Sonic The Hedgehog 2’s Siberian Stage Was A Showcase Of Improv
In the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) and Green Hills Sheriff Tom Wachowski (aka “Donut Lord”, James Marsden) are on the run from Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). During a pit stop at a tavern frequented by rabid motorcyclists, the couple find themselves in a fight in a bar.
In “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”, the search for the Master Emerald leads Sonic and Tails to Russia, where they stop at another sinister pub in Siberia. However, this time a precarious situation with Russian patrons ends not in fistfights … but in dance cuffs. Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” provides the beat as Sonic and Tails strut their stuff in a dance routine that captivates the entire pub. It’s the most enjoyable scene in the movie – and it turns out it was improvised. Colleen O’Shaughnessey, the voice actress who voiced Tails, revealed in a interview with Insider:
“The best thing was recording that scene in Siberia. It was so much fun, and they just let us go. We really stuck to the script for a few bits, and then they said, ‘Go ahead. “Especially the parts in the middle where we meet, we really have to go, and it was so much fun.”
Since the actors weren’t physically on set, Schwartz and O’Shaughnessey’s improvised klutziness in the recording booth was brought to life by the animators later on. “I think I went back to it a few times to add a few bits here and there once they were animated,” O’Shaughnessey said. “But yeah, it was so much fun. You’re like, ‘this way’, ‘no, that way’ or ‘oops!'”
Ben Schwartz is no stranger to improvisation
Aside from the legend himself, Jim Carrey, if there’s one “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” cast member who can be trusted with improv, it’s Ben Schwartz. Schwartz is a comedian who, in the early 2010s, had a segment called “Terrible Decisions with Ben Schwartz” on HBO’s comedy show “Funny or Die Presents.” He’s also recognizable to many as the rich kid and budding entrepreneur Jean-Ralphio on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”
But Schwartz really showcased his improv chops in 2020 when he teamed up with fellow actor Thomas Middleditch to create comedy show “Middleditch & Schwartz,” landing a special on Netflix. In front of a live audience, Middleditch and Schwartz would ask an audience member for a prompt. After spending a while asking the audience member questions related to the prompt, the duo would then perform a comedy segment on the spot. Schwartz also has a solo act that he takes on tour. Because he routinely handles the pressure that comes from improvising jokes in front of a live audience, improvising while doing voiceover is likely a walk in the park for Schwartz.
Colleen O’Shaughnessey is no slouch either
Colleen O’Shaughnessey is best known for his voiceover work. She voiced Sora Takenouchi in the “Digimon” series along with a host of other anime, film, and video game characters, and she first voiced Tails in two “Sonic” video games in 2014.
But O’Shaughnessey is also a comedian with improvisational chops. As she explains in another interview, after moving to Los Angeles to start her career, she joined an improv collective called Social Extortion. At the beginning, the group played pieces inspired by the ideas of the public. Later, the group moved on to a weekly sitcom where the public again chose the subject of each show, much like “Middleditch & Schwartz”. Social Extortion eventually disbanded, but O’Shaughnessey expressed his continued appreciation for improv. “I think it helped me a lot with the voiceovers,” she says. “Improv liberates you, gets you out of your head, so you don’t think, you just do…I tend to overthink, which doesn’t work for me as an actor.”
O’Shaughnessey also expressed in this interview that she would like to improvise again at some point. The Siberia scene in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” gave her a little taste of what it would look like, and she was happy to share that moment with Ben Schwartz. “We both have improv experience, so it was easy,” O’Shaughnessey told Insider. “[Ben Schwartz is] it’s so wonderful, and when you have a great pro like that you work with, it makes your job even easier, you know?”
Improv scenes often make the best; they are so organic and spontaneous. And since “Sonic the Hedgehog 2″‘s post-credits scene teases a third film, it looks like fans can expect more from the improv duo “O’Shaughnessey & Schwartz.”