If you’ve played a Mario Game before in your life, this scene should be pretty familiar.
You’re happily frollocking about the mushroom kingdom, making your way to wherever you're
But then, out of nowhere…
WOOF WOOF *shudders* Creepy, right.
But let’s rewind for a second.
That’s a bark.
Why is this giant horrific, toothy chunk of metal barking like a dog?
Well, there's actually a very good reason for it, and it's something that you really
Let’s take a look.
Welcome to Thomas Game Docs!
So today, we’re talking about the origin of these creepy things: the chain chomps.
They’ve been around for every recent Mario game, giving players around the world horrific
But where exactly did they come from?
Well, first, let’s track down their origin.
Maybe “track down” is a little melodramatic.
“Chain chomp first appearance” They first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3.
Ok, well that’s our first question answered: the first game that these creatures appeared
in was the much revered NES game, Super Mario Bros 3.
This game brought a multitude of important aspects to the Super Mario series that would
eventually become mainstays - the tanooki suit, toad houses, the world map!
But one aspect which I’m not so keen on is the chain chomp.
But that doesn’t answer the question of how these things even came about.
I mean, they’re super weird looking, plus they bark like a dog.
So how did the game’s developers even come up with these things?
Well, to find out, we’re gonna have to look into a tragic event in the childhood of one
of the game’s creators.
This guy - Shigeru Miyamoto.
I would be pretty surprised if you don’t know who he is, but just in case, he is the
game designer who birthed Donkey Kong, Super Mario, and Zelda, among many, many others.
And, when he was younger, he experienced something which scarred him.
One day, Miyamoto was outside his house in the small town of Sonobe, Kyoto, where he
Suddenly, a neighbour’s dog appeared out of nowhere, and started ferociously barking
It grew closer and closer, sending shivers down the young Miyamoto’s spine.
Then, it took one final leap, inches from the boy’s face, with its mouth open, teeth
glinting in the sunlight.
It was jerked back by its leash.
Moments later, Miyamoto opened his eyes.
To his amazement, he had escape totally unharmed.
He knew back then that he would never forget that moment.
Fast forward 25 odd years and Miyamoto was now working as a game designer at acclaimed
game development studio Nintendo.
The game he was currently producing was Super Mario Bros 3, the third entry in the much
revered Super Mario series.
The development team - that included producer Shigeru Miyamoto, co-director Takashi Tezuka
and lead programmer Toshihiko Nakago from SRD - this team were currently in the midst
of brainstorming new ideas for the game.
They started with powerups.
As I mentioned before, the team first wanted to include a power up themed around becoming
some sort of creature.
They liked the idea of including something mythological, eventually settling on a Centaur.
If you’re not up on your Greek mythology, that’s half human half horse.
Before long, though, the team decided to give it the axe, and replace it with a different
mythological creature - the Japanese Tanuki.
Well, to be clear, the tanuki, or racoon dog, is a real animal.
But it also has an undeniably important place in Japanese folklore.
And here’s a fun bit of trivia.
In Japanese folklore, Tanuki use leaves to help them transform, which is why Mario uses
a leaf to enter his racoon form.
Once the tanuki suit was decided on, the team added the frog suit, which was also themed
around turning into a different creature.
After powerups, the team moved on to enemies.
And right away, something jumped out at Shigeru Miyamoto.
What if he turned his childhood trauma with the dog on the lead, into an enemy in the
It would be a round sphere, with menacing jaws, just like the dog way back when.
And the enemy would be chained to a post, again, just like his childhood memory.
Finally, he would name the enemy after the noise that dogs make in Japan - wan wan.
In english, this ended up being changed into “chain chomp”.
A more literal translation would be calling the enemy a “woof woof”, which, yeah,
maybe doesn’t sound quite so menacing.
Another new enemy this time around was the boo, a ghost-like enemy who reacted to the
player’s own movements.
If Mario looked towards the boo, it would freeze on the spot, and not move any closer.
