After 29 years, Sonic The Hedgehog has finally sped his way onto the big screen following multiple successful TV series. But for those that have played any Sonic games or watched any of the shows in the last decade, you may notice something rather different about the Sonic who has made it into our cinema.
Sonic’s voice is clearly different to that in the TV shows and video games, which could be very jarring to younger fans. In this article I will be looking at this, and other examples of adaptations to voice overs occurring in movies aimed at younger audiences.
Sonic The Hedgehog
So, let’s start first with the Blue Blur himself – as he has most recently joined the world of cinematic outings. In the 2020 Sonic The Hedgehog movie, we have the CGI hedgehog speeding around the place and being voiced by Ben Schwartz. For those unsure, Schwartz is best known for playing Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Recreation.
What seems strange about this is that although this is Sonic’s first movie, it is not his first appearance in a feature film. In fact, he has appeared in two other movies over the last decade. Sonic had a cameo in both Wreck It Ralph movies, each time voiced by Roger Craig Smith.
Smith has actually voiced Sonic in no less than 17 video games and four TV series in the last decade. The younger audience that we can assume the film is targeted at with its U rating would be expecting Sonic to be similar to his small screen and video game counterpart, but not only does he look different due to having a new look for the live action world, but his voice is completely different.
It would be very easy to say that Ralph Breaks The Internet was two years ago and the Sonic Boom series ended in 2017, but not only was the well-received Team Sonic Racing released on consoles last year, but so was Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020.
Why change this classic voice when Smith is still a working voice actor? It may be that when the film rights were moved from Sega to Paramount, the studio wished to craft their own version of sonic with a new voice actor.
While Schwartz is a respected voice actor in his own right voicing characters like Leonardo in Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Banarnar in The Lego Movie 2, Smith is the voice of Sonic for a large part of the fanbase – and it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get the chance to reprise the role for the feature film.
In 2018, Peter Rabbit got his own Hollywood treatment in a live action CGI movie. When I watched this movie the first thing my niece said to me was ‘Why do their voices sound different?’
Peter was voiced by James Corden, known as the host of The Late Late Show and whose movie credits include Lesbian Vampire Killers, Into The Woods and Cats. There is no doubt that Corden is a beloved actor and entertainer, but his star power wouldn’t have any impact on kids wanting to go see this film in cinemas.
So who could’ve been the better choice?
Between 2012 and 2016, Peter Rabbit had his own series on the BBC children’s channel Cbeebes where he was voiced by Colin DePaula up until 2014 and then by L Parker Lucas until the series finished in 2016. He unfortunately wouldn’t have been unable to return for the role due to him unofficially retiring from acting work in 2015 following being registered with an acting agency leaving him in hiatus until he officially joins. As for Lucas, there is very little information on whether or not they were considered at all.
Soon we will have a new Scooby Doo feature film and everyone’s favorite sandwich eating scaredy cat who isn’t a dog, Shaggy, is being voiced by Will Forte. You may remember that back in 2002 we were treated to a live-action Scooby Doo movie with a star studded cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne, and Freddie Prince Jr as Fred, as well as Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.
Two years later, a sequel was released and Lillard reprised the role. Now you may say hold on these were live-action films and we’re now getting an animated film some 16 years later; why should he be considered? Well, since Lillard hung up his wig and soul patch in 2004 he has voiced Shaggy in 31 animated films, as well as multiple TV series and video games all the way up to Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? in 2019.
As has been reported recently, Lillard only found out about not being cast when the the news of the new film and cast dropped online back in March 2019 and it is fair to say he wasn’t best pleased. Obviously now Lillard will be unsure as to whether he has a future in playing the role in any further upcoming animated films and it is a shame to see an actor get treated in that way when he is well established in the role.
However there are also examples of TV voice actors who have reprised their roles for the big budget movie adaptations.
Winnie The Pooh
When Disney released their Winnie The Pooh film Christopher Robin in 2018, one big thing had changed from the stories that many had enjoyed for generations. Christopher Robin was no longer the young boy portrayed in the books and animated films, he was now an adult who had forgotten his youthful ways and all his friends from his many adventures.
What is a comfort in this movie is the fact that Pooh’s voice is as familiar as ever, he is played here by Jim Cummings who has voiced the lovable stuffed bear in tv, film and even video games since 1990. Even many adults who saw the film would’ve recognised the very familiar voice of Pooh and enjoyed the nostalgic feeling from when they had possibly watched the animated stories when younger.
Optimus Prime and his Autobots have now had six feature films, and everytime he has been voiced by Peter Cullen. Cullen could technically be on this list twice, as he had previously voiced Eeyore in several Winnie The Pooh animated films and series but was absent from the Christopher Robin film. He has, however, voiced Optimus Prime in animated series and even feature films since 1984, and cannot be disputed as the only voice for the Autobot leader.
Spoiler warning ahead for our final entry my friends, if you have not yet seen the Sonic The Hedgehog movie, please direct yourself to the webpage of your local cinema and book a ticket. This isn’t a review for the movie, but you should watch it.
We end this back where we started with the Sonic movie, during the mid credits scene a portal opens to reveal Tails, with another very nice and faithful looking character model. This very nicely teases Tails being a sidekick in the sequel; much like how he was added in the second game.
Tails is voiced in the scene by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who has voiced the character since the 2014 Sonic Boom video games and TV series.
In conclusion, the choice to change the voice actor for Sonic in his movie certainly appears to be an odd one especially when Smith is so well known in the role but snubbed him, yet they had O’Shaughnessey reprise the role of Tails.
Hollywood appears to have a strange relationship with voice actors and whether or not they consider them an integral part of the character or not. Can you think of any other examples of voice actors being replaced for the film adaptation or even when someone was able to reprise their role? Feel free to discuss in the comments.