Super Mario Original Presentation Storyboard
Perhaps as a result of my own morbid fascination with the weird and unconventional, I more than occasionally find myself faced with writing about some of the most obscure gaming items, things that would otherwise likely fall into the void and be forever forgotten to time. But sometimes there are pieces so “out there” and on the fringe that they leave even me scratching my head and wondering just what in the world of Nintendo I had saved from possible destruction.
Take this large, unsigned art board that depicts Mario sprinting over an armless, camel-toed Whomp enemy from Super Mario 64. It suddenly appeared before me hiding behind a cabinet in my closet the other day when I was cleaning. The illustration was stored carefully enough inside layers of taped cardboard and snug plastic bags, but I have absolutely no recollection of placing it there, let alone purchasing the piece.
Creepy, I know.
(Image source: PayPal.com)
It took a good half an hour of paging through old PayPal records to finally find the November 2006 receipt: “Mario Brothers Presentation Story Board, One of a Kind.” I paid $23.25. The seller was listed as “Anima Studio” with a customer service URL that no longer worked, roseraven.biz.
(Image source: eBay.com)
After unsuccessfully trying to contact Anima Studio via e-mail, I looked up their still active eBay Store, and was taken aback to find that they appear to currently sell nothing but softcore pornography under an Indiana-based label called Mongrel Media. The DVDs all star a buxom model who goes by the name Rose Raven. Ms. Raven assumes different characters for her various sexy scenarios, from a medieval mistress nicknamed “Barbarian Bitch” to the Southern white trash Dixie vixen “Pussywillow Mae.”
The above screenshot comes from one of her leading roles, “Country Girl: How To Paint,” in which she climbs a step ladder with hot pink high heels on to put down painter’s plastic over a refrigerator, makes a mess out of a roll of masking tape, and finally wakes up sprawled across the floor wearing nothing but a painter’s cap and those heels as she grins sheepishly at the camera. The original clip was taken down by YouTube.
This one, “Rose Raven and the Succubus,” is of her scrubbing blood off bathroom walls, also whilst naked, as a virtual imp from hell looks on approvingly. According to the video description, the computer-animated she-devil goes by the name Lillin. For those not versed in Hebrew demonology, the Lillin were the diabolical offspring of Lillith, Adam’s first wife, before Eve, until she refused to submit to her husband’s sexual demands and flew off to devour children and drink the blood of men and presumably read Gloria Steinem.
(Image source: YouTube.com)
The most frighteningly confusing part is the Cool World poster hanging on the wall as all of this is going on.
(Image source: YouTube.com)
If this weren’t straight out of a David Lynch film.
Night had fallen as I was processing all of this. I began feeling a presence forming behind me. For a moment, I was too afraid to turn around, fearful of seeing my nightmares realized: a deathly pale man with intense owl eyes, dressed all in black, recording my every move with a home video camera. But when I gathered enough courage to look, there would be no ghoulish person standing there–only the reflection of myself in the mirror on the wall across the darkened room, my face smeared with paint, torn pieces of painter’s tape hanging from my hair, entirely nude. At that precise moment, I would wake to the harsh rays of a bright afternoon sun in an open pasture with cows grazing. One of the cows would approach me and moo in my ear, “Mike is dead.” Also, I would have a severe case of amnesia.
(Image source: Patrick Michael Clark)
None of that happened, of course. As I continued browsing through the other videos that were uploaded to Rose Raven’s account, I arrived at an animation demo reel of one Patrick Michael Clark. As soon as I saw Clark’s two-dimensional blue line work, I realized that this must be the same artist behind my enigmatic Super Mario storyboard. He appeared to be a freelancer looking for more jobs. He had previously produced all of the adult short films. They must not have sold very well.
At that point, I figured I could say with some amount of certainty that this piece of art was never officially sanctioned or approved by Nintendo. My only thought was whether I should call up John Zaffis to schedule an appointment or what.
