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BOX=ART is a site dedicated to the history of video game box art/ cover art and the artists responsible for them.
Box arts are profiled using high quality scans and with the intention of acknowledging the men and women who have played such a major role in shaping our gaming experiences.
Not only for video game enthusiasts, BOX=ART is for all who enjoy quality artwork.
All information on this site is through my own findings and is believed to be correct. Any corrections, errors or admissions that need to be made, or artists that would like to be involved in BOX=ART, please feel free to contact me.
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Donkey Kong | Ocean Software | 1986 | Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum. (1)
Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング Donkī Kongu)
Published by Ocean Software in 1986 for the European market.
MSX ver. pictured.
Cabarga’s Donkey Kong cover would be North America’s first exposure to both the titular ape and Nintendo’s future superstar-mascot Mario.
Originally created as the game’s arcade flyer (1981) it would be one of the recently formed Nintendo of America’s (NOA) first promotional efforts, and by far one of the companies most profusely used and recognisable of the era.
Cabarga’s name would be passed on by fellow illustrator Lou Brooks who had been NOA’s first choice but was unavailable at the time (Lou would go on a produce the Atari box art’s for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr).
The choice of artist would be inspired. Donkey Kong was originally going to be a Popeye game but Nintendo of Japan (NOJ) was unable to secure the licence from animation studio Fleisher (they would the following year). Cabarga’s Kong characterisation is unmistakably Fleisher inspired (also the house of Betty Boop cartoons from the 1930s) which is understandable with the artist’s background: golden-era, animation historian and 1980’s Betty Boop illustrator. He would interestingly parallel the game’s three characters with Popeye (Mario), Bluto (Kong) and Olive (Pauline), little knowing Donkey Kong’s original designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, had done the same.
The artwork was designed with opaque watercolour using an airbrush and he took inspiration from NOJ’s arcade flyer original – used on arcade cabinets worldwide – but would add gloves to Mario, a trait that from Super Mario Bros. (1985) onwards would become standard.
Interestingly Cabarga’s artwork would only be used as box art for the European home computer scene (Europe didn’t get the arcade version), and other than some Donkey Kong promotional designs for a Ralston cereal and Topps’ stickers he hasn’t to date produced any other covers.
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