It’s barely been a hot minute since Sonic the Hedgehog was released in theaters in February, where it made $146 million domestically and almost $307 million globally. But with our new reality of COVID-19 shortened release windows, Sonic’s now available for digital purchase and will be available for rental and on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD on May 19.
To get the word out, director Jeff Fowler got on an appropriately distanced phone call with SYFY WIRE to answer some lingering questions about his film that managed to please both Sonic videogame fans and non-gamer fans alike.
Since working with comedians like Ben Schwartz (Sonic) and Jim Carrey (Dr. Robotnik) means a lot of alt versions of scenes were certainly captured in the moment, we asked Fowler if there were any scenes that didn't make it into the final cut, for pacing or some other reason.
“It's funny how much actually is in the movie, in terms of what the guys would pitch from time to time,” Fowler explains. “A perfect example of that is the mobile lab and Robotnik's big dance sequence; that was never scripted like that. Jim came in with the idea and also pitched The Poppy Family song, 'Where Evil Grows,' which is just so offbeat and weird, but also kind of perfect.”
Fowler does reveal there were alternate versions of Sonic and Longclaw’s back story from the film's opening that was reworked during production. In the home video release, there’s a rough animatic of one alternate version.
“And there's, obviously, some really great outtakes and bloopers,” Fowler continues. “There's one deleted scene between James Marsden (Tom) and Sonic where they're having a little conversation on the couch at Rachel's (Natasha Rothwell) house, and it's a really nice scene. It's basically Sonic trying to apologize for getting so mad on the highway, and being upset with Tom about leaving town. But we actually repurposed a lot of that, and put it on the Transamerica rooftop in that 'goodbye' scene. We realized those two scenes were very close to each other, and very similar in tone. And so it felt redundant to have a heart-to-heart on the couch, and then to have the false goodbye on the top of the Transamerica building. We cut the couch scene, and then we took the best lines and repurposed them into the Transamerica side of it.”
We also asked with some distance from the whole VFX debacle surrounding the original, and then changed, design for Sonic, how that changed him as a filmmaker when it comes to VFX. Fowler says he wishes the whole experience metaphorically unlocked a magical VFX wisdom achievement for him, but he knows that’s not how it works.
“The sad reality is that just when you think you've got one thing figured out, something else will come along,” he says of production snafus in general. “I think what worked for Sonic, and with this character, and with this fan base, could become not necessarily directly applicable the next time out because of some other reason. I appreciate having been through the whole experience with it, and it’s just a reminder of how important the fans are. But it's such a balance. You don't want to be polling the fan base and just [asking], ‘What do you want from a movie?’ Because that just turns into Mad Libs. There's just no way for you to come out with one cohesive thing.”
Yet, Fowler does admit that attending the Sonic press tour and subsequent fan screenings really clarified for him some elements that need to be part of a sequel if it happens.
In particular, more of Sonic’s videogame BFF, Tails. “Of all the screenings that I would pop in for, seeing people's reaction to Tails showing up at the end … nothing could have prepared me!” he admits with some awe. “To see people respond and having these kids just shout at the screen, and just yell their little brains out. I just never got sick of it. I just loved it. And the idea that we made this whole movie, and we didn't have a single scene of Sonic and Tails together. It's incredible, but it also is so exciting [for a sequel].”
He also says the deeper evolution of Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik would be a part of the continuing story. “Jim was just very smart about all of that,” Fowler says of the character’s slow progression toward the bulbous madman fans know from the game. “We would always have the conversation while we were filming about where we were at in the timeline, and how to modulate the performance accordingly. Because you want to have a little fun with him with that spiraling off into madness. And understand that the reason he's on some alien planet, and he's bald, and he has a crazy mustache, is because all the stress of trying to capture this hedgehog, literally just unraveled him.”
With the standstill of the whole globe due to the pandemic, and Hollywood production at a virtual standstill, Fowler confirms there has been no official Sonic sequel green light yet from Paramount.
“Fingers crossed,” he says of that happening in the near future. “If we're fortunate enough to do another movie, that we can finally get [Sonic and Tails] together and have some real fun, and really get to some of what is the next level of what people love about this world and these characters. Right now, it's just great that people are enjoying the movie and are now having an opportunity to watch it at home despite all this Corona craziness. That's enough for me. It's great that it's out there, and that people are enjoying it.”
Sonic the Hedgehog is available for digital purchase now.