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Prerelease:Banjo-Kazooie/Project Dream

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This is a sub-page of Prerelease:Banjo-Kazooie.

To do:
Fix broken music links.



After finishing Donkey Kong Country 2 in the autumn of 1995, the team behind it was split in two. One set went on to develop Donkey Kong Country 3 with a new team, while the remaining ten people, led by Rare co-founder Tim Stamper, began looking to explore new ideas with the tech they had created for Donkey Kong Country.[1][2][3] Many on the team were fans of adventure games, such as Nintendo's Zelda and LucasArts' point-and-click titles, and so were eager to try their own take on the genre.

The resulting concept was codenamed Project Dream (alternatively Dream: Land of Giants) to symbolize both the game's fairytale atmosphere and its status as the team's "dream game".[4] Shrouded in secrecy, Dream was to be Rare's SNES magnum opus, one that would take the "Advanced Computer Modelling" (read: prerendering) techniques of DKC "to the next level".[1][3][4]

Super Nintendo Version

And indeed, those who worked on it, or were lucky enough to see it in action, could attest to its visual fidelity (Rare media/PR writer Leigh Loveday joked in retrospect that it had "sprites the size of small countries").[1][4][5] So secret was Dream that nothing of its original Super Nintendo incarnation was known to the general public until 2006, when it was offhandedly mentioned on Rare's Scribes (letters) page; it was only with the release of Rare Replay in 2015 that footage of it was finally shown off.

The SNES Dream was described as an isometric title, though it contained many sidescrolling elements as well. Its camera system was similar to that of Pandemonium! or NiGHTS into Dreams..., in that protagonist Edson was not viewed 100% on the side, but would run into or away from the screen depending on the angle of the pathway.[2] Unlike with Pandemonium or NiGHTS (which were 3D), this was accomplished purely with character sprites; the camera itself panned from side to side in a manner reminiscent of DKC.

The build shown off in the Rare Replay videos appears to have been in a fairly basic state. Only a few areas were implemented-- a jungle map, an autumn forest, a swamp area with pipes, and a forested path with mushrooms. Edson could walk, sprint, and attack with his sword. His canine companion Dinger functioned as an AI-controlled sidekick that could do various things he couldn't, such as dig for hidden objects. However, the team found he was almost too versatile relative to Edson, at one point feeling a need to "fold all the abilities back onto one character". One of the last elements implemented was a giant dinosaur foot that would crush Edson, something of a precursor to Banjo-Tooie's Stomponadon.[4]

Being a "dream game" as it was, Stamper and DKC designer Gregg Mayles were very specific about which direction the game should take, especially in regards to the audio. Both were described as "sticklers" for music that players could "listen to for hours on end and not get sick of".[6] Stamper in particular even pushed for voice acting, which, for an SNES title, was almost unheard of. He was also adamant that Dream's musical direction revolve around character themes or leitmotifs that would signal a particular character's presence in a scene.[1] This was an idea picked up from films such as Star Wars, one which the duo felt had not yet been tackled in video games.[6] It was for this reason that they took an interest in recent music hire Grant Kirkhope, who, at the time in 1996, had taken over GoldenEye 007 from Graeme Norgate (who was busy with Blast Corps):

"I used to be in what was called the chicken shed at Rare (it was a room next to the canteen that used to be where they kept the chickens when it was a Manor House) as there was no room for me in the music block. One day two people turned up and asked to listen to my stuff from GoldenEye, I sort of recognized Tim Stamper but the other guy [Mayles] I’d never seen before. Tim sat on the floor and this other guy sat in the chair, I was thinking how come the boss gets the floor, this guy must be super important. They didn’t say anything, just listened and said next, then when I’d played everything I had so far Tim just said we’d like you to come and work on our game it’s called Dream, I said I hadn't finished GoldenEye yet, he said he'd fix it and off they went."

- Grant Kirkhope[7]

Kirkhope's ability to work many variations out of a single melody (as he had done with the Bond theme in GoldenEye) made him an ideal choice for the theme-based nature of Dream.[8] Similarly to what LucasArts had done with its iMUSE system, Stamper also wanted the music to fade into different mixes depending on location—a feature that would make it through to the Banjo games—and provided Kirkhope with various LucasArts games to use as a reference.[1]

Nintendo 64 Version

Only a few months into the project, it was decided that Dream was too ambitious for the SNES. The upcoming Nintendo 64 stood to make ACM obsolete, and so development shifted to the new platform, targeting the 64DD add-on (then still under the working name of "Bulky Drive").[3][1]

