Now that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is out in cinemas, I can talk about it. Finally.
I truly believe that the Sonic movies are prime examples of how video game movies should be made. With the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie, I feel like they achieved two important goals that (to me, at least) feel vital to releasing a good video game movie:
- Have an origin story to begin with that takes leaves out of the original source material while still making sure it makes sense cinematically
- Make it silly enough that kids will like it, but include enough references to the games and real-life perceptions of the series that adult fans will also enjoy themselves
I’ve always said my only complaint about the Sonic the Hedgehog films is that I find it hard to believe that Sonic could be best friends with a cop, as it’s always seemed like Sonic is firmly anti-establishment. Nonetheless, the films are a lot of fun and Sonic’s final movie design was not horrifying.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2, on the other hand, took what it needed to from the original film, and added all kinds of new stuff. Not just that, but the structure of the film almost felt like a Sonic game in its use of different biomes and battles. I really enjoyed it, and consider it to be a standout in terms of video game movies. That being said, there are a lot more bad video game movies than there are good ones, so the bar is pretty low.
Despite everybody’s shock around Idris Elba playing Knuckles, his inclusion in the film started out hard as hell and became loveably goofy. It’s a goofy movie. Not in a bad way, of course! I’d just say Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is much more enjoyable if you go into it remembering that it needs to cater to everyone, including children. It’s no Goodfellas, but it’s good!
Not long before the film hit cinemas, I got the opportunity to chat with a few key members of the team behind Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Jeff Fowler tells us what’s different
Speaking with the director of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Jeff Fowler, I got a bit of insight into just how differently he approached the film’s creation in comparison to the first movie.
In our conversation, Fowler dives into what’s new in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, starting by reminding us that it’s ‘a much bigger film’ than its predecessor.
“We’re adding fan favourite characters like Tails and Knuckles into the mix so right out the gates, it’s just a bigger story,” he explains. “Our mythology is growing, we’re making the universe feel a little bit bigger, but also just being very careful to make sure we’re still giving audiences more of what they really responded to with the first film.”
In relation to the mythology Fowler mentioned, I decided to ask him about how they worked with the Sonic lore. Historically, the Sonic lore is all over the place, with almost too much source material to work with.
“With the 30 years that Sonic’s been around, there’s so many details, so many storylines, so many video games,” he said. “And it’s really all about cherry-picking some of the elements that we think fans would really get excited about seeing on the big screen, but there’s a lot of great material there.”
“I mean, it’s so important that the characters be relatable, that we ground everything in emotion, in heart, and I think this film definitely has that and then some.”
Fowler then continued by pointing out the morsels of Sonic lore he decided to put in the new movie. “The Sonic and Knuckles rivalry, going back to the nineties, and how Knuckles was originally introduced, felt perfect. It felt like such a great dramatic device to sort of bring into the sequel, to see those two characters go head to head in a big, fun, splashy sequel. It just felt great.”
Those wondering what will come next in the Sonic cinematic universe also have little to fear when it comes to content, as Fowler himself is very aware of just how much source material they have to go off. “The beauty of having 30 years of games and such an incredible library of characters is that there’s so many stories to pull from. I mean, it’s the best sandbox imaginable.” While we didn’t get much from Fowler in terms of what’s in store for the third movie, we do know it’s coming.
Everybody loves Colleen as Tails
I am a huge Colleen O’Shaughnessey fan. Her voice acting work over the years on shows like Danny Phantom and Digimon? Impeccable. And her voicing Tails the Fox in the games and the TV series since 2014, and now Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Iconic.
The funny thing is, I’m not the only one that admires O’Shaughnessey’s work. In Lauren’s interview with Ben Schwartz, he had nothing but good things to say. “She’s amazing in it,” he said. “She’s a voice-over pro, she can handle anything. She’s been doing this for a very long time at a very high level.”
Similarly, in my chat with Jeff, he echoed similar sentiments. We spoke about how Schwartz has very much made Sonic his own, while Idris Elba’s take on Knuckles was refreshing. However, when it came to O’Shaughnessey as Tails, Fowler describes her as a ‘perfect fit’.
“We used her, as you might remember, at the end of the first film,” he said. “We had done the little teaser with Colleen voicing Tails as he arrived in that post-credit scene, and it just fit. It was just great. It worked very well.”
Fowler goes on to explain his motivations for bringing O’Shaughnessey into the Sonic cinematic world. “A lot of that was probably because Colleen was the actor and the voice that I most associated with Tails, and I just felt like it was a perfect fit, no matter what the medium. So of course, Colleen knows that character inside and out. She’s just wonderful to work with, just brought so much great sort of energy and passion to the role. So, yeah, it was just a perfect fit.”
So when I sat down with O’Shaughnessey, it was basically nothing but good vibes. I had my Razer Hello Kitty headset on, to which she immediately said when we started talking, “I love your Hello Kitty headset, it’s so cute!” I gushed and told her how obsessed I am with them and how I never wanted to take them off, to which she replied, “Don’t. You never should.” It was a wholesome moment that I felt needed to be documented.
Colleen O’Shaughnessey is over the moon
Talking about her experience taking Tails to the big screen, O’Shaughnessey expressed, “It’s been amazing. It’s been quite the journey, I never expected it. I’m thrilled, I’m over the moon, It’s just so, so very exciting.” In terms of responses from Sonic fans, O’Shaughnessey said they’ve been ‘overwhelmingly positive’, gushing that she’s had ‘nothing but love from the fans’.
“It was so funny because as soon as this first one was over, they’re like, ‘Are you going to be in the second one?’ And there was not a day that went by that somebody on social media didn’t ask me if I was going to be in the second movie. I could post a picture of my dogs, ‘Are you going to be in the second movie?’ And I didn’t know at that point I had no idea.“
From the moment her voice appeared at the very end of the first film, it seems like everybody was champing at the bit for her to retain that role. And she did, and killed it! You love to see it.
When I asked her what felt different about voicing Tails in the films in comparison to her work in the games and Sonic Boom series, she explains that the big difference comes from ‘the situations in which Tails finds himself.’
“I don’t have to approach the character really in a different way, other than from an acting aspect. For the games, it’s always high energy, and the films there’s high energy too, but the games it’s all up here,” as she gestures her hand up high. “The series was more give and take, a lot of dialogue, always funny.” O’Shaughnessey continues by explaining how the films are ‘more grounded’ and ‘the stakes are higher’.
I also asked how she found working with Fowler and Schwartz, mentioning the high praise they had for her. “Ben [Schwartz] has such a great background in improv. He’s so funny, he’s a very generous actor. He has done his fair share of voiceover too, so he knows how it all works,” she said. “I was, of course, nervous. But it was easy, he was fantastic, and we worked really well together.”
“And then Jeff is a really fantastic director,” O’Shaughnessey continued. “He trusted me and he’s very open to suggestions. Nobody was married to the words on the script, and that gave us a little bit of freedom, so it was a really, really fantastic working arrangement.”
It’s always nice to hear when people not only love the source material they’re working on but that they have a great time working with the other people involved. Based on my chats, this very much seemed to be the case, and that can be seen on screen as well. It’s a fun movie, and everyone seemed to equally be having just as much fun making it.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is in cinemas now.