Why Did They Make Sonic the Hedgehog a Hot Furry?

Nobody asked for this.

In one of the most baffling character designs in recent memory, the creators behind the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog “live-action” movie have turned Sonic into a hot furry. Not only did no one ask to see an anthropomorphized hedgehog with thigh muscles, but there’s also a perfectly good cartoon-ready version of Sonic that already exists.

Sonic the Hedgehog, which hits theaters next year on November 8, 2019, is either wildly too late — Sega’s heyday as Nintendo’s rival in the video game market is now almost three decades past — or just in time to ride the last wave of ‘90s nostalgia before we’re inundated with reboots of things from the 2000s. (There’s already a Kim Possible movie, so, uh, tick tock.)

The character reveal, as seen in a motion teaser poster released by IGN, depicts a radically different Sonic from the one anyone who owned a Sega Genesis growing up remembers. In ditching the welcoming round shapes of Sonic’s original cartoonish design, the new Sonic has a more anatomically human physique and infinitely more detailed fur. He also boasts defined muscles and realistic sneakers. In short, he’s a talking cartoon animal that does CrossFit.

It’s hard to tell with the darkened silhouette lighting, but the white gloves that make a character unmistakably “cartoon” seem to be missing as well. Sonic’s hands are bound to be uncovered, and it’s going to be straight up weird seeing tiny, sharp nails on a blue fur, tan flesh hand-claw. If your stomach acid didn’t curdle just reading that sentence, you must have a higher tolerance for this I do.

In an interview with IGN, the filmmakers said they actually strived for realism, which is kind of ridiculous when the subject of that realism is a talking hedgehog.

“It was always, for us, fur, and we never considered anything different,” said producer Tim Miller. “It’s part of what integrates him into the real world and makes him a real creature.”

Sonic is also going to have two distinct eyes, not just one with a deep brow like he does everywhere else. (Never noticed his one giant eye? Look closer.)

Sonic the Hedgehog
Mother of....

“I don’t think SEGA was entirely happy with the eye decision,” said Miller, “but these sorts of things you go, ‘It’s going to look weird if we don’t do this.’ But everything is a discussion, and that’s kind of the goal, which is to only change what’s necessary and stay true to the rest of it.”

Miller then said, as in he honestly thinks this, “He’s not going to feel like a Pixar character would because I don’t think that’s the right aesthetic to make it feel like part of our world.”

Meanwhile, here’s what Nintendo did with Super Mario Odyssey. No bulging muscles. No hyper-realistic 5 o’clock shadow. Mario looks like a cartoon character in a human world, and it works.

Nintendo Super Mario Odyssey New Donk City
It's a-me, avoiding the uncanny valley-o!

This isn’t me complaining about “My childhood!” or whatever 30-year-old dudes throw around. My childhood was just fine, those memories won’t crumble with a reboot I don’t like. This is a question about design.

Notice that Sonic’s design has hardly changed since his 1991 debut. For 27 years and counting, Sonic has stayed pretty much the same. His two most dramatic reinventions were when he leapt into 3D, for 1998’s Sonic Adventure (Sonic 3D Blast was an absolute lie), and in 2014, when he donned — wait for it — a red scarf, for the TV series Sonic Boom.

Below is a helpful graphic from If It’s Hip, It’s Here that lays out all the major incarnations of Sonic the Hedgehog, from 1991 through 2014. Aside from graphical fidelity, Sonic has hardly ever looked real, even when HD gaming afforded more detail.

Sonic the Hedgehog Evolution

Would it surprise you if I said that the highest-reviewed Sonic game in years was Sonic Mania, a 2017 game designed entirely to look and feel like the original Sega Genesis games?

There’s a reason why Sonic, as well as his former rival Mario, have hardly changed in 30 years: They work! They’re cartoon characters, and any attempts at realism are going to be awkward. The Power Rangers should have stuck to spandex rather than the Transformers armor in last year’s movie, and Sonic should definitely stick to being a cartoon in 2019.

Sonic the Hedgehog will arrive in theaters on November 8, 2019.

Watch the launch trailer for 'Sonic Mania,' a 2017 Sonic game that looks and plays exactly like Sonic did in 1993.