Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue videogame character who possesses supersonic speed, was on track to get his own blockbuster movie released November 15th, 2019. When the first trailer released late April 2019, it was immediately met with brutal backlash from fans. Viewers noted Sonic’s legs were inaccurately tapered, the body was disproportionate and worst of all, the character’s mouth was full of human teeth. This was unlike the pixelated character from the video games many adults played on as kids and grew accustomed to.
In an interview with GamesRadar+, Jeff Fowler, Sonic the Hedgehog movie director, stated the following: “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. 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.”
“Thank you for the support. And the criticism,” Fowler writes on Twitter days after the trailer release, “The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be… #sonicmovie #gottafixfast.” (@FowlTown)
Fans replied with their enthusiasm:
“Hollywood listening to consumer feedback? What dimension is this?”
“AWESOME news. Now don’t make the same mistake again please. THIS is the Sonic we grew with, the one we love and relate to. You want to make people excited? Show us a movie about the character we’ve all PLAYED and lived YEARS of adventures with. DO IT”
So, what did Jeff Fowler do wrong, and what did he do right? With advanced CGI, it’s easy to recreate a character with one’s own personal flair. But when it comes to recreating childhood characters, people are sensitive to nostalgia. If they do not feel that same nostalgia with the character created decades later, it won’t work, and tickets won’t be sold. This turned out to be an oversight on Jeff’s part – but, how he responded to criticism is what won the hearts of his customers. Many directors may have just kept on schedule, refused to change their budgeted design, and hoped the customers ended up liking it later. In this case, the customers made it very clear: they hated how Sonic looked, and their minds were not going to be changed unless the character changed. So days later, Jeff announced what everyone wanted to hear: Sonic is being changed, and he’s going to focus on his customers!
Sonic the Hedgehog’s release date was pushed back to February, three months after the original release date. With a budget of $95 million, “Sonic the Hedgehog” unexpectedly shot up to the top of the box office with $57 million in ticket sales the weekend it premiered. It broke the record on the best showing ever for a movie based on a video game, topping Tomb Raider and the recently released Detective Pikachu movie.
From a business perspective, focussing on customer’s concerns can lead to increased sales, customer retention, and in some cases, earned advertising. Customers can also help you improve your idea with their criticism. With empathy, they will believe you care and will use your services or, in Jeff Fowler’s case, see his movie.
Written by Hannah Watson
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