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Today in Nerd History | July 9

July 9th is a date that has witnessed significant releases across a spectrum of entertainment genres, from the golden age of arcade games to groundbreaking films in both animation and visual effects, and a pivotal chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These releases have left lasting impacts in their respective fields, revolutionizing gaming, cinema, and superhero storytelling. Let’s uncover some “Nerdy Facts” about “Donkey Kong,” “Tron,” “Despicable Me,” and “Black Widow.”

Inclusion on this list does not imply that the entry is family friendly, only that is was a nerd culture milestone. Parents should, of course, use discernment.

© Nintendo

1981: Donkey Kong (Arcade)

Released by Nintendo, “Donkey Kong” not only introduced the world to its titular character but also marked the debut of Mario, who would become one of the most iconic figures in video game history.

 

Nerdy Facts:

  • Mario’s Debut: Originally known simply as “Jumpman,” Mario was a carpenter in this game, not a plumber. His character would evolve significantly in later games.
  • Gameplay Innovation: “Donkey Kong” was one of the first platform games to incorporate a storyline, which unfolded across its multiple levels—a novel concept at the time.
  • Massive Success: The game was a huge hit, establishing Nintendo as a major player in the gaming industry and laying the groundwork for its future successes in video games.

© Disney

1982: Tron (Theaters)

“Tron,” directed by Steven Lisberger, was groundbreaking for its extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), exploring the then-novel concept of a digital world.

 

Nerdy Facts:

  • CGI Pioneer: “Tron” was one of the first films to make extensive use of CGI, including 15 minutes of computer-generated animation combined with live-action footage.
  • Visual Effects Recognition: Despite its innovative use of CGI, “Tron” was not nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects because the Academy felt at the time that using computers was “cheating.”
  • Cult Status and Legacy: “Tron” did not initially perform well at the box office but gained a cult following over the years and eventually led to a sequel, “Tron: Legacy,” nearly three decades later, along with an animated television series.

© Illumination

2010: Despicable Me (Theaters)

“Despicable Me,” produced by Illumination Entertainment, introduced audiences to Gru, his adorable yellow Minions, and a heartwarming tale of villainy turned good, becoming a major franchise in animated cinema.

 

Nerdy Facts:

  • Minions Phenomenon: The Minions, with their distinctive appearance and gibberish language, became incredibly popular, spawning their own spin-off films and a wide range of merchandise.
  • Box Office Success: “Despicable Me” was a critical and commercial success, earning over $540 million worldwide and establishing Illumination Entertainment as a significant player in the animation industry.
  • Franchise Expansion: The success of the film led to several sequels and prequels, making it one of the most beloved and financially successful animated franchises.

© Marvel Studios

2021: Black Widow (Theaters)

“Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, offered Marvel fans a deep dive into the backstory of Natasha Romanoff, exploring her origins before she became a key member of the Avengers.

 

Nerdy Facts:

  • Delayed Release: Originally scheduled for an earlier release, “Black Widow” was postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it one of the most anticipated films of 2021.
  • Exploration of Character: The film is noted for delving into the darker aspects of Black Widow’s past, including espionage, betrayal, and redemption.
  • Significant Entry in MCU: “Black Widow” served as a crucial chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four, providing closure for the character and setting the stage for future narratives involving her family and allies.

July 9th celebrates innovation and creativity across various platforms—from the pixelated screens of arcade games to the expansive narratives of modern cinema. Each of these entries has significantly influenced popular culture, offering stories and characters that continue to entertain and inspire. Happy Nerd History Day to all who revel in these pioneering moments of entertainment history!

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Station Manager of LTN Radio and co-host of the "Nerd History Podcast" & the "Two Words Podcast". Matt is a third-generation radio station manager who has done pretty much every job in the radio industry. Matt is the father of two boys and a little girl. It's probably the best thing about him.

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