However, if Mario looked in the other direction, the boo would gradually creep closer and closer,
eventually attacking Mario.
But how did the team come up with this enemy?
Well, the boo’s behaviour, especially in Mario 64, was based around the daily life
of Director Takashi Tezuka.
You see, Tezuka would often spent long, long hours at work, beavering away at Nintendo’s
Meanwhile, his wife at home grew more and more worried, waiting for Tezuka to arrive
for the night.
And his wife was normally very quiet, but one day, maddened by all this time Tezuka
spent at work, she exploded in a rage, giving Tezuka a piece of her mind!
That gave the team the idea for an enemy who seems quiet and unassuming, but when Mario
looks away, becomes large and menacing.
This eventually become the boo.
By the way, Tezuka was asked in an interview who his wife felt about being included in
the Mario games.
“Haha, she knows.”
Alright, one final enemy before we wrap up.
Although, maybe that’s a little misleading - to top it off, we’re talking Koopalings.
Because these guys also have a pretty surprising history.
They got their start in a humble place: this simple sketch.
You see, in the earliest days of the Mario series, Shigeru Miyamoto, an artist himself,
was in charge of drawing up the official artwork of the characters.
His version of Mario looked pretty similar to how Mario looks to this day.
However, his versions of Peach and Bowser looked veerrry different.
I mean, look at Bowser.
Actually, Miyamoto was inspired by an old anime from 1960 called Alakazam the Great,
also known as Journey to the West.
There’s this ox demon in the film called Shouryuu, and this was the source of inspiration
behind Miyamoto’s drawing of Bowser.
However, in the kindest way possible, bowser looked AWFUL in all sorts of promotional art.
I mean, I feel like I’m gonna have nightmares about potato-head Bowser and his flock of
And so, and so, whilst working on Super Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels, Nintendo decided
a redesign was in order, to iron out some of the kinks in these characters.
Taking the lead on this redesign would be acclaimed animator and artist Yoichi Kotabe.
Seriously, this guy could not have been more overqualified for his job as Nintendo artist
- he's worked alongside some of Japan's greatest animating talent.
Now, Kotabe and Miyamoto worked together to update the looks of the Mario series' main
For the plumber himself, Kotabe ended up leaving well alone, for the most part.
For princess Peach, or Princess Toadstool as she was known at the time, Kotabe made
her taller, and I guess more dainty?
But Bowser was the character who required the biggest overhaul.
Although he was meant to be the king of the koopas, Kotabe couldn’t help but view him
as a hippo.
Not very menacing.
And so, he worked together with Takashi Tezuka to draw a new design for the fiend.
Here’s an early sketch they drew.
Notice that in the background.
This is the earliest sketch of the Koopalings that we have on record.
Fast forward back to Super Mario Bros 3, and the development team were in need of a group
of bosses the player could fight.
Suddenly, Tezuka remembered the sketch that he and Kotabe had drawn.
It was perfect, he realised!
And so, the group of developers decided that there should be 7 of these mini bowsers, one
for each world of the game.
When designing the characters, they used themselves as inspiration.
That’s right, the koopalings were based on Mario 3’s developers!
Sadly, it’s not known which koopaling was based on which developer, but it’s still
very entertaining to think about.
Now, for the Japanese release of the game, the developers decided to leave the koopalings,
or Kokuppa as they were known in Japan, unnamed.
They were just the kokuppa.
That was it.
However, two years later, Nintendo of America brought the game out in the US.
And, alongside the cartridge itself itself, there was this instruction manual.
And, if we flip to page 4.
They’ve all magically got names now.
So why did Nintendo give the characters names, and who was responsible for the naming?
Well, to find out, we need to look to this guy: Dayvv Brooks.
Now, Brooks started off as purely a Nintendo fan.
And as you’ll know if you were an 80s or 90s Nintendo fan, there was this phone number
you could call if you needed help with a Nintendo game, called the Powerline.
The phone number was 206-885-PLAY.
And, calling this number would get you in touch with a game counsellor, who would help
guide you through the game you were stuck on.
