- Jeff Fowler directed both “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” in theaters Friday, April 8.
- Insider spoke with Fowler about adapting the beloved franchise for the big screen.
- Read our Q&A with Fowler below.
The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie was, according to director Jeff Fowler, all about relationship building.
A road-trip movie with “Sonic” flair, it introduced classic characters like Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) and Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to the movie universe, as well as newer ones like Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), a local cop who becomes Sonic’s pseudo-dad by the end of the film.
“That film was really just to set stuff up, introduce the characters of Sonic and Robotnik, and just get them right,” Fowler told Insider in an interview the day after “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” premiered in Los Angeles.
In turn, its sequel “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” blows the “Sonic” universe wide open, incorporating further characters from the franchise, like Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba) and Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), as well as plot elements like the famous Master Emerald. Despite upping the ante, however, Fowler told Insider that it was just as important to imbue the film’s cast of “misfit kids” with plenty of heart as it was to show them pummeling each other on screen.
In a recent interview with Insider, Fowler spoke about how the movie pulled a highly anticipated element from the video games, its wild post-credits scene reveal, and why it was “heartbreaking” to have to cut some of Carrey’s takes from the movie.
Below, Fowler discusses how “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” incorporated highly anticipated elements from the video game franchise, having to make “heartbreaking” decisions to cut Jim Carrey scenes, and the implications of the film’s wild post-credit scene. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”
This film really blows the franchise wide open. There’s so much from the original games, and we have Knuckles and Tails as well. I’m curious what it was like going into this film with regards to managing expectations for both new audiences and longtime fans.
Seeing how incredible the response was to the little Tails teaser we had done where we left off at the end of the first film, and obviously putting Doctor Robotnik on the far side of the universe and ending him in his more iconic look of the giant mustache, bald head, we kind of showed where we thought we might go.
To see people embrace that so positively was just wonderful, and it was like, “Okay, everyone seems really excited about where we’re headed.” So just knowing that, we were able to make an entire movie that was just Sonic and Robotnik and get those characters introduced, and that would free us up to bring in Knuckles and Tails and all that.
It was so nice going back to work with the cast, we have such a great rapport. They’re like family, and a lot of the same crew came back to work on this, so it was really like we almost never stopped. It felt like we finished that movie, and then Paramount was like, “All right, let’s do another one.” And we just went right back to work. So in some ways, it almost felt like doing two films at once.
In this movie, it really feels like you’re going to great lengths to remind us that these kids are kids, and not just heroes. Why was that important?
It’s just so charming and fun, and I feel like it’s sort of the best of both worlds because we get to do the bombastic action, the really great dynamic visual effects that you would expect from a big movie, and then make it very serious. Sonic and Knuckles go at it, like we’re not pulling any punches.
It was so fun to design, but then to distinguish our kind of universe from other movie universes, it’s like you said. They’re kids, they really are. They’re sort of misfit kids that come from weird, different backgrounds and they’ve now found each other and are supporting each other.
Knuckles says “our new tribe,” and there’s just something really simple and sweet about that. Sonic found a great family at the end of the first film, but now he’s got characters in his life that are so relatable to him, that have gone through similar stuff and are just now stronger because they found each other.
There are a ton of fun action sequences and set pieces in this movie — did you have a favorite that you knew you had to get on screen in this film?
God, where do I start? I was really happy that very early on we identified a big snowboard sequence, just because that’s very authentic to the games and just completely in the “Sonic” DNA. It’s great to watch Sonic run, and man, do we watch him run in this movie. The ocean run was just so incredible to storyboard and animate.
But the snowboard stuff, I just felt like, “I want this to be like a Bond movie.” I wanted to do a big sequence off in the mountains, Sonic against the drones, and then all of a sudden Knuckles is in the mix. Just change the nature of the action a bit.
But I couldn’t pick a favorite. The big Death Egg robot and all the stuff at the end was just an absolute dream. Just to design this big mech, and then stick Jim Carrey inside and have it respond to his personality was just so much fun.
Jim Carrey is such a delight in these movies as Doctor Robotnik. Was there anything he did in this movie that you were very sad to leave on the cutting-room floor?
