Entertainment

'Sonic the Hedgehog' director promises Sonic redesign after fan backlash, but changes could be costly for Paramount

Key Points
  • "Sonic the Hedgehog" director tweets that Paramount Pictures will be addressing fan concerns about the titular character.
  • Longtime fans of the speedy blue hedgehog find the character's facial features, including human-like teeth, and his body proportions to be inconsistent with the Sonic they grew up with in the '90s.
  • The "Sonic" trailer arrives just as Warner Bros. has been receiving praise for its character design for the upcoming "Detective Pikachu," due out next week.
Paramount Pictures

Just days after releasing the first official trailer for "Sonic the Hedgehog," the film's director took to social media to try and assuage disgruntled fans.

The less-than-three-minute trailer, which debuted on Tuesday, was widely criticized on Twitter, Reddit and other social platforms for its tone and the design of the titular character.

Longtime fans of the speedy blue hedgehog found the character's facial features, including human-like teeth, and his body proportions to be inconsistent with the Sonic they grew up with in the '90s.

"April fools was 29 days ago. You guys missed your chance Paramount," one user commented on the YouTube video of the trailer.

This wasn't the first sign that fans were unhappy with the character design, either. When Paramount released one of the official promotional posters for the film, fans griped about the strange length of Sonic's legs, expressing worry about what the full character would look like.

These criticisms were taken to heart by Paramount and Sega, the company behind the character. On Thursday, director Jeff Fowler said "the message is loud and clear."

"You aren't happy with the design & you want changes," he wrote on Twitter. "It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be."

"This demonstrates the power of social media and the value it can bring to filmmakers and studios in terms of providing direct feedback from the fans who, at the end of the day, are the folks you ultimately want to please," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

"This type of organic social media-based conversation provides de facto real time market research and, when respectful and constructive, can be highly valuable to studios and producers looking to get the best results from their films," he said.

It's unclear exactly how Fowler plans to fix the character, especially considering the film is due out in theaters in November, less than six months away.

"Look, video game adaptions, for the most part, have left a bloody trail at the box office," Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said. "I think everyone wants this to be successful and the best way to do that is to get it right aesthetically and tonally. If Sonic looks and acts like we all remember that's a good place to start. Problem is the trailer was reminiscent of all the bad video game adaptations that have made audiences groan for decades."

Movies like "Super Mario Bros.," "Street Fighter," "Need for Speed," "Assassins' Creed," "Prince of Persia," and both iterations of "Tomb Raider" have all been widely panned at the box office over the last three decades.

Paramount Pictures and Blur Studios did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. Paramount is owned by Viacom, which saw its stock down around 2% on Friday.

The filming budget for "Sonic" is estimated to be around $90 million, but going back and changing the CGI animation could be quite costly for the production company.

Not only do artists have to redesign elements of the character, but they also have to reinsert it into every scene of the likely already completed film and then render it, which takes a lot of computing power and time.

"Kudos to Paramount for having the gall to admit they made a misstep and hopefully they have time to correct it and to appease the hardcore fans," Bock said. "Sega could be a huge IP for Paramount and they desperately need franchises like no other studio right now."

It also doesn't help Paramount that the "Sonic" trailer arrives just as Warner Bros. has been receiving praise for its character design for the upcoming "Detective Pikachu" due out next week.

Warner Bros.

"Detective Pikachu" has been lauded for its realistic CGI animation and for creating authentic (and cute) iterations of beloved Pokemon creatures.

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