(Image source: Patrick Michael Clark)
Just as I was about to close the book on this case, I came upon Clark’s Anima Studio website, animastudio.us, which showed concept art from what he called “a long forgotten” Nintendo 64 game.
His sample work, which has since been taken down when the domain expired shortly after my visit, reminded me of a rather obscure, Blockbuster-exclusive, futuristic racing title called Stunt Racer 64, which had been developed by Boss Game Studios, an independent offshoot of Boss Film Studios, the legendary special effects company that got its start with Ghostbusters.
I looked up that game’s credits, and lo and behold, a “Pat Clark” was the lead artist.
(Image source: LinkedIn.com)
According to LinkedIn, this Clark was at the game studio since its first year of operations in 1994. Before that, he worked as an art director in Seattle at Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Starwave (link).
15400 NE 90th Street Suite 300 Redmond, Washington 98052 (Image source: Google Earth)
Most interesting of all was the close proximity of Boss Game Studios to Nintendo of America: about a five-minute drive from each other in Redmond, Washington.
Since I couldn’t get a hold of the Clark behind Anima Studio, I reached out to some former Boss employees, beginning with Greg Ipp, who was a track artist on Stunt Racer 64, to see if “Patrick Michael Clark” and “Pat Clark” were one in the same.
“Yes, I recognize the Stunt Racer 64 concept art,” Ipp said of the Anima Studio rendering. “That game was the last one Boss put out and it went to market with no advertising at all.”
After the company folded, Ipp went to work as an artist at Nintendo Software Technology, inside of Nintendo’s nearby American headquarters.
“I don’t remember hearing about Pat being there or doing work for them before I got to Boss, but it’s possible he did,” Ipp said, “my memory of that time is a bit foggy.”
Colin Kawakami was another Stunt Racer 64 track designer.
“I did work with Pat at Boss Game Studios, though I am no longer in touch with Pat, and haven’t been for years,” Kawakami, now a creative manager at Wizards of the Coast, told me. “I don’t recognize the [Super Mario] artwork, but the technique of non-photo blue is definitely one that Pat used, due to his background in cel animation.”
Now convinced that this was the same Clark as the one behind Anima Studio, I began delving deeper into his past. I learned that he entered the animation business at Filmation in the 1970s, having animated on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Ghostbusters, and BraveStarr. He graduated to becoming an animation director for Marvel Productions on Muppet Babies, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars (link).
Shane White points to a whiteboard at Boss Game Studios. (Image source: Shane White)
Illustrator and comic book author Shane White also collaborated with Clark on Stunt Racer 64. He later wrote and drew a graphic novel called Things Undone, which is set at the Boss Game Studios office.
“Yes, I remember Pat, and I remember the Stunt Racer 64 project,” White said. “I did the sci-fi track… it was terrible. I think it was the last game I ever did 3D work on.”
He recognized the Super Mario piece as definitely being done in Clark’s hands.
“The Mario thing I think was for a proposal. I’m not sure if we were trying to get the license from Nintendo to produce a Mario game, or if they approached us to do one. Either way, I think it died on the vine after they saw the concept art.”
The Boss Game Studios offices were decorated with movie props, including this hairy beast from the 1981 horror flick Wolfen. (Image source: Shane White)
White looked for Clark in the past to keep in touch, but he couldn’t find him.
“I know at some point his mother or father died and he went back to Indiana to settle things up,” White said. “I think his father ran a kennel. Pat had several investment properties, apartments and such, back there as well. When he left, I think he got out of games for good. I think he was 44 at the time and that would have been 1999 or so.”
I passed along the research that I had done, including a link to the succubus clip, and asked him what he made of it.
