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  • Writer's pictureSarah "Neila" Elkins

A Tale of Two Trailers: Sonic and Pikachu

*sees the live action Sonic the Hedgehog trailer is out*

Against my better judgement I am going to watch this trailer.

Rarely have I been so conflicted about what to say about something.

I keep thinking about how surprised I was the Detective Pikachu trailers look good & fun but the Sonic trailer left me going "What the hell did I just watch."

I know my reaction to the Sonic trailer is primarily due to the design they used for Sonic himself & secondarily from their decision to do the old 90s plot of "cartoon character is transported to the REAL world" in order to do a live action version.

Why not just set it in a fantasy world that has humans & cartoony characters from the get-go?

I think that's the main reason I have such a different reaction to the Sonic trailer versus Detective Pikachu. The latter shows world building in the ads. That world always had pokemon.

Where as Sonic is doing the old "cartoon character/maybe alien comes to our world and then must save us from the one human guy from his series."

The world building in the Sonic ad is "same Earth you're used to but this one guy has lots of gadgets."

I find it interesting that these 2 movies have so much in common source material wise (fantastical cartoon characters and video games) but took such different routes both plot & production-wise.

Sonic's design seems to hit on all the most unsettling uncanny valley points it can.

Meanwhile, Detective Pikachu's production folks said "there's this artist online who did hyper realistic pokemon which are super popular. Let's seek out that person & hire them!" which worked great. They got more realistic creature designs that are pretty true to the sources.

I am certain the folks working on Sonic have been working very very hard to make it look great. Even then things can miss the mark, or look unsettling to someone who hasn't seen it before, etc.

Beyond that I keep thinking of the different approaches to world building.

In the ads for Detective Pikachu you can see that not only have the pokemon always existed in the film's world but they're presence is very needed. There are pokemon guarding doors, walking with police, performing different tasks, just like in the games. It's rich & feels alive.

The trailers don't have to go "one day all these weird mutant animal monsters showed up and people could put them in their pockets so we decided to name them pokemon." Pokemon are integral to the plot & just part of the films world.

Meanwhile, in the Sonic trailer you have "this is your world. Now a mysterious blue guy shows up and wipes out the power grid by running very fast & we bring in the badguy to find him but he's bad & these two probably break that world you're used to."

Not only is that plot way more depressing than "Sonic always existed in this world but so did humans" it feels a bit clunky. Imagine if the movie was a world where characters like Sonic lived alongside humans. A city shot where Sonic is trying to enlist the help of Knuckles.

I know there are Sonic properties that have him & his friends living in the same world as humans, just as there are already some that feature stories where they just show up & wreck some human reality. I just think the latter is a bit less creative sometimes.

I've rambled enough after watching a movie trailer.

Thanks for coming to my TEDxtreme Talk.

-Sarah "Neila" Elkins

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