Tyson Hesse, an artist best known for his work on Sonic Mania. Tyson Hesse was brought on as the lead artist for the redesign of Sonic the Hedgehog, and he predictably did a great job.
Of course, this redesign did not come without a cost. If not for the outrage of the fans, millions would have already sat in theaters and bore witness to the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in all it's terrifying glory, as the movie was originally scheduled to be released November 8th of this year. Instead, Sonic's release date is February 14th, so viewers will have to wait. And that's not to mention the monetary cost of redesigning Sonic and reinserting him into the movie. The original film's budget was estimated to be around 90 million dollars, so it will be interesting to see if info on the new budget is released.
That said, it seems likely that the redesign will be a positive thing for the movie overall. Anticipation for the movie is at an all-time high, much higher than it would have been if the first trailer came out looking as good as the second. Fans are excited at the prospect of creators listening to their wants, and this will drive attendance to the movie up. In fact, some have even purported the whole thing to be a big publicity stunt, but there's really no evidence to back that up.
Despite being new to directing (Sonic the Hedgehog movie will be Jeff Fowler's theatrical directorial debut), Jeff Fowler has gained a lot of popularity from this movie before it has even released. In a sense, he has almost guaranteed the success of this movie, turning what could have been a disaster into something people will see out of respect for the redesign.
If readers find themselves curious about why the original design was so disturbing, the answer lies in a concept called The Uncanny Valley. The Uncanny Valley is something that animators for both video games and movies and television have struggled with for quite some time. It is the concept that if something looks nearly human, but doesn't quite hit the mark, human beings will react with repulsion or disgust.
An example of this reaction can be seen in animatronics. While animatronics were incredibly ambitious at the time of invention, many early animatronics are seemingly inexplicably creepy. this is because they are made to resemble humans, but could not capture all of the emotions and things that the human brain expects to see when looking at a human. The situation with Sonic the Hedgehog is similar. Although Sonic clearly isn't meant to be human, many of his features are shockingly human.
As technology advances, animators are getting closer and closer to being able to jump the Uncanny Valley, but the endeavor is still very hit-or-miss. This is why many animators opt for a more cartoonish style, because the cost associated with overcoming the Uncanny Valley is often too great to justify doing so. An attempt was made to make Sonic look real, but he didn't look real enough, and this is what caused the massive backlash and disgusted reactions.
The choice to take Sonic down a more cartoonish route makes a lot of sense given all of this. Fans seem to be much happier with it, and the design is simply more pleasing to look at. Let this be an example to creators that listening to the audience is not the same as forfeiting creativity, and that a lot of good can come when creators listen to the fans.
Sonic the Hedgehog will release in theaters February 14th, 2020