Sega announced that they’re “redesigning” the live-action take on Sonic. First of all, ha-haha-haha. Secondly, if you have a tin foil hat, I’d keep that handy for the closing paragraphs; and three, the Science section is going to feel so undercut by this next segment.
Let me tell you about the “uncanny valley”. It’s a psychological concept that states that things that approximate human appearance but aren’t indistinguishable from us come across as unsettling. Like that android from Saudi Arabia, or clowns, or me when I’m trying to emulate human emotion.
Sonic got hit with a double whammy of both the human uncanny valley and the Sonic uncanny valley, the latter of which I invented about a week ago. Very similar concept; things that are supposed to look like classic Sonic – but are just a little bit off – look wrong. And as the humanoid Sonic protagonist looks just off for Sonic, and just off for humans too, it looks very off overall. Why does he have human teeth? It looks like they were a false set found lying around in a retirement home and Sega was like “hey, what if we put this in Sonic’s mouth?”
What if Sega and Paramount intended for Sonic to look awful to get the media press, and were actually going to make Sonic to look different from the start?
Since this version Sonic is as unsettling as all hell, he (they? it?) provides an interesting counterpoint to that Detective Pikachu movie that’s just come out; a movie where the protagonist is also well-recognised, fluffy, and animal-like (and I’m not talking about Justice Smith).
Pikachu in that movie is by and large described as cute as all hell. After all, he (they? it?) is modelled after the pika, a small mouse/rabbit-like creature that resembles the small fluffy animals we all love and/or eat, and most importantly, does not have any human features that would put us off. Pikachu does not have human teeth or too much whites around the eyes; Sonic, unfortunately, does.
Now let me hit you with the tin foil hat theorising I said there would be. (If you don’t have any tin foil, clingfilm will do.) What if Sega and Paramount intended for Sonic to look awful to get the media press, and were actually going to make Sonic to look different from the start? As much as I’d like the opposite to be true, media shitstorms help sell things.
It has worked for American fast food outlets, it has worked for razor manufacturers, and it might well work for Sonic: The Game: The Movie: Only In Cinemas Now: Reloaded. I mean, let’s face it, there’s no way that the original design of Sonic went past hundreds of trained animators with every single one of them going “ayup, that looks great”… is there?