Sonic the Hedgehog brings the blue blur to the big screen for the first time in live-action.
The majority of the action takes place on Earth, in the small town of Green Hills, Montana. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) ends up there alone and in-hiding… until his existence is noticed by the US Government, who send in the eccentric Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to track him. Hoping to get back transportation rings he needs to leave Earth, Sonic teams up with local sheriff Tom (James Marsden) to outrun Robotnik and reach the rings.
The Illuminerdi got the chance to speak with the screenwriters for Sonic the Hedgehog, Pat Casey and Josh Miller. The pair revealed their reason for keeping the movie largely on Earth, and explained whether there was ever any temptation to take him more off-world.
PAT CASEY & JOSH MILLER ON SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
What was it like seeing the interest in response to Sonic?
Josh Miller: That was really weird. The whole time we were working on the script, the design had come up here and there. We weren’t getting day to day updates, we were seeing updates maybe once a month.
Pat: We weren’t really concerned about that, we were concerned with making the story work. The one thing we would say to them was that he has to be cute and that people have to want to hug him. I guess that the first design wasn’t, but the new one is. It got there eventually.
This version of Sonic has been on his own for so long, that he’s even started quietly talking to himself. It’s a very sad way to approach the character. Where did the idea for that direction come from,?
Josh: It’s probably too long of a story to talk about all the permutations and ideas we had on the movie while working with [Jeff Fowler] our director before we landed on what you see in the movie. We knew that we wanted him to grow up on Earth so that he had the personality of an Earthling but in hiding. His arc for the movie is getting to join that community.
Pat: Right from the get-go we wanted Sonic to be this relatable kind of kid. You just wanted Sonic to have this deep yearning… It sort of came out as this idea of him being a stranger on a strange planet, sort of like Superman. But unlike Superman, he doesn’t look like a human so he’s sort of on the outside looking in. We also talked about The Little Mermaid in terms of wanting to be a part of things and he can never have it. Which seemed like a really powerful emotion that people could relate too.
Josh: Because we’ve seen him like watching TV and movies over people’s shoulders from outside… the idea of talking to himself was, like any kid, they were playing out these little fantasies all the time where he’s all the characters… because he doesn’t have any friends. His speed allows him to do that and play those characters. To play out those pop culture inspired influences in a way someone without super speed couldn’t do it.
Pat: When we came up with the baseball scene and the idea of him switching places playing all these different characters… it felt good, it felt cinematic. It felt like it would be a lot of fun, and that audiences would connect with that.
Was there ever any temptation to take Sonic more off-world for the film, or to use more of the flashy elements from other entries in the franchise?
Josh: The boring, practical reason [why we stayed on Earth] was because of the budget. It was made apparent to us what the limitations were. Everyone – the studio, the producers, our director, hoped that this is like what they did with The Purge, the first movie. Where you [can hint] at what greater world can be out there, and then if the first movie is a success then we can start opening that up. We kind of just wanted to get our foot in the movie door.
Pat: Just the practicality of it. Each CGI character costs a lot to make. In an early draft of this we had a lot of CG characters and a lot of the alien worlds.
Josh: And then one by one, it was like ‘you gotta cut this!’
Sonic the Hedgehog opens nationwide Feb. 14.