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Origin of the game.
The hunter in the game, Van Peldt, was a big game hunter who owned a plantation in Barbados (He was British, after all, not American) - He enslaved an African Shaman, who created the game because he noticed Van Peldt was obsessed with games, as a form of revenge, putting Van Peldt's face on the box to appeal to his vanity. He then played the game with Van Peldt and trapped him in the game permanently.

Origin of the game.
The game was made to dissuade white people from going to Africa. Based on the scene of the players from the 19th century, the game existed before the scramble for Africa. The game's conception of Africa is also straight from the nightmare of a Victorian, full of disease, vicious animals, and your own countrymen (Van Pelt) hunting you. If the game was won the player would have vague memories, and if lost the havoc created would always be present. Thus the reason for the game was to send the message to colonizers, "STAY OUT OF AFRICA", it will only get you killed.
  • Variation: The game is aimed at a British audience, and Van Pelt is a Boer, one of their colonial competitors. As for why he has a British accent... um... maybe so he doesn't come across as a Funny Foreigner.

The game can only be played by children.
When Alan first hears the drums the game is located in a busy building site, yet no one can hear the drums but him. Later, both Judy and Peter can hear the drums coming through the ceiling, but their aunt can't. This could go with the WMG below that the game was created to train the youth into brave warriors; since only they could play, it'd stop them from getting adult help and thus make them independent and strong. (Obviously Alan and Sarah are adults during most of the film, but that's probably a loophole that the game didn't expect - it assumes people will continue to play as fast as possible to make it all go away.)
  • Jumanji can be played by teens. Alan, Sarah and Judy were all between 11 and 13 when they started playing.
  • The drums may sound in a frequency that is audible to children and adolescents but not adults. These exist, and some have tried to use them as "security" in places where teenagers congregate.

The game is alive and it wants to be played.
Over and over again... The game senses potential players, and lures them with drum sounds only they can hear. Taking out the pieces 'starts' a game automatically. An accidental drop of the dice 'makes' a move. The game demands on being played fairly too - Van Pelt won't kill the innocent, even those who are players, and the game doesn't appreciate being cheated on.
  • I just realised another thing. Alan picks up two pieces and then drops them on the board, several hours before Sarah arrives. The game has designated him as a player, but a game needs two players, and that's why it dragged both pieces onto the board. Once Sarah came along, the drums summoned her. The game really wants to be played.
    • This opens up another point - you CANNOT play alone, maybe not even "with less than four". Which is another thing to remember with people potentially dying.
  • In the movie's sequel, Jumanji: Welcome the Jungle, the boardgame is found again by a man who shows it to his teenager son. Said son rejects the game because he prefers playing videogames and thinks boardgames are old fashioned. Jumanji reacts by transforming into a videogame, seemingly to take a form that would convince the boy to play it.

The game is a Horcrux.
It's virtually impossible to destroy, has insane defense mechanisms, and outright tries to kill people. There is no way that it cannot be the remnant of the soul of an immensely powerful creature.
  • ...and the Stalker from the animated series is the wizard who created it, or at least a piece of him.

The game itself is the player.
The game plays against the human players under the pretence of a board game for up to four. The game takes a 'turn' in the form of releasing incredibly dangerous jungle things. The game wins if it manages to kill the human players, or if it takes over the environment and turns it into a real jungle. Every time the game is disposed of, it uses its drums to lure in new players.

Jumanji and Zathura are Shadow Games based on non-Egyptian magic.
Presumably, these types of Shadow Games work on different rules, which is why the players don't have to be in the presence of their challenger.
  • Note that in the originally manga, literally any game or competition can be made into a Shadow Game with the application of magic.
Jumanji was created by natives of the jungle to train youth into brave warriors and hunters.
  • Maybe it was a type of Training from Hell for most tribes who had to go under a brave ritual to survive the horrors of the game. Whoever had mastered the game's challenges was declared the winner and the game resets, ready for new hunters to prove their might.
  • The same thing with Zathura. It was created by an advanced alien warrior race. They imprisoned the Zorgon race for crimes against the galaxy and to use as obstacles.
  • The cover of the game lends support to this. The name "Jumanji" is crossed by an African-looking spear, giving it a protagonic presence, but no Wacky Wayside Tribe is ever summoned nor is there evidence that it exist in the game, even though it would be the first and most recurrent enemy in any Darkest Africa written by Victorian whites. And who are the enemies depicted in the four corners? A monkey, an elephant, a rhino and, yep, the white man. Who we know is a challenge summoned by the game, and one of the most dangerous ones. And then there is the fact that it uses drums to summon new players. Drums are communication devices in Africa.
  • This could help explain why, in the animated series, Judy is given such a soft time compared to Peter and Alan: Because the game doesn't consider her part of its target audience.

