The first look at the Sonic movie was an unmitigated disaster. Its horrifying take on the blue speedster was so universally reviled that it sparked a wave of backlash so furious, the film was delayed and conversations about the undue pressure on its animators to comprehensively redesign the movie’s hero emerged. But now we have a new Sonic.
Yesterday we got our updated look at the movie, the first time we (officially, at least) got to see the extensive work that had gone underway since that initial trailer to radically overhaul the film’s Sonic design into something that was more reminiscent of the beloved game character and less like a walking, uncomfortably toothy nightmare that stalked our every moment, waking or otherwise. And it was really good!
This new Sonic would not haunt us in the dead of night, waiting to smother our screams with his ungloved, creepily human hands. His tiny, separated eyes would not bore deep into our very souls. His teeth…well, they’re still teeth but they were not distressingly apparent.
The redesign was a success, one met with a reaction almost as overwhelmingly positive as the backlash to the original was furiously petrified. And it turns out Sonic fans have a familiar name to partially thank for a movie hedgehog that looks much more in line with what they’d hoped for out of a movie take on the character: Tyson Hesse.
Hesse’s name is likely known to Sonic diehards already, but for those not in the know, he’s been associated with the franchise for quite a while at this point, both in gaming and comic forms. Hesse first joined the Sonic the Hedgehog comics back when the character was still licensed by Archie Comics. Having pitched an editor with his own viral Sonic fan comic, “Sonic’s Big Fat Adventure,” Hesse was hired by Archie to do several variant covers for its Sonic comics, as well as to eventually provide line art on the miniseries Sonic: Mega Drive and its follow up, The Next Level. When the Sonic comic licence transferred over to IDW in 2018, Hesse followed, illustrating several variant covers for the rebooted series.
In the wake of the reaction to yesterday’s trailer, the artist took to social media to confirm that he had been brought in to lead the efforts to overhaul the film’s Sonic design:
Honored to have been brought in to lead the design on the new Movie Sonic. Working with Jeff and the modelers, riggers, texture/fur artists and animators in LA, London, and Vancouver was a thrill I'll never forget. #SonicMovie pic.twitter.com/HhcVIxAhXB
— Tyson Hesse (@tyson_hesse) November 12, 2019
Hesse shot to fandom fame for animating the opening title sequence to the critically acclaimed platformer Sonic Mania, released to mark the Hedgehog’s 25th anniversary. The short sequence not only lead to Hesse creating new animated trailers for the game and its re-release, Sonic Mania Plus, Hesse storyboarded and animated two Youtube miniseries of shorts for Sega, Sonic Mania Adventures and Team Sonic Racing Overdrive.
Suffice to say: the man knows his Sonic. And he knows his Sonic good.
To place the entirety of the redesign’s success on Hesse’s shoulders would be irresponsible. He played a leadership role, but as he acknowledged in his tweet, there were still an entire team of visual effects artists who had to breathe life into this new design and integrate it into the film, a team that faced inexplicable pressure and workloads thanks to the incredibly public demands that they go back to the drawing board. But given his background with everyone’s favourite chilli-dog-consuming racer, it’s hard to deny that Hesse’s role in reshaping the Sonic movie isn’t a profound one.
Sonic the Hedgehog is set to hit theatres April 2, 2020. Happy Valentine’s day, indeed.