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The Evolution Of Bowser

The Evolution of Bowser Very few characters spring into this world fully formed.  There's a development phase that all good characters experience in which they evolve into the final form known and adored by loyal fans.  Mario's transition from generic Jumpman into the heroic plumber of the Mushroom Kingdom is a well known story by now, but his arch-enemy underwent his own growing pains.  Nintendo's Satoru Iwata recently sat down with Japanese animator Yoichi Kotabe to discuss how Bowser, king of the Koopas, grew into the spiked turtle fiend.  Kombo summarizes the conversation for us.

"Bowser changed a lot, too," he continues. "I'd been drawing Mario for quite a while, so I knew what I wanted him to look like, but I hadn't drawn Bowser that much, so I couldn't get the lines to come together right. I like Toei Animation's work from around the time of Alakazam the Great, and the ox that appears in that..."

Miyamoto told Kotabe how he liked that ox, who was the ox king. "Miyamoto-san liked that ox," Kotabe explains, "and that was how he imagined Bowser. When you see the package art he drew, Bowser does look a bit like an ox."

But then, designer Takashi Tezuka broke the news to Kotabe: Bowser was supposed to be a turtle. "I thought, Oh, it's a turtle?' Kotabe recalls.

"I'd been drawing something completely incomprehensible—a turtle's body with an ox's head!" Miyamoto confesses with more laughter. "Through our discussions, his appearance eventually came together, though. Since Bowser was in the turtle family together with the Koopa Troopas, we began to see similar lines between the two, so we copied those as faithfully as possible and moved onto the next illustration. I started congratulating myself, saying, 'Wow, I can really make Bowser look cool now!'"

As Dennis Hopper's King Koopa himself said in Super Mario Bros., "You may think of evolution as... an upward process. Things evolve from primeval slime, up to single-celled organisms, up to... intelligent life."  Bowser has come a long way from being the ox tyrant of the Mushroom Kingdom, and although his appearance continued to fluctuate in the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System era, his standard appearance has been largely locked in place since Super Mario Bros. 3 and beyond.

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