After The Super Mario Bros. Super Show became popular in syndication, it seemed that another animated series starring the world’s most lovable plumber was in order. So in the fall of 1990, such a series made its debut, this time on network television; specifically, NBC, from back when they aired awesome animated series. This time, the show would be based on Mario’s then-latest hit title Super Mario Bros. 3, and as such, the show was called The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. Mario and his friends were back to foil the nefarious schemes of King Koopa, but more trials and tribulations than ever before stood in their way. The twenty-six episode series actually aired as part of an hour-long series with Captain N: The Game Master, with a half-hour episode of the latter sandwiched in between two fifteen-minute episodes of the former. Allow me to tell you more about Mario’s second animated series from Dic.
Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool returned for more exciting adventures, which not only took place in the Mushroom Kingdom, but also had a lot of events take place in the real world. King Koopa and his minions would often invade real-world locations to wreak havoc, going as far as to try and take over each of the seven continents at one point. The reptilian monarch had new associates, chief among them his seven Koopa Kids, who were also major antagonists in the Super Mario Bros. 3 video game. For some reason, the Koopa Kids had different names in the cartoon than they did in the game. As a result, Larry became Cheatsy, Morton was called Bigmouth, Wendy was dubbed Kootie Pie, Iggy was known as Hip, Roy was named Bully, Lemmy became Hop, and Lugwig got the name Kooky von Koopa. Legend has it that since the Koopa Kids were unnamed in the Japanese version of the game, Dic had to make up names for the cartoon, though the exact reason for the name changes is unclear.
Luckily, Mario and his friends had some new tricks up their sleeves, as well. As in the game, they had new power up items such as a raccoon suit for flying and a frog suit for better swimming. These costumes would serve them well in their never-ending battle to overthrow King Koopa for good. Other game features included in the cartoon included the flying Doomship, the music box (here, an item that could make everyone dance), and new enemies such as the Angry Sun and the Chain Chomp. Typically, each episode would feature a song performed at some point, and occasionally animated likenesses of actual people would appear. There was even an appearance by Milli Vanilli in one episode, just before the real duo returned their Grammy for Best New Artist when it was revealed that they had lip synced on their records.
The series lasted for a single season, but did well enough to inspire Dic to create one more animated Mario series (see my article on Super Mario World for details). While it was initially aired as part of an hour-long block with Captain N, it later aired as its own series on networks such as The Family Channel (now ABC Family) and Pax (now Ion). Recently, all twenty-six episodes have been released onto DVD and have also popped up on YouTube for fans old and new to enjoy a series based on a game that many consider to be among the best Mario games ever made. Mario’s time in the animated spotlight would ultimately be limited, but it would be enjoyable while it lasted.
Looking back on the series, it was in some ways better than the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. The animation was better, the real world events resulted in interesting twists and hilarity, and at some points the series were faithful to the game, the renamed Koopa Kids notwithstanding. Some of the voices were changed over from the Super Show, though some, such as Harvey Atkin as Koopa and John Stocker as Toad remained, and sounded as great as ever. Dic really cut loose with fascinating story lines here, and as a result, it ended up with something of an animated classic. It is a shame that the follow up cartoon, Super Mario World, would in some ways be worse, and that NBC would eventually rid itself of entertaining cartoons, as Super Mario Bros. 3 is a good example of how Saturday Morning cartoons should be made.
In his second Dic animated series, Mario really shone in a series of wild and wacky adventures. It is unfortunate that his animated career did not last longer than it did. If that were the case, then I would be writing about shows based on the 3D Mario games, or maybe even the RPG titles. As it stands, Mario’s animated stardom has a short, but fascinating, history, which I will be sure to tell you more about in future articles. In the meantime, if you remember The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 well, or if you have never seen it but would like to, be sure to track down the DVD set or look for episodes online. I think you will agree: it is one of Mario’s finest animated series ever.