One day, a young Dayvv Brooks found himself in need of a little help with the game he
After digging through the instruction manual, he found the phone number for the Nintendo
Powerline, and gave it a ring.
After explaining his problem to the counsellor, they quickly found the solution, and Dayvv
managed to progress through the game.
Once he hung up the phone, he thought to himself, “that must be the coolest job on the planet.”
Only a few weeks later, Brooks noticed something in the local newspaper: it was an advert for
the very job he had just been admiring - a chance to become a Nintendo game counselor!
Before long he showed up to the job interview, ...and it turned out to be shockingly simple
- all he needed to have done was played Zelda and Mario, which for a teen in the 80s wasn’t
And so, Brooks quickly settled into his job as Nintendo Counselor.
However, before long an opportunity came up for him - he would be able to move into the
product analysis department of Nintendo, which looked over the company’s games to help
decide how to market them, and whether to even bring to over from Japan at all.
However, before taking the job, he had to prove himself by writing a review of SimCity
for the Mac.
Well, it turned out that he wasn’t half bad, and he got the job.
Now, one of his first tasks was to look over the very roughly translated Japanese from
Super Mario Bros 3, and make it sound more, uh, correct.
And, he quickly noticed that the koopalings were left unnamed.
Well, that wouldn’t do, would it!
And so, he got to work, thinking up some names for these characters.
Now, Brooks was a big music lover, so this had a major effect on his naming decisions.
When looking over the Koopalings, one of them immediately jumped out at him.
His hair looked exactly like the great composer beethoven.
Ludwig van beethoven.
And so, he decided to name the Koopaling, Ludwig von Koopa.
I think he got a little mixed up there.
Oh well, the rest of the Koopalings followed a similar pattern.
This little guy had some preeetty snazzy glasses, which reminded Brooks of singer-songwriter
And so Roy Koopa was born!
Sidenote, apparently this guy is nicknamed “The Big O” - which is amazing - please
only refer to me as the big T from now on.
Right, the next Koopaling Brooks picked out was this one, who reminded him of punk singer
Wendy O. Williams.
And so, Wendy O Koopa was the name he chose.
Another Punk inspired Koopaling was Iggy Koopa, named after Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk.
Next, Brooks picked out this guy, who he saw as a bit of a loudmouth.
And so, he named him Morton Koopa Jr., after the loud-mouthed talk show host Morton Downey
For Larry, there was no real-life inspiration.
Brooks just thought he looked like a Larry.
And lastly, Lemmy Koopa.
His guy was named after the founder and lead singer of the hugely influential rock band,
Motörhead, Lemmy Kilmister.
And that was all the koopalings!
Once Brooks had all the names decided on, he sent them over to Nintendo of Japan to
Somewhat surprisingly, they were absolutely fine with these names, even though they were
inspired by some not so kid friendly sources.
And with that, the names were pinned down.
That was how it stayed!
For the most part.
I’ll keep this quick before I end the video, but there was this American cartoon adaption
of Mario 3, produced by DIC Entertainment, called “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros.
And in this show, the Koopalings have completely different names.
Kind of weird ones, as well.
I’ll rattle them off now: Bully Koopa, Big Mouth Koopa, Kooky Von Koopa, Cheatsy Koopa,
Kootie Pie Koopa, and Hip and Hop Koopa.
Now, I originally thought that maybe this show aired before the game was released in
north america, so they were forced to come up with their own names.
This show came out around 9 months after the game.
These names ended up being used again in the Super Mario World american cartoon, but after
that all of the series spin offs stuck to their official names.
Which, I think is a good thing.
I mean, Cheatsy Koopa?
Kootie Pie Koopa?
Big Mouth Koopa?
Man, the 80s were weird.
Oh, before you go - thanks for the huge amount of support this channel has been receiving
over the last week or so.
It’s been crazy.
If you’d like to, follow me on Twitter - that way you’ll now ahead of time what videos
I have planned.
Plus, it’s just general good times over there.
Alright, see you next week!