He may be civilized enough to wear a tie, but at the end of the day, Donkey Kong is still a gorilla. So it’s only fitting that Nintendo’s leading ape spent his Memorial Day weekend with his gorilla brethren at the Los Angeles Zoo. To coincide with the launch of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the 3DS, Nintendo invaded the zoo to offer visitors a chance to try the game, meet Donkey Kong, and watch real-life gorillas eat from the DK barrels that gamers know so well. It was a four-day mash-up of real-life apes and virtual ones, and we were there to see what Nintendo had in store.
The main attraction of the weekend was Nintendo’s takeover of the Campo Gorilla Reserve, a fairly large section of the park that provides multiple spots to view the zoo’s gorillas. The reserve was renamed to “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D at Campo Gorilla Reserve,” and while Nintendo obviously wasn’t going to put red ties on all the gorillas, they did the next best thing: gave them barrels of bananas. Every day at 12:30 PM, zoo staff placed cardboard barrels into the enclosure, each of which was clearly branded with a Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D logo. For zoo visitors who were curious about the game, Nintendo also set up a tent with sixteen 3DS demo units just beyond the reserve’s leafy walls.
In addition to the actual gorillas, visitors could also pose for photos with Donkey Kong (well, a guy in a Donkey Kong costume) at a second tent located near the zoo’s main entrance. There was a constant line at this tent, although some people seemed to have mistaken Donkey Kong for King Kong. But hey, if they’re willing to stand in line to meet a fake animal at a park full of real ones, we won’t judge any cases of mistaken identity.
Donkey Kong’s visit to the L.A. Zoo is the latest in a series of clever promotions that Nintendo has done for the ape. For Donkey Kong Country Returns’ original release on the Wii in 2010, Nintendo stuck him on Chiquita banana stickers and teamed up with Johnny Rockets for a special Donkey Kong Chocolate Banana Shake. More recently, Nintendo set up demos of the 3DS edition on the Santa Monica Pier, only to then scare children playing the game by having Donkey Kong bust through a wall, Kool-Aid Man style. There’s just something about Donkey Kong that makes for fun marketing campaigns and this past weekend’s L.A. Zoo takeover was no exception. Check out our photos below for a taste of Donkey Kong’s visit to the L.A. Zoo, and be sure to check back on Sunday, June 2 for hands-on impressions of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D in our next podcast episode.