Ugly Sonic Appears in New ‘Chip ‘n’ Dale’ Movie, and… I Love It?

New film Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, which combines live action and animation, debuts on Disney Plus on Friday, and although the trailer hinted it would pack more humor than you’d expect from a kid-friendly Disney character, nothing could have prepared me for a completely unexpected cameo: Ugly Sonic.

I should have hated Ugly Sonic’s presence here, which could feel like a cheesy reference to some obscure internet joke, but I didn’t. Because brands these days are better than ever at making the audience laugh with them instead of at them, making themselves more relatable and having fun with the masses.

Live action 2020 sonic moviethe titular hedgehog will appear like Ugly Sonic… until fans are angry at his overly realistic appearance (and haunting teeth) convinced studio Paramount and game maker Sega to redesign him with a more classic likeness. But instead of being tossed in the dustbin of history (or at least a fading meme), Disney is bringing Ugly Sonic back as a witty, self-aware joke in its new film.

“You can’t hurt my feelings if I get into that joke,” Ugly Sonic said as he stood in a deserted booth at a fan convention. “Are you, though?” countered another character, Marvel’s little hero Tigra, who the fandom also got rid of.

It’s the savvy media companies and brands use today, and it’s no surprise to see it coming from Disney, which has mastered the art of cameo characters. It’s not just teasing new Marvel or Star Wars characters in shows and films — it’s showing them in key moments and contexts, like hiding Netflix villain Kingpin Daredevil until the final episode of Hawkeye, or bringing the galaxy’s most famous Jedi master to the finale. moments Mandalorian season 2.

Or, in the case of Ugly Sonic, knowing which characters the audience considers a joke and including them accordingly. It’s a hilarious reference in the first 10 minutes that contextualizes where we find our beloved squirrel early in Rescue Rangers — and doesn’t go beyond his welcome.

Compare this to another film full of pop culture references, last fall Space Jam: New Legacy. Instead of brief cameos for context-sensitive jokes, viewers are blown up with the firehose of everything at Warner Bros.’ licensed library, with Looney Tunes characters incorporated into scenes from Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Matrix, Rick and Morty, Mad Max and even Casablanca. It makes little sense in the movie, but it’s not clever or funny.

Compared to Space Jam: A New Legacy and its forced cameos, Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is a very smart film, but let’s give credit where it is because: It was directed by Akiva Schaffer of the Lonely Island comedy troupe and director. Underrated Pop Star movie. It was also written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, both of whom wrote for the acclaimed popular sitcoms How I Met Your Mother and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, explaining the self-conscious wit of humor in Chip ‘n’ Dale.

What’s surprising is that Disney gave so much leeway to let its characters be reimagined for modern comedy tastes. While there’s nothing completely insane in Chip ‘n’ Dale (at least half way, as far as I get), Disney is notoriously protective of its characters and rarely allows them to be associated with anything near libel or otherwise. It’s fun to watch Chip ‘n’ Dale skirt the line, say, satirizing Hollywood’s falling fame and swapping cheese for illicit substances.

Disney slack off

By loosening its content controls and making fun of itself in new ways, Disney is accumulating “cool company” points, appearing more acceptable by inviting viewers to laugh at it. Sound familiar? That’s how brands are revamping themselves on Twitter with scathing tweets, generating engagement by looking a lot smarter than the old burger joint, like, say, Wendy’s, one might expect.

Not all brands can do this, and there are missteps when tweets are too vulgar, insensitive, or offensive. But the end result, as the great Vulture Brand Twitter timeline explains, can be more engagement as brands like Denny’s and belongs to arby tweet out messages that resonate with people who spend a lot of time online and Wendy’s turned beef (sorry) by breaking a McDonald’s ice cream machine which often breaks down.

Fortunately for viewers, Chip ‘n’ Dale has great writing; solid voice and live acting; quick plots; and some good visual jokes. Cameo characters from Disney and other companies are so interesting, they’re not a complete meal, and they’re always part of the joke. Long after Ugly Sonic has faded from its relevance, the character will still be part of a fine line of humor, which might endear viewers to the corporate entity behind the film.

As for Sega, it won’t matter that you laugh at the blunders from last year when the first Sonic film nearly launched with disgusting character designs. This is basically a free (if odd) ad for the second Sonic movie, i.e breaking box office records.

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