The N64 incarnation of Dream played a bit differently from its predecessor. Gone was the side-on view in favor of an overhead perspective; Edson could still walk and sprint, but could now also fire balls of light as an attack. The areas shown off are completely different from those of the SNES build-- a beach, a town, and an airier, more open jungle. The jungle in particular appears to suffer from heavy amounts of fog and pop-in. Various objects litter these maps, such as treasure chests, pirate skeletons, signposts, and obelisks. During this phase, the fairytale whimsy of the SNES version was gradually traded in for a darker, more rugged pirate theme that the team felt was less "childish" (and thus more accessible to a wider audience) yet still appealed to themselves as well. With it came a new set of antagonists-- a band of pirates led by the nefarious Captain Blackeye.[4]

Dream in this state was described as "big and sprawling"-- perhaps too sprawling, as problems began to mount.[4] The team was still getting accustomed to N64 development, and some of the software implementations they had come up with were less than ideal.[footnote 1] For instance, a proprietary "mesh system", considered by Mayles to be "a precursor to a proper polygonal engine", could create models by stretching out polygons into any shape imaginable.[10][1] To create level geometry, floor meshes would be stretched out to make elaborate landscapes that (according to Kirkhope) were unseen at the time. However, it proved too demanding for the N64 hardware, which struggled to run the game at a reasonable framerate.[1] But what was perhaps the biggest demotivator of all wasn't even a technical hurdle: it was the progress of fellow Rare title Conker's Quest (which, ironically, would itself receive a retool in 1999 following complaints that it was just another Banjo-Kazooie):

"The Killer Instinct team had started Conker and it looked and played fantastically [...] [They] had gone more the tried and trusted route as used in Mario 64 and had left us behind. I remember Tim trooping us all across the courtyard to look at Conker and our hearts all sank as Conker was really good."

- Grant Kirkhope[1]

Afterward, they restructured the game to play more like Conker, which (according to Kirkhope) went a way towards ameliorating the issues.[1][11] This was still not enough for Stamper, who now felt Edson was no longer relevant and wanted an animal protagonist in his place. Their first attempt was a rabbit that, according to Mayles, looked like "a man in a suit" and lasted for "about three days" before getting thrown out.[4][10] They then hit upon the idea of a "tough-looking" bear that wore a backpack to keep adventuring items in.[4] The team immediately took a shine to the bear, and so Edson was summarily retired.[3]

Even with a new face, however, it eventually became clear that Dream was simply too ambitious for its time. The sheer size and scope of the project, as well as the technical approaches they had taken early on, had resulted in a game that was both poorly optimized and poorly focused. Had the team continued at the rate they were going, Dream would have taken several more years to complete-- and even then, they weren't sure how they were going to.[1][3][2]

"[We] wrote a lot of editors [and] put a lot of trees down, but we couldn't quite get a hook of a game."

- Paul Machacek[4]

In the end, Stamper and Mayles decided it was best to scrap the RPG altogether and focus on a new game starring the bear character.[4]

Plot and Characters

All that is known about Dream's storyline is that it involved Edson becoming tangled up in the affairs of an inept band of pirates, who were in search of a rare substance called "Floaty" (possibly the inspiration for Banjo-Tooie's Floater creatures) that would allow them to build a flying ship (and thus better conquer other lands).[4][3] Due to the shift in tone from fairytales/giants to pirates during development, it's unclear whether any elements of this plot (as well as certain characters) existed in the original SNES concept, or if they were exclusive to the N64 version. Thus, this section will be treated as an amalgamation of both.

As mentioned above, Dream's soundtrack was heavily tied to its cast of characters, with each having their own distinct theme. These themes have been included in their entries, with commentary by Kirkhope (pulled from his old website) where applicable.


Aside from Edson's unnamed home village, only three locations are known to date: the Troll-occupied Glitter Gulch Mine, the snowy Prickly Pear Island, and the pirate-filled Hammerhead Beach.[9][12][3] The Glitter Gulch Mine name would be repurposed for a mine world in Kazooie, which was eventually pushed back to Tooie due to time and/or cartridge space constraints. "Hammerhead Beach" would also be reused as the name of a beach world that, in the end, didn't make the cut (though one source suggests it simply became Treasure Trove Cove instead).[3][13]


To do:
Could probably be laid out a bit more neatly.

A few storyboards were shown off in the Rare Replay video, as well as a 2015 eBay charity auction set up by former Rare programmer Will Bryan. They mostly relate to the sequence where Edson finds Dinger. (Images are not necessarily in narrative order. Spelling and grammar errors have been retained in the transcriptions.)

