That's right, NostalJOE. Why should Mighty Nate Ming have all the nostalgic fun around here? I'll be piping in from time to time with my own fuzzy recollections of the past, and today's topic is the rumbly, rocky road of Nintendo cartoon adaptations.
When I think about a large portion of my childhood, most of it was spent either playing games, talking about games, reading about games, drawing games, or watching cartoons based on games. I was your textbook Nintendo maniac, I'll confess. I had other consoles, sure—no war was welcome in my home—but my walls were plastered with Nintendo Power posters, and as far as I was concerned they owned the airwaves, too.
For those of you who weren't around at the time, or just didn't have like-minded friends to share the enthusiasm with, Nintendo cartoons were a big deal. When Captain Lou Albano popped on the iconic overalls in 1989 for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, he was Mario. Heck, even after his passing he still is Mario, and always will be. Maybe that's one of the reasons the live-action Super Mario Bros. film failed, among myriad others. How could we possibly take Bob Hoskins seriously when we knew Cap'n Lou should be in his shoes?
Watching the Super Show now makes it clear just how stupid the opening and closing segments are. In fact, they're just plain weird, with celebrity guest stars hamming it up while the bros. fall on their butts amidst a cacophony of NES sound effects. But you know what? It's so stupid it kinda works. Who could forget Ernie Hudson coming in to bust ghosts only to have Luigi get possessed himself—a prelude to Luigi's Mansion, perhaps? Oh, what's that? You did forget? What's wrong with me!?
As fond as my memories of the Super Show are, Fridays were serious business. Friday was the day the show ditched its Mario cartoon segments and made way for the 'tude-loaded Link and his The Legend of Zelda animated series. If the mere mention of Link makes a drawn out "Excuuuuu-uuuuuse me, Princess" pop into your head, then we're on the same page.
Mario would go on to star in a variety of increasingly forgettable animated series, from The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario World. The latter was coupled with one of the later seasons of what is, in my cartoon-addled mind, the mother of all US Nintendo 'toons: Captain N: The Game Master. The titular captain, a Nintendo nut named Kevin, basically lives the dream of all children of the late '80s/early '90s: he gets zapped into Videoland! There he takes on the evil forces of Mother Brain with an oddball collection of Nintendo greats, including a curiously vain version of Castlevania's Simon Belmont, Pit from Kid Icarus, Game Boy, and a Mega Man who sounds like he was up to smoking two packs a day.
When I say the scenario introduced in the Captain N opening was every kid's dream, I'm not kidding. Video games in the Nintendo era stoked the imagination, partly due to the limited graphics that forced players to fill in missing details with their own fantastic, box-art-boosted visions of what those worlds were really like. Advertising got in on the immersion, as well:
There have since been plenty of Nintendo-based cartoons on TV—the CG-animated Donkey Kong Country; Kirby's Hoshi no Kābi, in which he's comin' "Right Back at Ya!", among others—but none spark such strong nostalgic chords as The Big Three. Yes, they're often shabby, and hold up today about as well as a house of cards, but if you were around when Nintendo had its own cereal, you probably can't resist 'em.
Japan actually got a little luckier, with a couple Super Mario Bros. anime productions. The first, Super Mario Brothers: Peach-hime Kyuushutsu Daisakusen (Super Mario Brothers: Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach), is a 60-minute movie released in the summer of '86, in which Mario and Luigi get sucked into their own game and are naturally tasked with rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser. Here's how it opens:
Mario is voiced by Tohru Furuya (Amuro Ray in Mobile Suit Gundam, Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon), and Yuu Mizushima (Devilman's Ryou Asuka) handles Luigi. The former would reprise his role in 1989's Super Mario Brothers: Amada Anime Series (pictured in the headline image), which put the heroes and villains of the Mushroom Kingdom in three classic fairy tale scenarios: Super Mario Momotarō, Super Mario Issun-bōshi, and Super Mario Shirayuki-hime.
Nintendo cartoons may never be the same as they were back in the day, but I certainly wouldn't complain if the brothers returned in animated form. If only something more had come of this awesome Japanese Mario Kart 64 commercial.
Anyone here have fond memories of Nintendo 'toons, or other game-related animation? Share 'em with us in the comments and let's get rose-tinted on this otherwise green day!