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In the game arcade version of Donkey Kong, Mario was known as Jump Man, for his ability to jump. This ability, a common thing for man but not for arcade games, laid the foundations for platforming games. Jump Man, intended to be a carpenter, wore similar clothes to Mario, except they were brown and white.
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario and countless other Nintendo characters, intended the game to be a Popeye game, with Popeye jumping up the buildings to save Olive Oyl as Bruno threw barrels at him. Nintendo could not obtain the license for Popeye and instead created their own characters. Bruno became Donkey Kong, Olive Oyl became the princess, and Popeye became the main character. The princess was eventually given a name: Pauline. The main character was called Jump Man.
In the next Donkey Kong, Jump Man became the villain. Not until Mario Bros. would the character be rechristened Mario and don his now-traditional red and blue colors. The name came from Nintendo's Italian landlord in America.
A reference to Jump Man appears in the Paper Mario series. Jump Man is the name of a badge which increases Mario's jump attack damage by 1. Another reference in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is in the Glitz Pit, when a spectator shouts, "Jump Man! I mean, who?"
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