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Before Sonic, Sega Almost Picked ToeJam & Earl As Its Official Mascots

Posted by Damien McFerran

Alien pair were rejected for being "too American"

Cast your mind back to the 16-bit console war between the Mega Drive (Genesis to our North American readers) and the SNES, and you'll no doubt think of Sonic's titanic struggle against Mario. These two mascots towered over their rivals, and have gone on to become instantly recognisable all over the world.

However, had things gone a little differently, the portly Italian plumber could have been facing off against two funky aliens in the sales charts. A feature detailing the history of Sonic the Hedgehog on Red Bull's gaming site reveals that ToeJam & Earl were put forward as possible mascots, following Alex Kidd's failure to slow Mario's success.

According to Sam Pettus — author of Service Games: The Rise and Fall of Sega — Sega president Hayao Nakayama very nearly selected the pair to lead the Mega Drive's marketing charge:

Several proposals were submitted and rejected, with the one coming closest to acceptance by an American. Programmer Mark Voorsanger’s submission was a pair of "funkadelic" aliens named ToeJam and Earl, who were both very cool. Nakayama liked the idea - and the game - but had two problems with it: first, ToeJam and Earl were too laid back for his sensibilities. Second, they were too American in nature. It was a noble effort, but Nakayama wanted a mascot with worldwide appeal.

Rejected as Sega’s mascots, ToeJam and Earl were still deemed appealing enough that their game was greenlit.

ToeJam & Earl may have gotten their chance to shine, but it would be Sonic — the brainchild of Yuji Naka — who became world-famous as the Japanese company's mascot.

We'd imagine that most will agree that the right move was made, but it is interesting to think that two aliens with a keen sense of style could have been Sega's weapon in the 16-bit wars. Are you pleased that Sonic was picked, or would you have been happier with ToeJam & Earl? Or perhaps you're one of those people who thinks that Alex Kidd was never given a fair crack of the whip? Share your innermost thoughts by leaving a comment.

[via redbull.com]

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User Comments (45)

LordFamicom

#1

LordFamicom said:

I'm quite glad the choose Sonic as their mascot! I love Sonic The Hedgehog and he is my most favorite video game franchise. Mario is still a close second though!

unrandomsam

#2

unrandomsam said:

I wish they just made other stuff as well.

I think Nights and Reala are miles better.

(Or Gilius Thunderhead or Ryo or Joe Musashi).

scrubbyscum999

#6

scrubbyscum999 said:

They dodged a bullet there. They honestly are right, they wouldn't have the mass appeal as Sonic.

eviLaTtenDant

#7

eviLaTtenDant said:

Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a great game but i don't think any of its sequels came close so it wouldn't have been too smart to keep him as the mascot.

unrandomsam

#10

unrandomsam said:

@LeasTwanteD Alex Kidd in Shinobi World is pretty good as well. (maybe better).

Don't think Alex Kidd in Hi-Tech World is that bad either - Enchanted Castle and Lost Stars are not very good.

TreesenHauser

#13

TreesenHauser said:

I absolutely loved ToeJam and Earl when I was younger. Not sure they would have been Sega's best mascots though.

HyperSonicEXE

#15

HyperSonicEXE said:

Good call. Really, I can't think of another Sega character that'd work as mascot. Certainly nothing human.

sdelfin

#17

sdelfin said:

Sega got it right. Sonic had more appeal to a wider audience and was more versatile. I expect Sega was considering all options at that point as they needed something to boost sales. In 1991, before I got the Genesis, Toejam and Earl caught my eye in the TV ads and I never forgot it. It was being able to play Sonic at a friend's place that made me certain about getting a Genesis. I eventually got around to acquiring TJ&E early in 1992. It's a very good game and great fun with two players. In fact, I just played through it a few times several weeks ago.

Spectator

#18

Spectator said:

I loved Toejam and Earl 1, running for your life from the boogey man, getting some life back with a high five, good times.

Smitherenez

#19

Smitherenez said:

Toejam and Earl 3 is one of my favorite games ever. These guys were my childhood together with Rayman. They also made me love funk music.

KARNOVsSTACHE

#20

KARNOVsSTACHE said:

@Smitherenez I hear ya! You should check out a couple tracks on Herbie Hancock's album, "Feets Don't Fail Me Know" (it's on Spotify)... "Ready or Not" & "Honey from the Jar" would be perfect tracks for a new TJ&E game :)

sleepinglion

#22

sleepinglion said:

They were guests on 'Art ALIVE'.
Did anyone else have that title?
It was like 'Mario Paint' only not as good.

Ralizah

#25

Ralizah said:

The original is a wonderfully offbeat rouge like, and one of my favorite games on the system. Easily the best multiplayer game the Genesis had, too. Not sure they'd make good mascots, though. And the sequels weren't nearly as good.

ogo79

#26

ogo79 said:

good call because who has 2 mascots on the same image?
however they would have been more of an interesting pair

retro_player_22

#31

retro_player_22 said:

Sega had a whole ton of mascot, was kinda surprise they made Sonic. If only Sega is still a first party today, they would had their own version of Super Smash Bros. just like Nintendo.

Knuckles

#32

Knuckles said:

I almost threw up upon reading the headline. Toejam and Earl are good and all, but as the face of SEGA? Nope.

sillygostly

#33

sillygostly said:

I feel that Sonic has been run into the ground. I used to be a fan of Sonic in my childhood, but nowadays, I cannot bring myself to be at all enthusiastic about any Sonic-related games, particularly since they often lack the polish and finesse of similar games in their genres (which are often bested by their Nintendo {namely Mario} counterparts).

Sega has some pretty compelling IP under its belt, but the only ones in recent years that have caught my attention are MadWorld and the Rub Rabbits games.

Back on the topic of mascots, I think a comeback for Alex Kidd is long overdue. If marketed right (and perhaps accompanied with a children's animated television series), a new game in the series could potentially attract old and new fans alike.

MeloMan

#34

MeloMan said:

How about Ecco? On another note, why did I get a random thought of Earl and Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants being related? :o

JebbyDeringer

#36

JebbyDeringer said:

I never got into that game. I think I'm into stranger games now than I was then. I always thought it was terribly overrated but maybe I'll try it again.

VincentV

#40

VincentV said:

"Too American." I laughed when I read that. All they need is a salt-coated burger with lard dripping from it.

Cobra

#41

Cobra said:

You've got to feel sorry for Alex Kidd, he had many awesome Master System games, then only got one chance at being 16-bit, it sucked, and that was the end of him.

MAB

#42

MAB said:

Alot of SEGA IP were way ahead of their time and showed more imagination then what we see nowadays ;)

OdnetninAges

#45

OdnetninAges said:

LOL, I can't believe it!

Glad it didn't happen...

...Though, I still need to get around to playing ToeJam & Earl...

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