This article contains spoilers for all of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
The first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie had its share of references and callbacks for longtime Sonic fans, but on the whole it was mostly just a fun family road-trip movie. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, however, goes all in. With Tails, Knuckles, and a ton of backstory revealed about Sonic’s home planet, this movie was primed for Easter eggs galore and it did not let us down!
With the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Paramount+ and being available for digital purchase, we put together a complete guide to the references, obscure trivia, and other hidden “emeralds” in the film!
Tails and his Backstory
In what crosses the line from Easter Egg and reference to just downright open fan service, Tails in the film is voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessy. She previously voiced the character in several Sonic video games and the animated series Sonic Boom. Before that though she played Charmy Bee, a member of Knuckles’ extended cast of characters, the Chaotix.
Tails has had several different backstories in various Sonic canon but basically he was a kid who followed Sonic around. It seemed like that wasn’t possible to transfer over to the films, what with Sonic being alone on Earth, but they sort of found a way! In the movie, Tails grew up hearing stories about Sonic and was able to watch him even across the universe. Thanks to this we get all the usual Tails hero worship of Sonic, though we argue it works even better here because they’re both clearly portrayed as kids.
The loving Easter egg of the first movie gets fleshed out in this film as we learn more about Knuckles’ people, the Echidnas. Knuckles explains that his people were in a centuries-long battle with the Owls for the Master Emerald, which the latter had hidden away.
The appearance of the Echidnas comes right out of Sonic Adventure, complete with the vaguely Mayan aesthetic. The fact Knuckles has a dad is one that was explored in the Archie Sonic comics, though it should be noted that his father in the film is clearly not directly based on that character who was more of a scientist and all around dick to Knuckles.
When Sonic is left alone for the weekend he and the family dog cause all manner of chaos and mayhem. When things quiet down though, Sonic asks what they should watch but makes it clear that, “I’m not watching Snow Dogs again. That movie is the WORSSSSSSTTTT.”
This is a reference to a famous line uttered by a character Ben Schwartz (voice of Sonic) played on Parks and Rec, Jean Ralphio. He delivers it in nearly the same cadence here.
Interestingly, this was also referenced in Sonic’s guest role in an episode of the Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! There, the line was said by then-current Sonic actor Roger Craig Smith and was referencing (the then recently cast as Sonic) Schwartz. It all comes full circle!
Unlike Sonic, Knuckles Doesn’t Chuckle
A running gag throughout the film has Sonic making his trademark quips at Knuckles, who informs him he’s not very good at telling jokes. This might be a stretch but the famous Knuckles rap from Sonic Adventure, “Unknown from M.E.” has this following lyric: “Unlike Sonic I don’t chuckle, I’d rather flex my muscles.” Knuckles does not chuckle, so of course he wouldn’t laugh at Sonic’s jokes. (This is ignoring the fact that one of the first things he does in his original video game appearance in Sega Genesis’ Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is laugh at Sonic but perhaps that was more of a taunt?)
We recently spoke with Jeff Fowler, director of both live-action Sonic films, and had to know if that was an intentional reference. He coyly dodged the question by simply stating, “I don’t want to confirm or deny. I think the fun is in the mystery. I will just leave it ambiguous.”
You can’t hide the truth forever, Fowler! Soon we will get acknowledge that Knuckles does not chuckle in the movie canon!
Amidst the live-action wedding plot detour in the film, we get a major Sonic reference. The government group tasked with taking down and capturing Sonic? It’s G.U.N.: Guardian Units of Nations. They first appeared in Sonic Adventure 2 and were a worldwide military group made to protect Earth from danger. With Sonic and the gang running around, they were pretty busy.
Hilariously, the leader of G.U.N. in the film is none other than Olive Garden Guy from the first movie! He apparently made up the name of the group and is VERY proud of it.
Man, just imagine all the G.U.N. company potlucks and this dude just brings crappy salad and breadsticks.
Sonic’s Race Car Bed
This was seen in the first film, and we’re glad it made a return appearance. Once again it’s a reference to the Race Car bed Sonic was shown to have in the Archie Comics line of Sonic comics. Perhaps it also predicted the fact Sonic would end up in a racing franchise where he drives a car despite the fact he can run faster than them? Oh well, maybe his feet get tired.
The Mushroom Planet
What was a fun nod in the first film gets further expanded on here. The Mushroom Planet is a clear reference to Mushroom Hill Zone from Sonic & Knuckles. This was Knuckles’ first playable level in the game series, so it’s only appropriate he gets his first appearance in the film here.
