Friday, February 15, 2013

Childhood Memories: A Few Marios More

So last time, we looked at the classic late 80s gem known as "The Super Mario Bros. Super Show". It had it all, Captain Lou Albano, Mario and the gang, witty humor, live segments with special guest stars, stories that spoofed popular media, and even special Friday "The Legend of Zelda" episodes. Sadly, that greatness only lasted for one season, or more accurately 65 episodes. It was re-played on various networks for years, so it got plenty of exposure, and it was good enough that many people still remember it fondly today. That wasn't the end of animated Mario on American network television, however. He saw a continued life in the form of two further cartoon series, the first of which as you can see above, was called "The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3".

Still produced by DiC Entertainment, it was originally blocked together with another Nintendo inspired show called "Captain N: The Game Master", which I won't get into here, as it certainly deserves it's own article. This new show had no live action segments, so instead in it's original form, the format would see a Captain N episode book-ended by two Super Mario Bros. 3 episodes. Part of the reason there were no longer live action Mario Bros. segments, is because for whatever reasons, Captain Lou and Danny Wells were no longer playing Mario and Luigi. Those parts were now played by Walker Boone (who had a much gruffer voice than Albano) and Tony Rosato (who managed to sound closer to his predecessor). As a matter of fact the only voice actors to carry over from the Super Show, were John Stocker as Toad and Harvey Atkin as King Bowser Koopa. The show was still largely animated by the same people, so the characters kept the same basic look, with only slight changes. Similar to the Super Show, the cartoon also extensively used sound effects directly from the Super Mario Bros. 3 game, and even variations on it's music. The catchy rap intro from the Super Show was gone, replaced by a narration over the "Doom Ship" level theme from the game, and each episode had a nice little title screen accompanied by a map from one of the game's worlds, complete with that world's theme song.

The Gang's All Here!

Now, storywise, in comparison to the Super Show, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was slightly more cohesive, in the sense that while in the first show each episode took place in a different, made up world, in this show, most episodes took place in the "Mushroom World", as represented by Super Mario Bros. 3 itself. Fitting with SMB3, as you can see in the picture above, Bowser once again tries to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom, this time bringing along his 7 kids, the "Koopalings". In an odd twist, as it would turn out though, this show went into production before Super Mario Bros. 3 had come out in America, so the creators didn't have names for the Koopalings, and had to make up their own. As such, their names for the show were as follows: Larry was "Cheatsy", Morton was "Big Mouth", Wendy was "Kootie Pie", Iggy was "Hip", Lemmy was "Hop", Roy was "Bully", and Ludvig von Koopa was "Kooky". They stuck with this because why not, I guess, even after the game came out, so I'm sure there was certainly confusion from fans. As most Mario fans know, Nintendo of America named the Koopalings based on various musicians and entertainment personalities. The names DiC came up with, were decidedly.....less creative. But alas.

What's weirder, seeing Milli Vanilli in a cartoon, or seeing Wendy O. Koopa in a miniskirt?

Now like I said, most of the stories in this Mario 3 based cartoon took place in Mushroom World, and fitting that, there are episodes where they travel to Desert Land, Giant Land, Ice Land, etc. Each episode naturally features some kind of scheme by Bowser and his brats that the Mario Brothers have to find a way to thwart. Like the previous show, the Marios would often do this with the aid of power ups straight out of the games, and in this case that most often took the form of the Raccoon Leaf, which would transform them into Raccoon Mario and Luigi, though on the odd occasion they would also bust out the Frog Suit. Not all of the stories take place in the Mushroom World though, in fact several of them actually take place in our "real world", with Bowser and Co. trying to expand their horizons by conquering Earth instead. One episode, entitled "Reptiles in the Rose Garden" sees Bowser teleport the White House, complete with then still President Bush and his wife, to Dark Land as a present for Wendy (I mean Kootie Pie). In another such episode, called "Seven Continents for Seven Koopas" (a rip on the cheesy old musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"), Bowser sends each of his kids to go and conquer one of the seven major continents of the planet. And I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the episode seen above, called "Kootie Pie Rocks", where the pop group Milli Vanilli are kidnapped by Bowser to play an exclusive concert for Kootie Pie. In a funny note, this episode originally featured actual songs by the group, but after their famous lip-syncing fiasco occurred, further re-runs of that episode (and even the DVD release), replaced their songs with generic music. But hey, you still have the absolute weirdness of Milli Vanilli in a Mario cartoon, so what are you gonna do?