The games run off magical virtual reality; they don't change real reality.
Zathura and Jumanji unleash their horrors, not by unleashing animals from another words, but by inducing the players into a magical Matrix VR. All the players involved experience the same hyper-realistic Matrix. The game can predict the future, and so can depict the Alternate Future of what would happen if the game was played, but left unfinished (such as that guy getting fired and people freaking out over Alan's mysterious disappearance).

Evidence for this theory: the complete Reset Button when the game ends. It would create a major Temporal Paradox if everything in the game was real; but a magical Matrix can handle it fine.

  • This troper can't think of a single thing about the reset that would cause a Temporal Paradox.
  • I think what they were getting at was that if everything which happened took place in the real world, how could it then all be undone by winning the game without also undoing the rest of history? As in, the lives of every person in Bradford were affected by Alan's disappearance and his father's factory going bankrupt, so wouldn't their actions in turn affect the actions and lives of people elsewhere in America...but now all of that would be undone too? The answer, it seems, is In Spite of a Nail: while it's true that the lives of everyone in town, and everyone they interacted with in those 26 years, would be changed by the Reset Button, we can assume the rest of the country/world stays the same, generally unaffected by it. The same events happen internationally, the same Presidents are elected, and so on, because the actions of the townspeople and those they affected aren't widespread enough to have that much influence. Hopefully.
  • That's still not a temporal paradox. That's a large change. A temporal paradox would be if something is its own cause or both happens and doesn't happens.

Van Pelt is always modelled on the father of the player who gets sucked into the game or rolls the dice to summon him from the board.
  • "A hunter from the darkest wild makes you feel just like a child." The rhyme and Van Pelt's appearance (played by the same actor as Alan Parish's father) seem to bear out this theory. If any of the other players had rolled the dice to summon him, he would have looked like their father instead.
    • Or maybe anyone that caused stress in the player's life (as this could be verified).
    • It could also be that Van Pelt is a human embodiment of the worst fears of the player who rolled the dice. Most people can deal with the stuff that causes them stress as long as it's not a phobia. For example, Alan had a phobia of displeasing/turning out exactly like his dad. That level of fear would not just go away because he fought a few jungle animals. If you think about it, most people who have phobias can trace them back to something another human did to them, or something that happened when humans were present. If humans were not present, as in the case of those who fear being abandoned, then that's still human-driven. Van Pelt then becomes an embodiment and voice for the fears—scarier than any jungle plant or animal because he can talk back and figure out what you're thinking/mess with your head. So another player could roll the dice and get not Van Pelt, but say a witch doctor, a voodoo priestess, anyone that would best fit their fears.
  • If Van Pelt is indeed modelled after the player's father, it adds a layer of Nightmare Fuel to his character : Alan was scared of his father, which made Van Pelt scarier in his eyes and motivated Alan to evade him at all costs. But what about players who love their father ? Imagine having a good relationship with your dear daddy and, suddenly, you're chased by a blood-thirsty hunter who looks just like him.

Van Pelt is a previous player from a session that never ended for him
Just like how Alan got sucked in. But Van Pelt had different rules for getting out. Alan had only to wait for a five or an eight; Van Pelt is trapped until somebody else rolls the "sucked into Jumanji world" scenario, and then he must kill that person. That's why Alan was so terrified of him; they clearly met in Jumanji world, and Van Pelt wanted to kill him. That's also why, the very next time Alan rolled, it brought Van Pelt into the real world. As the only two people who've been inside Jumanji world, their destinies are intertwined. That's also why Van Pelt only wants to kill Alan, and has no desire to kill anybody else.
  • A good theory, but where was his playing piece? Sarah and Alan's pieces where stuck in their places when Judy and Peter began playing.
    • You're assuming there is only one Jumanji Board. We're only shown one—there could be quite a few.
    • But didn't he mention that he tried to kill whoever rolled the dice?
    • Or perhaps he also had to wait for a 5 or an 8, like Alan, but his game ended without either number showing. No, wait, never mind. This theory is fatally flawed. (Exactly what the fatal flaw is will be left to the other Wild Mass Guessers, but it probably involves ancient unfinished Jumanji games.)
      • Actually, this may work if you combine it with the WMG below: Van Pelt gets sucked in but nobody else from his party rolls the needed dice afterwards. To make it worse, the entire group was killed over the course of the game. With no logical way to finish the whole game, Jumanji resets itself, trapping Hunter Van Pelt into it.

