Controversial Sonic Design Will be Changed. At What Cost?

I’ve made my views on the change made to Sonic’s design for the upcoming Hollywood Sonic the Hedgehog movie very clear on this site. I don’t think this film design is good, at all, and I do wonder who’s decision it was to amend the beloved character’s design so drastically to result in the character we see now. Here’s the thing though. At this point in time, we are 6 months away from the film’s expected release date, so there is simply not enough time to fix this without huge human cost. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the director for the film publicly stating that the design will be changed in response to fan criticism on the issue.

I have very, very mixed opinions on the decision, despite my own public dislike of the design, and a lot of it stems on the practicality of such a change. Sonic is a completely-CGI recreation of the character in the real world, which does in theory make it possible to change Sonic’s design and implement it into the movie without a need to reshoot every scene they were involved in, as would be the case with a live action character. The thing is, to do so would still require a lot of changes to be made in the very short timeframe left before the film’s release, which presents a few issues. Apologies if things get a little bit technical from here.

To create a CGI character, the process is much more complex than simply getting a design, creating a model and plonking them into the world and calling it a day. Using the process that Marvel Studios went through to create Thanos from the most recent Avengers films as an example (I feel this comparison is most apt due to the fact we are talking about a live action CG recreation from Hollywood and we have accounts on the creation process unlike, say, a closer comparison such as Detective Pikachu), even once you have a design in place, you have to ensure if fits in the world and with the character. Lip-syncing for Sonic’s dialogue has been done using recordings from the voice acting process and any new design will need to factor this in and likely be changed. For Avengers, this was considered at the very beginning of the process, and likely was here, but a redesign needs to scrap this and start again.

The redesign process should technically be possible on a short timeframe, meaning the long process taken to design a character can be reduced, but then there is the implementation of such a design. Although many of the animations created for the old design could be used for a newly-designed sonic, many will need to be altered. Since the character will look different, animations will need to be adjusted to compensate for the new design, and most if not all of the animations for Sonic will have to be redone. Considering he is one of the main characters on this film, that is a lot of scenes that need to be remade, and not a lot of time to remake them.

Then there’s the rendering process. After you’ve created an animation, you need to insert it into the scene and process it so it can be used in the film, and this can take a long time depending on the complexity. Flicking back to the Sonic movie trailer for a second here, the scene near the end of this trailer featuring huge complex battle scene of CGI rockets, Dr Robotnik’s ship and Sonic himself will take a long time to render fully in order to be in a state where it could be used in the film. This means that, although it looks like we have 6 months now before the film is due to release, in order to render the scenes and put them into the movie, the actual time that animators have to complete this work is probably only a quarter of that, if not less.

The Controversial Sonic the Hedgehog Design Will be Changed. At What Cost?

There are currently no plans to delay the film in spite of this news. This means that entire process I have just described, from creating a redesign to reanimating these scenes through to the rendering, has to be done in such a short amount of time, likely no more than 2 months if I were to speculate. In order to successfully complete everything in time, huge mental and physical strain is going to need to be forced upon the animators working on this project, which just isn’t worth it, no matter how good the end product could or could not be. No film, no product, regardless of quality, is worth the physical toll placed upon those making it.

This high-intensity, high-stress situation the animators are about to be placed under looks a whole lot worse when the directors make a poorly-placed joke in their tweeted announcement for the film by using a hashtag of #GottaFixFast, a pun on Gotta Go Fast.

Even if in principle I agree with the idea of changing Sonic’s design, it’s not something I can support if the result is going to be at the very human cost on the wellbeing of animators working on this project. Give me those human-like legs and teeth any day if it avoids the potentially damage fixing it looks like it is going to cause. According to Paramount and the film’s director, that November release date is so much more important than the live’s of the people making it.

You better hurry up, animators. Gotta fix fast.

Paramount Pictures, SEGA Co. Ltd.
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