One of the reasons kids were originally drawn to Sonic the Hedgehog was the n0w-iconic design of the video game's titular hero. Sonic is an immediately identifiable character, with his simplified look and confident attitude. Despite changes over the years -- he grew slimmer and taller -- core elements remain the same: circular head and body, thin limbs, oversized feet, giant spikes and blue fur.
However, the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie eschews tradition. Rather than giving the CGI-animated Sonic an oversized head with narrow, short limbs, the filmmakers chose instead to give the anthropomorphic hedgehog the legs of a human runner -- and an unnervingly human-looking physique.
That's bad, really bad. Everything wrong with it can really be summed up with three images from the first trailer, released today by Paramount Pictures.
Let us explain.
Head to Torso Ratio
Sonic's body has grown taller and leaner since the release of the first game in 1991. Originally, Sonic's body was a circle only slightly smaller than his head. But with Sonic Adventure for the SEGA Dreamcast, Sonic's body was elongated. However, what remained the same was that most of his mass was contained in his head. Even in Sonic Boom, his most dramatic redesign -- it gave him extra-long limbs -- Sonic's mass was primarily centered on his head.
That change established that Sonic was an animal, unlike Doctor Eggman/Robitnik's human design, which had a proportionately larger body than head. It made Sonic appear smaller and cuter, and drew players' eyes to the huge spikes on the back of his head. It's distinctly cartoonish.
But the hybrid live-action/CGI movie gives Sonic more human proportions, which is disconcerting.
The three images above depict Sonic stretching -- again, like a human runner -- and emphasize his muscle and bone structure. But Sonic is still supposed to be a hedgehog (even if perhaps an extraterrestrial hedgehog). If Sonic were a human, obviously he'd have a runner's physique as pictured here, but he isn't. He's an anthropomorphized animal.
The decision to give him broad shoulders and long legs is incredibly -- profoundly -- disconcerting. It adds nothing to his character. If anything, it takes away the core elements that drew fans to him in the first place.
One has to question why they would make this change. What's accomplished by making Sonic more human? The world of the movie features normal humans, so what's the purpose of making the title character appear less distinct?
Another uncomfortable element of this Sonic is his lower half. Earlier posters depicted Sonic's meaty legs, which made some fans ... uncomfortable. Thankfully, his limbs aren't nearly as muscular in the trailer.
However, the footage does showcase Sonic's new, human-proportioned butt, positioned at the center of the frame as he's stretches for his run. It's as impossible to miss as it is to scrub from your mind.
Sonic's most distinct features are his head and spikes, which ought to be in center frame. However, throughout every shot, Sonic's pelvis is placed in our line of vision. Every straight line, from his spikes to his legs to his arms, is angled in a way so that your eye is drawn away from the head and down to the furry blue butt.
Adapting Video Game Animals
Let's compare this Sonic to the title character from the similarly live-action/CGI Detective Pikachu. Both are video game icons with distinctive designs, and both beloved around the world.
But while Sonic is dramatically altered for his adaptation, Pikachu and the other Pokemon remain true to the source material, modified only to give them depth and texture. None is radically altered to appear vaguely human.
Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, seems to have little respect for the original design of its star, and instead embraces something from the deepest, darkest corners of the Uncanny Valley.
Opening Nov. 8, director Jeff Fowler's Sonic the Hedgehog stars Ben Schwartz as Sonic and Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik, with James Marsden, Neal McDonald, Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally and Natasha Rothwell.