There’s some really great Robotnik and [Agent] Stone interactions, and I think we’ll absolutely be able to get those out as deleted scenes. I mean, Jim and Lee [Majdoub, who plays Agent Stone]they’re so great together and do so much funny stuff, and it is heartbreaking that it all can’t make the movie because it’s just so fun to watch the two of them.
We had a few more scenes inside the Mean Bean where they were just being themselves, and it was so fun and so hilarious, but at the end of the day it wasn’t necessarily moving the story forward as much as would be required to earn a place in the movie.
Lee [Majdoub, who plays Agent Stone] has this wonderful bit with a Robotnik character creator in the Mean Bean. What was the process behind designing that and what landed it in the film?
I mean, I just love the idea of Stone left to his own devices, and getting to see like, what does he do when the Doctor’s away? And of course the first thing he does is put on his gloves and then play pretend. That’s such a funny relationship the two of them have, and to get a little window into Stone’s world when Robotnik’s not around, it just seemed really, really funny.
It came down to designing some of these little outfits for Robotnik. And there were certainly some that were borderline a little, uh, risqué or a little controversial that didn’t end up making it, but it was a lot of fun to design.
With Knuckles, you’re treading a very delicate line between this trained soldier who is also very naive. What was it like crafting this version of the character along with Idris Elba?
It was just going back to Knuckles’ original introduction and making him this worthy adversary to Sonic, and having these two on a collision course. And just to take Knuckles seriously, make him a badass, make him a real threat to Sonic in order to test him as a hero.
Idris was just on board for everything. He was really interested in the humor, which is great because as much as we wanted Knuckles to be a formidable adversary and a threat, we also knew that he would be too one-dimensional if we didn’t have opportunities where we could play the fish out of water thing. Him being on Earth and not having any understanding of technology is just obviously some really great comedic contrast.
Looking at Tails too, it was so much fun to see Colleen O’Shaughnessey in this role after voicing him for close to a decade in different “Sonic” properties and the mid-credits tease at the end of the first film. Did you always envision her reprising this role in the sequel?
We used her for that little tease at the end of the first film, and I just think she’s perfect. When we put her voice up against our movie version of Tails for the purposes of that little teaser, it just fit perfectly. It was just like, “She is Tails.” She just knows the character inside and out, and I just couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Tails.
I have to ask about the Shadow reveal in this film’s mid-credit scene. I know you’re not officially attached to the third “Sonic” film yet, but what would be your vision for incorporating him into future films?
It was just so exciting to be able to tease this. I actually have some history with Shadow — I worked on Shadow the Hedgehog back in like, 2005, on the cinematics for the game. I just remember then being like, “Man, this character’s awesome.” It was just tonally so different from what had come before.
So it was like, “Oh my gosh, this is just gonna make people lose their minds.” The beauty of the 30 years of “Sonic” is just that there’s so many characters that you could pull in, and there was a very healthy debate online about who everyone was guessing was gonna be teased, and everyone having their picks, and hopes. On a long enough timeline, the sky’s the limit, and hopefully everybody gets to see their favorite characters in a movie.
But yeah, Shadow is awesome. However he’s handled in the films, we all know how much fans love this character, love his backstory. It’s what makes him prolific, and so we would be very respectful of all of that.
I remember you said around the time of the first film, you had considered getting Super Sonic into that movie but there wasn’t room for it. Was it a must for this sequel?
Oh, yeah. I remember there being speculation about the end of the first film when Tom says, “he was my friend,” and then there’s a big lightning show and Sonic is kind of back from the dead and back on his feet. And I remember reading people being like, “was he Super Sonic? Was that Super Sonic?” And I just wanted to respond openly and be like, “trust me, you’ll know when he’s Super Sonic, and that was not it.”
That was the right sort of volume for the first movie. But knowing that we were gonna do it, it needed to be in a much bigger movie and on a much bigger scale, and it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the first film. That film was really just to set stuff up, introduce the characters of Sonic and Robotnik, and just get them right. And then we could always build on it from there. That’s what was so great with the opportunity for this, just to make a bigger movie and really incorporate all the stuff that I think fans have been dying to see.
Very, “if we’re gonna do Super Sonic, you’re gonna know about it.”
There’ll be no question.
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is in theaters now.