Nintendo is a juggernaut of a company with war-chests of money. They’ve earned their place with savvy business moves, creative game designs, and inventive characters. Looking at everything they did from the late ’80’s to early ’90’s, it’s amazing they didn’t damage their IP’s (intelectual properties). Case in point, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
There were three incarnations of the Mario Bros. cartoons. The Super Show aired in ’89, consisting of 65 episodes. Each episode consisted of a cartoon starring Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool (she wasn’t Peach yet) as they defended the Mushroom Kingdom from King Koopa (he wasn’t Bowser yet). The character designs came mostly from the U.S. version of Super Mario 2 for the NES but crossed with the original Super Mario Bros. Goombas, Shyguys, Bob-ombs, power stars, and flying carpets made regular appearances. Most of the sound effects came from the game itself, adding an interesting immersive layer. The episodes mostly parodied pop culture with titles like “Escape from Koopatraz” or “Raiders of the Lost Mushroom.” Edgy stuff. Mario also had a plumbers log that he used to narrate.
The cartoons were padded with live action sitcom bits from the voice actors dressed as Mario and Luigi. Pro wrestler Captain Lou Albano played Mario and Danny Wells as Luigi. With the acting chops of these guys, I doubt they ever had a second take. Especially considering they were given plots and the two improvised their lines. There were regular guest stars like Ernie Hudson, Cyndi Lauper, Danica McKellar, Inspector Gadget, and other ’80s leftovers. Occasionally Albano and Wells would play females versions of their characters, Marianne and Luigeena, their cousins. Or their hillbilly cousins Mario Joe and Luigi Bob. The production cost for each episode was obviously in the triple digits.
Every Friday instead of airing a Mario cartoon, one based on the Legend of Zelda was shown. While consisting of only 13 episodes, I have a lot more to say about it. Look for a post next week.
The next season of the show wisely ditched the live action bits and hired real voice actors for Mario and Luigi. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (guess what game it was based on) aired in fall of 1990 along side the new Captain N: The Game Master. I remember watching this as a kid and loved seeing all the power-ups from the game in the show. Reminding viewers that the Mario Bros. were teleported to the Mushroom Kingdom, their were episodes that took place in the real world occasionally with the koopalings invading, or other shenanigans. The show still used sound effects from the game.
The final cartoon was Super Mario World, and chronicled Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool’s adventures in Dinosaur Land (or inexplicably World sometimes). In this prehistoric world they met Yoshi, and other cave-people. Oogtar replaced Toad though the voice actor remained the same. This final animated incarnation only lasted 13 episodes.
In ’94 The Family Channel aired the animated portions (removing the live action parts from the original) as Mario All-Stars. All three shows had a presence, though no new episodes were aired.
Words cannot describe this show. Watching any of it now, especially Lou Albano dancing around, it’s easy to see how this cocaine fueled ‘vision’ (speculation on my part, it was the ’80’s after all) from some producer tailspinned into the Super Mario Bros. (1993) film. It’s like watching a person slowly descend into madness. Just fascinating. I could go on, but I think the work speaks for itself.
“Until next time, do the Mario!”