Sonic the Hedgehog
Fowler's choice must have been difficult to make, but it won him the respect of his audience. (Illustration by Eunhye Cho, Laguna College of Art and Design)
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Sonic the Hedgehog

Instead of premiering a movie whose animation rankled it core fanbase, Fowler, ingeniously, postponed.

“The message is loud and clear,” wrote Jeff Fowler, director of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” on May 2 to his Twitter followers. “You aren’t happy with the design and you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be.”

With significant backlash following the first trailer of “Sonic the Hedgehog” live-action film, many fans instantly vocalized their dissatisfaction with the design of the protagonist. According to Vanity Fair, the audience’s main complaint is that Sonic’s character design is too “human” instead of resembling the original design from the popular video games.

In a separate tweet posted on May 25, Fowler officially announced that the movie will be delayed three months in order for the team to revamp and reanimate the character. “Taking a little more time to make Sonic just right,” Fowler tweeted, accompanied by a picture of the movie’s new release date, which was moved back to Feb. 14, 2020, instead of the original set date Nov. 8, 2019.

Fowler’s decision to delay the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” deserves more praise and credit than it was given. His promise for changes not only displays his responsibility as a director but also reassures the fans that they can have faith in his abilities as a creator.

For those who are unfamiliar with the character, Sonic the Hedgehog originated from a video game of the same title developed by Sega, a Japanese gaming company, in the early 1990s. It was Sega’s answer to its competitor Nintendo’s mega-hit game series, “Mario.” Sonic, in the video games, was first introduced to the United States in 1991 and instantly became a hit.

A cartoon hedgehog with supernatural powers, Sonic is known for his bright blue color, a spikey mohawk and incredible speed that exceeds human imagination. Sonic was developed using ideas similar to Pokémon, but by a different gaming company.

As the popularity of the video games grew, Sonic slowly solidified his presence in many ’90s kids’ childhood memories. According to statistics by GameReview in 1991, the original “Sonic the Hedgehog” video game has a 86 percent rating and was ranked No. 7 by Genesis. Reviewers praised the game for its detailed graphics, saying that the color composition is “lively, but never garish.”

Many versions of the video games continued to develop throughout the decades and into today’s modern gaming market. For kids who played the video games growing up, Sonic’s original appearance has a special place in their hearts. His bright blue color, spikey mohawk and animated green eyes allow fans of the games to instantly recall the character from their memories.

Straying from the video games, however, the new “Sonic the Hedgehog” film adaptation will have its own unique storyline but will still contain the same characters from the games, including Sonic’s arch nemesis, Dr. Robotnik. The first trailer of the film, released back in April, showed Ben Schwartz voicing Sonic and Jim Carrey playing Dr. Robotnik, and it gave a glimpse of the plot and setting. The movie’s plot follows a small-town cop, played by James Marsden, teaming up with Sonic as they travel to San Francisco to defeat Dr. Robotnik.

The plot of the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie is not the only thing that diverges from the original Sega games. The film’s creators completely redesigned Sonic’s appearance, which upsets many fans. Movie-version Sonic has smaller eyes — different from the green, anime-like eyes in the video games — and a never-before-seen set of teeth. As a result, fans say that these new elements contributed to the new Sonic resembling a human more than a cartoon character.

For those who grew up with Sonic, nostalgia is one of the main reasons for their excitement to see the movie adaptation. Therefore, it is understandable for these fans to feel angry and frustrated by the changes. By changing the appearance of the main character, Fowler eliminated this essential motivation, which ultimately put the film at a disadvantage when it came to marketing to its target demographic.

However, when Fowler announced the plans to redesign Sonic after criticism surfaced, his attentiveness to fan’s opinions showed that he is unlike other Hollywood directors in the business. Despite possible financial pressure from the studios and investors, Fowler’s decision to extend the movie’s production time is evidence that he favors the overall quality of his work over exploiting a popular character for box office purposes. These actions deserve more credit from the media than they were given.

It is rare to see a highly acclaimed director recognizing fans’ opinions of his projects. It is even more improbable for a production studio to take action according to these opinions. For example, Disney did not postpone the release of the remake of “Aladdin” when fans conveyed indifference toward the appearance of the blue genie played by Will Smith.

The delay of the film to perfect the redesign Sonic will only favor the film’s success. At the time the trailer debuted, the production of “Sonic the Hedgehog” was most likely nearing its completion. So it was no small decision for Fowler to announce a push back of the release in order to accommodate the fan’s request, and it not only adds to the anticipation and excitement for the upcoming feature but also respect towards his overall work ethic.

Of course, some fans are disappointed in Fowler’s decision, but, as they say, good things will always come to those who wait. With a new design for Sonic and the already exceptional storyline, the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie will no doubt follow the current success of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” to become the next epic animated action film of 2020.

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