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Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Super Mario Brothers Super Show

So, this is the Saturday Smorgasbord for today, and to open things up, I will warn you ahead of time. Although the third Saturday in the month is usually dedicated towards cartoons, the first part of the entry will focus on video games. When you read on, you'll understand why.

I mentioned this last week in this space, but I've almost always been a loyal customer of Nintendo and Nintendo related products. I did own a Sony PlayStation and an Intellivision at some time, but for the most part, I've always been a Nintendo fan. I owned the original Nintendo, the Super Nintendo, and the Nintendo DS and 3DS. I just loved every single video game released on the various consoles. To me, Nintendo was a major part of my childhood (and remains a big part of my adulthood as well), and I wil forever be a fan.

That's why when I heard the news that former President of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away at the age of 85 after a battle with pneumonia, the video game world mourned his loss. This is a man who spent practically his whole life working for Nintendo. He joined the company in 1949 at a time in which the company only focused on the manufacturing of playing cards, and by the mid-1980s transformed it into one of the most successful video game companies of all-time. Although he stepped down from his role as president of the company in 2002, he remained with the company until 2005. What makes Yamauchi stand out in the crowd of CEO's in the business world is the fact that when he retired, he refused to accept his retirement pension (which at the time was worth at least ten million dollars US) because he felt that the company could find a better use for the money! And, while he retained a 10% share in all of Nintendo's profits, he used the profits generated from sales of the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS and built a cancer treatment center in Kyoto, Japan! Even with the recent financial troubles that Nintendo experienced in the latter part of 2012 in which Yamauchi reportedly lost a large fortune, he still had enough money to ensure that his retirement was a comfortable one.

His death on September 19, 2013 was a real loss to Nintendo, and the gaming world in general. I know that my childhood was greatly impacted by his contributions to Nintendo, and I for one am grateful for everything he did.

Granted, I don't think my teachers felt quite the same way as I often did my homework at the last minute as a result of a marathon gaming session. But, hey...they didn't have to know that at the time.

So, for today's entry in the blog, I wanted to pay homage to Hiroshi Yamauchi, as well as Nintendo in general by doing a special blog on Nintendo.

But, considering that this is supposed to be a blog on cartoons, can it be done?

I say...yes.

I'm not sure how many of you actually are aware of this, but several Nintendo video games have been made into animated cartoons. Years ago on TeleToon (Canada's version of The Cartoon Network), there was a cartoon that was based off of the successful Donkey Kong series.

If you watched Captain N: The Video Game Master at all, you'd recognize some characters found in Nintendo games. You'd recognize characters from Kid Icarus, Mega Man, and Castlevania found in that cartoon.

And, let's be honest here. Although Sega did create Sonic the Hedgehog, since Nintendo bought out Sega a few years back, Sonic is considered to be a part of the Nintendo family, and as such, we can include the two cartoon variations of Sonic the Hedgehog that have aired over the years.

But for today's special look back on Saturday Morning television, we're going to look at the cartoon that started it all off. It remains the very first Nintendo cartoon to ever air on television, and as of 2013, you can pick up the entire series on DVD format.

Unfortunately, the one beef that I have with the cartoon is that in the twenty-four years since it first aired, it has not aged well. But as an eight year old kid, I couldn't get enough of it. Though admittedly, I liked the cartoon portion of the show than the live-action parts.

Imagine that, a television show that combined cartoons with live-action.

I'm not about to keep you hanging with baited breath any longer. Let's just take a look at the intro of today's show.

Yes. We are going to be taking a look at “The Super Mario Brothers Super Show”!

The show debuted on most FOX stations on September 4, 1989 and ran for thirteen weeks with the run concluding on December 1 of the same year. But what was interesting about the show was that unlike most television cartoons in which a season was equivalent to thirteen episodes, this series ran for a total of sixty-five. That's because the show aired five days a week instead of just once. Although the series only lasted one season, the reruns continued well into 1991 – likely sparked by the popularity of Mario games at that time.

(Truth be told, if I were to ask a random group of people what they consider to be the golden era of Super Mario was, they'd likely say the late 1980s and early 1990s. But I'll also state that Mario has seen a period of renaissance beginning with the release of the New Super Mario Brothers series.)

Now, as I mentioned before, the show was a combination of live action segments and cartoon segments. At the beginning of the show and the end of the show were the live action components.

The way the live action scenes worked were like this. As most of you know, Mario and Luigi worked as plumbers in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Somehow, both of them ended up sucked into the wrong pipe while on a plumbing job, and they both find themselves in the Mushroom Kingdom, where they've essentially been rescuing Princess (I still refuse to call her Peach) Toadstool from Bowser's clutches since 1985.

