Donkey Kong Retrospective

Donkey Kong Retrospective

Matt Leone

Donkey Kong Retrospective

We reminisce about the DK plush doll, PVC figures, cereals, and other weird items.

With Donkey Konga just out in Japan, the Donkey Kong character is in the spotlight again. But in 80s, he was so famous that merchandisers couldn’t keep away. Check out a few items that used to be for sale.

PVC Figure #1

Made by Coleco (of ColecoVision fame), this PVC figurine has a pretty fair likeness of the big ape, especially compared to some other items like the plush doll below.

For those who don’t know the history of Coleco, the name comes from the Connecticut Leather Company. The company switched gears a few times, going from selling leather kits to manufacturing plastic moldings to making games. Yes, that does seem like an odd transition, but Nintendo started as a playing card company, so these things happen.

Donkey Kong Trivia #1

There are different stories for how the name “Donkey Kong” came about. One is that “donkey” is similar to the word for “stupid” in Japan. Another is that it was supposed to be called “Monkey Kong” but a bad printing job mixed things up. Our money’s on the bad translation.

PVC Figure #2

Though new school players may be confused, this is the original little Donkey Kong: Donkey Kong Jr. He came along way before Diddy Kong, although thinking back, both characters had their own game, and both games were simple rehashes of the originals they were based on (Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Country), so the two actually have a lot in common.

Also, the vine Donkey Kong Jr. is holding is still relevant today, as one Donkey Konga level shows Donkey Kong climbing around on vines. Some things, like gorillas hanging from vines, never change.

Donkey Kong Trivia #2

In the SNES game Donkey Kong Country, the elderly monkey Cranky Kong is supposed to be the same character as the original Donkey Kong from the early arcade games.

Key Chain

Though it looks large in this image, this is actually a tiny keychain made up to look like an arcade cabinet. The manufacturers even went so far as to put a little game screen in there to make it look authentic. Although if it was truly authentic, it would not have a slot for quarters half the size of the entire cabinet, but that’s not important.

What is important is that this is one of those pieces of merchandise that proves a game has crossed-over from “popular video game” to just plain “popular.” They wouldn’t try to sell random items like this if the game didn’t have mainstream popularity. Than again, we wonder how many of them sold anyway, but try as we might, we couldn’t find any sales figures for it.

Donkey Kong Trivia #3

A Donkey Kong Country cartoon went on the air in 1997 with a CG look inspired by the pre-rendered graphics in the SNES game. The first two series were done by Medialab, with a third handled by Hong Guang Animation.

Card Game

We really only wanted to include this item so we could point out its claim that it is “based on the thrill-a-minute arcade game by Nintendo.” We just like the saying “thrill-a-minute.” Is that so wrong?

We don’t really know how the game itself works, but since it uses cards, it presumably has nothing to do with the standard Donkey Kong gameplay.

Donkey Kong Trivia #4

Some hacked versions of the original Donkey Kong include Pac-Kong, where the graphics look like Pac-Man, and Clinton Kong, where Donkey Kong looks like Bill Clinton.

Plush Doll

Either this plush doll has unusually long arms or unusually short legs — we can’t decide, which probably means it’s a combination of the two. Either way, it looks less like the traditional Donkey Kong designs out there.

But if you look closely, you can see that the design on his chest is a barrel, so this is more than just a random gorilla plush toy. It does have a Donkey Kong connection, even though you wouldn’t know it from a distance.

Fan Favorites?

We asked Lee Kime of Lee’s Arcade about his favorite types of Donkey Kong memorabilia: “My favorite piece of memorabilia is the Donkey Kong plush. Very few games of the time had the following to support a plush toy besides Pac-Man, so I think that makes it a special item and one certainly most kids of today have never seen. He happily sits on my machine guarding it from people that can’t appreciate how cool Donkey Kong was and still is even after over 20 years. It makes me smile to know that I have some Donkey Kong stuff [from] before he had that stupid tie.”


An old magazine advertisement for the original Donkey Kong cereal claims, “the crunch will drive you ape,” but really, this is one of the less creative cereal/product tie-ins we have seen. On the box cover, Donkey Kong holds a barrel as if he is going to throw it at Mario, just like in the game. But a bowl filled with barrels isn’t much different than a standard cereal, since it’s just a bunch of corn shaped nuggets.

The Donkey Kong Jr. variety appears to have a more varied selection of shapes to eat.

Fan Favorites?

We also asked Earl Green of The Log Book about his favorite types of Donkey Kong memorabilia, and he responded: “Of the stuff I’ve seen, my favorite is still the small figurines that Coleco did. They were based right off of the original side art from the coin-op — well, aside from the one with Mario’s girlfriend playing a Donkey Kong machine (not sure what they were thinking there) — and they always represented the best original Donkey Kong goodies to me, before Nintendo reinvented Mario (and invented Luigi), or before Rare reinvented Donkey Kong.”

Our thanks to The Log Book and Lee’s Arcade for their help with this feature. Check out those sites for more obscure Donkey Kong related items.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in 1UP.