“Man… Pat was a… character. I don’t know what to say. I mean, he told me when he left Filmation, he’d had about $50,000, which he invested making a series of short films. He let me borrow the edits that he had done. One actually included the woman who played the witch in Conan the Barbarian. The one with the black hair crawling around on all fours. There were other shorts of him, although much younger, as a private eye or something. And another woman who I think was his girlfriend who was also half-naked through it. Anyway, apparently she was a hooker and he’d drive her to meet her ‘johns.’ Never actually suggesting he was a pimp, but I’m not sure what kind of arrangement they had.”
White said that Clark used his animation background to create erotic toons on the side.
“He had another site that basically was pornographic cartoons that he had animated. I don’t think it’s around anymore. It was pretty unsophisticated in style and scope. I even did voice-over work for him, which I’m not sure he ever used. The guy definitely had some weird kinks that I’d never heard of even at that time. And that’s when the Internet was still the Wild West.”
(Image source: Patrick Michael Clark)
About 28 seconds into the succubus video, a driver’s license of a man can be seen in the wallet that Rose Raven roots through, suggesting that the bones and splattered blood in the bathroom belong to this victim. For final proof, I asked White if that was Clark in the photo.
“Yeah, that’s him. On one hand, it would be funny if you were actually a detective and here I am giving you all the info you need on the guy.”
And that out-of-place Cool World poster in the satanic clip? It was an homage to another former employer of his, Ralph Bakshi, the subversive film and television director behind Fritz the Cat, The Lord of the Rings, and Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures.
“Yeah, that’s right, he worked on Cool World,” White remembered. “Forgot about that poster hanging in his office. His office was next to my cubicle, and we’d hang out for lunch from time to time. He actually helped me get started with investing money for my retirement so, I give the guy a lot of credit for at least showing me what to do to secure my future.”
According to White, Clark got out of animation due to the volatility of that industry.
“He got tired of the hustle. It was just too much getting fired from one job and you’re competing for the next job and it just didn’t stop. You’d be rich and then you’d be poor. I think for someone who seemed as money-conscious as he was, that wasn’t a way to live. So he got into games. Yet, he still made these softcore cheeky films of which he had very little skill in making. Most were incoherent with no story and poorly edited. At least he understood composition and lighting.”
After moving away from the West Coast, Clark produced promotional spots for the historically restored French Lick Resort Casino in Indiana, which was chosen in 2015 to be the site of the Senior PGA Championship. It seems that he is now retired.
Despite all that White had shared with me, he said that he was still holding back some details.
“Well, there’s more, but it’s so bizarre and personal to him that I don’t think it’s relevant to a Nintendo fansite.”
This castle facade from the Boss Game Studios offices was once used in a commercial. White recalled there also being something from Aliens 3, and that one of his colleagues did work on the Harrison Ford thriller Air Force One before being transferred to the game division. (Image source: Shane White)
White did, however, go on to allege that another employee at Boss Game Studios used to attend sex role playing clubs in Lynwood with a manager at Nintendo. This person was “into spanking and humiliation,” he claimed.
I was able to speak with that particular individual during the formation of this article, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask about that culture. There’s no graceful way to slip that line of questioning into a polite conversation.
(Image source: Patrick Michael Clark)
I made one last attempt to talk to Clark to no avail. Normally, not being able to interview someone would make me feel like I had failed, but not this time. It could be the 16 years of Catholic education rubbing its puritanicalism off on me, but the truth is, I was a little relieved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to judge. If simulating self-mutilation in a faux dungeon basement or cleaning red food dye from shower tiles is your idea of a good time, and you’re not hurting anyone or yourself in the process, I say go hog-wild with the naked-ass, computer-generated, demonic spectrophilia. Conjure up Baal and Beelzebub and make it a party.
Only one question remained. When I moved the cabinet to get to this artwork, I heard a lot of commotion coming from the top drawer. Inside, I found a half a dozen or so unopened bottles of Princess Toadstool Revlon beauty products from 1990 rolling around like Rose Raven after a few minutes of strenuous painting. What had I planned to do with so much tear-free shampoo and bubble bath?
Maybe there are some mysteries better left unsolved.