As Sonic the Hedgehog fans around the world have lined up at cinemas everywhere to help the blue blur make box office history, many of them have been pleased with the end result of Sonic’s first big screen adventure. However, the new film does introduce one original character that has left some gamers scratching their heads. Minor Spoilers Ahead.
The character is an anthropomorphic owl named Longclaw. She is Sonic’s main caretaker and parental figure during his childhood years chronicled in the CGI / live-action film’s early scenes. Some purists have bristled at the introduction of such a pivotal character that was never seen or mentioned in the game’s lore.
Longclaw has never even made an appearance in the many comic book and animated iterations of Sonic the Hedgehog over the years. Still, it’s not unusual for different mediums to introduce new characters to a franchise. Some characters, like Sally Acorn of the cult classic Sonic Archie Comics and Saturday morning Sonic cartoons in the 90s, fade into obscurity. Others, like Harley Quinn of Batman fame who was first introduced in the Batman: Animated Series and now stars in her own film, skyrocket to popularity.
Only time will tell where and if Longclaw will fit into future Sonic movies, video games, cartoons, and comics. But there is precedent for owl characters in the series’ history. Most notably, a cooky owl from the Sonic OVA episodes simply named Old Man Owl. Well, technically his name is Steward for you trivia nerds out there. In Japanese, his name is Shitsuji.
The OVA series was packaged and marketed as a direct-to-video movie in many Western markets. Fans at the time didn’t seem to mind the old owl’s sudden inclusion in Sonic’s universe. Of course, the internet wasn’t what it is today at that time, and the OVA also featured a human princess with a cat-like tail named Sara who has never been seen again; plus, Knuckles wore a cowboy hat for no apparent reason – so it’s not like anyone seemed to be taking the story very seriously over at Sega or the production company.
Still, that doesn’t mark the only other appearance of an owl character in the Sonic universe. In the aforementioned Saturday morning Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon of the 90s, the ancient guardian of the legendary Time Stones on the Floating Island was a wise old known as the Keeper of the Time Stones.
Yet another owl appeared in the doomed Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog series. Created by artist Evan Stanley, he went by the name of Harvey Who. Harvey was the head of the local Secret Intelligence Division (aka SID) in the comics, fighting alongside Sonic and his pals.
Heck, there’s even precedent for owl characters in the video games. The villain of the Sonic spin-off Tails Adventure on the Game Gear was none other than Doctor Fukurokov – an evil scientist owl on a diabolical quest for world domination. He would also later make appearances in the Archie Comics series.
Even more avian characters were introduced in Sonic Riders, a racing video game for GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The unconventional racer opted for the use of hoverboards instead of go-karts, and featured the Babylon Rogues, a group of three anthropomorphic birds: Jet the Hawk, Wave the Swallow and Storm the Albatross. Sure, none of them are owls, but it does further illustrate that the Sonic series isn’t only focused on mammals.
While I personally enjoyed the Sonic the Hedgehog CGI / live-action film, I totally understand that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you hear anyone scoffing at the idea of Longclaw the owl in the movie, feel free to set the record straight. Owls and other winged characters have been in basically every incarnation of the series.
Not just Sonic either, but in other popular franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Twin Peaks just to name a few. And honestly, why not? Owls are awesome. They’re wise, they’ve got amazing depth perception and binocular vision, plus they can rotate their heads almost 270 degrees without killing themselves.