Expanding on this:

Van Pelt is a player from a previous game who became trapped and went native.
Van Pelt was a big game hunter in our world during the late Victorian era (judging by his clothing and rifle) who discovered the game lurking in the African jungle. Though the porters tried to warn him and the rest of his hunting party that it was bad mojo, he sat down for a nice board game one evening with his buddies. During the course of the usual proceedings, nearly the entire group was killed by the jungle hazards. Van Pelt, now quite insane and frustrated that this was something he couldn't kill, asked the spirit within the game to stop playing around and fight him properly. Its answer was to the effect of, "Okay, fine," and so it sucked him into its jungle. Unlike Alan, who constantly sought a way out of the game, Van Pelt decided he was thoroughly enjoying this new challenge and gave himself over to the game entirely.
  • Given his immaculately clean appearance (pre-paint can collapse), his lifestyle inside the game would probably be similar to what he was familiar with beforehand. This would make him even more of a Jerkass for hunting poor Alan rather than taking him in.

Van Pelt and Alan are related.
We know that the last people who had the game were also from around there, and Parrishes have clearly been a prominent family in those parts for a very long time. While first looking around the house after moving in, Peter finds a bust of some guy with sideburns just like Van Pelt's (maybe it was actually him). He isn't just played by the same actor as Alan's father for the heck of it; it's to show the family resemblance.
As already noted, he apparently got himself stuck as a permanent part of the game long ago.
  • He may have been the one who thought of the Parrish/Pelt motto of facing danger as a man. Which is why he smiled when Alan decided to do so.

Van Pelt is one of the kids from 1869 who was seen burying the game.
The boy who was playing with him died during the game, and Van Pelt was left to wander the jungle forever since his game couldn't be finished. Eventually, after Alan finished his game, the Reset Button sent Van Pelt back to his time and brought his friend back to life.

Van Pelt only survived that long in the jungle because his friend died and the game ended in a draw. The next game that took place (Alan, Sarah, Judy, and Peter) concluded itself with a clear winner, which pressed the Reset Button on that game as well as the previous, unconcluded game.

And going off on the previous theory, the boy who became Van Pelt could also be Alan's ancestor.

Van Pelt IS Alan...
Similar to how in Zathura, Walter became an astronaut and was involved in the game even though he was already playing it, Alan became Van Pelt in another universe where Judy and Peter never discovered the game. He was stuck inside the game because he had no way of getting out. Eventually he went native, joined some sort of hunting party and became the Van Pelt we all know and hate.

...Or perhaps, his hatred and/or "evil" side.
During the events in the jungle, this side was removed from him, and molded into a form he could actively fear or hate, to push him to continue challenging it. This side of him was either destroyed, or sent back to the universe in which savage feelings belong anyway. Which couple with Fridge Brilliance/Horror when you realize that this might possibly happen to anyone...

If a game has only one surviving player, then that player is added to the game.
A variant on the "Van Pelt gone native" theory above.

This has two purposes: it prevents people from abandoning games because they think their victory is trivial; and it punishes players who won't cooperate with the other players.

Van Pelt is Linus from Peanuts.
At some point he got sucked into a world of monsters with nothing but his blanket to rely on. He's been known to use his blanket for self-defense, so he's certainly no pushover, but after a few days of merely beating animals back, he snaps and decides he needs a more permanent solution, hence the gun. His blanket, now stained with the blood of many, many foes, becomes the cape he wears as an adult. Oh, and Linus's canonical last name? Van Pelt.