Dream storyboard 1.png
Ed chases butterfly.
Ed reaches edge of mine area
- on all fours as butterfly
fly's off.
Camera pans round reveailing
mine entrance. As butterfly
fly's on.
-Ed is annoyed he didn't get butterfly.
-Then he hears barking.
Ed gets to his feet.
"A dog?.... I can here
adog down there.
Ed stands up.
Camera reveals pathway
+ player runs.

Dream storyboard 2.png
"Yikes...... Lets get outta here!"
Ed & Dinger look at each other turn and start to run


The game's protagonist, an "average kid" wielding a sword (actually made of wood, despite the silvery look it has in the renders).[10][4][14][15] Contrary to popular belief, his name was never "Edison", though he is mistakenly referred to as such in the subtitles of Rare Replay's "making of" video.[16][2] Like Banjo and Kazooie, he would have been voiced by Chris Sutherland.[2]

While the Dream version of his theme (known as "Boy")[17] has never been released, part of it can be heard in "Chase" below. It was eventually reworked into "Time Flies" in Viva Pinata.

Captain Blackeye

Dream Blackeye.jpg

The main antagonist (of the N64 version) and captain of the Mudplugger, with a less-than-stellar reputation among even his own crewmembers.[6] One of the few Dream characters to survive the transition to Banjo, he would make minor cameos in Kazooie, Tooie, and Nuts & Bolts.

"I wanted to make him a little dark but also have some humour in there, so you can hear a bit of a shanty going on in the middle section of the piece. Also I wanted to get across the idea that he thought of himself as grand and honourable even though he was far from it!"

In addition to the above theme, Blackeye was also intended to have an introductory "villain song" in which he (as portrayed by one of the game's artists, backed by a "pirates' chorus" of other team members) would boast about his feats of piracy.[1][6]

Blackeye's Crew

  • Big Belly: A portly, gluttonous pirate.
  • Flintlock Jock: A Scottish pirate wielding a blunderbuss.
  • Grim Jim: A rather lanky pirate.
  • Ripper: Blackeye's pet dog.[18] He may have served as an evil foil to Dinger. He was briefly repurposed as an enemy in Kazoo before being dropped entirely.
  • Slack Jack: A pirate who may or may not have actually been aligned with Blackeye. Little is known about him, as he was only mentioned in passing by Ed Bryan on Twitter.

Big Belly's theme

"I had a lot of fun writing this one as I think you'll hear!! This character was a big fat drunken Pirate that liked to eat and drink way too much. I don't think we ever got to the stage of having an actual model to look at so he remained in our imaginations coupled with this tune to bring him to life .......well.....nearly! I remember I wrote the tune and then Greg(Mayles) suggested adding a few "effects", so of course I went overboard and added lots of stuff."


Dream Madeleine.jpg

Edson's plucky girlfriend.

"I tried to write something that was light with a strong theme. This piece actually turned up briefly in Banjo-Kazooie as Tootie's theme. You hear it in the intro movie as she skips through the grass, it's only a small snippet but this is where it came from."

Captain Cockeye

Dream Cockeye.jpg

A friendly pirate, who possibly served as something of a good counterpart to Blackeye. Like Blackeye, he would also survive Dream's cancellation, but, like Ripper, only made it as far as Kazoo before being dropped.

"This character was a good pirate and a bit of a mad professor so I tried to work in a bit of a noble theme sprinkled with some oddball bits to imply his madness! I don't think we ever got to an in-game character but there was concept art around for him. I added in a slightly pompus middle section for him and I was thinking of "Crown Imperial" by Walton, I thought it gave him that "stiff upper lip" kind of character.......bowler hats and umbrellas with a handlbar moustache!"

Other Characters

To do:
Is there any more info out there on the Giant? (Specifically, anything connecting him to Dream?)
  • Banjo: Not much is known about Banjo's Dream incarnation, other than that he was named after Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi's grandson[footnote 2] and did not (yet) play the banjo.[19][20] His backpack in particular (not shown in the concept art below) was inspired by Japanese randoseru, after the team had visited Japan to attend a show and saw many school-aged children wearing them as a fashion statement.[21][10] Despite the presence of a sword in the concept art, artist Steve Mayles says he never actually used one in-game; he was also said to have had a slightly less cartoony build than his final Banjo-Kazooie model (more along the lines of how he would be portrayed in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate).[22][23]
  • Bully: A secondary character, possibly of the troll persuasion, that would antagonize Edson.[1]
  • Dinger: A dog that Edson finds and rescues in Glitter Gulch Mine at the start of the game.[9][4] His original name was "Scratt", a variant of which would make it into Tooie as the name of a Styracosaurus NPC.[24]
  • The Giant: The presumed antagonist of the SNES version. The team has confirmed that a giant was the main villain of Banjo before Gruntilda was conceived,[25][26] but the "Land of Giants" subtitle and the music track "Giant" imply that at least one would have played a large role in Dream as well.
  • Tiptup: Like Blackeye, Tiptup was originally created for Dream and then transplanted into Banjo. His name was later given to one of the main characters of Diddy Kong Racing, who was in need of one and just happened to also be a turtle.[27]

