If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Hollywood has been trying to turn video games into movies almost as long as video games have existed, but the results have been decidedly mixed. While features like Prince of Persia and the original Mortal Kombat have their fans, the vast majority of game adaptations have been box-office busts and widely hated by fans; despite attempts having been made at some of the biggest game franchises ever like Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter. And while some films "about" games have been hugely successful like Wreck-It Ralph, more recently Adam Sandler's Pixels fell short with audiences and was eviscerated by critics.
But that doesn't mean anyone is going to stop trying - and now comes news that Sega and Sony Pictures are teaming up for a live-action/CG animation hybrid feature based on Sonic the Hedgehog.
No plot or casting details are yet available for the film, which has been long rumored but only now officially confirmed by Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. President and CEO Hajime Satomi, who elaborated on the project in an interview with Worldfolio:
"Sega Sammy Group is currently planning with Sony Pictures to create a live-action and animation hybrid “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie scheduled for release in 2018. Like with this CG animation production, we would like to expand our business into other entertainment areas beyond what we are currently involved."
The description of a "live-action and animation hybrid" and "CG animation production" suggest that the feature will pair a CGI Sonic with human actors, a popular format for family films that has proved lucrative for franchises like Alvin & The Chipmunks and The Smurfs. While the original Sonic games mainly featured animals and robots as the main characters outside of the villainous Dr. Eggman (or, depending on where you came in, Ivo Robotnik), subsequent titles had him and his animal allies interacting with human characters in a variety of situations. The characters have appeared in dozens of games across multiple genres (without much in the way of serious continuity to connect one to the other in most cases), so it's not readily knowable whether the film will adapt any individual game, a mix of ideas or utilize its own original story.
Sonic (whose adventures typically involve rescuing his fellow animals from being turned into robots by a mad scientist) has been adapted to other media several times before. Three different TV series with three entirely different tones and backstories (Sonic The Hedgehog, The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic Underground) aired in the U.S. in the 1990s, while an animated Sonic The Hedgehog: The Movie and the anime series Sonic X have aired in Japan. A long-running U.S. comic book series also exists, combining elements from the continuities of several different varations. A new CG animated series, Sonic Boom, featuring dramatically-redesigned versions of Sonic and his friends, currently airs in syndication.
While the character remains hugely popular with generations of fans through cartoons, merchandising and comics, Sonic's games have met with inconsistent sales and largely negative reviews for a number of years.Most of the character's original designers have long since departed, and Sega has restructured several times since giving up the proprietary console business fifteen years ago. However, rumors have begun to swirl that a revival for one of the character's most highly-regarded series could be set for a revival. Video game new site Destructoid reported yesterday that many fans have taken a series of cryptic Tweets from the official Twitter account of the Sonic franchise to be teasing a return to the 3D Sonic Adventure franchise.
Also unknown is what the launch of a film franchise for Sony will mean for Sonic's appearances in other media. He had a small role in the original Wreck-It Ralph and was rumored to be back in an expanded role for the sequel, but it's unclear how that might work if his feature-film rights are optioned by a rival studio.
We'll bring you more information on the Sonic the Hedgehog movie as it becomes available.