Sega Of America Once Labeled Sonic "Unsalvageable" When Shown Original Design

Sonic the Hedgehog is such an iconic video game mascot, most people probably assume Sega took one look at the character's design and labeled whoever drew it up a genius, falling at their feet with the design held aloft. The reality is quite the opposite as when Sega of America was first shown what its Japanese counterparts wanted the studio's new mascot to look like, the response it got was even worse than a simple "no thanks".

In an interview for Bitmap Books, via Time Extension, Mark Cerny, who helped create Sonic 2 and has gone on to help design consoles for PlayStation, detailed how Sonic's design came about. Cerny acted as a go-between for Sega's Japanese and American offices at the time. Tasked with showing the US office what their Japanese peers had come up with, Cerny didn't get the response he expected.

“I was told that it was unsalvageable; that the character design was so bad, there were no comments that they could make that would help turn it into something saleable,” Cerny revealed. In fact, those at Sega of America who got a look at the early designs for the hedgehog that would become its next mascot were prepping materials to send back to Japan in an attempt to educate them on what a good video game character should look like.

Part of the education would have apparently included Will Vinton, the creator of the California Raisins, coming aboard to help create something or someone that would replace Alex Kidd. Thankfully, that awkward series of conversations was never needed. “The game came out, we had a price drop on the hardware within the space of one or two months, and our sales went up by a factor of five.”

What remains unknown is what exactly Sega of America had in mind for the studio's new mascot. Clearly nothing concrete as the first Sonic game launched with the Japan office's ideas in place and the rest is history. I wonder if Sonic's creators were approached with a similar message prior to redesigning movie Sonic, remembering they had been there before and sticking to their guns was the right way to go. Lightning definitely didn't strike twice in that regard.

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