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The Real-World Inspiration Behind That Iconic Sonic Logo

Sonic might be a part of the "Super Smash Bros." roster now, but there was a time back in the early 90s when he served as Sega's mascot while the burgeoning company stood in direct competition with Nintendo. The Mario platform had been the reigning king of console sales and video game development for years at the time, and so Sega sought to distinguish itself as a slightly more gritty alternative that would appeal to a more mature audience. This prickly hedgehog represented the developer's counterculture attitude, and he served as a major part of the company's marketing which also included taglines such as "Sega does what Nintendon't."


"Sonic the Hedgehog" developers Naoto Oshima and Hirokazu Yashara spoke about the game and the character in a panel during the 2018 Game Developers Conference. They talked about wanting a character that was spikey and edgy, but also simple enough that kids could draw it. They described narrowing down a list of perspective characters that also included an armadillo, a porcupine, a dog, and an old man with a mustache who was later adapted into the franchise's primary antagonist: Eggman. It was also during this conference that Oshima discussed the inspiration for the iconic winged "Sonic" logo that was later featured on the opening screen of the game.

Hegehog the pilot

During the panel (22:07), Oshima and Yashara talked about how Sega wanted them to come up with a fictional backstory for the characters they would be pitching. Oshima had really been into American leather jackets, emblems, and airplane nose art and they wanted to use this aesthetic as part of their presentation of the character. So, Sonic was initially portrayed as part of a different story about a pilot who was trying to fly faster than anyone had ever flown before and who earned the name "Hedgehog" from the way his hair was always standing up. His plane bore the winged nose art that featured the blue hedgehog we know and love today. This pilot then married a children's author who then wrote the story of the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" based on her husband's nickname and the art on his airplane.


Oshima explained that he drew the emblem with the wings to look like the sort of thing you would see stitched onto the back of a flight jacket. While the story of "Sonic" had little to do with the Hedgehog flying planes, it appears that the emblem that was used during the intro was kept more or less the same as how Oshima drew it back during the initial pitch meeting for the character.