«Sonic the Hedgehog» will look much different than its trailer promised, and that’s a good thing. Plus, the trailer remade
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«Sonic the Hedgehog» will look much different than its trailer promised, and that’s a good thing. Plus, the trailer remade

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 03.05.2019
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
Paramount Pictures is facing a PR nightmare. The «Sonic the Hedgehog» trailer is being torn to shreds. Rightfully so. All of a sudden, the director announced changes to the movie. As a little bonus: my version of the trailer.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a trailer to a movie about Sonic the Hedgehog, gaming legend, shows up.

It features Sonic. Of course.

Geez!

There are two or three things that grind the gears of fans and critics alike.

  1. Sonic’s character design.
  2. Gangsta’s Paradise as the trailer’s theme.
  3. No resemblance whatsoever between Jim Carrey and Robotnik.

It didn’t take long before the studio, Paramount Pictures, realised the approaching PR disaster. It isn’t a good sign when the star of your movie is rejected by its target audience due to a few frames. It’s even worse if this star is a videogaming icon, a figure that went down in history. If you add critics to this, bemoaning the animation as well as the soundtrack, then your blockbuster’s chances of success are slim at best.

Paramount is doing the only good thing: they’re abandoning the current plan and announcing changes.

Director Jeff Fowler posted this Tweet last night.

This has almost never happened. Let’s take a look back.

Plan B: studio versus the Internet

Usually, whenever a PR disaster occurs due to a trailer’s bad reception by the public, the same story plays out. Let’s take a recent PR blunder as an example.

1. The trailer

The studio releases a trailer to a movie they hope will be a success. Ghostbusters, starring Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon, is supposed to launch a franchise when it debuts in 2016.

The studio is proud of what they’ve achieved. Time to make some money. Fans are excited.

2. The first reactions come pouring in online

The internet reacts shocked and disappointed. Immediately, blatant opinions are broadcast. Everyone’s throwing out insults. Regarding Ghostbusters, these statements ranged from «This looks like crap» to «These damn feminists are destroying everything I hold dear». No matter how idiotic these opinions, the media laps it up.

3. The studio intervenes

The studio is forced to confront the supposed backlash. It needs a narrative, a message. During the Ghostbusters lead-up, they took a stance against the sexism caused by an all-female team or the racism directed towards actress Leslie Jones.

4. Outlets react

The media snatches up the story, deciding the direction of the entire narrative that’ll surround the movie. A political stance isn’t the most stable angle to go with, but it raises other talking points and steers away from the trailer’s other flaws.

5. Actual arguments pop up

Further criticism emerges, not regarding reactions online, but actual constructive ideas that took a while to come up with. Tony Zhou, creator of the Every Frame a Painting project analysed the edits and framing of the trailer, trying to show how the movie handles comedy.

Director Kevin Smith gives insights on how a trailer is created.

Enthusiast Bevan B. Bell even goes so far as to recut the trailer, improving the soundtrack and timing.

These arguments go under in the media circus; the studio is locked firmly into its position.

6. The movie releases

After further trailers, interviews about the message, behind-the-scenes articles and all that jazz, the movie comes out. And flops.

How to avoid failure

Ghostbusters is probably the best documented case of this tactic in recent memory, but definitely isn’t the only one. Editor Luca Fontana has recently shined a light on Genie from the upcoming Aladdin, played by Will Smith. In this case, the internet spontaneously decided to change its mind.

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Still, Ghostbusters has given studios one lesson: to always take the first backlash seriously. No matter which shape it takes. There’s no use trying to fight it. If the failed reboot about ghost-deterrents taught us one thing, then it’s this.

Paramount, Jeff Fowler and Sonic are trying to change. The only place to find out if this’ll work is the box office. Until then, it’s up to the animators.

Or the fans. I count myself as one of them. I was able to recut the trailer in under half an hour. Here’s a teaser. Let me know what you think.

And that’s it for today. The sound could be balanced a bit better, but that’s kind of hard in the office.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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