'Sonic the Hedgehog' Movie Redesign Not Part of a Conspiracy, Says Artist

On Tuesday, Paramount Pictures released a new trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, simultaneously revealing the speedy video game character's redesign after the widespread backlash to Sonic's look in the movie's first trailer, released in April. The redesigned Sonic, which takes the character in a less realistic and more faithful to the video games direction, has been so well-received that it has prompted some to speculate that the ugly, toothy Sonic unveiled earlier this year was an intentional ploy to drum up media attention for the movie. The conspiracy theorizing became prevalent enough for Tyson Hesse—the artist who oversaw the new Sonic design—to speak out.

Backlash was swift after the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog revealed a "realistic" take on the character—with runner's legs, human teeth and a disconcerting pupillary distance. This portrayal of Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) and acting alongside James Marsden and Jim Carrey, didn't look biologically plausible enough for the real world, but it was simultaneously too real for the character, putting Sonic in an awkward middle zone akin to the disturbing Uncanny Valley. Paramount decided to take the character back to the drawing board, pushing the movie's release date back to February 2020.

new-vs-old-sonic-hedgehog
On the left, the new Sonic the Hedgehog design. On the right, Sonic the Hedgehog as he appeared in the first movie trailer. Paramount Pictures / Sega Games Co.

On Tuesday, after the new, more game-faithful version of Sonic appeared in the latest trailer, Hesse announced his involvement. An artist with previous experience on cartoon series like The Amazing World of Gumball and Bravest Warriors, Hesse also created webcomics (including a viral parody of Sonic series character Knuckles the Echidna, which he redubbed Nipples the Enchilada). His fan creations led to working with Sonic creator Sega in a more official capacity, contributing animation to the 2017 mobile game Sonic Mania.

"Honored to have been brought in to lead the design on the new Movie Sonic," Hesse tweeted. "Working with [director Jeff Fowler] and the modelers, riggers, texture/fur artists and animators in LA, London, and Vancouver was a thrill I'll never forget."

But could it all have been a ploy—the poor design intentionally created to rev up a headline-grabbing social media backlash? The theory has spread on social media, such as in this tweet, typical of the genre:

The Sonic the Hedgehog marketing conspiracy theory soon spread wide enough to grab the attention of those involved with the movie. While the conspiracy theory was always unproven (and now scrapped merchandise featuring the old design providing evidence to the contrary), Hesse made a flat declaration: "It wasn't a conspiracy."

Of course, it's the nature of conspiracy theorizing to take evidence against as further proof of the conspiracy's complexity, but this one seems unlikely to have much traction. Most fans are just happy to see a Sonic without split, bovine eyes and that terrifying, toothy grin. Many have also appointed out the many tiny details inserted by Hesse and others working on the movie, including references to in-game animations.

Overall, the design seems to have fans more excited than ever to see Sonic take on Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog, coming to theaters February 14, 2020.

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Movie Redesign Not Part of a Conspiracy, Says Artist | Newsgeek