Alan Parrish and Sy Parrish from One Hour Photo are the same person.
In 1995, as Jumanji ends, Alan Parrish is about 38 and appears to have the perfect life. Clearly, something terrible and life-shattering happens in the seven years before the events of One Hour Photo take place. He changes his name and moves to Los Angeles, alone.

His disturbed personality traits during OHP make sense. Alan's relationship with his father has severe problems which are resolved only superficially; and nobody could possibly spend twenty-six years, including most of their later childhood, in a terrifying, hostile environment all alone and come out as okay as Alan appeared when Jumanji ended.

Van Pelt's reason for trying to kill Alan was...
  • To stop the game from continuing and leaking more destruction into the real world. He was merely stalking Alan in the jungle in an attempt to travel with him and kill the players before they could bring more horrors through and endanger their society.

  • To go back to the real world in Alan's place. After all those thirty-odd years of trying, things got personal, so when he became one of the game's perils, he decided he would rather sew his loose ends than try to explore the real world.

  • He never wanted to kill Alan. The game created him to help Alan face the fear of his father, and if he actually had stood up against Van Pelt, Van Pelt would have disappeared. His shots were intentional misses (except the one he knew Alan would foil by declaring Jumanji), but Jumanji made him too good, so everyone that got in his way was in real danger of being killed.

  • Alan rolled the dice that summoned him. It's just what he does.

The board game is an Eldritch Abomination that turns universes into copies of itself when the game is lost.
If someone lost a game of Jumanji, everything would come loose and spread and spread until the real world was a jungle world like Jumanji. It would then go around looking for more universes to convert.
  • This is supported by the fact that in the real life board game based on the movie, the space for dangers that aren't defeated by the players is called the "Doomsday Grid", implying the end of the world if it's filled.

Jumanji's a curse from vengeful jungle spirits.
They're angry at 19th century safari dudes for ruining their unspoiled nature, so this is the punishment. It comes in the form of the kind of amusement westerners enjoy, and hits them with perils based on the Darkest Africa stereotype. Definite ironic punishment. If there's an Egyptian version to punish graverobbers, it definitely has stiff-armed living mummies and other crap they were afraid of. Zathura, by extension, is a pre-emptive one for spoiling outer space.

Everyone survived in the 1995 timeline.
Alan and Sarah remain in the timeline, only a "copy" of their memories getting sent back, and the poison in Judy's system gets sucked back into the game. Granted, it's still kind of depressing for Alan, who believes he and his father never had the chance to reconcile in any way, but it's okay for Sarah, who is validated in both timelines and still an adult in the 1995 timeline, Judy, who survives, and pretty much everyone since Alan might be able to reacquire some of his family's commercial assets and help rebuild the house (his old house) that the kids' aunt had just bought. As for emotional trauma, everything in the 1995 timeline is still present in the 1969 timeline for Alan and Sarah, and the people in alt-1994 are technically different people (being almost a year younger and never having experienced the effects of the game), so it's not like that's got any measurable advantage for them.
  • There's no indication of alternate timelines existing as alternate universes in the film, it seems like the timeline is completely changed and the "1995 timeline" simply no longer exists.

Van Pelt taught Alan the skills he would need to survive the jungle world of Jumanji
Not as an act of kindness, but with the intent of turning Alan into resilient prey worthy of being hunted. While Alan recognizes Van Pelt as a sociopath from the beginning it isn't until the hunter tries to kill him that he realizes just how sadistic he is.

Jumanji and Zathura were created by a sadistic Eldritch being.

Someone - something - had to have created the board games in the Jumanji 'verse - something with almost Godlike power, as the games clearly have the ability to augment reality - thus this entity would have had to give them either a fragment of its own power, or be in a position to access something of such immense paranormal force. It would be easy enough to label them as creations of a fun-loving Trickster god, much like The Mask, if not for the fact that these games, while seeming like harmless paranormal fun at first, are very much intended to kill people - particularly, the children playing the game. The fact that the board games don't rack up a bloody death count stems less from their own canonical potential, and more from the fact that these movies aren't rated R (or 18+).

So the logical conclusion remains - just what cosmic horror with a creatively sadistic flair created these games? Perhaps they want man's imagination to be his downfall...

