A few weeks later, director Jeff Fowler tweeted that the movie had been delayed to Valentine’s Day 2020. The movie’s artists were “taking a little more time to make Sonic just right.”
On Tuesday, the aggrieved public saw the redesign and cheered. “We have to thank Paramount Pictures, the director and the people who spent a lot of hours, days and money redesigning Sonic through the whole movie just to make us all happy,” said one Reddit user on the r/SonicTheHedgehog subreddit.
The redesign was apparently led by artist Tyson Hesse, who drew the Sonic comic books published under Archie Comics, as well as the fantastic introduction sequence to 2017’s Sonic Mania release.
The fandom surrounding the early 90′s video game mascot is among the strangest on the Internet. With one of the worst track records in the medium, his trash bag of consecutively dreadful video games led to the rise of a cottage industry of YouTubers who regularly mock his games for millions of views. His Internet stardom is mostly supported by his starring roles in steamy and explicit erotic stories and bizarre memes. The film’s first trailer only added to Sonic’s grotesque legacy.
It’s easy to see what the first design got so wrong. Just look at it. But it’s also important to appreciate just what Fowler’s team actually got right in the redesign.
First, let’s take a look at the new Japanese poster for the movie, and a similar shot of him from one of his games.
First, look into his eyes. They’re big and bright, like the delightful and cool cartoon version of the character — and not, crucially, a freak of nature haunting the uncanny valley.
Note also the distance between his eyes. In the video games, Sonic famously has one eyeball with two irises. You never noticed? Scroll up again. It’s one eyeball, two irises, and two exaggerated brows that help accentuate his emotions. In the original movie design, Sonic’s eyes were large, but they appeared beady because of the vast distance between them. Now, in the redesigned version of the character, he still has two separate eyes — but some of the lighter fur above Sonic’s nose creeps into the space between his eyes, creating the illusion that it’s the same cyclopean freak we grew up with as children. (Fun fact: Did you know that the gene that helps humans have two distinct eyeballs is called the Sonic hedgehog gene? Sonic is literally all of us.)
Next, Sonic’s new mouth features 100 percent fewer human teeth. What remains is a set of unrealistic cartoon teeth — which is ideal for a talking hedgehog cartoon character. It also appears we’ll see a lot less of his gums, another bonus.
The redesign also ditched the cringe-inducing product placement shoes (that left many viewers wondering, ‘does Sonic have human feet?’), reuniting the hedgehog with the classic red and white soap shoe design he’s had for decades. His socks are properly huge and cuffed. On the subject of appendages, Sonic finally has gloves again — as opposed to thick white hair coating his man hands.
If you put the two clips of Sonic panicking side by side, the difference is stark.
As soon as the new trailer dropped, conspiracy theories started to pop up. Some fans compared the situation to the New Coke conspiracy, which proposes that Coca-Cola released a bad product intentionally in order to make the original look better. But given the spread of trailers and promotional material based on the original cursed design, as well as the time it took for the director to respond after people’s reactions, this theory doesn’t seem likely.
Some fans have expressed disappointment over the movie’s deviation from the franchise’s roots, arguing that Sonic products are supposed to hilariously bad instead of mundanely mediocre. Others worry that this sets a bad precedent of studios and artists bending to fan outrage (and others still say it wasn’t outrage, it was much-needed constructive criticism).
In response to the change, satirical gaming news site The Hard Times quickly updated its homepage with a new leading story: “Sonic fans now drunk with power demand Big the Cat be added to the film." There is an entire galaxy’s worth of minor Sonic characters left for Hollywood to debase.