Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Piñatas; a dedicated essay on sentient paper animals

Bejungled will go through a major revamp soon. The header and background, and possibly the colours, will change. On top of that, I'll be adding ads for some extra moolah. It'll be worth it! As I'm officially a game art student now, it means my posts will improve too. Now, on to the article...

Having been playing and watching all material available of Viva Piñata recently, I thought it would be interesting to elaborate on the sentient piñatas that inhabit Rare's extended universe. This article spans both the cartoon and the games.

1. Anatomy

Piñatas, by definition, are hollow forms of paper-maché, dusted with crepe paper, usually in an attractive shape. They are a popular party game, notoriously in the Americas.
The piñatas in Viva Piñata seem something unique altogether. All species are similar to earth species of animals in some kind of manner, fictional or otherwise, but follow the standard piñata model closely. They have nubby limbs, and only rarely do they possess digits. Yet, they can sort of curve their "hands" so they can hold stuff or make sassy gestures. (In one episode of the cartoon, Langston miraculously grew a single thumb to give a thumbs-up... I'm not sure what that was all about.) Their limbs are stretchy to make up for the short length.
As implied by some episodes of the cartoon, and by sick piñatas in the game after ingesting a certain weed, they possess inner workings of some sort. They sneeze, bleed, and defecate candy.
In one episode of the cartoon where the cast is shrunk to go inside Hudson Horstachio's body, it is shown first-hand how ingested fruit turns into candy as soon as it reaches the stomach. It can be argued that ingested food has effect on the candy's flavour.

For whatever reason, they're waterproof. All species can withstand the rain just fine in both media and there are some (semi-)aquatic piñatas. It's unclear what this is all about.

They can lose limbs, heads, and whatnot and not experience any negative effects, still having full control of all parts. However, some parts of their body still have a mind of their own and might cause all sorts of ruckus, as one does. (Hudson's body, for one, is stubborn and fond of baking. Fergy's gravitates towards thistles and away from Piñata Central.)
In the game, every piñata has a Life Candy within them. The description for any and all of it is beyond amusing. ("Sorry if you already knew this, but piñatas have candy in them.") If a piñata is smacked within the garden or preyed upon, they burst and leave candy, including their life candy, which is only eaten by predators of the species that had it. I initially figured the life candy substituted the brain and the heart, and went along with playing with their location in the actual piñata, sort of playing with a Steven Universe-inspired idea that it hints at their personality and contains their life essence. However, piñatas in the show are depicted with actual brains much like humans, but this might be exaggerated for comedic effect. Hearts are never depicted, so life candy might still be canon to the show. I personally think fatalities during parties can occur but is mostly prevented for the life candy is hidden very well within the papery body.

2. Gender and orientation

In the game, piñatas don't have any assigned gender or sex. You can give them names or accessories that might imply such, but any two species of the same kind are eligible to do a romance dance. Roarios and Peckanmixes are based on the male specimens of animals, whereas Flapjaks and Moozipans are based on female ones. Regardless, they can perform romance dances. (Oddly, Roarios without mane appear in the show sometimes, but they have male voices most of the time.)

In the show, it's a lot less neutral. Casually crossdressing happens often and there are no clear denominators as to what makes a female or male piñata other than voices... but even then, that varies, such as Fergy's mom with her very deep voice. It was probably done for comedic effect but it makes me think. She and the other female counterparts of the main cast are an exception to the "no tertiary sexual characteristics" rule. (e.g. visual items that depict gender, like bows, lipstick, etc)

Some female ones have eyelashes, but others, like Ella and Simone don't, and when male-coded piñatas dress in drag it might be for comedic effect but the others generally accept them as female. One episode even implies a romantic relationship between Mabel Moozipan and Ella Elephanilla. It's blink-and-you-miss-it, but it's there.
Generally, I just assume piñatas are sexless, get a gender assigned by either their parents or themselves, and may choose to change it if they feel so obliged. But since this is quite a heavy subject which might offend the Moral Guardians, it is not elaborated upon.
However, Nintendo recently elaborated that Toads are genderless and choose their own gender. I figure it'd be like that.

Also, Leafos is implied to have written the journal and it talks about kissing a girl in one chapter. Hmm.

