The director of Pokémon Detective Pikachu has confirmed that the production of the film couldn't have handled a late redesign of its title character, which is what is currently happening with the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The responses to Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog have been like two sides of the same coin. The two films are adaptations of massively popular video game franchises that mix CGI creatures with live-action actors, yet the reaction to the fictitious characters in each movie has been totally different.
The response to the designs of the Pokémon in Detective Pikachu has been positive, due to the film creating realistic versions of the creatures that are still faithful to their original designs, while Sonic has been labeled a hideous monster by fans across the world due to the changes made to his design. Detective Pikachu is just as cute as his anime and video game counterparts, while Sonic has been given uncanny valley qualities that make him deeply unsettling to look at. The response to Sonic's design has been so harsh that the director has promised that it will be changed for the final version of the movie, even though it is due to be released in November.
Screen Rant had a chance to interview director Rob Letterman about Detective Pikachu; we asked him about the Sonic the Hedgehog redesign situation and if such a thing would have been feasible for Detective Pikachu. Letterman said:
That’s a tricky question. It’s not my place to do that, but all I can say is that [for us] it was all about making sure we hit it right for the hardcore fans. We worked so closely with the Pokemon company, and the original designer, Ken Sugimori, who drew Pikachu originally. We worked directly with him and his time with all the concept art. We spent a whole year in advance designing all the characters and getting them ready before we started shooting. In our case, we wouldn’t have been able to [do that]. If Pikachu had been adjusted by one inch, Justice Smith’s whole performance would have been out the window. We had to have it all baked in upfront.
Bringing Pokémon into the real world requires a lot of preparation on the part of both the cast and the crew, as everything needs to be perfect during the filming in order to give the animators the room they need to work with in order to add the Pokémon in later. It seems that a lot of thought went into the design of Detective Pikachu and the other Pokémon in the film, with the creators of the video games being brought on board to consult. The same wasn't the case for Sonic the Hedgehog, as one of Sonic's co-creators publicly thanked the fans for ensuring that the design will be changed in the movie.
Pikachu has a simple yet charming design, which is how it became one of the most recognizable fictional characters of all time. The creators of Detective Pikachu kept close to Pikachu's original design for the movie, which is the mistake made by the producers of Sonic the Hedgehog, who changed the lead character too much. It's questionable how much of Sonic's design can be changed in the six months between now and the release of the movie, which is a stress that the producers of Detective Pikachu will never have to go through.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) release date: Feb 14, 2020