Sonic The Hedgehog: A History Of The Backlash And Delays So Far

Sonic The Hedgehog gestures that he doesn't know what to say

As if the genre of video game movies didn’t have enough criticism, delays and problems to deal with, the recent backlash to Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog movie has blackened the eyes of this character coming to the movie market just a little darker. It’s kind of sad really, especially with the lengthy history that’s been documented related to the Sonic movie project.

To think the simple beginnings of Sega’s first big foray into filmmaking would end up where we are now, afloat in a sea of delays and updates, still surprises me. In fact,  that a project as simple as a Sega Sonic-oriented movie would become such a hot button topic and earn such a tremendous online reaction is what's most shocking.  The road has been long and rough, but next year Sonic The Hedgehog will finally blast into theaters for all of the world to see.

While we wait, let's take a look at that eventful road, and all of the bumps that led us here. But first, let’s take a look at the trailer that got us here, before jumping all the way back to the year of 2014, where our story truly begins.

Sonic The Hedgehog Is Announced As A Sony Picture (2014)

Sonic The Hedgehog wasn’t even going to be a Paramount movie in its early days. When it was originally announced in 2014, the project was supposed to be a joint venture between Sony Pictures and Marza Animation Planet, an animation company that’s worked on several of the Sonic games since 2008.

Even in those early days, there was a fear the film could either be a great prospect for a live-action/CGI mashup, or a horrific one. With both doors in front of the team that would create Sonic The Hedgehog’s movie incarnation, it was just a matter of choosing one over the other.

Sonic The Hedgehog running fast alongside a building

Sony’s Sonic The Hedgehog Sets A 2018 Release Date (February 2016)

As the Sonic The Hedgehog film had been in development for a couple years at this point, the project finally landed itself its first intended release window in 2016. Announced as part of the 25th anniversary blitz of excitement, Sony was still involved with the film’s production at this point in the development and had a 2018 release year earmarked.

Things were looking up for Sonic The Hedgehog, as executive producer Tim Miller and director Jeff Fowler would also join the Sonic movie team. It looked like it was all going to kick into high gear from that point on. As it would turn out though, the first major hiccup awaited a little over a year and a half from that point, as Sonic was about to say goodbye to Sony Pictures for a brand new home.

Sonic The Hedgehog Dr. Robotnik shows off his lab

Paramount Acquires Sonic The Hedgehog In Turnaround (October 2017)

And now, a quick lesson in Hollywood terminology. When a project is said to have gone into “turnaround," it’s what happens when a studio develops something like the Sonic The Hedgehog movie, but decides to sell the picture instead of pushing forward with production. Usually, this means the studio makes its money back and then some by selling to another studio.

Sony Pictures did just that with Sonic The Hedgehog, as the studio put the film into turnaround, allowing it to land on Paramount Pictures’ plate for further development. The creative team involved remained on board though, including Marza Animation Planet, and from this point on the film’s studio home was a done deal.

Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic and Tom driving on a country road

Sonic The Hedgehog Sets A 2019 Release Date With Paramount (February 2018)

Having landed a new studio toward the end of 2017, there was just no way that the original 2018 release window was going to work for Sonic The Hedgehog. Live-action/CGI films aren’t as simple as standard film products, and as such they require more time and effort to put together. As such, a new release date was required, and Paramount would announce their intended slot for the film early on in the very year it was supposed to be released.

Sonic The Hedgehog was officially given its first day and date release window in February of 2018, which was slated for November 15, 2019. From that point, the project would cast James Marsden and Tika Sumpter as its human leads, with Jim Carrey falling into the role of Dr. Robotnik and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic himself. Surely, with such promising plans, nothing could have possibly gone wrong from this point on!

Sonic The Hedgehog the motion poster

The Backlash Begins With The Arrival Of Sonic The Hedgehog’s First Poster (December 2018)

As early as December 2018, the backlash to Sonic The Hedgehog’s design was starting to rear its ugly head. Footage was shown at the CCXP convention in Brazil, and around that same time, a motion poster to the film was released to the public. Right then and there, the first big problem the internet would have with Sonic’s design was revealed.

