The Sonic Backlash

Making movies is expensive. Very expensive. Reports say the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie was budgeted at $90MM, before the backlash. “What backlash?” you ask? Read on…

For those who don’t know, Sonic the Hedgehog was a wildly popular video game from the 90’s. Any gamer born in that era is sure to be familiar with Sega’s little blue supersonic hero. Heck, they probably logged hundreds of hours of play time. It was one of the most popular games of its kind, grossing over $5 billion by 2014.

As you can imagine, lots of people who grew up playing Sonic have fond memories of the game and the title character. Given the success of all the superhero and cartoon movies over the last decade, it’s no surprise Paramount thought Sonic could be a good payday. The problem they didn’t foresee was how people would react to a new, more human, version of the beloved Sonic.

Back to the Backlash
Previews of the new film started circulating last week, Sonic fans turned rabid. Responses were swift and, as the internet gets sometimes, savage. So much so that Jeff Fowler, the film’s director, issued an apology and vowed to fix the character’s appearance.

“Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be… #sonicmovie #gottafixfast” – Jeff Fowler via Twitter

Now they’re talking about recreating the main character in a feature-length film by the scheduled release on November 8th. Pulling that off would require lots of extra work from almost the entire crew, which means extra budget, especially since most of the work would likely be overtime. And union wages are no joke.


An Avoidable Error

How could Fowler and Paramount have avoided, or at least mitigated this problem? Easy. They could have opted to involve the fans in the process of creating the new cinematic Sonic. They skipped a fundamental step in product design (yes, a movie is a product).

They skipped user research and validation!

By not creating prototypes of the new Sonic and testing them with the audience they set themselves up for this very situation. A situation that’s likely to cost tens of millions of dollars. Now, there are some who say it’s just a knee-jerk reaction and the people who complain would still watch the movie even if Sonic doesn’t look like, well, Sonic. Sure, there are probably some of those people, but why take that risk?

What makes more sense: spending a little money early on to ask people for their reactions to what you’re making, or spending a lot of money to fix it when you made it the wrong way?

That’s a pretty obvious choice, and I bet it’s one Jeff Fowler Paramount wishes they would have made. Read more on DeadlineForbes, and Fortune.

Don’t get Hedgehogged! Next time you’re planning a project, think about’s really important to the customer, and what you can test with them to make sure you’re on track.

Not sure how to do it? We can help.