Bully's theme

"This tune is interesting (well I think so anyway!) as it eventually ended up as the "Mad Monster Mansion" theme. I remember tryng to think of a way to use dark chords and still make it light and humourous, I was listening to "Beetlejuice" quite alot at the time and I liked the style of the music that Mr.Elfman used in the movie. So I started playing with the "oompah" style, that ended being one of the signature styles in the Banjo games, and this tune was born. I really can't quite remember what the character of "Bully" was like, I seem to remember he was like the Troll guarding the bridge in the story of "Billy Goat's Gruff" but I could be totally wrong!"


These tracks are specifically denoted as having been composed for Dream; for others possibly belonging to either Dream or Banjo, see the main page.

Title Theme / To Be a Pirate

Title Theme

To Be a Pirate

Unlike the tracks below, these were written by David Wise (though Kirkhope did provide the live guitar for the first one).[28]

Main Theme

"This piece took a long time to write. Tim Stamper was looking for a big main theme to have for the opening of the game and I wrote several pieces that he liked (or so he said!) but didn't feel captured the feeling of the game. I wanted to have a seafaring feel for the pirate element of the game and a grand sounding noble theme at the same time, and Tim wanted "Big Drums"...hehe! I remember I was in the shower thinking about this tune, I had the opening sea sounding section but no main theme after it, I was humming away and the first little section of the melody just came to me. I dashed to Rare still trying to hum it and managed to get it into Cubase before I forgot it. This tune eventually turned up in" Viva Pinata", I wanted to save it until I had a game that I felt it suited and I was really happy when I realise it would fit into VP. The way the orchestra played it for VP was fantastic, just as I imagined it sounding all those years ago."

The Viva Pinata version of this track is "Oven-Fresh Day".


"This was the first piece that I wrote for "Dream", there wasn't any area of the game for it to go but I just wanted to get started and thought of a beach scene. I really like this piece, there's something calming about it and you can hear how I was using much more traditional chord sequences than I eventually did when it changed to Banjo-Kazooie. I always think of Robinson Crusoe when I hear this piece......don't know why......Ah the good old days!"


"This was going to be a chase sequence between some trolls and the hero in mine carts (similar to the mine cart chase in "Indiana Jones 2") I think. When I wrote the piece I was imagining the camera switching between the hero and the trolls and back so I tried to mix both themes together. You can hear the theme that eventually ended up in "Viva Pinata" as the hero's theme and the "Mad Monster Mansion" theme again for the trolls. I remember thinking this was going to be really hard to pull off but it all came together quite easily."

The second half of this theme (from 0:51 onward) would be reused for "Nutty Acres Action" in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.

High Tides, Swift Sails

Originally titled "Mudplugger", this would later be reused for Gloomy Galleon in Donkey Kong 64.[17] The segment from 1:55 to 2:15 (and 2:34 to 2:53) would be cut from the main theme and instead used for the level's racing minigame.

Prickly Pear Island

"[This] was originally written for a level called "Prickly Pear Island", for the game "Dream". This version seems to be one of my early ideas for a snow/ice level in "Banjo Kazooie". This is way before "Freezeezy Peak" ever existed. I am sure you will be able to hear elements from a few games in the music, can you spot them?"[29]

According to Steve Mayles, no art had been done for the area before Dream was cancelled, so this music track is all that exists of it.[30]


"Hmmmmm.....I really can't think of much to say about this one, I'm not even sure if this is the right title, I was either Trolls our Elves. As you can hear they weren't really really bad, I was trying to make them more mischievous I think."


"As the title implies this was a seafaring piece meant for when you transversed the map screen in the game, it was going to be a bit like Indiana Jones with an arrow and trail taking you on to the next area. I don't think we ever got as far as actually having the map screen in the game, a lot of the stuff I did for "Dream" was all in my imagination as I was working super quick being so excited just to be at Rare. I had a sheet of locations and I just started at the top and worked my way through."


