Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ice Climber's influence on Wowser cartoon

Was there a connection between Nintendo's Ice Climber on the Famicom and an episode of the children's anime series Wowser?

Originally aired in 1988, Wowser was a Japanese developed cartoon series based on a Belgium comic called Cubitus. The 52 episode series followed the adventures of an obese white dog, Wowser, his owner Professor Dinghy, blonde woman Linda, older woman Beatrice, plus a black cat named Ratso. In Japan the series was known as Don-don Domeru to Ron (どんどんドメルとロン), in France as Cubitus, and in Holland as Dommel. It was your typical, wacky cartoon aimed at primary school kids.

What makes it interesting for gamers though, is that one episode, or possibly two, seemed to be heavily influenced by Ice Climber (アイスクライマ). There's nothing unusual about videogames influencing other mediums: the 2000AD comics featured regular stories about fictional characters getting sucked into real-world games (which was a rather clever marketing gimmick), and TV series The Power Team featured several Acclaim characters pulled into the real world. But this is such hopelessly obscure trivia, I felt it needed documenting somewhere...

Unfortunately, trawling Youtube and torrents for the American, French, Dutch and Japanese versions yielded nothing, and the only episode list I could find was in French, so I don't even know the episode's English name. Reading the French episode list, it could have been "Un monde de glace", but this could just as well apply to the Ice Man Cometh episode, which I did find online. The above screenshots were taken from said episode, which featured Professor Dinghy in exactly the same snow jacket he wore in the Ice Climber episode – it's the closest thing I could find. Unfortunately for most of the episode his hood is down, whereas in the Ice Climber episode it is buttoned up.


The IC episode I first watched in South Africa about 18 years ago, so my memory is hazy. Chronologically it came on after I'd watched the Ice Man Cometh episode, and I was at first disappointed at the initial similarities, thinking it was a cheap way to churn out another show. Except I seem to recall it being twice as long as a typical episode, and it was played as a two-parter perhaps.

For whatever arbitrary reason, Wowser, Dinghy, Beatrice, Linda and Ratso all decide to go to a large snow covered mountain. To keep them warm, Beatrice concocts some kind of warming, purple elixir. This seems to exist purely so that Wowser can drink too much of it, get really hot, and then saunter around in purple shorts like on the beach, looking much like the Ice Climber polar bear (at least, I think he wore shorts). Anyway, he ends up going kind of insane and holes himself up like overlord in a giant castle of ice, while Professor Dinghy dresses up like the blue Ice Climber man, and Beatrice dresses up as the pink Ice Climber woman, and together they go on to...

Well, I forget the exact details. Possibly Linda gets kidnapped by Wowser, and there's a vague memory of Dinghy being attacked by a bird – it was all so long ago, my main memory of the episode was that afterwards my brother and I loaded up the Japanese version of Ice Climber on our Famicom and played for hours, babbling away about how we were actually inside an episode of Wowser. Mostly we wasted time until the polar bear came out to knock the stage up.

The similarities are impossible to ignore: Wowser resembling the polar bear, a man in a blue snow jacket with hood, a woman with a pink snow jacket and hood. All of them on a snowy ice covered mountain. Possibly them getting attacked by a bird, but that might be an invention of my mind. With Ice Climber's release in the early 1980s predating the Japanese airing of Wowser, there's every possibility that one of the script writers was a fan of the game and chose to weave a few similarities into it. Now if only I could find the episode on Youtube to grab some screens. If you've seen this episode, or perhaps know where it's lurking, please post in the comments section. I will give you a million dollars. And by a million dollars, I mean my undying, internet-based respect.

Iceman Cometh pt1

Iceman Cometh pt2

1 comment:

  1. Well, there's obscure connections, and then there's obscure connections. The funny thing is, I always thought Wowser WAS a polar bear, right up until reading this article!