Take note that the Jumanji game must have been created in the 1800s, if Van Pelt is any judge. During the peak of the British Empire, no less. Perhaps it was a horrible punishment for what the British Empire did to a lot of African tribes.Zathura, meanwhile, has aesthetic designs which were very similar to the perception of sci-fi in the 1950s; following this line of thought, it's plausible that the same entity created Zathura as punishment for mankind's unprecedented wars in the first half of that century.

Jumanji and Zathura are the same magical artifact
It is a magical item or cursed item that appears as a game that is semi-familiar to those it encounters and wishes to ensnare. It is not one particular game, but rather a magical item that takes the form of a game.
  • In a way, confirmed in the books.
  • Something worth remembering though while in the movies they are clearly different game sets, in the Zathura book, they find the Zathura board underneath the Jumanji board when they find it's theme boring. With this in mind, it's the box itself that is either enchanted or if the box is the maker in disguise. So that being said the box would probably keep spawning game boards that cause the same game just until it finds a theme willing to entice it's players. Jumanji being the default may just be a reflection of when it was made, but it probably could give any theme it wanted to for a game.

Van Pelt is genuinely trying to be a father-figure for Alan
Hear me out on this. He's so capitally hardened by his big-game hunter life, and, being from the time period he looks to be from, he's being a dad the only way he knows how. Imagine the upbringing Van Pelt must've had! He keeps trying to tough Alan up, telling him to "Face me like a man" - while holding a gun - and does so because it's how he was raised. In fact, Van Pelt is probably seriously scarred to the point of anhedonia, and he probably wants to carve Alan (not literally) into a version of himself. See, if he achieves this, he will finally feel the love of seeing himself in another human (and that's what love is, right?). He laughs when Alan finally does face him "like a man". This is his anhedonia melting off, slightly. So he's all up on Alan being his warped idea of tough because he's trying to be a father figure. Come on, he wouldn't be the first person to go about it all wrong. The fact that he was actually going to kill Alan is because his anhedonia (complete lack of pleasure) has made him suicidal. But a "man" wouldn't commit suicide, so he wants to kill the prodigy who's now willing to face him.

Jumanji feeds off the fears of its players.
Perhaps the game doesn't try to actually kill its players at all. Under this theory the game prevents its players from actually dying but puts them in situations that cause extreme fear and distress. Perhaps it makes them confront specific fears such as the duality fear of Van Pelt representing Alan's fear of confronting his father. Furthermore, the game does this because it converts their fear into the energy it needs to perpetuate itself and its powers. Though this makes the game seem 100% sadistic, this theory also allows for the possibility that the game chooses players who can affect the future in a positive way as a result of having played the game. For instance, Alan has a better relationship with his father, saves someone's job, and is a more mature individual after the game. Also, Alan and Sarah are able to influence Judy and Peter's parents into not taking the trip that ultimately kills them and scars Judy and Peter. Under this idea, the game may itself be a living spirit or some other creature in disguise of a culturally relevant/understandable game. Perhaps it is a primal force of balance and by causing distress to players it can then cause good things to happen to them as well.

Magic aside, Jumanji is just a game.
The warning on the box is flavor text and the players aren't ever in any real danger. If a player dies in the game, Jumanji removes them from turn order (like it presumably temporarily does for people waiting for a specific die roll) and the game continues until reset, when they're resurrected. If all players die, the game automatically resets and displays a little game over rhyme. No one in recent memory realizes this because the original owner lost the game or died without telling people of its secrets and all subsequent players won and then (understandably) freaked out and tried to get rid of it without understanding it wouldn't have done permanent damage.

There are other games, spanning different settings
We already know of Zathura, a space adventure. There could easily be a fantasy adventure, a pirate adventure, a prehistoric adventure, a horror adventure, etc out there, waiting to be played.
  • As hinted above, in the movies yes they could have potential that multiples exist. But in the books it's more likely the game box can make whatever theme it needs to entice a player.
  • The series actually features "Brantford: The Game", which is a game set in a bizarre/"jumanjized" version of suburban America. Its playing pieces are modeled after people instead of jungle animals.

Jumanji's designer was Philip Lemarchand.
Surprised this one hasn't popped on here sooner. Both the Lament Configuration and the game are beautifully crafted pieces of artwork, really. Each is a gateway for their users to more than they bargained for. The box was made for adults who had become jaded to the pleasures available to them. The game was designed for a younger audience, who had grown bored of the pleasures of youth and adolescence. Solving the Lament Configuration summons the Cenobites, along with their definition of pleasure. Playing Jumanji summons the creatures of that jungle, and their definition of fun. Unlike the Lament Configuration, though, Jumanji has a sort of exit clause; if you win the game, then all the damage the game caused is reversed.