A major action set-piece features Sonic snowboarding down a giant mountain. This is an Easter egg to the beginning of Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3, where you begin the level on a snowboard but end up losing it.
Tails’ most iconic piece of equipment, the Tornado plane, has been with the Sonic series since Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Genesis in 1992 and is almost always piloted by Tails. In the movie, Tails steals(?) the plane from the resort and uses it in the final battle against Robotnik. We have to wonder why the seat is small enough for Tails to sit in it when it was designed for a human but hey, Tails is THAT GOOD he probably modified it.
Sonic’s Underwater Bubble
Sonic can’t swim. Anyone who’s played a Sonic game for the Sega Genesis knows the cold panic of desperately trying to get out of the water before Sonic’s air runs out. The timer blares and your fingers cramp up from slamming down on the jump button as hard as possible. Some of us still live with the scars of those moments.
Ahem. The only way to keep Sonic alive in the games is to find an air bubble which will reset the timer of death. In the film it’s established early on that he can’t swim and later, as he tries to save the drowning Knuckles, he struggles for air. Thankfully he’s able to suck in an air bubble just like in the games.
Hilariously this detail has also made its way into other Sonic continuities, including Sonic Boom, where he couldn’t swim and refused to take beginners lessons with little kids for a simple reason: “They can be so cruel when they sense weakness.”
Agent Stone’s Mean Bean (Machine)
While movie Robotnik was off on the Mushroom Planet, the lovable Agent Stone had to bide his time. He did this by opening up his own coffee shop (he was great at making lattes in the first film) named Mean Bean. This draws from the title of a Sonic spin-off puzzle game titled Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. It was a Tetris like game that also got a fantastic callback in playable level form as part of the game Sonic Mania.
Doctor Robotnik/Eggman’s Outfit
When Agent Stone cycles through possible outfits for Jim Carrey’s Robotnik, we see one that is very similar to the classic Eggman outfit from Sonic Adventure. You gave him the mustache in this movie, go all the way with the full outfit next time!
In a fun nod to Sonic’s origins, Agent Stone holds up a manual on how to operate Robotnik’s giant mecha. The cover of it is styled after Sega Genesis box art and manuals, with the black background and white lines.
According to Tyson Hesse, famous for redesigning Sonic for the films, the symbols on the owl statue in the temple are meant to be Babylonian as a deep cut to the game Sonic Riders. That game featured a group called the Babylon Rogues, who were all birds. This was done as a way to tie together the lore of Riders and Longclaw, the Owl from the first movie. It’s all connected!
Sonic Adventure Pose
As Sonic and Tails dance to survive (and get the map back), Sonic strikes a unique pose that’s right off the cover of Sonic Adventure. Hopefully the third live-action movie creates the infamous Shadow the Hedgehog cover art where he holds a gun.
The Death Egg Robot
Robotnik/Eggman has piloted a lot of giant mecha robots and many go under the name of Death Egg. The mecha in the film draws inspiration from these and is a perfect choice since the Death Egg robot was also the final boss in the game Sonic 2 (which also featured the ability to go Super Sonic!).
We’ve written about the post-credits/final scene (it is before the credits after all) already but we can go in even more depth now! The members of G.U.N. are mopping up the remains of the climatic battle where they learn of coordinates to a secret black site research facility. The only thing known is its name: Project Shadow.
We get to see inside it and there he is, the edgelord himself, Shadow the Hedgehog! Project Shadow was first mentioned in Sonic Adventure 2 and expanded in the characters’ titular game. The basics are that Project Shadow was originally conceived as a government plot to research immortality. It was worked on by Robotnik’s grandfather who realized he could use it to find a cure for his sick granddaughter, Maria. Along the way Shadow the Hedgehog was created.
We have no idea how much of this backstory will make it into the films, but we do know it has special significance for Fowler. Over 15 years ago, Fowler worked as an animator for the cinematic scenes on the Shadow the Hedgehog video game, which he recalled fondly to us.
“Sega hired us to tell the story,” Fowler says. “That character made such an impression on me back in 2005. Now I had the opportunity to create the movie version! Even if just for a tease. I can’t even describe how happy and amazing that felt.”
Hopefully Fowler gets to direct Sonic the Hedgehog 3, since he was involved in the game that fleshed out so much of Shadow’s backstory.
What were your favorite Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Easter eggs? Let us know in the comments!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now available to purchase digitally and stream on Paramount+.