‘Born’ as a game character on June 23, 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog is a beloved, iconic fixture in gamers’ households the world over. The character initially produced to serve as no more than a mascot for its producers, Japanese company Sega, has since conquered the world. The first game in the series, meant to be a mere popularity vehicle for Sega, turned out to mark the beginning of a hugely popular game, series, films, and merchandise franchise. Nowadays, you can play Sonic for free online, in a variety of action, adventure, and arcade spinoffs of the original games. If you’re a fan, you may think you know a thing or two about the supersonic blue-mane critter – but did you know these ten facts?
1. Bye, Bye, Alex Kidd
Sonic the Hedgehog was born out of a desire borne by the head honchos over at Sega to replace their then-mascot Alex Kidd. Alex Kidd, just like Sonic, is a video game character, who had proven immensely popular during the 1980s. However, the nineties were just around the corner at the time, Kidd had posted a decrease in popularity and sales success, and the Sega bosses felt it was time for an official change. They asked their in-house designers to come up with a likable, marketable character to replace the gaming studio’s former ‘star’.
2. Robotnik is Teddy Roosevelt?!
That’s right – during that same period of sustained renewal efforts over at Sega, the studio’s designers sent in an entire host of character design suggestions, some more appropriate than others. Their experiments, which now have artifact value for connoisseurs and fanatics of the game series, yielded, among other things, an armadillo, a dog, a rabbit, and, most surprisingly, the lookalike of former United States President Theodore Roosevelt wearing pajamas. This particular character was later developed into Dr. Robotnik/Eggman. As a matter of fact, many of those initial designs ended up as characters on the Sega roster.
3. So Many Influences Rolled into One
The visual imagery and character traits incorporated into what eventually came to be known as Sonic the Hedgehog come from the most diverse sources. His color was inspired by that of the cobalt blue Sega logo. His shoes were inspired by Michael Jackson’s then hugely famous Moonwalk boots. The red shoes come partly from Santa Claus, and partly from the color palette on Jackson’s best-selling 1987 album “Bad”. Meanwhile, his attitude was inspired by presidential hopeful Bill Clinton’s ‘Get it done!’ campaign slogan.
4. Sonic’s Got a Human Mother
When the original concept for Sonic the Hedgehog reached Sega headquarters over in the United States of America, the initial reaction was far from enthusiastic. Studio heads in the States objected against the character’s menacing fangs (which were included in initial designs), as well as against the fact that he was a member in a band, where he had a human girlfriend called… Madonna! That’s where American Madeline Schroeder stepped in and decided that these elements should be removed, in order to make the character more palatable for American audiences. Although Sega Team initially responded with great defensiveness, in the long run, they decided everything had turned out for the best.
5. Sonic Has Got a Lot of Voices
Numerous Japanese actors have voiced Sonic the Hedgehog throughout his successful run as both a game, and an animation character. His first voice was Takeshi Kusao, who voiced the character in the arcade game. Once Sonic Adventure was released, the role was passed onto Junichi Kanemaru. In Sonic Unleashed he also has an alternative voice, as a werehog, provided by Tomokazu Seki. His first English voice actors were Jaleel White, who provided the talent for the first three animated series featuring Sonic, and Ryan Drummond for the games.
6. Sonic the Cameo Star
Sonic the Hedgehog has become such a mainstay at Sega Team, that even his initial creators have lost track of the non-Sonic games in which he’s made a cameo appearance. His image was used as a power-up in Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, he can be seen walking in the hallways in Phantasy Star Universe and he sings backing vocals for several songs included in the 2008 remake of classic game Samba de Amigo.
7. More Sonic Coming Soon
Sonic the Hedgehog is scheduled to make yet another cameo appearance in the upcoming 3D feature-length film coming from Walt Disney this year. The film, titled Wreck-It Ralph will be directed by Rich Moore, the same guy behind smashing successes The Simpsons and Futurama, and will feature an impressive roster of voice talent, including John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. Obviously, the plot focuses on a bad guy from an arcade video game, who decides to go good.
8. Sonic at the Rose Parade
Sonic the Hedgehog is undoubtedly one of the most famous cartoon and game characters ever created, possibly only matched by his once arch-rival Super Mario. However, it was Sonic and not Mario who got featured on the 1996 Rose Parade. He was the first ever cartoon character to receive this honor, as well as the first character to be featured as a balloon in the traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade organized by chain store Macy’s. The second character ever featured by Macy’s was Pokemon’s Pikachu.
9. Sonic the Charitable
Since Sonic the Hedgehog has been used as the official mascot of the Sega Team for over two decades now, it only makes sense that Sega featured his image on most of their endorsements. From 1993 and until 1997, Sonic was on the team uniform of the JEF United Ichihara Chiba soccer team. He was also featured on the Williams Grand Prix Team items in the 1993 F1 Championship – the year when Williams received the Constructors’ Cup and team leader Alain Prost won the races.
10. Acknowledged by Friends and Foes Alike
Although Sega and Nintendo have been traditionally at odds for decades, with each company vying for the number one spot in popularity and sales, Nintendo officially admitted that Sonic, Super Mario’s arch nemesis, does feel at home on Nintendo gaming platforms. In 2008, Sonic the Hedgehog was officially nominated the UK’s most popular video game character, in a poll which involved 500 respondents, with Mario only coming in second.