Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Hey Paisanos! It's The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Last August I posted about the late-'80s/early-90s' focus on all-things Nintendo, with the Super Mario Bros. as the video game company's most visible face. That led to a licensing bonanza that allowed kids to sleep in Nintendo sheets, wear Nintendo t-shirts, and, oh yeah, eat Nintendo cereal. Most importantly (at least as it pertains to this week's post), it led to weekday afternoon staples like the animated Super Mario Bros. Super Show, which aired in syndication for two seasons between 1989 and 1991. I have a feeling anyone who grew up during that era has clear memories of this:

If that animation style raises a red flag for you, congratulations you've been reading Nostalgia Theater long enough to detect another DiC production. Also, that's former pro-wrestler Lou Albano playing the live action Mario and voicing his animated counterpart, with character actor Danny Wells doing the duties for brother Luigi. Every episode of Super Mario Bros. would start with live action wraparounds segueing into that day's other-dimensional adventure, with the titular twosome doing battle with King Koopa while pausing to eat magic mushrooms.

All told, there were fifty-two Super Mario episodes that would air every Monday through Thursday. In an interesting arrangement, the Friday edition of the Super Show was then dedicated to an animated adaptation of The Legend of Zelda, yet another Nintendo property. In essence, these shows were the digital-age equivalent of how G.I. Joe and He-Man served as half-hour toy commercials in an earlier era. Here's the intro for the Zelda 'toon (of which there were thirteen installments total, completing the Super Show's sixty-five episode order):

Of course, this wasn't the only animated excursion for animated Mario, et al. While the Super Show was in the middle of its syndicated run, the erstwhile plumber and his pals also made their way to network in 1990, ditching the live action (and Lou Albano) for NBC's The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, a pretty shameless bid to cash in on the then-new release of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 3 video game. That skein lasted for one season and twenty-six eps on the Peacock. Here's what that looked like when it aired:

But believe it or not, it still wasn't over for this animated incarnation of the Mario universe. The following fall, 1991, we got thirteen episodes of Super Mario World, which aired on NBC and was paired with the net's Captain N: The Game Master (which I'll have to get to one of these days) for one hour of Nintendo-themed brainwash-y goodness. While this series was essentially a continuation of the previous series, the most notable change was dropping DiC, and the quality uptick practically speaks for itself, even though I have no memory of this at all:

Today, the various Mario Bros. cartoons are all available on home vid, as well as for streaming online via various venues, which I guess speaks to their continuing appeal with the demo that grew up with them. I haven't bothered revisiting them so I can't speak to how well they've held up over time, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that I'm probably not missing much. Nonetheless, they remain a particular, peculiar time capsule of that magical 8-bit moment in our collective cultural history.

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