Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Hangin' with the plumbers, you'll be hooked on the Brothers

In this post, I have a few things to say about The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, to which I was recently reacquainted via the first DVD set. I'm sure most of you remember this series. It started out with a live-action Mario and Luigi (played respectively by Captain Lou Albano and a guy named Danny Wells, whose acting career also included such noteable roles as "Street Person," "Guard," and "Additional Voices") in their Brooklyn basement apartment/plumbing shop, which was apparently built on a budget considerably less than that for most grade school plays. They were usually visited by some obscure celebrity (often one of Captain Lou's fellow WWF veterans, although they also managed to get Magic Johnson to make two appearances), a bad celebrity impersonator, or one or both of the main actors (and I use that term loosely) in drag. Seriously, there were at least two episodes where the two of them played female relatives of the Mario Brothers. After the setup for the live action bit, the cartoon would begin. These were much less of a train wreck than the live action segments, but still suffered from the animation errors that plagued a lot of cartoons from the era (coloration mistakes, the wrong charcters' mouths moving, characters and objects moving at different speeds when seen from different angles), as well as repetitive plots (not that we don't see those in the Mario games as well) and endings that had everyone laughing uproariously at a really stupid joke. Then after the cartoon, there would be some kind of resolution to the live action segment, and Captain Lou would tell everybody to do the Mario.

Despite all the flaws in the series (and there were many), I think many of us enjoyed it simply because we were seeing beloved video game characters on screen, and they usually actually acted in ways that were true to their game counterparts. Sure, there were plenty of oddities. Fire Flowers and Starmen were often used interchangeably, and one episode even had a Fire Flower allowing Mario to fly. Um...okay. One episode not included in this set had an infamous scene showing Mario and Luigi running away from a Goomba and walking on top of Piranha Plants. And while Mouser's pseudo-German accent worked all right, Triclyde's voice was obnoxious. As you might be able to guess from my icon, I'm somewhat disappointed that Wart never showed up at all. Still, I think they did some things right. The Mario Brothers' personalities were somewhat simple (Mario is a glutton, and Luigi a coward), but at least they HAD some consistent characterization. That Luigi is the less brave of the two seems to have been accepted into the games themselves, what with his being afraid of ghosts in Luigi's Mansion. And I think King Koopa is well-characterized as far as villains in children's cartoon series go. He's sarcastic, scheming, egomaniacal, and prone to temper tantrums. In the Super Show cartoons, he also has a habit of dressing in costumes appropriate to the setting he's visiting.

There aren't very many extras on the set. There's a brief interview with Captain Lou (who's presumably the only person involved with the show who isn't embarrassed to admit it) and some concept art. I also noticed that they took out the songs that were originally played in the action sequences. I guess they had trouble getting the rights, but since the songs were included on the VHS releases, I'm not sure why that would have been a problem for the DVD's. Oh, well.

I'm not going to do an episode-by-episode review of this set. If you're interested in that kind of thing, there are some summaries and reviews of individual episodes available here (which include plenty of documentation of King Koopa's foot fetish). I do have a few things I'd like to point out, however.

  • In the live-action segments, signs in the Brothers' basement refer to the Brooklyn Bridge and Water and Dock Streets, which gives a more specific indication as to where the shop is located than I had previously thought.
  • Contrary to what would later be indicated in Yoshi's Island, the Marios are not twins on this show. One of the live-action segments features Luigi's birthday, which is not the same as Mario's. Mario is consistently portrayed as the older brother in both this and subsequent Mario cartoon series.
  • In one cross-dressing bit, Captain Lou plays the Marios' mother, who has a mustache. In the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series, Dr. Robotnik's mother has a mustache, so I can only assume that DiC considers women with facial hair to be the height of hilarity. The more important point here, however, is that, at least within the live-action continuity (what little there is of it, anyway) the Marios have a living mother, but I don't believe there's any hint about their father. There's apparently a cartoon episode that features Koopa's mom, but it's not on this set, and I haven't seen it.
  • Speaking of Koopa, at no point in the cartoons does he breathe fire, and he's drawn without the red hair that he's had in every game but the first. (Granted, this was the only game in which he had appeared back when the show was made, but I believe he had hair in concept art going back to before the Super Show.) Also, while he goes by different names depending on how he's dressed, I'm pretty sure no one ever calls him Bowser. There are a few episodes of the Super Mario Bros. 3 cartoon where Bowser is given as his first name. That show gave different names to his kids than they had in the actual games, though, so I suppose it's kind of a trade-off.
  • While Koopa kidnaps the Princess in almost every episode, his motivations concerning her aren't always consistent. I believe there's one episode I haven't seen (the same one in which his mom appears, actually) where he tries to marry her, which is in line with how Paper Mario hints that he's secretly (or perhaps not-so-secretly) in love with her. But there are also ones where he drops her in quicksand, tries to have her turned into a rock, and auctions her off to the highest bidder. Maybe he's just addicted to princess-napping, and isn't entirely sure what to do after he's captured her. Or maybe I'm wasting my brainpower trying to find continuity in a low-budget late-eighties children's series. I'm inclined to think the latter. {g}

From what I hear, a Captain N DVD set, including all of the first two seasons, will be out next year. I think it would make sense to throw on the third season as well. I mean, yeah, it sucked (this was the season where the episodes were cut down the half the length they'd been in the first two seasons, and the already spotty animation quality went way down), but I'd like to satisfy my completist tendencies, you know?

Okay, that's all for now. Until next time, everybody, do the Mario! :P
Tags: television, video games

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