Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nintendo board games - part 2 - Disney (early 1960s)

When Nintendo started expanding their product line from playing cards to other toys and games, the first format they went after were board games.

In the first part of the board game story, posted here almost two years ago, we already showed some Nintendo board games from the second half of the 1960s, based on popular Japanese manga and anime characters like UltraQ and Obake no Q-tarō.

Nintendo board games based on manga and anime series

Over the coming weeks months, I plan to run a series of posts focussing on Nintendo's board games, as there is a lot still to show and tell.

The first board games that Nintendo released were all licensed games based on figures from the Walt Disney studios. These were very popular at the time, and after securing a deal to feature Disney characters on Nintendo's playing cards, it was a natural extension to use these also for other games.

Nintendo board games that are all Disney themed

Some of the Nintendo games that we will show are simple localisations of licensed games, meaning the original version is translated but otherwise left unchanged (like the 101 Dalmatians Game shown below), while others are original creations by the Nintendo team, using Disney figures.

There were a couple of American game manufacturers producing Disney themed board games at the time, most notably Whitman and Parker Brothers. Nintendo acquired licenses to localize their Disney games for the Japanese market from both companies, in particular from Whitman. [Another toy series that Nintendo licensed from Whitman, a few years later, were the People House doll sets.]

Original game by Whitman (bottom) and Nintendo version (top)

All of the Nintendo board games from this period do not included any year of release on them, so it is quite difficult to date them. Based on the characters featured, the style of packaging and the logos used, I would say the games are all released by Nintendo roughly between 1963 and 1965.

In this post we will take a look at four of Nintendo's Disney board games:
  • Donald Duck Universal Travel Game
  • Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Game
  • Toyland Game
  • Mickey Mouse Adventure Game

Although they all feature licensed figures, most of these are original game designs, as far as I can tell (except for Wonderful World of Color Game).

Donald Duck Universal Travel Game

We kick off with two Duck themed games.

Nintendo Donald Duck Universal Travel Game

The first is based in space and called Donald Duck Universal Travel Game (ドナルドダック宇宙旅行ゲーム).

As with most of these games, the Disney name is shown on the box in the original Western brand style as well as in Japanese katakana (ディズニー).

A simple, sans-serif Nintendo logo is used. This logo version can be seen on a few more of Nintendo's board games from around this time.

We find the Duck family in a very futuristic setting. Of course, space exploration was a hugely popular topic in the 1960s.

After successfully maneuvering your play piece to the launch pad in the middle of the board, you need to try and shoot it as close as possible to the target at the top, with a well-timed flick of the finger.

As with most of these board games, the players do not advance by a trow of the dice, but by a spin of the wheel.

Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Game

The front of the box of the second Duck game sees a cast of Duck-burg inhabitants, together playing the actual game themselves, with Donald's uncle Ludwig von Drake taking center stage.

Nintendo Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Game (version 1)

The game is called Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Game (すばらしい色の世界ゲーム), getting it's title from the Disney television series with the same name, in which Ludwig also starred.

The original version of this game, baring the same name, was made by Whitman. Nintendo simply translated this, leaving the design otherwise identical to the original.

Original Wonderful World of Color Game, by Whitman
(image by boardgamegeek.com)

Nintendo used the cursive more stylized logo on this game. This logo was used by Nintendo on many games in the mid 1965.

The Wonderful World of Color Game is a game for up to four players. The objective is to traverse the various colored sections on the playing field, and collect six colored puzzle pieces in a TV-shaped frame.

Just like the space theme from the Donald Duck game shown above, television - in particular color television - was one of the icons of modern day life in the 1960s.

A broad cast of Disney characters are included in the game's illustrations. We can spot Dumbo, Bambi's friend Thumper, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket and Tinkerbell, to name a few.

The board shows scenes from various Disney movies, like Donald Duck and José Carioca dancing the night away in The Three Caballeros...

... and Alice with her friends the March Hare and Mad Hatter in Wonderland.

