Pitch Time: A Sonic the Hedgehog TV Reboot
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most popular and enduring characters in the world of gaming and anyone who grew up with a Sega console in the '90s would have played at least one of his classic 2D games. But in recent years the Blue Blur has been the sick man (or hedgehog) of gaming with his games being of mixed quality and his fan base ridiculed.
Sonic is a character who has appeared in games, cartoons, and comic-books, and compared to other gaming characters (i.e. Mario), there are more opportunities for world-building and storytelling with his character than many others. As someone who grew up with the character and with pretensions of being a creative type, I like to think I could revitalize the franchise, so think of this article as a pitch. I took influence from Bob "Moviebob" Chipman's "How to Fix" series, particularly his video
on how to make a live-action Super Mario Bros
Back in the '90s there were two Sonic continuities: the Japanese and America. The Japanese version had Sonic the Hedgehog
set on Earth and the nefarious Doctor Robotnik was known as Eggman. The American version, the version most of the world grew up on, set Sonic on the planet of Mobius. Considering Sonic's world is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, the Mobius setting makes a lot more sense.
Even within the West there were different takes on the material: there were two cartoons airing at the same time - the comedic The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
and the darker, more serious show that has been dubbed Sonic SatAM,
whilst in comic book form Americans has an Archie Comics' series and in the UK there was Sonic the Comic
. Sonic SatAM
, which was the basis of the Archie Comics, is considered the gold standard of the series (besides from the Genesis/Mega Drive games) because of its serious, mature take on the material, well-defined characters, and the sinister depiction of Doctor Robotnik.
There is currently a Sonic the Hedgehog
movie in production, with Paramount planning to release it in 2019. It is set to be a CGI/live-action hybrid: this is a terrible idea because many of these types of films are awful. For every Paddington,
there is a Smurfs
, Peter Rabbit
, or Hop
to counteract it. It would be better to reboot the series as an action-adventure cartoon and should use shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender
and the 2011 reboot of Thundercats
as influences - shows that mixed character drama, serious stories and settings, dark themes, and high stakes balanced out with fun action and comedy. Like those shows a more action-oriented Sonic the Hedgehog
series should go for anime art style - it captures the fast-paced, kinetic action and would be a tribute the character's Japanese roots.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
(2011) both had long-running storylines. In Avatar,
Aang had to master all the elements and defeat the Fire Lord before he achieved world domination, and Lion-O and his comrades were on a quest around the world as they looked for a way to defeat Mumm-Ra. Sonic could easily have a ready-made quest and arc, where Robotnik takes over a city, a nation, or the world and Sonic turns out to be the prophesied hero who can use the Chaos Emeralds and overthrow the villain. It's a simple, hero journey's plot but the key would be how it's told and the world that could be created.
What I envision is Sonic as a street kid living in the slums of a city, working as a hustler and thief to survive. Maybe he is looked after by Uncle Chuck, an inventor and the closest thing Sonic has to a parent. Sonic would look out for Miles "Tails" Prower as a younger brother. When Robotnik takes over, Sonic, Tails, and a character like Amy Rose or Sally Acorn have to flee the city and find the fabled Chaos Emeralds, going on a quest across the world.
franchise has grown huge over the years so any cartoon or game reboot needs a cast cull. There needs to be a small core cast, Sonic, Tails, Sally and/or Amy, and they would later meet up Knuckles on Angel Island because it was the last known location of the Chaos Emeralds. Famous characters can still appear, but their introduction should be a gradual process and some would need a reinterpretation. Some characters could be working in their own resistance groups, other could mentor Sonic and the team in some way - a fan-favorite like Nack the Weasel would
be a treasure hunter who could be working for Robotnik in a search for the Chaos Emeralds. A reboot could even reinvent more unpopular characters like Big the Cat: the way I would do it is make him one of the few survivors from his town or village that was attacked by Robotnik, and he was so traumatized he can only say one word and go fishing because it's the only activity that gives him any sort of happiness. He would become a Hodor-like figure.