3. Procreation

Piñatas reproduce by dancing, after which a superhero stork lady drops the egg at their porch. It's simple as that. I figure Storkos has a Spidey-Sense for procreating piñatas.
However, this makes things very awkward when one combines the show's canon with the games. In the show, everyone dances together. It's a massive orgy of sweet moves. Since Paulie and Fergy are often seen dancing next to each other, it led me to believe the two have a relationship of some sort. I wouldn't call it sexual, because they're piñatas. They don't have sex. They dance. A dansual relationship?
Three times, an actual egg(s) and implied birth was/were shown, with Storkos not even given as much as a mention.
But it gets even more confusing; Langston laid a viable egg which hatched a small clone of himself with a heliumy voice (Langston Jr. had a decent role but never showed up after that episode, sadly.)

I like to think that piñatas can lay eggs themselves, but this results in miniature, juvenile clones of the parent, as similarly observed in some real-life animal species like monitor lizards and snakes. Actual children are delivered by Storkos.

4. Sentience

In the games, the piñatas don't speak and instead make animal/Rare employee noises. However, Leafos sometimes stops walking around to watch a piñata and play a little game with them. She also mentions that it seems like they're talking sometimes and that you could totally imagine making a show about them. Meta joke.
In the show, they're as sentient as can be, spouting candy puns and pop culture references. They do everything regular humans do, aside from the occassional animal quirk. They do possess a written language and numeric system as well, which is always gibberish unless it's of plot importance.

It can be argued that they just have their own language if it wasn't for Pester's presence in the cartoon. He's a very hammy villain but is altogether very much human. Yet, he is known to communicate with the very piñatas he attempts to kidnap and smash without any effort. I just assume Pester knows Piñatanese, along with Leafos and Seedos, both to an extent. Ruffians are something different altogether.
Likewise, Langston seems to be very adept in other languages in a similar way, considering he mingles with the entirely human cast in the games more than once, and in the show he has spoken to a Ruffian, who generally don't say more than grunting noises. Even if this was meant for comedic effect.
Not to mention his job in both continuities involves communication with different countries.
Rare admitted they just put him in the game because they felt he'd fit and he's possibly the one character that interweaves the games and the show.

5. Culture, world, and beliefs

Piñatas in the show are gullible and, to be frank, kind of dumb. They believe everything Pester has to say as long as he puts up some dumb disguise. A god by the name of Piñathor is referred to, making a (sort of) appearance as a balloon animal, used by the con-man Bonboon to cheat them out of their candy.
In the games, they're not very bright either. They'd gladly eat weed flowers and toadstools even if they know darn well it made them sick before. It is up to the player to keep them protected and safe. A Choclodocus is, quite simply, a dinosaur piñata. It's implied to be prehistoric with a lot of lampshade-hanging in the description about Marco Polo originally getting piñatas from China.

References to other Rare games are made plenty. Banjo, however, gets called a bear and a Fizzlybear interchangeably in the game, but it can be assumed Leafos merely mistook him for one. Mumbo apparently dropped by to write about himself at the chapter for his statue. Kazooie is implied to have sold Bottles' glasses somewhere on Piñata Island as a prank.
References to other games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day, Jet Force Gemini, Sabre Wulf, and Kameo are made, but those characters are never named as if actually seen.
Many accessories are available that hint at other Rare characters as well.

Piñata Island is in direct contact with the rest of Earth, sending their piñatas to all reaches of the planet with cannons. Considering that Banjo and Kazooie are implied to have been there as well, and interacted with Diddy Kong and Conker, it sets in stone that these games' universes all take place on Earth together. Hence, Banjo knows Piñata Island. Banjo knows Diddy Kong. Diddy Kong knows Donkey Kong, and there is one screenshot in Donkey Kong Jungle Climber that pretty much confirms it.

Super K. Rool Galaxy.

I'll have nothing of the idea that Mario also takes place on that universe... considering the few times that planet has been shown, it was distinctly unearthly. Plus, the overall tone of Mario's world, its linearity and game-ish looks doesn't fit in with Rare's more naturalistic environments. But DK and pals still mingle with Mario and co...

Warp pipes aren't actually pipes as often. Sometimes they're actually magic transportation... things, as shown in Mario and Luigi; Bowser's Inside Story, which helps the brothers in going outside and inside of Bowser. I figure a similar warp pipe(s) connect Rare's worlds with Nintendo's.

There you have it. Analysis about piñatas. I've been writing on this for way too long so I just wanna get it out.

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