Two versions of this game exist: a grey box, as shown above, and a blue box. In the blue version, Mickey Mouse replaces Ludwig von Drake in the lead role on the front, and Minnie Mouse has taken the place of Goofy.

It is possible this alternative version was created by Nintendo to capitalize on the popularity of Mickey, who was better known that Ludwig.

Nintendo Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Game (version 2)

However, the only difference between the two versions is the box design. The actual games inside are identical.

Toyland Game

In the next game, Mickey also has a lead role. At least, he does on the box front.

Nintendo Toyland Game

This game is called Toyland Game (オモチャの国ゲーム).

Although there is a 1961 Disney movie called Babes in Toyland, this games does not have any relation with that movie.

This is a game for two players.

The red player and green player each need to shepherd their own play pieces from their respective castles to the crowns in the middle of the playing field.

Players can capture each other's pieces when they land on them.

Although the front suggests otherwise, this is not really a game about Mickey. Like the board of Wonderful World of Color Game, illustrations are a mix of figures, taken from the wide family of Disney characters.

These include the cheerful duo Chip and Dale, as well as Little Hiawatha.

Mickey Mouse Adventure Game

The fourth and final game of this post, is really all about Mickey.

Nintendo Mickey Mouse Adventure Game

This board game is called Mickey Mouse Adventure Game (ミッキーマウス冒険ゲーム).

The style of the Nintendo logo on the side indicates that this game is from around the same time as Donald Duck Universal Travel Game.

As the name suggests, the game is about going on an adventure together with Mickey.

More precisely, you join Mickey on a safari in Africa.

In the game, in each game round a card is picked from the stack in the middle. Each of these cards shows a particular animal, and players need to race to the right spot on the board to capture it.

Whoever reaches the animal first wins the card. The players with the most cards at the end wins the game.

Based on the illustrations, Mickey seems to be in his element, surrounded by dangerous animals of prey (and a baboon).

The play pieces are the same as those used in Nintendo's similarly themed Adventureland Game (which we will see in the next post).

A big difference between the two games is that the other is set in one of Disneyland's fantasy worlds, while this shows an actual hunting trip, including lots of images of riffles.

Mickey is pictured in many different poses holding a hunting riffle, aiming at a wide variety of species, some of them endangered. Not something Disney would allow anymore these days, I expect. But in the 1960s, this was perfectly normal imagery to be put on a board game aimed (pun intended) at children.

More of Nintendo's Disney themed board games can be found in the next part of this board games series!

Board games part 1 can be found here.


  1. nice article!!! i am a fan of donald duck, and now i really want those!
    just a small mistake the character is not scrooge in the second game but Ludwig von Drake

    1. Thanks for the information! I have updated the post accordingly.

    2. Also, The Wonderful World of Color debuted on NBC, September 24, 1961. Not that it matters but it would be an excuse to highlight Ludwig's first appearance on American TV!

  2. you welcome! do you know if those donald games are easy to find in japan? did they sold well?

    1. These games are not that easy to find, but if you are patient and check Japanese auction sites regularly, you can find them. I am not sure how successful these were commercially. The fact that they are scare today suggest they did not sell in huge numbers. But given that Nintendo kept releasing many models, they must have met with some sales success.

      By the way, there are more Donald games than the ones shown here. So stay tuned for the next posts!

  3. Nintendo acquired licenses to localize their Disney games for the Japanese market from both companies, in particular from Whitman.

    Western Publishing was sure raking it in license-wise weren't they?

    Although there is a 1961 Disney movie called Babes in Toyland, this games does not have any relation with that movie.

    Since the game was licensed from a US publisher, who's to say the game didn't tie in to the movie back home, again, I could be wrong too.

    1. Yes, those were the days when Japan was big on licensed stuff from the US. It is still today, but the situation seems a lot more balanced, with the rest of the world getting addicted to Japanese licenses (did somebody say "mario" or "pokemon"...)

      Regarding the Toyland game, this really does not have relation with the Babes in Toyland movie (not the design, nor the board layout etc). Other than - maybe - that the title was inspired by it.