Anyway, despite the rather dumb name for the series, it contains what are probably the best of the Mario cartoons, with more original plots than on the Super Show. Granted, we're not talking about great plots here, but at least there's a little more than just Bowser kidnapping someone and capturing a kingdom in every single episode. The characters are largely the same, but Mario isn't as obsessed with food, Luigi no longer suffers from malapropism, and the Princess seems much more competent. Her voice is more of a friendly, confident one, lacking the whiny Olive Oyl qualities it had on the earlier cartoons. She's also in control of the Mushroom Kingdom, apparently ruling by herself. Unlike in the comics and Nintendo Adventure Books, there's no sign of her father. But then, those books portrayed the King as a total idiot, so it makes sense that his daughter would do most of the actual ruling even if he were around. Of course, the series also introduces the Koopalings, although they have different names than in the actual games. Their cartoon names really sound more like nicknames (Roy is "Bully," Larry is "Cheatsy," Morton is "Big Mouth," etc.), sort of akin to the alternate names of the Pac-Man ghosts. I've seen some speculations that the cartoon was rushed out before the Koopalings officially had names (I don't believe they did in the original Japanese release of SMB3), which makes sense, but makes it weird that the "von" in Ludwig von Koopa's name also shows up in his cartoon name, Kooky von Koopa.
Anyway, here are some actual episodes:
Sneaky Lying Cheating Giant Ninja Koopas - Every episode of this series starts with a map screen, usually of the world where most of the action takes place. In this case (and only this case, actually), it's Giant Land (AKA Big Island). We start with a shot of Castle Koopa, where Bowser is telling his kids about his plot to transform Prince Hugo the Huge, who looks nothing like the King of Giant Land in the game. But then, Big Mouth does call him "the new ruler of Giant Land," so maybe there was a transfer of power. In order to accomplish this, Bowser uses a wand to turn four of his kids into Sneaky Lying Cheating Giant Ninja Koopas. Yeah, it's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody, and several years before the Ninjakoopas appeared in Paper Mario. Aside from Big Mouth saying, "I love being a Koopa!" at one point, though, there isn't that much in the way of direct spoofery. ("Spoofery" isn't really a word, is it? I'm sure you get the idea, though.) Anyway, the ninjas defeat Hugo's royal army (mind you, we don't actually SEE this, as I'm sure it would have gone over DiC's animation budget), and the Prince calls in the old gang of Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool (AKA Princess Peach) to help him. The Mario Brothers search for some power-ups, and run up against one of my favorite SMB3 enemies, the Angry Sun. The brothers find a Super Leaf that gives them raccoon powers (they actually both get them from the same leaf, which doesn't seem entirely in line with the game mechanics, but hey). The Sun actually doesn't recognize them after the transformation, leading Mario to say the immortal line, "That Sun is not too bright!" Now, if THAT'S not a joke so incredibly bad it goes out the other end and actually becomes amusing, I don't know WHAT is. Raccoon flight in the cartoon doesn't require a running start, and its user can presumably fly for an indefinite period of time. Still, it's better than how they kept mixing up fire flowers and stars in the Super Show cartoons. Also, Luigi mentions (and we later see) that they lose their power upon being touched by an enemy, although there are exceptions to this later in the series. The Giant Ninja Koopas capture Luigi, Toad, and the Princess; but Mario gets away on the back of Hugo's royal parrot. Bowser goes ahead with turning the Prince into a miniature poodle (although he's still pretty big, so I guess he's a giant miniature poodle, which sounds like a contradiction in terms), but Mario sneaks in and switches around his wands. The Princess convinces Bowser to turn Mario into a poodle as well, but because the wands were switched, he becomes a giant ninja instead. So one of his wands is just for poodles, and another just for giant ninjas? Talk about specialized magic! Anyway, Mario saves the day in a sequence accompanied by a bad song about ninjas, the Koopas escape through a warp pipe, and the parrot gets mad because his cage was ruined.
