Sonic the Hedgehog: The Major Character Change That Saved the Movies
The live-action films, however, have fully embraced the idea of Sonic being a child. In the opening moments of the first film, a very young Sonic escapes an attack that results in the death of his surrogate mother. He is sent to Earth and lives alone for years. He does the best he can and he has stunt doubles for days on end, but that obviously masks his loneliness. Sonic befriends police officer Tom (James Marsden) and his wife, vet Maddie (Tika Sumpter), even though they don’t know it. When they watch movies, Sonic looks on expectantly from the outside, pretending he’s part of the family.
Sonic’s loneliness comes to a head in a deeply shocking moment when, after playing a baseball game with himself, Sonic is confronted with the fact that he is all alone in the world. He is so sad that he runs faster than he has ever done before, causing a massive blackout. This is when you fall in love with Sonic. It’s not just the COOL IN THE PAST 90s mascot carried over to the 2020s. It’s a character you feel, a character the kids in the audience can relate to.
Throughout the first movie, Sonic acts so excited around Tom (to the point of annoyance). It’s not just because it’s a children’s movie; it’s because Sonic is a kid connecting with someone for the first time. The end of the movie puts it even more on display, with Tom and Maddie essentially adopting Sonic and giving him his own bedroom, complete with a race car bed!
Obviously, the team behind the Sonic the films incorporated this children’s element and dubbed it for the second film. In it, Tom functions as a father to Sonic. He passes on family wisdom, constantly worries about Sonic, and wishes Sonic had friends his own age and who look like him. Sonic is once again excited to make a new friend, and the big twist the movie uses is that Tails, often portrayed as Sonic’s sidekick, is instead played as Sonic’s little brother. Yes, the hero worship that other iterations of Sonic have established is there, but the fact that they’re both kids makes the bond between the two even sweeter.
Director Jeff Fowler, director of first and second sonic the hedgehog movies, told Us that the idea of Sonic being a kid was something he and Sonic actor Ben Schwartz discussed early on when trying to come up with the character’s voice and tone. The kids’ angle solidified when they realized that Sonic would have been an outsider all his life and that would particularly affect young viewers. Who hasn’t felt weird or alien?
This choice also took into account the performance of Schwartz. As Fowloer describes it, “[Schwartz’s] Sonic is that very excited, very manic kind of kid. Very biker. Just full of life, full of optimism, full of joy. He was like a wonderful character that you would want to spend time with.