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Sonic the Hedgehog (film)/Development

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Development process

The Sonic the Hedgehog film was created by Paramount Pictures in collaboration with SEGA. It was directed by Jeff Fowler who previously worked on Shadow the Hedgehog and the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game. The visual effects were supervised by Ged Wright and Chris Uyede. The visual effects were animated primarily by MPC Film[1], Blur Studio and Marza Animation Planet. Marza in particular was put in charge of the opening on South Island and Baby Sonic.[2]

Change in studio

Sony Entertainment originally picked up the rights to make the movie in 2013. They eventually "put the project at the backburner", which led to the project being moved to Paramount Pictures.[3]

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Writing process

Before Pat Casey and Josh Miller were brought onto the project, Sony Entertainment hired Evan Susser and Van Robichaux to write the movie.[4] According to Van Robichaux, they got a flight to Japan to pitch the movie.[5]

Early Pat Casey and Josh Miller plot pitch

After Pat Casey and Josh Miller came on board, they pitched to the director Jeff Fowler a plotline closer to the video games. The concept was a Chaos Emerald or all of them had possibly fallen to Earth in a jungle in some uninhabited part of South America and it mutated the animal life. Sonic was the protector and kept humans out of this valley where the animals lived. Dr. Robotnik would have defeated Sonic and stole the Chaos Emeralds for himself. Sonic would have had to follow Dr. Robotnik back to the United States to find the Emeralds, or something bad will happen to the valley. They pitched the idea to Sega and they liked it, but it was against their rules for the Sonic universe. Sonic had to come from another world, not from another part of Earth. He didn't have to be called an alien but Pat Casey felt like he should be if he was from another planet.[6]

Early Jeff Fowler plot pitch

Separately from the Casey and Miller pitch, Jeff Fowler pitched the idea that was about Sonic as a kid. In it, Sonic was not allowed to run, but would have found a way to travel into the real world. He would have sneaked out so he could run free, but ran afoul of Dr. Robotnik, and caused the problems to happen. Pat Casey and Josh Miller would then develop Jeff Fowler's pitch into what the movie became.[6]

Longclaw

When asked if Sonic being an owl was a deep cut reference to the book Stay Sonic, Pat Casey was surprised to hear that this idea was done before. Pat Casey explained that Longclaw was part of Jeff Fowler's pitch for the movie. In Jeff Fowler's head it was an old man owl, but Pat Casey and Josh Miller wanted to make the character a lady.[6] With the sequel movie, it's clear that Longclaw was inspired by the owl pictures in Labyrinth Zone.

Rings

Originally there were no Rings in the movie, with the Chaos Emeralds being the primary plot device for the story. When Pat Casey would tell anyone about himself working on the movie, the first question was always about Sonic collecting rings, so he realized how important it was for rings to be in the movie. Even before they evolved into the primary collectible, Pat Casey wanted to include a scene where Sonic would get hit and somehow lose rings. The idea of the rings creating portals was born out of the story needing a way to get from Sonic's world to earth and Pat Casey's dislike of how portals normally function in movies.[6]

Creating Tom Wachowski

According to Pat Casey, the studio told him and Josh Miller that Sonic had to partner up with a human kid[6] or a group of kids in the movie. Neither of them liked the idea of Sonic teaming up with a child, so they approached executive producer Tim Miller about it, who agreed with them. They realized that Sonic should be a kid, then they created the character Tom Wachowski to fill the role of Sonic's human friend. Pat Casey wanted the hero to be a lazy small town cop, while the studio wanted the character to be more aspirational.[7]

When describing things the early version of Tom Wachowski would have done, Pat Casey said in the movie people would have asked Tom to do more with his life, and Tom would ask why he should. His daily job would have been driving drunk people home. Then also shewing skaters away from the library, but not really, and he would borrow the boards to try and be cool, then hurt himself.[7]

One detail Sega flagged was Sonic going to ask Tom for help, with the idea in mind being that Sonic wouldn't want it. The writers of the movie argued that they really needed Sonic to do that for the story and character growth. They needed to give Tom a reason to start helping Sonic.[6]

Dr. Robotnik

When deciding which name to use for Dr. Eggman, Pat Casey and Josh Miller decided to call him Dr. Robotnik as his actual name, then Sonic at some point in the movie would call him Eggman. Neither of them felt that Eggman was a believable name for the movie. They received very little feedback from Sega about using the name Robotnik in the movie.[7]

Before Jim Carrey came onboard, there was a lot of debate within the staff about how funny Dr. Robotnik should be. Pat Casey felt that Robotnik needed to be funny and also a formidable opponent for Sonic. Often they were told to take out the jokes they put into the script, in an effort to not make Dr. Robotnik too silly. Once Jim Carrey was casted for the role, Pat Casey and Josh Miller got to put all their jokes back into the completed script. Eventually, most of Jim Carrey's scenes were rewritten to some degree as he had his own ideas for the character. Jim would often want something different to say for a scene, then Casey and Miller would write a list of new lines to pick from.[6]

