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Jim Carrey Gives His Take On The Sonic The Hedgehog Redesign

With mere days left before Sonic the Hedgehog finally hits theaters, the press tour for the film is in full swing to remind everyone it's still set to premiere despite a several-months-long delay in order to redesign its spiky CGI protagonist. Everyone has had a take on the sizable disaster that was the initial Sonic the Hedgehog trailer, which rolled out in April 2019 and featured Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) as a creature from the Marianas Trench of the uncanny valley. We can now count Jim Carrey, who plays the villainous Dr. Robotnik in the flick, as among the people who've offered their thoughts on Sonic's original design.

Now that the terrifying original version of Sonic the Hedgehog got a major design overhaul and no longer looks like a thing of nightmares, Carrey felt confident enough to admit he was a little worried. Speaking in a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes, the actor shared, "I had a little bit of my own concerns, and you know people jumped right in there and, uh, they will not be ignored — and that's the new world, you know? I think it was incredibly helpful." 

Carrey went on to say that the criticisms of Sonic's original design "matched" his own, and was glad production was willing to go back and give it another try. The rest of the Sonic the Hedgehog cast in the interview expressed much of the same relief and confidence in the new design, which makes sense given that their reputations are also tied up in the film.

To be honest, it's refreshing to see this admission of a mistake and the subsequent earnest work to repair the situation, especially for a franchise with as bumpy of a media history as Sonic's. The response from fans to the new Sonic design — thankful and encouraging — adds to the effect. Hollywood in general could learn a lesson or two from this experience — let's take a look at the why and how.

Praising the director's proactive response

While chatting with Rotten Tomatoes, Carrey also took a moment to praise the film's director, Jim Fowler, for taking the hits in stride and being so proactive: "Jeff Fowler was just Johnny-on-the-spot, ready to do it, get into it, and I think he did a great job." 

What Fowler chose to do in response to the major criticisms of Sonic's first design is remarkable for a blockbuster production, and he does indeed deserve praise for it. A lot is on the line for him personally — this is his feature film debut following his Oscar-nominated animated short Gopher Broke

Throughout the redesign process, Fowler did his best to be as transparent as possible, despite being in charge of franchise material that would normally be kept very secret. After the redesign was announced, fans who had criticized the original design expressed concern for the VFX team that would have to make what sounded at the time like significant changes to the film from the ground up, and how that might cause harmful studio crunch. Fowler acknowledged this worry on Twitter, assuring everyone that the window of time within which they were operating permitted plenty of opportunity to implement the redesign without a punishing work environment.

Fowler has also been very gracious, thanking fans for both their passion and their patience every step of the way. Kudos, Jeff — if only every blockbuster director could be quite as forthright about their mistakes and having the humility to take the time and reassess. (Lookin' at you, Tom Hooper's Cats.)

How the Sonic redesign came together

It wasn't long after the original Sonic trailer landed with a magnificent thud online that Fowler announced that the film's team had heard fans' complaints and were going to take the film back to the editing bay. Shortly thereafter, Paramount also officially announced a delay of the film's release from November 2019 to February 2020.

Having been sufficiently humbled, Fowler chose to employ some help in the form of veteran Sonic team animator Tyson Hesse, who worked on the popular Sonic Mania, a game released in 2017 to commemorate the hedgehog's 25th anniversary as a video game icon. That assistance obviously proved invaluable, because when the new Sonic design leaked online before the trailer was officially re-released, the internet responded largely with cheers and vocal relief. No more upsetting teeth — and the tiny, haunting tiny eyes finally replaced with the cartoonish friendliness we took for granted until we saw that which should never have been.

It was initially reported that the Sonic redesign cost Paramount $35 million; that appears to have not been the case, as anonymous sources have stated that it probably cost less than $5 million in total. Trailers often deceive, leading people to believe that a film is mostly complete when the marketing begins. That's sometimes the case for traditional films, but not necessarily for ones that rely so heavily on post-production. It sounds like most of the VFX work seen in the Sonic trailer was simply prioritized for release, and the film was otherwise largely unfinished; keep in mind that when the original trailer went online, there were still almost seven entire months until the original release date. That's why it cost significantly less than originally believed to fix Sonic's design and was still feasible to change at all. Pushing out the release date to February seemed to be mostly gracious cushioning on the studio's part.

Sonic the Hedgehog will zip into theaters on February 14.