When Rare was tasked with creating a new series of Donkey Kong games, the artists at the company faced the colossal challenge of redesigning several classic Nintendo icons, as well as creating a whole new cast of memorable characters. In a recent interview with GamesTM, Kevin Bayliss, the art director behind Donkey Kong Country, retold some of the experiences that he and his team had while designing these characters.
Kevin Bayliss was the designer that was primarily responsible for Donkey Kong’s new look in the Donkey Kong Country series. This design, with the iconic red “DK” tie, was a far cry from the Donkey Kong that starred in Nintendo’s original arcade game. In the interview, Bayliss described the process of redesigning the character as surprisingly straightforward; Bayliss’s first sketches were a perfect fit for the game.
“It was straightforward, surprisingly! I got the word from Tim that we were going to be resurrecting Donkey Kong for our 3D project, and, after receiving some black-and white drawings from Nintendo showing the classic DK character, I got started. I wanted to make a heavy but compact-looking character and some of the first sketches were very chunky. There were a few concepts that a guy at Rare – James Ryman, a fantastic artist – produced, but Tim wanted to use the design I had sketched up as a starting point because DK’s proportion suited the platform game that we were going to create.” — Kevin Bayliss
When it came to designing Donkey Kong’s animal buddies, like Rambi the Rhinoceros and Squawks the Parrot, the team had a lot more trouble. In the end, Kevin and the rest of the artists decided to take a trip to the Twycross Zoo, which was near Rare’s studio in the United Kingdom. There, the team was inspired for the designs of several animal companions and enemies, including the infamous King K. Rool. The footage from those visits to the zoo was the basis for much of the animation work in the final game.
“Being located near to the famous Twycross Zoo meant that we had a collection of wild animals to explore just a few miles up the road. So we’d take our cameras and study the specimens they had there, which helped us come up with ideas. None of the crocodiles had crowns or body armour, but we just tried to make them look funny and memorable! Steve Mayles, Mark Stevenson, Ed Bryan [and I] all had wacky imaginations when it me to coming up with typical ‘Rare’ characters, and we still do – as you’ll see in Yooka-Laylee. Luckily we are still located close to the zoo, and so if we need to study behavior, we can take a ‘working trip’ to watch animals with an ice cream!” — Kevin Bayliss
What do you guys think? Do you like the look of the animal buddies in the final game? If you want to read more the rest of Bayliss’s interview with GamesTM, you can pick up the 181st edition of the magazine here.