Reptiles in the Rose Garden - Kootie Pie (better known as Wendy O. Koopa) tells her father that she wants America for her birthday, and Bowser tells her it's in the real world. Yeah, for some reason, everyone in the Mushroom World refers to OUR world as the "real world," implying that their own world is fake, I suppose. Kind of takes me out of the fantasy, really. As usual, Bowser acquiesces to his only daughter's whim, and uses a tractor beam device on the Doomship to take the White House to his own kingdom of Dark Land. Inside are President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife Barbara. Yes, they're modeled after the real first family at the time, although it's kind of hard to tell with George, since he's facing away from the camera and talking on the phone the whole time (not that there's any way that phone could be working in Dark Land). Barbara actually interacts with Mario, though. Bowser and Kootie Pie hold a press conference in Washington, and no one seems to have any problems with their taking over the country. I'd forgotten how willing the government was to negotiate with terrorists in the pre-9/11 world. :P Seriously, it doesn't make any sense, but I thought it was funny when I was a kid, and they didn't make this show with snarky thirty-year-olds in mind. Bowser transports the White House to the bottom of the Mushroom Sea, but Mario goes underwater to save it, using a frog suit for the first time in the series. We also get the first of two songs about frog suits played on this show, the chorus of which is: "Do the frog/croak, croak, croak/Do the frog/It's no joke." They don't write 'em like that anymore, do they? The underwater sequence features several enemies, including a Jelectro that chases Mario around (they're all stationary in the game). Mario uses a super drain to raise the White House, and he and Luigi use disguises that might or might not be hammer suits to sneak on board the Doomship. One of the Sledge Brothers is smarter than your average cartoon character, though, and sees right through the disguises. The brothers make it to the bridge, and Mario sends the White House back. One shot makes it look like it's going to land right on top of Kootie Pie, but it apparently doesn't, because she's up and yelling in the next shot. Mario brings her back to Castle Koopa, and crashes the Doomship. It's apparently rebuilt, since it appears in future episodes, but the tractor beam never does.
Reign Storm - The Super Show cartoons only ever showed two warps to our world, both of them leading to Brooklyn, and one of which was destroyed to stop Bowser from going back there. In this series, however, there are warps to the Real World all over, including one to Hawaii that the Princess and Toad use when her doctor (not Dr. Mario, but a balding mushroom) prescribes a vacation. I'm not sure why they don't just go to Hawaii Land, as mentioned in "Koopa Klaus," but I didn't write this episode. In Hawaii, the Princess hangs out with a stereotypical surfer named Cutter, while Toad spends most of the time sunbathing. In the original airing, footage of the Princess surfing was accompanied by a cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," a song connected to Mario through Captain Lou's appearance in the video. On the DVD, though, they apparently couldn't get the rights to the song, so it was replaced with generic instrumental music. Meanwhile, Mario and Luigi fill in as rulers of the Mushroom Kingdom, but the Koopas take advantage of the situation to cause so much trouble that the brothers have no choice but to send a Warpogram message asking the Princess to come back. A Piranha Plant intercepts the message on Bowser's orders, and this is one of the few times we hear a Piranha Plant talk, which it does with a gruff voice. We're then introduced to Kooky von Koopa's latest invention, a robotic princess. In typical cartoon fashion, this robot is obviously a fake, yet no one other than the Koopas can tell the difference. Bowser sends Kooky to Hawaii to keep an eye on the real Princess, but the plan backfires, as Toad notices him sneaking around in the bushes and alerts Peach. After telling Cutter that he's given her the most fun she's ever had (I wonder what Mario would think of that), she surfs through a warp pipe to her own castle, just in time to stop the robot from giving the kingdom to Bowser. And somehow, Kooky is at the coronation ceremony and in Hawaii at the same time. Ah, the wonders of cheap cartoons.
Toddler Terrors of Time Travel - In this one, Bowser and Kooky go back in time to stop Mario and Luigi warping down the drain to the Mushroom Kingdom (as shown in the opening sequence for the Super Show cartoons). Good idea, but they really screw up the mechanics of time travel. I mean, I don't expect an actual scientific hypothesis on a Saturday morning cartoon, but the Bill & Ted cartoon handled things better than this episode does. Toad overhears their plans, and sneaks on board the Doomship with the two plumbers. Kooky's Time Travel Tube malfunctions, turning everyone into babies. Kooky and his dad appear to end up the same age, but I guess the Tube doesn't revert anyone into negative years (unlike that obnoxious Wonka-Vite). Mario somehow decides that they need to return to the apartment where they went down the drain, even though you'd think their equivalents from this time would be doing that. Or did they disappear to prevent paradoxes? They could have used a LOT of explanation here. Anyway, Kooky manages to restore himself and Bowser to their proper ages, and they disguise themselves as plumbers in order to make the clog even worse. Fortunately for them, the lady at the apartment is too scatterbrained to remember the name of the plumbing service she'd called. What I really have to wonder, though, is how the Koopas managed to put on overalls UNDER their shells. They clog up the drain and trap the Mario Brothers in a pipe, then return to the Doomship and the present. On the way back, however, Toad focuses the Time Tube beam on the brothers, freeing them from the pipe, and allowing them to unclog the drain and warp back to the Mushroom Kingdom. When next we see them, they've somehow returned from the past and gotten raccoon power, yet held on to the hairball from the drain, which Mario gets great pleasure in throwing right in Bowser's face. So how did they get back? We never find out. This episode turned out to be quite disappointing, because the time travel plot had great potential, but the writing was way too sloppy.