Well, the live action scenes were set in the Mario Brothers plumbing offices in the heart of Brooklyn. Mario was portrayed by WWE wrestler Captain Lou Albano (1933-2009), and Luigi was played by character actor Danny Wells (b. 1941). And in each of their scenes, they would often be given a plot outlined on a sheet of paper, and both Lou and Danny would have to improvise their lines. Sometimes Lou and Danny would step out of character and portray themselves on the show as well.

The show would also feature special celebrity guests who at the time were huge named stars in prime time television or star athletes. Below is a partial list of some of the celebrities that appeared on the show.

Lyle Alzado (former football player)
Brian Bonsall (Wesley from Mr. Belvedere)
Donna Douglas (Elly Mae from The Beverly Hillbillies)
Nicole Eggert (Jaime from Charles in Charge/Summer from Baywatch)
Norman Fell (Mr. Roper from Three's Company)
Magic Johnson (former basketball player)
Cyndi Lauper (“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” singer)
Danica McKellar (Winnie from The Wonder Years)
Eve Plumb (Jan from The Brady Bunch)
Nedra Volz (Adelaide from Diff'rent Strokes)
Vanna White (letter turner on Wheel of Fortune)

TRIVIA: This wasn't the first time Lou Albano would work with Cyndi Lauper. He played Cyndi's dad in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” music video!

The show also had a few crossovers with some other cartoons. Given that the cartoon was produced by DiC Entertainment, naturally other DiC creations would make an appearance. But, did you think that they would appear in the live action segments? It's true!

Ernie Hudson appeared as a character known as “Slimebuster”, a parody of the character he played in the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”. Dic Entertainment would have a hand in bringing the animated series based on the film to the small screen.

And even Inspector Gadget would make an appearance...though Don Adams wouldn't portray him. This version was performed by Maurice LaMarche (who actually voiced Chief Quimby in the cartoon's second year). “Inspector Gadget” was also produced by DiC Entertainment, and if you watch the clip below, LaMarche actually does a brilliant job doing “Gadget's” voice.

Now, as for the animated portions of the show? Well, depending on the day in which you watched the show, you would see different cartoons.

If you were to watch the show on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you would see an animated version of the Super Mario Brothers. Given that the show originally aired in 1989, the cartoons were based on the video games “Super Mario Brothers” and “Super Mario Brothers 2”, as “Super Mario 3” wasn't released in North America until February 1990.

(However DiC would later produce separate cartoons for both “Super Mario Brothers 3” and “Super Mario World”, which aired on NBC in 1990 and 1991 respectively.)

Although enemies from both “Super Mario Brothers” and “Super Mario Brothers 2” appear in the cartoons, we only see Bowser as the show's main antagonist. Keep in mind that Wart was all a figment of Mario's imagination at the end of the second game.

In addition to Mario, Luigi, and Bowser, Toad and Princess (I still refuse to call her Peach) Toadstool make appearances as well. And, hey, in some of these cartoons, Princess Toadstool actually makes it through an entire episode without being kidnapped! Must be a new record!

Now, that was what you saw on Mondays through Thursdays. What about Fridays?

Well, lest you believe that Super Mario was Nintendo's only creation at the time the show aired, you would be wrong. Did you know that “The Legend of Zelda” was released in 1986 and became just as popular as Super Mario?

This explains why on Fridays, viewers were treated to an animated version of “The Legend of Zelda”, where we would see Link and Zelda teaming up to wage war against Ganon, who threatens the harmony of Hyrule as well as the power of the Triforce. Although the Zelda series didn't have nearly as many episodes of the series as the Super Mario series did, the way that they were broadcast, you almost had to watch every episode in order, or else you would be completely lost as to trying to understand the plot.

Here. I'll post an episode of the Super Mario series as well as the Zelda series below. Which one do you like best?

Even after the series wrapped up, the show found new life in syndication. In 1990, the show was re-aired under the title “Club Mario”, with the live-action Mario segments replaced with brand new ones featuring “Nintendo obsessed teenagers”. As well, beginning in 1994, The Family Channel began airing the animated series from The Super Mario Brothers Super Show in a package deal with the Super Mario World series (surprisingly enough, Super Mario Brothers 3 was left out of the deal). The cartoons were broadcast under the title of “Mario All-Stars” - coincidentally the same title as the Super Nintendo compilation which saw four Mario games compiled onto one cartridge.

Ultimately, The Super Mario Brothers Super Show was a forgettable entry in the world of Saturday Morning Cartoons, and the program hasn't quite aged as well as it probably should have. But you know what? I loved it. In fact, it probably helped fuel my love for all Nintendo products for ever and ever.

It certainly is a good representation of the legacy that Hiroshi Yamauchi left behind. Ultimately he wanted to create a product that brought fun to boys and girls of all ages, and that's exactly what he accomplished.

Much like The Super Mario Brothers Super Show did all those years ago.

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