I’ve heard tell that a lot of folks had a great time with yesterday’s symphonic celebration of the Sonic the Hedgehog series’ 30th anniversary. What’s better than listening to hours of iconic video game music? Maybe listening to hours of iconic video game music while a character you created pals around with Sonic on a giant screen behind the band? Yeah, that’s probably better.
Ian Mutchler (no relation) is a storyboard artist who has previously done animation work at Sega, Warner Bros., and Dreamworks. He’s also the creator of Ian Jr., the wide-eyed, orange creature you may have seen with Sonic in brief glimpses during the Sonic Forces portion of yesterday’s concert. Mutchler was recently recruited by Sega to help capture original gameplay footage for the event, and when it came time to record Sonic Forces, his special friend was waiting for him.
“We were casually going through some levels when I realized the avatar on my game file was still Ian Jr., which I of course asked [the Sega rep] to try and keep in,” Mutchler told Kotaku via email.
2017’s Sonic Forces banked on the overwhelming popularity and prevalence of Sonic fan characters by allowing players to create their own custom avatar to zip through the game’s desolate, war-torn environments. As is often the case with these kinds of character creation systems, Sonic Forces gave rise to monstrosities galore, but a good boy named Ian Jr. stuck out from the crowd of Sonic clones and grimdark self-inserts.
At some point, a friend of Mutchler’s even got prolific Sonic the Hedgehog artist Tyson Hesse to draw fanart of the custom character. Hesse is also known for directing Sonic Mania’s amazing cutscenes and redesigning Sonic’s horrendous original appearance in the live-action movie, so it’s safe to say his sketch was a pretty big step towards cementing Ian Jr.’s canonicity within the Sonic universe. The concert simply sealed the deal in his creator’s mind.
“Ian Jr. is now canonically best friends with Sonic the Hedgehog and should be considered when making ‘best Sonic characters of all time’ lists,” Mutchler added.