It was all in Sonic’s muscular legs, as the internet was officially creeped out by the sinewy silhouettes that made up the titular creature’s lower half. Perhaps the marketing team was purposefully playing it coy with the rest of Sonic The Hedgehog’s character design, as we still hadn’t seen his face at this point. While that particular detail would leak out in alleged promo art, it would be another few months before everyone’s worst nightmares were confirmed.

Sonic The Hedgehog looks shocked, teeth and all

The Infamous Sonic The Hedgehog Trailer Drops (April 30, 2019)

April 30, 2019: a date which will live in Hollywood infamy. That morning, an unsuspecting public would get their first look at Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog, as the first trailer was revealed early in the day. It had a random Coolio needle drop, some retro ‘90s Jim Carrey comedy action, and the design that would trigger fans into deeming the blue speedster to be "nightmare fuel."

Everywhere you looked, there were hot takes (including some who liked the design, but more that offered freaked out reactions), and soon fan art even reworked the character of Sonic into a more traditional-looking form. It was not a good time for the Sonic fandom, and the backlash would only continue. Some would say that something had to be done, and director Jeff Fowler would be one of those folks, as he would announce the next step in Sonic The Hedgehog’s evolution in the days that would follow the trailer’s release.

Sonic The Hedgehog waits for the rockets to get closer

Sonic The Hedgehog’s Redesign Is Announced (May 3, 2019)

A mere three days after Paramount’s first trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog’s dropped, Jeff Fowler made an announcement that most directors would probably dread. The character of Sonic was going to be changed from a design standpoint, in response to the massive fan backlash that flooded the internet upon the debut of the trailer.

Citing how he and his team wanted to make the best version of Sonic The Hedgehog they possibly could, the die was cast. Sonic would, indeed, look different in the finished film. Initially, folks thought that big change would lead to that dangerous video game industry practice of round the clock crunch time sessions being implemented in the redesign process. Instead, a more practical solution was instituted.

Sonic The Hedgehog new release date graphic

Sonic The Hedgehog Is Delayed Until 2020 (May 24, 2019)

Once more taking to the internet to reassure the fandom that everything was going to be ok, Jeff Fowler made the most recent, and most impacting announcement involving the status of Sonic The Hedgehog’s status. Within a month of releasing the first trailer to the film, the release date to the film was pushed to February 14, 2020 – almost three full months past the original date set back in 2017.

In such a short span of time Sonic The Hedgehog went from an internet curiosity to a pariah, which in turn triggered the wheels of fate to shift this production into uncharted territory. It’s not every day that something like a design change so late in the game would come around, but like it or not, it happened. Whether the studio was right to institute this delay or not, once more the die has been cast. Though now there’s even more competition for the honor of the internet’s most infamous trailer.

Cats the white cat sitting at the table, with utensils, waiting for food

The Cats Trailer Drops, Distracting Everyone From Sonic The Hedgehog (July 2019)

Just when you thought it was safe to go onto the internet, a trailer for director Tom Hooper’s live-action/digital fur enhanced adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats made its way into the world. With a reaction similar to Sonic The Hedgehog’s unveiling --albeit with more fans this time around -- the world naturally had a field day with how this fusion of human and cat looked on the screen.

As animators work hard to create a more palatable version of Sonic for his upcoming live-action debut, the internet is still debating whether or not these felines of unusual appearance are going to help or hinder the film’s chances at being a box office sensation. Certainly, the attention has been taken off of Sonic The Hedgehog for the time being, but some have still found a way to navigate themselves to the crossroads between the two projects, such as the fan made YouTube video shown below.

There are still months to go before Sonic The Hedgehog is unleashed upon the populace, and the new look for the Sega character still hasn’t been made available to the public just yet. All that’s been said recently is by two key members of the Sonic team. On one hand, we have executive producer Tim Miller saying that fans will be quite pleased with the efforts the team has put into this new, and supposedly finished, look for Sonic.

Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik himself, Jim Carrey, thinks it was sort of a mistake to let fans dictate the design process to begin with, but as such hasn’t seen the new look with his own eyes. These opposing viewpoints can be debated until the hedgehogs come home, but change is definitely in the air; it’s only a matter of time until the world gets to react to another look at Sonic The Hedgehog.

Sonic The Hedgehog will be in theaters on February 14, 2020.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.