Carl can make very brief glimpses into the future.
His accuracy at predicting the shoe styles of the 90's is due to his bizarre ability to see fleeting images of the world of tomorrow.

The game has an Enfant Terrible personality.

As Sarah and Alan said, the game thinks. Therefore it's not implausible that the game has a personality. In this WMG, the game acts like an innocent trapped being drumming its heart out to escape. Players are lured by the siren beat of the drums. By the time the board game has wrecked their entire world, it's too late, just like when a human Enfant Terrible throws a raging tantrum. Yet, the game always sucks back its destruction as if to say, "I'm sorry; play again?" Insert Evil Laugh here.

The 1995 timeline was All Just a Dream.

Alan Parrish is a somewhat introverted, shy kid who is easy prey for bullies like Billy Jessup, and whose father is unnecessarily strict. Since he grows up in the late '60s, There Are No Therapists or other traditional means of dealing with this. Under this theory, he actually did find the Jumanji game in the construction site, but the magic it contains is All Just a Dream. That is, Alan's dream begins when he gets sucked inside the game. The 1995 timeline then serves to show him who he grew up to be, what his town became, and what he could be if he faced his fears. The timeline also gives him the opportunity to do that, through the jungle dangers of Jumanji. Once he has accomplished his quest, he "wakes up." Sarah may be going through a similar trajectory. in which Jumanji helps her deal with insecurities, whatever attraction she has to Billy Jessup, and other issues.

  • If you're wondering where the 1869 kids fit in, they could be part of the same theory. Or...
  • Doesn't explain how Judy and Peter can exist in the future exactly as they were within Alan's "dream."

Jumanji's magic was much more potent and dangerous in 1869.

This is why we don't see anything except the very end of the 1869 timeline. Perhaps as the game ages, it loses power in increments, or else it takes on a more psychological relationship with its players, rather than trying to physically destroy them.

  • Perhaps it has a limited power supply? Or rather than losing power over time, it becomes weaker every time its used?

Jumanji chooses its players.

One would think that with as long as Jumanji has been around (over 100 years according to the film) more people would have played it or at least would know of its existence and therefore avoid it. Yet this doesn't happen because Jumanji chooses its players based on their needs. For example, it chooses Alan based on his need to become courageous, and to mend his relationship with his father. It chooses Judy, Peter, and Sarah to help them grow as characters while simultaneously escaping the Bad Future of the 1995 timeline.

  • This would also explain why only some people can hear the drums and why said drums get more intense if the chosen player tries to walk away from the game.

The game is an SCP.
Building on that, it was one of Doctor Wondertainment’s first products. The Doctor was still relatively inexperienced then, and disposed of it when it ended up being actually dangerous.

Jumanji is a Pocket Universe that holds the Exaggerated Africa and everything in it, and when played, the beings escape into our Reality.
Jumanji is (as mentioned by a theory above) that it's a Reality Warper. But it's more than that, as parts of it's reality escapes into our own, causing havoc. That is mostly because of the exaggerated stories of Africa (killer mosquitos, Earth-breaking Earthquakes, killer quicksand, etc.) that were passed around throughout the years.

Jumanji creates temporal timelines created by when players play the game. So, when the game ends and causes a Universal Reset Button, the timeline doesn't exist anymore.
This means that every time a player plays the game, it locks a time point so that when the reset happens, almost no time has passed.

(Note:You could make the same assumption about it's related game from long ago, Zathura.)

Jumanji and its sibling games were created by the Gentry
The Gentry(AKA the Others, the True Fae, and several names besides) from Changeling The Lost are sadistic, god-like, magical Eldritch Abomination that often kidnap humans and torment them in a variety of ways. Creating games like Jumanji and Zathura would be right up their alley, and they totally have the power to do it. Of course, this means that Alan is a Changeling whose Keeper never made him a Fetch, an Ogre to be precise, and Peter is a Beast. Sarah and Judy are ensorcorelled, and Van Pelt is either a Loyalist, Hunter, or Alan's Keeper.

if the game holder can create board games like Zanthura, what dangers could there be in a Disney (or Fantasy) board game?
posionus foodsthornsgiants/orcsEvil witches(?)pirates?

