Everyone loves Sonic the Hedgehog. But when the beloved video game character got a live-action movie, social media had quite the opinion.  

Who isn’t stoked to see a movie about Sonic the Hedgehog navigating life on Earth to stop the supervillain Eggman from achieving world domination? 

Well, mostly everyone on social media it seems. 

The trend of reviving retired characters from cartoons and video games is upon us, tapping into Millennial’s nostalgia for the days of their childhood. With that said, no one could have expected such strong public backlash against a new Sonic movie franchise, but it came….fast 

Who is Sonic the Hedgehog? 

Sonic the Hedgehog is the protagonist of a video game series released by Sega in 1991. The lovable hero who starred in corresponding games, spin-offs and animations is one of the most popular video game characters of all-time.  

His ability to run at supersonic speeds (hence the nameand curl into a ball to attack his enemies secured him in the hearts and minds of children of the 90s, who fondly remember playing, watching and reading about Sonic growing up  

While video game icons like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot were once popular, none have withstood the test of time, culture and connection quite like Sonic the Hedgehog.  

The beloved character transcended the video game world to become a timeless global icon, influencing American pop-culture in ways many may not realize.  

Did you know that Sonic the Hedgehog coined the popular late 90s phrase “long time no see”? The catchphrase was featured on almost all Sonic the Hedgehog games on the market. 

Sonic the Hedgehog in HD 

One would assume that with all the admiration and nostalgia for Sonic the Hedgehog, the announcement of an upcoming movie featuring the popular video game character would elicit only excitement and anticipation. 

Paramount Pictures learned the hard way that they couldn’t just anthropomorphize the character without some serious resistance from Sonic’s loyal fanbase.  

The internet erupted in criticisms of the CGI-rendered Sonic, notably for his human-like teeth, disproportionate features, anatomical alterations to his eyes, muscular legs and – most scandalous of all – body hair.  

Imprint’s Sentiment Analysis of Sonic the Hedgehog Mentions on Social Media

In early December 2018, the first teaser poster for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released advertising a Nov 8th, 2019 premiere date for the film. This announcement generated a wave of over 500K tweets in one week. 

The poster, which revealed only the character’s legs set off a wave of fury on social media for their apparent hairiness and muscular appearance. Even one of the original creators of Sonic, Yuji Naka, took to Twitter to express his displeasure over the whole body visual of the new Sonic. 

Paramount Pictures attempted to redeem themselves with Sonic fans by posting a response on the movie’s official Twitter account with Sonic appearing to hide behind a sign emblazoned with the caption “Can’t a guy workout”. 

While the post was meant to cool the social media fire, the move backfired miserably inspiring countless memes mocking the post’s odd design choice and its attempts to laugh off the criticism. 

But the real fan fury was still to come… 

Sonic provokes a Tweetstorm

An official trailer for the film posted to Twitter on April 30th provoked 75,000 negative comments in less than 24 hours. 

But it didn’t end there, social media went berserk with over 1.7 million posts in the first week after the trailer was releasedFans of all ages and backgrounds angrily took to their keyboards, accusing the studio of warping one of their childhood heroes to fit a trendy new fad of live-action cartoon characters (see the Detective Pikachu fiasco just months earlier).

People seemed to be upset for the right reasons. After all, hedgehogs are supposed to have spikes, not hair.  

Imprint Social’s emotional analysis of the social media discourse revealed that half of all posts about the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer expressed sadness (21%), anger (18%), and disgust (11%). 

The mounting pressure from fans on social media worked. On May 24th, director Jeff Fowler announced that the movie’s release date would be pushed from November 2019 to February 2020 to give the filmmakers more time to rework Sonic’s image.  

What does this tell us about social media? 

One: Don’t mess with perfection. 

In the eyes of die-hard Sonic fans, the hedgehog was perfect in every way possible.  

A new segment of the franchise coming to disrupt years of calculated and coordinated artwork and style was seen as a threat to the devotion many outspoken social media users expressed.  

Two: If your voice is loud enough, it will be heard.  

From forcing a movie to redesign its main character to upholding the rule of law, public opinion on social media carries a lot of weight.   

Social media platforms have become a megaphone for public discourse, providing real-time commentary on current events, pop culture, daily life and so much more. 

But Social media isn’t just about content consumption – posting your thoughts or promoting your products. It’s really about engagement. 

Authentic engagement means that communication must be a two-way street.  

For Paramount Pictures and the Sonic movie team, that meant not just reading what fans and potential moviegoers were writing but responding to it in a genuine way. 

Three: Social media holds real power.  

Today’s world is interconnected like never before. Social media is at the forefront of global discourse on any topic imaginable, and words are power.  

The Sonic movie demonstrates social media’s ability to make or break dreams in an instant. 

In the past, studios had to wait for a movie’s release to test the audience‘s reaction. Today, sentiment can be analyzed and leveraged on social networks, providing direct feedback from audiences and fans –those who you ultimately want to satisfy.  

Organic social media discourse can act as sounding board for ideas and a basis for de facto realtime market research that can provide highly valuable insights for businesses of all shapes and sizes who are looking to increase customer engagement, conversion and satisfaction. 

Sonic fans will now have to wait a little longer to see the beloved hedgehog in theaters. Paramount Pictures and the Sonic movie team now have the arduous task of making changes to appease fan outrage and ensure the success of the movie. No small task to be sure. However, taking the time to engage with Sonic fans has no doubt earned them a measure of respect with moviegoers.

The Sonic movie and the Tweetstorm it provoked are a perfect example of how social media discourse analysis can be leveraged to provide deep actionable insights into customers’ experience and their opinions, enabling businesses to improve overall customer satisfaction, drive their growth, and even implement damage control when the unexpected happens.


Sonic the Hedgehog is a registered trademark of SEGA Games Co., Ltd.