Blog
Blog archive: 2017 | 2016 | Older
July 13, 2018
Day three of "Nintendo Treehouse Live at E3 2018" started off with a look at Arcade Archives Donkey Kong and a special guest appearance by Don James, the Nintendo of America executive vice president of operations. Don James, who was the NOA warehouse manager when Donkey Kong was released in 1981, joined Treehouse staffers Morgan and Sam to talk a little bit about the early history of Donkey Kong and how Mario and Pauline got their names.

Nintendo live-streamed it all last month on YouTube here (the Donkey Kong segment starts at 27:00). The following is our transcription of the Donkey Kong Q&A section:

[Timestamp: 28:48]

Morgan Ritchie: So, 36 years ago, Nintendo of America was literally a warehouse?

Don James: Yeah. There were only five employees in a warehouse. We were importing games from Japan fully loaded and complete, and then after that, we couldn't build them fast enough and get them shipped into the United States, because Donkey Kong was so popular. So, we started manufacturing them in the Southcenter facility.

MR: That's so cool. It's like a warehouse full of Donkey Kong machines, basically.

[29:13]

MR: Do you remember when Donkey Kong came out? What that was like? Was it popular?

DJ: Well it was pretty crazy, because the first time we saw it, we immediately thought, "Donkey Kong," what the heck kind of a name is that? Then Japan [Nintendo Co., Ltd.] actually asked us one time if we wanted to rename the main character, Jumpman. Mr. [Minoru] Arakawa, who was the president [of NOA], and myself looked at the character, and we had a landlord that happened to be named Mario as well, and we'd never met the guy, so we thought it'd be funny to name this main character "Mario" after our landlord in Southcenter. And that's actually how Mario got his name.

MR: (Laughs) That's amazing. Did he ever know?

DJ: Yeah, he knows. It's been written in a couple of books.

A little later... [36:00]

MR: Speaking of Pauline, Don, you mentioned Mario, the genesis of that name. I know that some of the other characters in this game were maybe named after people you knew in your real life, back in the day. Can you talk a little about that?

DJ: Yeah, little known fact is that my girlfriend at the time, she was the reason -- through her father's connection to the Far East Video company, was the reason I got offered the consulting job. And so, after we named Mario, Mr. Arakawa thought it'd be really funny to name the heroine -- the female character in the game Pauline, which was actually taken from my girlfriend's name. She eventually became my wife, so effectively, Pauline's named after my ex-wife.

MR: (Laughs) That is so cool.


If you found this article interesting, be sure to check out our History of Mario's Name special!

« Blog archive