Kayaba Akihiko was a Jumanji Survivor

2009 Tokyo; a bright yet overly imaginative 14 year old boy called Kayaba Akihiko hears mysterious drumbeats coming from a dark forgotten corner in the back of vintage game console store, on the last day of its closing down sale. He nonchalantly picks a moldy paper box from the creaky old shelf, and to his surprise the grey haired owner screamed “Take it! I thought I got rid of that evil thing! Have it for free! Just get it away from me!”

Akihiko shrugged, went home and blew the dust off the box, illustrated in the style of a 1950s American Jungle Adventure Novel like Tarzan, plugs the suspiciously-clean PlayStation One Console it into his room’s television, and shouts “I’ll be right down!” in response to being called for dinner...

...not knowing it would be the last time he would see his mother for 20 long years.

But moments later for Mrs Kayaba, her son lethargically stumbled to the dinner table, his once-bright and enthusiastic eyes replaced by the tired ones of man twice his age, weary with the ponderous burden of phyrtic victories, meaningless sacrifices, broken dreams and lost love. Akihiko mumbled “after all I did, I had to leave her behind, what was all that for.” Mrs Kayaba saw the tears welling in her son’s hollow eyes and hugged him, thinking he meant he was dumped by a girl at school, not knowing that the heart of the furiously weeping boy had stayed and died in the jungles of Jumanji.

Refusing to reconcile with the reality that his two deaths before being forced to sacrifice the NPC he loved and even married to return to the now meaningless “real” world was all for noting, Ahihiko took inspiration from his ordeal and voraciously delicated himself to the study of Game Creation, so he may one day re-create a world where death, loss and sacrifice actually HAS meaning, with the ONE life you have and will ever get, and graduated with Honors from Professor Shigemura’s University Course....

...on November 6 2022, The Immersive Online Game Sword Art Online was unleashed onto the unsuspecting world.

“I beat you, old friend. I finally beat you” he bitterly chuckled at the ancient PlayStation One console, form which the drums still mysterious beat as he shouts “Link Start.”

Linking to the above WMG, The Engine that ran the original Sword Art Online Servers IS Jumanji
How else can a 26 year old college professor create a living, breathing world real to all-senses save for pain, with nightmarish-monsters our for your blood, not to mention NPC and AI like Yui-Chan so nuanced and complete in personality they practically have souls? With technology that is a mere FOUR years away from now? Just as Zathura ran on the same magical “engine” of Jumanji to create a living breathing Space Opera, it stands to reason Kayaba was able to hack the now-electronic Jumaji after beating it...... or worse, enslave the game, take it apart and hard-wire it into the Sword Art Online server to help create the living-breathing Heroic-Fantasy World of Aincrad.

Jumanji and Toy Story take place in the same continuity
Jumanji is a toy. A toy who, like Woody, decided one day to "break some rules". But rather than for altruistic reasons, Jumanji did it for egotistic ones. He wanted to be played, because being played makes toys feel alive. But over time, he let all this go to his head... uh... instructions manual... and became evil. And with evilness came the power, and his desire to turn tables, and make humans feel like toys in his hands... I mean... playing pieces.

Jumanji was created by Ego as a planet-reformer prototype
When one fails to beat Jumanji, the game swallows the whole planet and "Jumanjizes" it. Just like Ego intended to do to every inhabited planet in the universe. Unfortunately, Jumanji could be beaten by a couple of determined kids, after which it reverted all damage done. Hence, he had to go for plan B.

Carl became a police officer because Alan disappeared
He wanted to help, but Sam didn't want him around and maybe suspected him. So he went to the police academy to both clear his name and help uncover what happened to Alan.

The flowers that shoot poison darts and the Man-Eating Plant that lassos legs are part of the same organism, rather than two different species
The shooting flowers down the prey and the lasso flower(s?) eat it. All of them benefit from it, because they are all part of the same plant. It is the only way the flowers shooting darts make sense.
  • Not that they really have to make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, considering they're magical constructs of a supernatural board game.

