We talked to director Jeff Fowler and Colleen O'Shaughnessey about the making of Sonic: The Hedgehog 2 and whether or not Sonic will ever kiss a human — again!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hit theaters in early April, but as is perhaps befitting someone who has “gotta go fast,” the film is already available to stream digitally as of May 24, and it will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on August 9. To ring in the occasion (get it?) Paramount invited Fatherly and a handful of other outlets to chat with director Jeff Fowler and Colleen O'Shaughnessey, who voices Miles “Tails” Prower. And, they offered the chance to step into a professional voiceover booth so that members of the press could try their hand at recording a line of dialog as Sonic the Hedgehog.
No, I will not be sharing the results of my work. This may come as a shock, but I am not as good a Sonic as Ben Schwartz, who voices the blue speedster in both movies. Moreover, voiceover work is really hard. You’ve got to really let go of your inhibitions. It’s not just reading a script into a microphone. You’ve got to be ACTING, and then you’ve got to find “the voice.” Even the pros, like O'Shaughnessey, who voiced Tails in this movie, the Sonic Boom TV show, and the video games since 2014, admit there’s a trick to it.
“When people ask me that, I’m like ‘I don’t know how I do it,” O'Shaughnessey tells Fatherly, before acknowledging that a lot of it comes from her old acting classes. “But, as far as coming up with a boy sound, a boy voice, I have some natural gravel to my voice already. I actually listened to a lot of kids when I first started doing voiceovers — not in a creepy way!” she adds with a laugh.
O'Shaughnessey is unique amongst the Sonic 2 cast because this is not her first playthrough. However, she’s not voicing the same Tails as she did in the show or the games.
“The difference is that they’re at a different point of their relationship,” she says of the movie, which depicts the first meeting of Sonic, burgeoning hero, and Tails, insecure inventor. “We’re at the beginning of their relationship here, and in previous things that I’ve worked on, it’s already been established.”
Both Sonics that I’ve worked with are phenomenal actors,” she says of Schwartz and Roger Craig Smith, who voices Sonic in the show and games. “They’re both hilariously funny and they’re wonderful to work off of, so I am a lucky lucky girl.”
As evidenced by O'Shaughnessy's past experiences, Sonic is a long-running franchise, and as a result, the new movie series has a lot to live up to. Does it try to appease longtime fans of the games, newcomers and non-gamers, little kids, or irony-poisoned adults? Who are the Sonic movies for?
“I try not to think about it, really,” Fowler laughs. “While all those factors are there, it’s really, like, what’s a movie I would want to watch, whether it’s as a Sonic fan but also as a movie lover. How do you really take the best parts of the game and the game characters, the relationships, and the stories, and adapt them for an hour-and-whatever-minute movie? It is tricky, but I think the trick is really not to think about it too much. Maybe just go a little off of your gut a little bit.”
Sonic 2, like the first movie, is a live-action film, although Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles (Idris Elba) are obviously CGI creations. Fowler says, for him, the live-action nature of the series is inherently exciting.
“You look at this giant robot, Robotnik’s Eggman robot from this movie. To see that in the real world is such a crazy visual — the design of it, Jim Carrey operating this thing. Seeing that stomping around a small town in Montana is very compelling to me. It brings in the best of the games, the sort of imagination, the creativity of those designs, but then grafting it into the real world.”
Speaking of Robotnik, Carrey’s performance as Doctor Eggman is, for those who missed Sonic 2 in theaters, delightfully unhinged, and it makes his take on the iconic villain in the first film look like an exercise in restraint.
“When we shot that little thing at the end of the first film, that little teaser on the mushroom planet, shaving his head and being crazy, it was the promise of things to come,” Fowler recalls. “If we could have turned around and started working on movie two then and there, he probably would have. He was so excited that the character had found its way to the version that fans know and love, with the bald head and the big mustache. And, now he’s getting to be even more unhinged, and crazier, and having more fun with Robotnik. It’s just so awesome.”
Fowler can’t (or won’t) share any details about the end-credits sequence of Sonic 2, which seems to set up Sonic’s dark counterpart Shadow the Hedgehog as a possible villain for Sonic 3. He will admit that, while he would be personally excited to see characters like Amy Rose and Metal Sonic appear in the film franchise, they’re not “going down a list of characters.”
“We make our decisions based on when we think it’s going to be the right challenge for Sonic as a character, and put him in new situations and create new obstacles for him that are going to help him grow.”
However, for as much as the Sonic movies are carefully drawing on the franchise’s history, there’s one question about the future that Fowler doesn’t have an answer to. Perhaps the most infamous moment from the games was a sequence in a 2006 game when Sonic kisses a human woman. So, when asked if that will ever happen in one of his movies, Fowler is a bit stumped.
“Uuhhhh. I-I-I that’s, uhhh,” he begins, before O'Shaughnessey bails him out.
“He’ll kiss Maddie on the cheek,” she adds, as it wouldn’t cause an uproar if Sonic chastely kissed his adoptive mother, played by Tika Sumpter, on the cheek.
“There you go,” says a relieved Fowler. “Good save.”
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is streaming now on Paramount+.