Sonic was a product of the '90s - he was a rad dude with attitude. Obviously this portrayal is outdated but there are characteristics he will always have: he would be an adrenaline junkie who enjoys extreme sports like snowboarding, parkour, and skydiving. He would be a flawed character as well - he would be so rash and impulsive that he would be reckless and put others in danger. Sonic would also be cocky, arrogant, and not take anything seriously. Yet he would also suffer self-doubt, with the weight of the world is on his shoulders. If a show combined those two characteristics, Sonic could be like Aang and Korra from Nickelodeon's Avatar
franchise. When the character was created by Yuji Naka he wrongly assumed hedgehogs couldn't swim - in a reboot, Sonic's fear of water could be triggered by a childhood trauma like his parents being killed on a boat or something similar. Yet, despite all his flaws, Sonic would be a good-natured character who seeks to do the right thing and always willing to risk his own life to save others.
Other characters can keep their character traits: Tails is a genius and inventor who idealizes Sonic, whilst Knuckles would be hot-headed and a little gullible and, considering he has lived on an island by himself for his whole life, wouldn't have the best social skills. The cartoon series Sonic Boom
revived the character of Amy - in the past she was an irritating lovelorn character who stalked Sonic - in Sonic Boom
she is the voice of reason and a more serious take of Sonic the Hedgehog
should follow suit, with her love being something she doesn't reveal.
There are rights issues regarding some of the other characters in the Sonic
canon. Many of the characters that were created for Sonic SatAM
and the Archie Comics versions were created by Ken Penders, Ian Flynn, Michael Gallagher, Karl Bollers, and Dan Slott (and Penders successfully sued Sega and Archie over a payment dispute). This lawsuit led a reboot of the Archie Comics series to cull most of the characters. If Sega and a TV company wanted to use popular characters like Sally and Bunnie they would need to come up with a settlement with the writers.
I would also make a controversial change regarding Doctor Robotnik (he will never be Eggman to me). He was a terrific villain in Sonic SatAM
and brilliantly voiced by Jim Cummings. A slight re-imagining could see Robotnik being so obsessed with technology that he has given himself cybernetic enhancements and would experiment on animals to make them into cyborgs and robots - giving the show a stance against animal testing. I personal like villains that have a reason or at least an ideology inspiring his actions - it is more compelling than someone who is evil for the sake of being evil. I grew up on the Sonic the Comic
version of the character, which portrayed Robotnik originally as a kindly scientist called Ovi Kintobor whose dark side comes out after a lab accident. Kintobor could have been a benevolent or at least benign figure who used his knowledge of robotics to heal war veterans and improve industry, studying the precious stones as a source of clean, sustainable energy, only to have them end up corrupting him. It would add an internal conflict where the good man inside Robotnik is fighting to come out. My most controversial decision would be to make Robotnik an animal instead of a humanoid creature - in a world filled with anthropomorphic creatures it would make more sense that Robotnik would be an animal as well like a great ape, an elephant, or a pig, basically an animal known for intelligence.
Sonic the Hedgehog
would have a lot of avenues for TV writers to explore and play around with. In the games there have been items like the Chaos Emeralds, Time Stones (Sonic CD
), and the Phantom Ruby (Sonic Mania
). Even gold has protective properties. Gemstones and precious metals have a mystic element to them and this could tie into a desperate search for more resources - it could even lead to an environmental theme about unsuitable mining. These items could combine the franchise's sci-fi and fantasy elements with scenes of Robotnik or Tails studying one of the Emeralds in an attempt to harness their power or look for the source of where the jewels came from so more could be mined.
The presence of these objects would also affect the history of the planet. Civilizations would rise and fall based on them, myths and legends would form about them, and people would base their religions and beliefs on them. In the classic 2D games there were levels based on ruins: in Sonic the Hedgehog
there was Marble Zone, Sonic 2
had Aquatic Ruins, and Sonic 3
/Sonic & Knuckles
had three levels: Hydrocity, Marble Garden, and Sandopolis. It would give the writers a chance to create a mythology and a history.
That's my proposal, to Sega, Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, and any other media companies- I am willing to take your calls.