Sonic the Hedgehog: Behind the Redesign


Leslie Chen, Staff Writer

In April 2019, Paramount released its first Sonic The Hedgehog trailer. Immediately, the film received a wave of backlash from the Internet, resulting in 18.6 million views in the first two days and hundreds of thousands of dislikes.

Sonic’s realistic features, compared to the beloved video game character, threw off many people. Former Sonic video-game lead programmer Yuji Naki took to social media to express his disapproval of the character’s transition to movie form. “I feel like, with this Sonic here, visually, the important thing is to look at the head and body ratio, and the roundness of the abdomen,” he said. “I wonder why they couldn’t balance them better.”


A month later, director Jeff Fowler finally addressed the controversy. “Thank you for the support and criticism,” he tweeted. “You aren’t happy with the design and you want changes. It’s going to happen.” It was later reported that Paramount knew that there would be initial resistance to the more human-looking design, but thought that people would come around to it and that the character would look better, mixed in with the film’s live-action elements. Clearly that was not the case.


Artist Tyson Hesse, who had previously worked with Sonic-branded comics, was brought in to lead the character’s extreme makeover. To allow time for the animators to rebrand Sonic completely, Paramount pushed back the release date to Feb. 14 of this year.


Over the next six months, Hesse and his team of animators worked to redesign the character. According to Vulture, animators decided to fix Sonic’s teeth, which was one of the biggest fan complaints. Additionally, they remodeled his facial and body proportions, making the character less realistic and more like a cartoon. 


According to animator Max Schneider, the team behind the redesign didn’t feel any extreme pressure, despite the six-month deadline. In an interview with Sonic Team Argentina, Schneider felt that everyone “was given the time and peace needed to get the redesign done.” It also helped, Schneider added, that the process wasn’t very expensive. Although he didn’t confirm, the redesign only cost Paramount $5 million, with an original budget of $90 million.


In November 2019, a second trailer was released, prompting what only can be described as a radical turnaround. Sonic’s eyes were bigger and his teeth were smaller; both details were greeted by outpourings of joy. Naki even took back some of his earlier criticism. “The design is more Sonic-like than before,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the movie’s release.”


Sure enough, the redesign has paid off, both critically and commercially. Sonic has recently surpassed a whopping $200 million in the box office. If anything, this success certainly proves to movie studios that it’s important to listen to your consumers!


Photo Courtesy of LOOPER.COM