A former artist for Rare has revealed early sketches from Donkey Kong Country that show off a design for 'thicc' Donkey Kong some 27 years later.
From Bowser to Wario, Kirby to Mario, Nintendo is known for showing us a wide range of alternative body types. That's all well and good, but can anyone other than Donkey Kong really take the title of being the franchise's "thiccest"?
Remember when people became obsessed with the idea of "sexy" Bowser, aka Bowsette? Well, that's nothing compared to the muscular might of Donkey Kong's early look at what' could've been a very different wardrobe for the banana-gobbling gorilla.
After debuting in 1981 as the villain of the titular Donkey Kong, DK reformed his wicked ways and soon became a hero of the expanding Nintendo world. While we'll all have favourites from his impressive back catalogue of games, few have made as much a mark as Rare's Donkey Kong Country. Even though some might be partial to Diddy Kong Racing or Donkey Konga, Donkey Kong Country is arguably the most important to his history.
In Nintendo lore, it was actually Donkey Kong's grandfather (introduced as Cranky in Donkey Kong Country) who was the original character from Donkey Kong, making Rare's 1994 classic the first canonical appearance of the DK we know and love today. With this in mind, let's take a trip down memory lane to see how he nearly looked all those years ago.
What's the story behind thicc Donkey Kong?
Posting on YouTube, former Rare artist Kev Bayliss showed off early designs for Donkey Kong. Discussing how DK evolved, Bayliss explained, "I was given the opportunity to recreate Shigeru Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong character for the game. I really didn’t think there was anything wrong with the Donkey Kong character in the first place, but when I got the chance to recreate him, I was really excited about it". It's interesting to note the differences between Miyamoto's "cartoony" drawing, through to Bayliss' original "boxy" sketch, and the finished product.
The reason Donkey Kong is beefier than his modern look is the fact that back in 1994, graphical capabilities weren't quite where they are today. The side-scroller was already going to push the Super Nintendo to its limits, meaning designers were worried that making DK too complicated could impact the game.
Bayliss said his first look for Donkey Kong needed to be angular so he could "sit well in a 3D platforming environment". As well as not having any bits "overhanging", Bayliss added, "We needed to make sure that it played well and there were good hits, so we wanted to keep it quite sort of boxy, and nice and compact". Given the artist's work on NES games, he said he was used to making characters compact and using as few sprites as possible. Thankfully, Donkey Kong Country gave him the chance to broaden his horizons.
What happened to thicc Donkey Kong?
Sadly, daddy DK wasn't long for this world. Donkey Kong Country was a huge hit for Rare. Following the title's success, the developer continued with a trilogy on the SNES that included turned Donkey Kong into something of a damsel in distress for Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!. By this point, DK started crossing over into other franchises and soon became a staple of the Mario Kart games, as well as reappearing with his slimmed-down look for Donkey Kong 64 on the Nintendo 64 at the turn of the Millennium.
You only have to do a quick Google of "thicc Donkey Kong" to be inundated with a barrage of memes (we're not responsible for any NSFW results), however, we've never seen him quite as thicc as Bayliss' design before. Some of us are channelling thicc Donkey Kong vibes with all this sitting around during lockdown, but if we look half as good as the man himself, we say work it. Who knows, maybe a beefed-up version of DK will pop up in the next Smash Bros.? Here's hoping!
Images via Rare | Nintendo