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The Removal of Tawna

Tawna happily holds Crash in her arms.

As a character, Crash is known for being an unlikely hero who stops Dr. Cortex's evil plots time and time again. Though saving the world is all the motivation he needs, things were quite different during his first adventure, which was fueled mostly by the "get the girl" cliché.

Tawna was one of the original characters in the series, and a bit of an oddball at that. She was only present in the first game (excluding visual references and Japanese appearances), and she was the only character to fit the ever-so-brief girlfriend role that drove Crash into his first archipelago rampage.

Although Crash managed to rescue Tawna from the clutches of Dr. Cortex, fate had other plans for our bandicoot girl. By the time the sequel came along, Tawna was nowhere to be seen, and there was no mention of her in the game whatsoever. This confused many players for years, but we do know the actual reason behind this decision now.

Why Tawna Got the Boot

Jessica RabbitTawna was invented by Naughty Dog's Jason Rubin, who wanted to create a romantic relationship for Crash similar to that of Roger Rabbit — while the hero is an unattractive and extremely goofy guy, he's involved with a woman so beautiful that everyone is left wondering how she's even attracted to him to begin with. Jason has even admitted that Tawna was partially based on Roger's wife, Jessica.

Charles Zembillas, the artist who brought Tawna to life, produced a variety of different designs for her, and, as per Jason's instructions, they all shared the same, sexy traits. A blunt way to put it is that Jason specifically wanted the character to be voluptuous and wear a revealing outfit.

Sketches of Tawna

This choice eventually caught the eye of Universal Interactive Studios, who were publishing the game. They were concerned that the character's design was inappropriate for a family game, especially considering that Tawna appeared at the end of each Bonus Round. Naughty Dog fought back, but in the end, Universal prevailed and Tawna's design was altered, reducing the character's chest considerably and giving her more humble attire.

Coco BandicootThe unwanted change in Tawna's design was a contributing factor to her removal by Naughty Dog, but not the only one. According to Charles Zembillas, Naughty Dog was trying to get on Sony Computer Entertainment Japan's good side at the time, and the people there weren't comfortable with Crash having a sexy girlfriend. What followed was an effort to create a new character that acted as a female companion to Crash, albeit playing the entirely different role of cute little sister. A few of Charles's sketches later and Coco was born, becoming one of the most recurrent characters in the series, at the cost of Tawna's early goodbye.

Tawna with Pinstripe.It's interesting to note that even though the games never bother to explain Tawna's mysterious and sudden withdrawal, Japan took measures to circumvent the matter by adding a unique event to the sequel's manual not featured in other territories: Tawna left Crash for Pinstripe. Must have been that suave mafia potoroo charm. This was also included in the Dansu! De Jump! Na Daibouken manga, and there were mentions of Crash missing Tawna in later games in Japan, including a hastily-written text epilogue in Crash Bash that describes the two of them getting back together.

Should Tawna Have Stayed?

It's interesting to imagine how different things would have been if Tawna hadn't been kicked out of the franchise. For one thing, Coco probably wouldn't exist. As Crash's younger and much more intelligent sister, the two of them have an interesting relationship that revolves around their differences and how surprisingly well they get along with each other. They're always looking after each other, and it's evident how far they're willing to go to rescue one another.

Coco tinkering with her tools.

Coco's initial role was largely passive, as she was limited to finding out the truth behind Cortex's plans. It was nice to see someone working on Crash's side for a change, but Coco also became part of the action afterwards. This is where things get interesting.

Because of her traits and similar build to Crash, it's easier to make Coco a playable character than Tawna. Not only is the latter too tall compared to Crash, but her design simply doesn't allude to someone people would enjoy playing as. She was created for the sole purpose of being Crash's heartthrob, and it shows. You can argue that they could have made her learn kung-fu like Coco did, but she would still look awkward tackling the usual Crash platforming.

If anything, Tawna's role, had she been kept, would likely have been similar to Coco's during her debut. Her description in the game's production bible reveals that she was considered to be much more than a simple, captive love interest:

The perfect blend of beauty and brains, TAWNA is the only creature to go through the EVOLV-O-RAY without a subsequent visit to the CORTEX VORTEX. (...) More than a simple damsel in distress, TAWNA spends her time matching wits with N. CORTEX, attempting to reason with N. BRIO, and fomenting revolution among CORTEX's henchmen. TAWNA is a force to be reckoned with.

TawnaIt's a bummer that this never materialized in the game, but it would have been interesting to see in hypothetical cutscenes. As it was, we were never given any clues about Tawna's actual personality, which made it harder to care about her removal in the process.

At least we know Tawna was supposed to be smart. Maybe not absurdly intelligent like Coco, but smart enough to hold her own during a pinch. In the end, though, it's unlikely that Tawna would have become more than a supportive character in the background, as even Coco herself was reduced to this role a few times, despite having shown her abilities before. All Tawna had going for her was persuasion, which severely limited her potential.

One other thing to keep in mind is that being able to play as a female character not only adds variety but also potentially makes the game more appealing to young girls, which is what Naughty Dog ended up going for by the third game. Coco's design and personality is much more relatable to this demographic than Tawna was, and she is a good counterpart to Crash's scatterbrained nature.

Coco and Crash lie down on the sand.

There is, of course, the third option of bringing back Tawna while keeping Coco, but at this point, reintroducing a love interest would just feel out of place. In fact, you might argue that Tawna no longer has a place in this series, as Crash has long evolved beyond the point of needing a girlfriend. As it is, removing Tawna seems like it was a sensible thing to do in the long run.

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