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How Should Donkey Kong Be Portrayed In Universal Studios Parks? November 2, 2021

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Its Tuesday and I know I typically reserve Tuesday’s for Japan Travel Tips articles but I decided the subject matter for today’s opinion piece makes it perfect to release today. Its been a long time since I’ve produced an opinion piece on this website and that streak ends right now. After I learned that Universal Studios Japan will be opening its own Donkey Kong Country area adjacent to the heavily popular Super Nintendo World in 2024, I paused to wonder just how the logistics of the area will work. Super Nintendo World offers the ability for guests at the park to meet and interact with several characters from the Super Mario games including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad by putting USJ cast members in custom made suits. By all intents and purposes it has been a tremendous success and has set a new gold standard for theme parks worldwide. You may have seen a tease for what this would look like in this famous television commercial.

Okay, I admit I’m being a little silly in posting that here. This commercial may be a little misleading, and not just because the beloved characters are beating the crap out of each other. What I wanted to use it for was a simple comparison of size. According to Nintendo, Mario is a human of average height, but Donkey Kong (even from his earliest days) on the other hand has always been depicted as about four times bigger than Mario. I guess bananas really did make him big and strong. For the proposed Donkey Kong Country area, it is heavily expected we will be able to have meet and greets with many of the famous characters from the DK franchise. Since Mario represents the size of an average adult, that would mean DK should be represented as four times larger than a human being. That begs the question if Donkey Kong be portrayed by a cast member in a fuzzy costume, or is DK just so big he can only be portrayed through some kind of animatronic or special projection affect?

If Universal plans to bring Donkey Kong to their theme parks, will having him depicted by an actor in a suit be sufficient? My answer is no, I think he should be portrayed by an animatronic. Producing gigantic animatronic apes is something Universal Studios has in their wheelhouse. King Kong, for those of you who don’t know, is ENORMOUS. As someone who remembers dangling from a ceiling track right next to the 35-foot tall animatronic ape as fire and explosions blasted out, I can tell you firsthand Universal is more than capable of pulling of the task. If you don’t believe me watch this video courtesy of Theme Park Crazy.

So that’s how I feel about Donkey Kong. He’s bigger than life and we should see him as such. Before I wrap, I would like to bring up one last point. The closest comparison I could find in size to Donkey Kong that currently exists in the Super Mario universe would be Bowser (or King Koopa if you’re old-school). Oddly, no Bowser costume character exists in Super Nintendo Land, although the character himself does exist and is referenced in the parks. While he is not depicted as an animatronic, the Mario Kart ride depicts him as an Augmented Reality special effect on the ride itself. Before that, we only see his appearance hinted at with an enormous statue and portrait in the ride queue.

I want to close this article by saying I have no idea what Nintendo or Universal actually plan to build, and in all honesty I would be fine with whatever they decided to create. If you have your own ideas for how you’d like to create your own Donkey Kong Country theme park land, post a comment below!

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