This would eventually be repurposed for the Atlantis section of Jolly Roger's Lagoon in Banjo-Tooie.[31] This early incarnation has a faster tempo than the Tooie version, and includes a segment at 1:40 that was removed from the final composition.


  1. See also Donkey Kong 64, which had started development around this time and ran into similar issues.
  2. Certain statements by Mayles suggest he was not actually named until after Dream's cancellation.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Dream: The Game that Never Was - Grantkirkhope.com, c. 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Dreaming of Banjo - Rare Replay, Aug. 4th, 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Pgs. 19-25 - Retro Gamer #36, Mar. 2007
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Rare Revealed: A Rare Look at Dream - YouTube, Dec. 22nd, 2015
  5. Scribes - Rareware.com, Oct. 24th, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Rare Revealed: Five Things You Didn't Know About Banjo-Kazooie - YouTube, Mar. 17th, 2016
  7. GoldenEye Video Game Music Compositions - Grantkirkhope.com, c. 2010
  8. Tepid Seat, December 2004: Rare Music Team - Rareware.com, Dec. 23rd, 2004
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Gregg Mayles on Twitter: "That's the village Edson lived in. Struggling to remember it's name. Do remember the mine was called Glitter Gulch Mine." - Twitter, Feb. 5th, 2017
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Rare Vintage: Part One - Edge, Oct. 11th, 2010
  11. Special Guest Grant Kirkhope - Guest Grumps - Game Grumps, Mar. 25th, 2013
  12. Gregg Mayles on Twitter: "@JudeDeluca [I] Don't think [Kazoo Beach 1 was Hammerhead Beach]. I recall the name from when the game was Project Dream, but it was a different beach world. With pirates!" - Twitter, Jan. 31st, 2016
  13. Pgs. 18-21 - Nintendo Power #100, Sep. 1997
  14. Scribes - Rareware.com, Mar. 11th, 2005
  15. Scribes - Rareware.com, Feb. 28th, 2007
  16. Rare Ltd. on Twitter: "Not sure if that's news, but the boy hero of Project Dream (pre-Banjo) was called Edson, not Edison. #bombshell #probablynotabombshell" - Twitter, Mar. 20th, 2015
  17. 17.0 17.1 Scribes - Rareware.com, May 9th, 2008
  18. Steve Mayles on Twitter: "Project Dream Blackeye had a dog you know! Ripper was his name, er, ripping was his game! 1996. #tbt" - Twitter, Mar. 31st, 2016
  19. Rarewhere: The Tepid Seat - Rareware.com, Jun. 9th, 1999
  20. Gregg Mayles on Twitter: "The Banjo part is true, not so sure about the Kazooie one though!" - Twitter, Mar. 10th, 2019
  21. Banjo Kazooie's Japan Inspired Backpack - Kotaku, Oct. 8th, 2008
  22. Steve Mayles on Twitter: "@anonymau5_ @RareLtd he was in Dream for a bit, but he never had a sword I'm afraid. Just a smaller head!" - Twitter, Sep. 14th, 2015
  23. Banjo-Kazooie artist ‘surprised Nintendo didn’t change Smash design’ - Video Games Chronicle, Jun. 26th, 2019
  24. Steve Mayles on Twitter: "@Kevbayliss @Ghoulyboy It was 'Scratt' on your concept sheet I think, then @InTimsWorld named him Dinger." - Twitter, Aug. 5th, 2015
  25. Scribes - Rareware.com, Sep. 3rd, 2001
  26. Gregg Mayles on Twitter: "@SeriousMatter20 That's the original 'Temple' scene we had at the very start of dev. Planned bad guy was a giant. Wasn't used in the game." - Twitter, Jul. 1st, 2015
  27. Rarewhere: Banjo-Kazooie Rumour Mill - Rareware.com, Aug. 14th, 1998
  28. Grant Kirkhope on Twitter: "Written by @David_Wise guitar by me" - Twitter, Oct. 16th, 2018
  29. Banjo Kazooie Beta Music Compositions - Grantkirkhope.com, c. 2010
  30. Steve Mayles on Twitter: "It was for an environment in Dream, the cancelled game that preceded BK. No art was done it, only music" - Twitter, Jun. 11th, 2018
  31. Steve Mayles on Twitter: "Realized after 16 years that @grantkirkhope 's Atlantis from #BanjoTooie is a re-purposed Voyage2 from Dream! Don't even try and deny it GK!" - Twitter, May 19, 2016