The trailer for the new Sonic movie was released this past Tuesday and the reaction of the internet was not so kind to the design of the blue hedgehog. YouTube reactions, angry tweets, and I’m guessing various DMs and emails were sent out to Paramount staff. Out of all this internet rage, however, the director came out on Twitter to respond in a strange way. Rather than ignoring the hate, Jeff Fowler instead tweets “Thank you all 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…”. After this tweet, the internet roared with victory and patted themselves on the back for making the change. However, I saw this and took my tin foil hat and put it on my head. I smell a conspiracy. In this article I would like explain my skepticism for why this all feel too convenient.
Also keep in mind as your reading this that I will be doing some stretches with logic. I am not fully accusing Paramount, Sega, or any other parties involved to intentionally sabotage this movie. I’m just sitting in my office and having some fun thinking about all of this. However, if I’m right about this I would like my gold medal promptly delivered to me.
The First Reveal
Back in December 2018, we got our first reveal of the Sonic movie in the form of a teaser poster. What was curious about this poster was that it was a silhouette of Sonic’s design for the movie; this was released to the internet for meme culture to explore their imagination. What came from this poster would frighten everyone’s imagination including beady eyes, Schwarzenegger sized legs, even Flyer’s mascot ‘Gritty’ was photoshopped as Sonic’s face. This isn’t unusual for the internet to do, but the strange thing was that the official Twitter account for the Sonic movie leaned into the memes including the awful leg memes. They retweeted them, commented on how creative they were, almost approvingly and in my strange way of thinking…almost planned.
There’s a form of advertising known as ‘Shock Advertising’ where the company will put out a marketing campaign that is intended to shock or offend their audience. The goal of this form of marketing is to be so bold or so shocking with their statements that the people watching can’t help but discuss the controversary, thereby inevitably sticking in your head. Now there have been gruesome examples of this way of marketing, but the way the first poster was released came across as a mild and tamed version of shock advertising.
Meme culture is highly familiar with Sonic the Hedgehog and has used his likeness for years. It’s hard to avoid in most cases and you know that Paramount and Sega have come across these examples on multiple occasions. Rather than revealing their legitimate design of Sonic on their teaser poster, they instead give the internet a free meme format. Simply a blank canvas for Reddit to do with as they liked and as a bonus Paramount released another poster with just his legs on the Golden Gate Bridge. The way this was presented, the history of Sonic memes, and the way the official Twitter account leaned into the memes raised my eyebrows into suspicion. I ignored it at first because I saw it as just poor advertising and I was just crazy to think this…until the reveal trailer was dropped on April 30th 2019.
The Trailer Conspiracy
Similar to other corny releases, when the trailer dropped most people were ‘outraged’ at what they saw. Comments on how Sonic has human teeth and his eyes are separated spread wide through Twitter and other users sped up to make the precious memes. I honestly had no opinion on the matter, it was like any other CGI character meets the real-world plot and I was not surprised of the outcome. What did shock me was the director’s promise to fix the character model of Sonic. In less than 7 months. That’s a lot to ask for.
CGI Character models take years of planning and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, this is not a quick photoshop job that they can do over the weekend. This movie’s production was first announced on June 20th 2014, the trailer was dropped April 30th 2019 (almost 5 years in the making), and the promise is to redesign the main protagonist in about 6 months considering that the film needs to be delivered to the cinemas across the globe ahead of time. I don’t buy it. I don’t buy that this Sonic was the actual choice of design for the studio, as I fit on my tin foil hat, I’m thinking this was a further ploy into the shock advertising for the film. This felt to me very close to how they released the first teaser trailer, very ‘memeable’ and coming out as the good guy because they listened to the audience.
This is Paramount, Sony, and Sega we’re talking about here and they have some deep pockets for market research. Do you think there wasn’t at least 50 rough sketches for Sonic’s design, that Sega did not give a ton of feedback (if you read ‘Console Wars’ you’ll know Sega does that often), that there were no focus groups held to see what the general public felt about the designs. This is not some newly discovered indie movie makers we’re talking about; these are titans in the movie industry. Sony Pictures has been involved in ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Men in Black’, Paramount has been involved with ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Titanic’, this is not their first rodeo. I’m not saying that these companies are not prone to mess up somewhere, but the way the advertising is conveniently being treated with a “Have no fear, I’ll save the day” kind of responses is a bit strange in my mind.
If I were to really make a stretch in my thinking, I believe that Paramount and Sony made the conscious decision to make a fake trailer for meme culture to eat up. The Sonic you saw in the trailers was never in the plans, it was just made for you to make the trailer trend all over the internet just for the director to swoop in and save the day. In reality, the movie is actually in deep post-production with the real Sonic design which will be deemed as the ‘fixed’ design of Sonic. All the while, the production company is seen as the good guys or the ‘man of the people’ because they listened to the audience.
Yes, it’s possible that this was the actual Sonic and they will work non-stop to fix his design, but it all doesn’t seem to add up. For production to happen for almost 5 years and to promise that it will all be redesigned in 6 months seems a little bit fishy to me.
With all of it said and done, I think the Sonic movie will be as cheesy as we picture to be (in a good way). It will be a movie that you’ll sit down, cringe at some speed puns, and leave the theaters laughing with your friends of how corny it was. I don’t think we should be trashing the people behind the film the way Twitter has, criticism is fine but to an extent. This article was not meant to be mean spirited, but just to stretch logic a bit and maybe spark some conversation about marketing decisions. I don’t believe shouting at people will solve anything, but conversation and solid feedback can make all of the difference.
To those who still believe that their outcry is what solved the issue of Sonic’s design I would to remind you of another Twitter controversary not too long ago. Remember a few months back when Insomniac’s Spiderman was releasing new outfits, but not the one that the internet wanted. As more and more outfit packs released, the louder the community got about the coveted ‘Sam Raimi Suit’. Once Insomniac released the Raimi suit, the internet reacted in the same way as now saying “We Won. We did it!”. However, it was later revealed that the Raimi suit was well into production even before the initial outcry of the internet happened. The internet felt like it made a difference, but the Raimi suit was already the plan well ahead of the “difference makers”.