Sonic the Hedgehog early concept art shows the blue-furred hedgehog back-to-back with Avengers star Chris Evans as Green Hills sheriff Tom Wachowski, a role ultimately filled by James Marsden. The early 2018 concept art was discovered by Twitter user Marx Pan on Chinese social media site Weibo, where it was shared by Blur Studio's Xu Tianhua Thx and Jin Xiaoyu. The concept art pre-dates the re-imagined Sonic design that caused a months-long delay, pushing Sonic the Hedgehog from its announced Nov. 15, 2019 release date to its Feb. 14 theatrical debut, where the Jeff Fowler-directed family flick defeated Pokemon Detective Pikachu to score the best opening weekend for a video game movie.
In late 2018, a purported "internal poster" with a list of potential candidates for the Tom Wachowski role leaked to Twitter. Included on the list were Evans, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Paul Rudd (Avengers: Endgame), Jake Johnson (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther), among others.
Pan also uncovered concept art depicting the same "Lizard Warrior" out to "steal Sonic's power and use it to conquer the universe" whose existence was discovered in copyright records.
According to reports, the redesign cost studio Paramount Pictures in the neighborhood of $5 million.
Also there are these concepts of a lizard villain who seemingly didn't make his way to the final product. pic.twitter.com/AmQTE9EOy3— Marx Pan (@rescuetails) February 15, 2020
"It was pretty clear on the day the trailer was released just seeing the feedback and hearing the feedback… that fans were not happy enough with where we were at," Fowler told GamesRadar of fans' reaction to the original design. Push back to Sonic's original movie design left the filmmakers determined to do it better the second time around.
"The message was very clear," he said. "In a situation like that, it was very little discussion – we just knew that that work had to be done. We just rolled up our sleeves and dived in."
Fowler also admitted to feelings of nervousness over the redesigned Sonic before the updated character model was unveiled to the public.
"I think it had been about five months that had passed since the first trailer. We had worked very hard on our updates to the character. It was definitely a little bit of like, 'Oh man, what happens if they don't like this?'" Fowler told Digital Spy. "But really, everyone that saw it internally as I was working on the film, just responded so positively. It really felt like, once we shared it with the fans, they would really embrace it and be excited about it."
Sonic the Hedgehog is now playing.