Why Was Donald Duck’s Name Removed from Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow?

Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

There is very little that is normal about Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow. The music is bizarre, the instruction manual is deliciously hardboiled, and Donald Duck’s name has been completely removed from the game.

Yes, Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow is a game that stars Donald Duck as the playable protagonist, yet he’s only referred to as Maui Mallard in the game. I should point out that this wasn’t the case in Europe, where the game was released under the title Donald in Maui Mallard.

What gives? Why didn’t the North American version of the game use Donald’s real name? Honestly, I originally assumed it was because of the story’s hardboiled nature, that maybe Disney thought it was getting a little too “hardcore” for a Donald Duck game. Maui Mallard does talk about having a death wish in the game’s manual, after all.

Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

However, that’s not what happened. In an interview with Noe Valladolid for the Street Writer Podcast blog, Patrick J Collins, who did sound design for the game, said:

Disney’s marketing dept. was kind of weird sometimes… It was supposed to be Donald Duck as Maui Mallard, and after the game was ready to be shipped they suddenly started saying “Donald Duck isn’t hip in the U.S.”… We need to change the title… And they came up with Cold Shadow, and I was really disappointed in that.

I don’t know if I will ever understand this decision. Donald Duck is the selling point of the game — in fact, the only reason I ever played this game in the first place was because it’s a Donald Duck game (although, “detective on a tropical island who can transform into a ninja” is a pretty good elevator pitch for a platformer game).

Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

Perhaps in the mid-to-late-90s, Disney was worried that video games needed to have a bit more edge to be cool. Even so, Donald is one of Disney’s oldest and most beloved characters (and he’s always been way cooler than Mickey Mouse). To do him a dirty like this just seems wrong.

And really, what sort of selling power did they think Maui Mallard had over Donald Duck?

This sort of happened one other time with 2002’s PK: Out of the Shadows (for GameCube and PS2), which was called Donald Duck PK in Europe (it’s based on an Italian comic book). However, while Donald’s name was removed from the game’s title in the United States, he’s sill referred to as Donald within the game.

PK in Cold Shadow

I do know that Donald Duck is more popular in Europe than in the United States (and this has been true for decades). This makes me suspect that both of these games (Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow and PK: Out of the Shadows) were created specifically for the European market, and that when it came time to bring these games to the States, executives sort of scratched their heads over what to do to make the games more popular with North American players.

Actually, I found this post in a CBR thread about why Europeans like Donald so much, and I had to share it:

Well, Donald Duck is more down to earth than Mickey Mouse.

Donald is a bachelor for over thirty years, despite having a girlfriend. He has a short temper. He usually does meager labor for his grouchy uncle. He is neither dependable nor very successful at his jobs. He looks after his nephews but lashes his temper on them whenever they cause mischief.

Donald is an American born son of Scottish immigrants (his mother immigrated with Scrooge from Scotland to the USA) while Mickey traces his ancestry to the Mayflower.

If you’re curious about the Mayflower thing, this is probably a reference to the comic book Mickey Mouse and the Treasure of the Mayflower (it’s part of the Once Upon a Time… In America series), in which Mickey’s ancestors actually do travel to what is now the United States on the Mayflower. So yeah, basically all of this scans.

Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

Anyway, it appears that in the mid- to late-1990s, the folks at Disney thought Donald Duck had more selling power in Europe than in the United States, to the point that they were almost embarrassed of Donald’s inclusion in Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow. Whether this reflects an actual reality or just the whims of some out-of-touch executive is up for debate, I suppose, but I’m willing to think it was more the latter than the former.

Thus Donald Duck’s name was removed from Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow in the North American market, and we’re left with a game that obviously stars Donald Duck yet refuses to address him as such.

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