Ah yes, Mario, Luigi, Princess, Yoshi, and.....WHO the fuck is that caveman?

Similar to the Super Show, "The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3" only lasted one season, in this case meaning 26 11 minute episodes, originally packaged with Captain N and then later as it's own separate show. Almost exactly a year later, this show would be replaced by a new packaging with brand new episodes of Captain N, simply entitled "Super Mario World". This show came out in September of 1991, almost a month after the game itself had debuted with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the states. Like that game (actually titled Super Mario Bros. 4 for anyone nerdy enough to care), this new show saw the plumbers hanging out in Dinosaur Land, as Bowser and his kids had migrated there to take over, apparently tired of failing to capture the Mushroom Kingdom. The show still featured Mario, Luigi and the Princess, still voiced by their Mario 3 cartoon actors, along with naturally Yoshi, popular character from the game. But in an incredibly odd decision by the production team, they decided to inhabit dinosaur island with human cave people, completely made up and not in any way featured in Super Mario World the game, of course. And with this decision, they also made the real head-scratcher to completely omit the character of Toad. Even as a kid this made zero sense to me, seeing as this heroic foursome had been established ever since the Super Show in '89, and now they decide to drop Toad, even though people are used to him and like him? But the craziest thing about the whole mess, is that John Stocker was still kept in the cast, now voicing a completely made-up cave person called "Oogtar". Because apparently, some genius at DiC thought that some caveman character with a retarded name would be better than Toad. Naturally.

To be honest, I'm speaking from bias here, as even as a kid in 1991, I never really cared much for the Super Mario World cartoon. The cavemen, Oogtar, no Toad, the storylines in wasn't BAD, but it just didn't do it for me. Hell, the adjacent new episodes of Captain N weren't even anywhere near as good. And who knows, maybe that's why the show only lasted 13 episodes? It DID have a semi-catchy wannabe reggae sounding theme song. And it DID have Yoshi. For dumb continuity's sake they even maintained the same silly names for the Koopalings. But overall, I dunno, it just kind of felt to me like the whole animated Mario run went out with a bit of a whimper instead of a bang, because of this show. They eventually repackaged reruns of it in a new format show called, coinciding with the release of that game, "Super Mario All Stars". Though in another odd decision, they chose to omit Mario 3 episodes from that show, only showing Super Show and Mario World episodes instead (even though animation from the Mario 3 show was shown in the opening).

"What do you MEAN we're getting cancelled?"

All in all, my feelings about the Mario cartoons has shifted as I've gotten older. As a kid, I absolutely loved the Super Show, don't get me wrong, it was great. I even still have some VHS tapes of it (that I keep in spite of owning the whole show on DVD). But back in the early 90s, Super Mario Bros. 3 was my man-crush of a game, it was my childhood sweetheart, and to be fair it STILL is my fav. game of all time (even though it seems a hell of a lot harder to me now than it did then). So back then, I absolutely adored the Mario 3 cartoon as well, because I mean LOOK at it, it had Raccoon powers, and map screens from the game, and actual Mushroom World locations, etc. etc. But looking back on it all NOW, I honestly like the Super Show a lot better. Make no mistake, the Mario 3 cartoon is still cool. But really, the Super Show honestly did "have it all" as a show, Captain Lou and Danny Wells were the perfect Mario and Luigi, the humor and writing just seemed in general better. I guess I just came to appreciate it more as I've gotten older, and as you age, your reasons for liking things sometimes change. But all in all, I'm glad these Mario cartoons were part of my childhood, and trust me, they were a BIG part. Some of my favorite shows ever, and always a highlight whenever I could see them.

Good stuff all around, and again, if you've never seen them, I suggest checking them all out. I'd recommend the Super Show if you can only check out just one. But really, Mario 3 and even the Mario World cartoon are worth your time, so make some time.......and remember, "Do the Mario!"