Following a live chat interview at the 2009 SAGExpo, Sonic 2 zone artist Tom Payne kindly donated a large number of miscellaneous scans to the Sonic community . Amongst the items he provided was an art reference document for Sega’s internal use known as the “Sonic the Hedgehog Material Collection” (a direct translation of the kanji on the front page).
It contains quite a few original line drawings, many of which are the basis for famous Sonic images from box art or game manuals.
Here are a few more examples of drawings that were later cleaned up and coloured for the Japanese Sonic 1 manual:
There are even drawings that became pixel art in the games. For example, Sonic with a microphone, which was used for the credits of the 8-bit Sonic 1.
And here’s reference for the spinning feet from Sonic’s running animation:
The frames of the title screen animation are here, too:
But of course there’s plenty of drawings in the collections that don’t correspond to art from the finished art from the games, and a lot of it is really cute.
On a page titled “Sonic Head Construction”, examples of Sonic’s many moods are shown. He’s hardly ever this expressive anymore, and it’s a shame.
Sonic’s spines have looked weird from the front and back since day one, apparently:
Judging by these sketch “screenshots”, which clearly show Green Hill Zone as it appears in the prototype version of Sonic 1, much of the material in this collection may have been drawn before the game was even very far along in development.
Also of interest is the CMYK colour key which indicates Sonic’s blue as quite a bit more cyan than he is today, just like the Japanese Sonic 1 manual art and other early sources. You can plug in the values and convert the colours to RGB yourself, but be mindful that it’s not going to be exact and they’ll look a little weird on a computer screen.
Of course, the things I’ve shown you here are only the tip of the iceberg. You can browse the whole thing at Sonic Retro.
It’s possible, though, that these scans aren’t exhaustive, and don’t represent all the material from the time. For example, not all of the Badniks are represented. However, some of the material has been officially reproduced in the bonus artwork gallery of Sonic Generations, where concept sketches of the remaining Badniks can be found (image from Pencil Hill Zone):
I’ll close with easily the weirdest thing in the collection – a drawing of a creepy Sonic costume, accompanied by the “Don’t just sit there and waste your precious time…” blurb.