Van Pelt is the game's avatar
Similar to the humanoid form of the aforementioned Ego, he's just a physical extension of the Genius Loci that is Jumanji. In other words, he's not just another threat within the game, he is the game.

Jumanji, Zathura, and any unknown other games in the series, are actually benevolent trickster mentors to whomever happens to play them
The games have a way of knowing when their players need to learn An Aesop and will provide them with a game experience that demonstrates it. For instance, if someone needed to be taught that violence is never the answer, the game would put them in situations that require them to think. Someone needing to realize the value of teamwork would be faced with obstacles that can't be overcome alone. The game covers whatever lesson needs to be learned.
  • It works, You play the game and learn about the traits the game feels you lack, such as Alan having to learn to stand up for himself, Sarah learning to face her fears, and the kids learning to get along, the sequel is pretty much the same, learning the value of teamwork is the big one, but the teens each have their own, Spencer learns confidence, Fridge learns about humility, as does Bethany, whereas Martha learns to be more comfortable and assertive with herself.

Jumanji has a very specific Aesop in mind for its players.
Going somewhat off of the above, Jumanji specifically intends to teach its players about the dangers of escapism taken too far. The game looks for players dissatisfied with their actual lives in some way or another and entices them with "a game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind", but through exposure to a realm of pure nightmares the players learn to appreciate said world all the more.

Jumanji is somehow linked to Gruntilda Winkybunion
Because why not? Magical? Check. Rhymes on a Dime? Check. Old? Check and double check. Perhaps this was the game Grunty made when she was trapped in L.O.G's game studio. I mean, she lives in a World of Funny Animals, so she had plenty of inspiration.

Billy Jessup ended up becoming the father of Kevin from Ed, Edd n Eddy

     Animated Series 

Tribal Bob was once a human.
We know that Peter once became a Manji, though he was cured, there nothing saying it never happened before. All the other Manji have animal-like masks, but Bob's looks vaguely human-like, like Peter's did. Bob was once a player who got stuck in Jumanji, and became a Manji to survive. He probably didn't have anyone close to him to bring him back to his human form.

Tribal Bob was once a girl.
We don't even know if "he" ever gave a name to the main characters, they just went with "Tribal Bob", and if Peter's near-permanent transformation is any indication, it is likely that Tribal Bob forgot "his" name anyway, in case "he" was a human once. Bob also happens to be smaller, with bigger eyes and more delicate features than other Manjis, and with long, flowing flocks of blonde hair on each side of "his" head. In other words, if Bob didn't already exist as a character, "he" would probably be most artists's idea of how a female Manji should look like.

Squint was a real person in his first episode
While Squint was a jerk in his debut episode and lied to the main characters in order to get his revenge, it was a very personal goal and at least somewhat sympathetic. In successive episodes, he becomes an outright villain with generic goals and betrays others at the drop of a hat. Perhaps this Motive Decay was because he really was a person trapped in Jumanji who wanted revenge against the monster that had disfigured him, but once he died taking it down, Jumanji brought him back as one of its characters.

The basic elements of Jumanji are regularly reset
The character pages mention some Negative Continuity for villains who seem to die or locations that seem to be destroyed in early appearances, only for them to appear like nothing had happened later on. Jumanji is a game, so it's entirely possible that what's happening is simply that it respawns certain elements when they have been destroyed. Like NPCs in most games, the characters themselves may not even be aware of this, as Trader Slick and Ibsen especially seem to be concerned when their assets are threatened, despite it never sticking. Jumanji may have some exceptions or alternate methods to accomplish this, however, as it apparently let the Sorceress of Jumanji stay defeated, and it once tried to have Peter replace Van Pelt to keep him around.

The Running Gag of Slick having a different middle name every time isn't just a joke
Related to the above theory, perhaps each time Slick has a different name, it's a sign he has respawned and the game generated a new name for him, with such treatment being unique to him as part of his role as a duplicitous character.

The Stalker isn't 'evil'
The Stalker is dangerous and powerful, being the physical embodiment of Jumanji, but not evil. It merely wanted the dice back, not to hurt Alan. If he'd turned over the dice it would have just walked away - it didn't want him to have the dice because they were a Game-Breaker and the game couldn't be played without them. Later, when Peter threatened the game, it was not specifically angry at him, but wanted to remind him of how powerful it was - they'd thought they'd destroyed it before, but it came back.