February 18, 2017

SATURDAY SUPERCADE: DONKEY KONG JR.

DONKEY KONG JR.
(CBS, September 17-December 10, 1983)


Ruby-Spears Productions

MAIN CAST:


             After the major success of the arcade hit Donkey Kong, Nintendo was eager to duplicate that success and commissioned the creation of a sequel. The game’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, went to work on the first of many entries into the franchise: Donkey Kong Jr.



            Jr. was the culmination of ideas Miaymoto had for Donkey Kong, but was unable to incorporate due to graphical limitations of the time. It was a departure from the previous game, as it focused on Donkey Kong’s son, Junior, who had to rescue his captured father from Mario. This marked the first and only time that Mario was a villain in a videogame. The reason Junior was made the star was because Miyamoto wanted the player to be able to play as Donkey Kong, but again graphical limitations prohibited the use of such a large character in an action game. The style of platforming was also different, as this time around Junior had to climb a series of vines, knocking objects onto enemies to destroy them, in order to reach Donkey Kong’s cage at the top. Like its predecessor, it featured four distinct levels repeated with increasing difficulty. The game would end after the player lost all their lives or reached the level 22 kill screen.



            Donkey Kong Jr. was released to arcades in August 1982, just weeks apart in both Japan and North America. The game proved as successful as the predecessor, earning the 1984 Arcade Award for “Best Videogame Audio-Visual Effects”. It was selected among five arcade games for history’s first official videogame world championship in January of 1983, filmed at Twin Galaxies in Ottumwa, Iowa by ABC reality program That’s Incredible! Like its predecessor, Jr. was ported to the home consoles, with the Coleco Adam version gaining a bonus fifth stage absent from the original game, and to the Game & Watch series of handheld games which reproduced the first level. The third and fourth levels of the game were reproduced in the follow-up, Donkey Kong II.  Jr. also had its own direct sequel in the form of educational game Donkey Kong Jr. Math for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game, however, was poorly received and future entries in the series were quickly cancelled.

1983 ad for the CBS line-up.

In 1983, CBS was looking to get in on the video game craze and to combat ABC’s Pac-Man produced by Hanna-Barbera. Figuring to hedge their bets, they licensed several gaming properties and commissioned former Hanna-Barbera employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears to handle it through their company Ruby-Spears Productions.

Junior and Bones.

            The resulting series was Saturday Supercade. Making up the Supercade every week were segments based on Frogger, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., while Q*Bert and Pitfall! rotated weekly. Donkey Kong Jr. aired concurrently to Donkey Kong and featured Junior (Frank Welker) travelling from the jungle to see his father, Donkey Kong (Soupy Sales), in the circus. Learning of his escape and desperate to find him, Junior partnered with clumsy biker, Bones (Bart Braverman), and took off on Donkey Kong’s trail. Ken Boyer and Patrick A. Ventura created the character models that adapted the cabinet artwork into cleaner television stars. The theme music was created by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban.

Height comparison character model sheet.

            Always on the trail of Donkey Kong, Junior and Bones would often end up following a false lead and instead finding some kind of trouble they would get involved with; be it foiling a robbery or protecting children from bullies. Junior was the most headstrong of the pair, always charging forward into situations and even taking over the operation of Bones’ own motorcycle. Bones generally stood to be the voice of reason in situations, and usually ends up taking the fall when Junior’s schemes go awry. Junior’s battle cry was “Monkey Muscle!”, which he exclaimed whenever they were about to encounter a problem or felt Bones needed a bit of encouragement.

Bones' motorcycle.

            Although the Supercade ran for two seasons, Jr. wasn’t carried over and ended after its 13-episode run. It, along with Frogger and Pitfall!!, were removed and replaced with Space Ace and Kangaroo. Like most of the Supercade, rights issues regarding the various properties have prohibited much in the way of home media releases, although Warner Archive had reportedly begun investigating the possibility of doing so back in 2010. While Junior in his established form wouldn’t be a starring character again, he was continually featured as a character in compilations and re-releases of Donkey Kong and other Nintendo games, such as Super Mario Kart. However, it has been heavily implied that the Donkey Kong that debuted in the Donkey Kong Country series of games was a grown-up Junior or the son of Junior.


EPISODE GUIDE:
“Trucknapper Caper” (9/17/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Sheep Rustle Hustle” (9/24/83) – Junior and Bones help protect a ranch from sheep rustlers.

“Rocky Mountain Monkey Business” (10/1/83) – An escaped convict and his pet bear sets their sights on a park ranger to help them find stolen loot they buried somewhere in the forest.

“Magnificent 7-Year-Olds” (10/8/83) – Junior and Bones end up in a conflict with bullies stealing bikes from all the local kids.

“The Ventriloquist Caper” (10/15/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Great Seal Steal” (10/22/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Jungle Boy Ploy” (10/29/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Junior Meets Kid Dynamo” (11/5/83) – Trying to stop a robbery leads Junior and Bones to encounter real-life superhero, Kid Dynamo.

“Amazing Rollerskate Race” (11/12/83) – Crooks hide stolen gold as roller skate wheels on skates accidentally given to a team of kids.

“A Christmas Story” (11/19/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Gorilla Ghost” (11/26/83) – A gorilla ghost kidnaps animals from the zoo where Junior’s uncle lives in a plot to use them to steal some gold.

“Teddy Bear Scare” (12/3/83) – Babysitting at a carnival leads to Junior winning a teddy bear stuffed with stolen loot.

“Double or Nothing” (12/10/83) – When his cousin Lucy Belle ends up abducted, Bones disguises himself as her to attend the reading of a will.

No comments:

Post a Comment