For the ending of the movie, Jim Carrey wanted to eat a mushroom that would give him an allergic reaction, blowing him up to make himself look more like Eggman in the games. The crew thought that would have been funny, but they were out of time and money to make it happen by that point.[6]

Developing the themes of the film

When planning out the movie, they knew they didn't want to make a giant Act One on another alien planet away from Earth. They needed to find a way of getting Sonic to Earth faster, so they thought about making Sonic an outside observer, a little bit like The Little Mermaid. They created a scenario where Sonic has his incredible powers but couldn't find a home.[6]

Tails and Knuckles

Before coming up with the theme of loneliness for Sonic, Tails and Knuckles would have been involved with the plot of the movie. They decided to cut them from this movie to focus on Sonic's character, and felt it would be more powerful to introduce them later in the sequel.[6] Josh Miller said that Tails was only involved with the plot very early on, before any scripts were written, while the movie was still in the blue sky phase. He felt that including Tails was opening Pandora’s box, and would have filled the movie with too much of Sonic's mythology. Once it was decided to cut Tails from the plot in effort to make the movie smaller, it was decided to put him in the post-credits scene.[8]

The lizards

While at Sony, the studio wanted the writers to create some new characters that they would own, rather than Sega. They came up with the villain Rava the Destroyer, (who eventually appeared in a comic). Rava would have tried to steal Sonic's power and use it for universal conquest,[9] an idea the novelization of the movie vaguely references with the Echidnas.[10] They decided to cut the character out because they felt there were too many characters in the plot, and they wanted to focus on Robotnik. The lizard attack scene at the start was a leftover from the new character idea. They decided to replace the lizards with the Echidnas to tie things closer to the video games, and set up the sequel.

Paramount was not sure if the fans of the video games would even notice the echidnas in the movies. Pat Casey felt that the studio never fully understood the Sonic fanbase when it came to details like this. When Tyson Hesse came onboard, he eventually became the voice of the fans for them at the studio.[6]

Sonic's powers

Sega's very sensitive on putting definition on "Chaos Emerald type stuff". When asked if Sonic's powers are related to the Chaos Emeralds, Pat Casey said "it's hard to say for sure, but I'll tell you that in my mind the answer is yes, probably".[6] Sonic's powers being connected to the Emeralds is more explicit in the novelization of the film, where it's said his powers are Chaos Energy.[11] One of the last scenes cut was Tom pointing out that Sonic is only at his full power when he is emotional. It was cut in hope that audiences would understand this without it having to be spelled out onscreen. Pat Casey also wanted to include a scene of Sonic almost drowning, which got cut.[6] Eventually a scene of Sonic almost drowning made it into the sequel.

Chili Dogs

There was always intended to be a scene with chili dogs in the movie. At one point there would have been a cute scene where Tom fed Sonic his first chili dog when Sonic was sad. Tom was going to hype up the chili dog with some lies, which Sonic would tell him "I'm an alien, I'm not stupid", then Sonic would have eaten the chili dog out of Tom's hand in an instant. One of the other producers wanted a fart joke in the movie, and them James Marsden came up with a line for the scene.[6]

The Mushroom Planet

When asked if the Mushroom Planet was a reference to Mario, or a reference to Mushroom Hill Zone, Pat Casey said "truthfully, it was both. If the lawyers are asking, it was only Mushroom Hill Zone". He thought it was funny for Sonic to hate mushrooms and wanted to do a little nod to their "esteemed competitor". Also, knowing that the Mushroom Hill Zone is one of the first locations Knuckles is encountered in made it the obvious choice.[6]

Casting Ben Schwartz

Early on, Ben Schwartz recorded a test scene of Sonic to sell the movie to the studio. Pat Casey said the test scene was sort of a sequel to the movie. Sonic and Tom were back at Green Hills and were playing with the radar gun as a game. Sonic would have run by Tom's car so fast it would have sent the vehicle flying into the ditch. It was a standalone scene to test the animation of Sonic they made as they were leaving Sony.[6]

Character redesign

Due to heavy backlash from the general public, Sonic's design in the movie was changed after the first trailer to stylized closer to the source material. The redesign was done by Tyson Hesse, who had previously worked on many Sonic animated projects, such as the cutscenes in Sonic Mania. According to Ged Wright, the process of changing Sonic's design in the film was fairly painless. Sonic's scale and limb lengths were kept consistent so the majority of postviz work was still able to be used later on.[2] The one part we do know was mostly finished with the old design was the baseball scene.[6]

Deleted scenes

The Blu-ray of the film shows multiple alternate extended scenes:

・Extended scenes featuring Crazy Carl.

・An alternate opening of the movie that shows Longclaw would have traveled to Earth with Sonic who would have had to take care of her before she passed away. This scene also shows easter eggs of swords from Sonic and the Black Knight cut from the final version of Longclaw's home.

・A scene with Sonic talking with Tom Wachowski in Rachel's house about his lightning powers.

・A scene with Rachel talking to Wade Whipple on the phone about Tom.

Promotional screenshots

Production photographs

Concept art

Characters

Storyboards

From Douglas Einar Olsen's website.

References


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