The original Zelda games all featured the hideous Ganon as their villian, but Ocarina of Time delved into his origins. The decision to feature a humanoid Ganon in the prequel meant a new character had to be designed. According to Ocarina of Time’s artists, this was required lots of trial and error. In an interview in the Zelda Art and Artefacts book, Yusuke Nakano and Satoru Takizawa talked about designing Ganondorf. Takizawa mentions how important it was to focus on more than brute strength, the character’s clever eyes showing his intelligence. Check out their full conversation below.
Ganon is basically a pig, but the humanoid Ganondorf made his first appearance in Ocarina of Time. What was your inspiration when you started designing him?
Takizawa: Well, I started by thinking to myself, “What kind of guy is worth defeating?”
So he couldn’t just be incredibly strong?
Takizawa: Right. The enemies you feel the best about defeating are the ones that outclass you in every way, from abilities to experience. He also had to be an appealing character, even though he was the enemy. After a lot of trial and error, I slowly completed his model. Then Nakano-san took that and improved upon it. Come to think of it, of all the illustrations that came from Nakano-san, I had very few comments on this one.
Nakano: Hardly any, in fact. However…
Takizawa: Yeah, I did have one request that I felt strongly about. He initially looked like a brute who had nothing but raw strength. I wanted him to have clever eyes so you knew he was a man of high caliber.
Nakano: Right: At that time, I had been at the company for three years, and Nakano-san was three years my senior. I might have been out of line making such a request, but it was the one point I wasn’t willing to back down on. I remember it well, and how tenacious he was about it too. [laughs] The first illustration I did for Ganondorf had these wide-open eyes. Not exactly an intelligent look, but more like he might have been a little mad. In the end we arrived at a design that made him look not only more intelligent but also, at the same time, like the epitome of an evil ruler.
Takizawa: He is the final boss, after all! And another thing: the first model I created for Ganondorf had him looking a lot thinner, and his head almost looked bird-like. One of the backstories for Ganondorf referred to him as the “Gerudo King of Thieves,” so I imagined him to be lean and not well muscled. I wanted him to move gracefully, like a whip. But when I saw the finished illustration for Ganondorf, it was quite different from him I imagined him to be…
Nakano: Emphasizing muscles more than necessary is just my style. [laughs]
Takizawa: I guess so! [laughs] Then again, it did become the basis of the Ganondorf in The Wind Waker and the Ganondorf in Twilight Princess. The design you came up with became the foundation for his design in several other titles, so I think it was a good thing.