You Aren’t Going Nowhere, Fungus

Continued from this post, here are four more Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode reviews:

Rolling Down the River – While not exactly the line from “Proud Mary,” they did originally play that song in this episode, earlier in the action than usual. Captain Koopa has captured the Princess again and imprisoned her on his riverboat, the Sinister Star. Mario, Luigi, and Toad are already aboard and wearing disguises, with the former two playing Go Fish for money against two Koopa Troopas and a Goomba, at which Mario is cheating.

When they’re caught, they take off their disguises and run away. Meanwhile, Toad tries to sneak into the Princess’ cell with a cake, only to be caught by Koopa who insists he’s an impostor because the cake says “Happy Birthday,” and he never uses the H-word. While hardly original with this show, I’m often amused by lines like these, where villains are just so obsessed with their image that they take insults as compliments and are adverse to terms generally regarded as positive. They do it a lot with Koopa. Mario and Luigi are cornered and jump overboard, at which an old guy named Mark Twang saves them with a lasso, taking them aboard his ship, the Ding Bell. He’s in a race with Koopa to determine who’ll be King of the River, a weird succession law, but I guess it makes sense that the ruler should know something about boating. Koopa has sabotaged his steam engine, but the plumbers fix it, and he starts to catch up to the Sinister Star. So the villain uses a Black Pit Bob-omb to blow a hole in the river, Mario saving the boat by firing a plunger on a rope from a cannon at a nearby rock. Twang takes the brothers to see the Mouth of the River, a woman with a large mouth who gives advice on the River World, and she advises them to use plumbing to run the river around the pit. I’m not exactly sure how this is supposed to work or where they get all the pipes, but it works. The Mouth has magic pendants that make Mario and Luigi super, and they jump on a pump to speed up the boat, with the Mouth firing turnips from a cannon at the Sinister Star. This is where we see Clawgrip, one of the bosses in Super Mario Bros. 2, so you’d think he’d have a significant role like Mouser, right? Nope, we just see him steering the boat, then a turnip knocking him out. Twang wins the race, and the Mouth serves a catfish pizza, which grosses out the Marios. I wouldn’t think it’s all that weird compared to other foods mentioned on the show (mozzarella milkshakes, anyone?), but it doesn’t look too appetizing with a dead fish with a cat face right on top of it.

As for Koopa’s plan this time, I can see him wanting to rule the river, as it’s presumably a major shipping channel. The thing is, if he hadn’t kidnapped the Princess as well, the Marios might never have known he was in the race, and he could have beaten Twang handily. You’re sowing the seeds of your own defeat here, Koopster. One recurring visual gag in the episode has Koopa seeing something in a telescope that makes him angry, then dropping the telescope and stepping on it, causing a tongue to come out. It’s pretty strange.

The Mario Monster Mash – The Marios’ new neighbor, Dr. Frank N. Stein, wants them to help him out with a science experiment. He turns out to be the actual Dr. Frankenstein, under a not-very-clever alias, and accompanied by his monster. The doctor is looking for a new brain to transfer to his creation, and while he and Luigi go out to look for one, Mario takes a nap on an operating table and has his brain switched with the monster’s. When Frank and Luigi realize what happened, the mad scientist whacks the Mario and the monster on the heads with a frying pan to restore them. This establishes several themes that would come up in later live-action bits, including public domain monsters and brain-related shenanigans. There’s at least one other with brain-switching, and others (including the very next one) deal with a character thinking he’s someone or something else. There’s also a later cartoon that’s a Frankenstein parody, and I wondered why they didn’t just pair them up. Maybe they did that on purpose to make it slightly less obvious that they’re using the same ideas over and over again.

The Great Gladiator Gig – The usual suspects are riding a horse-drawn bathtub chariot to the Linguine Empire, for a spaghetti dinner to raise money for orphan mushrooms. I find it kind of interesting that, while many episodes use Ostros in place of horses, this one doesn’t. There’s another horse later on who talks, and a lion who does as well. Anyway, they’re greeted by Brutius Maximus Grouchimus, a big guy who serves as Guardian of the Colosseum.

He takes the Princess and Toad to meet the Emperor, who turns out to be…well, I’m sure you can guess, but this time he’s going by the name Augustus Septemberus Octoberus Koopa.

I’m not sure how he managed to take over, but an empire sounds like a pretty significant place to rule, so it seems like he’s assuring his own downfall by inviting his enemies there. It is interesting that Brutius is a henchman of Koopa’s but not a sort of enemy from a Mario game, just a guy. It seems like Brutius is in two places at once, since he’s with Koopa, the Princess, and Toad, then with Mario and Luigi right after the scene change. I think we’re supposed to understand it as his going back to the Marios after leaving the others, but it’s kind of confusing. He knocks some Koopa Troopas into their shells and tosses them at the brothers, but they make a getaway with the help of the talking horse. The song that originally played during the sequence was Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face,” but when that was cut out, Mario still yelled, “Shaddap you face!” at Brutius just before the chase. This episode has the first appearance of Triclyde, the three-headed snake boss from SMB2, here called Triclydius to fit the Roman theme. He has a dopey voice and tends to repeat himself a lot. Mario and Luigi are forced to fight him in the Colosseum, and defeat him by dancing, which makes him dizzy. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but I guess it has something to do with trying to focus three heads at once.

Koopa then calls in some lions, but Mario convinces them it would be preferable for them to eat an emperor instead of some plumbers. It’s pretty similar to Luigi with the Pidgits in “Mario’s Magic Carpet,” really. So they chase him away, then they hold the spaghetti dinner with Brutius as the cook and one of the lions in attendance. I guess the orphan mushrooms are the ones in the Mushroom Kingdom itself, as the inhabitants of the Empire (or at least this part of it) all appear to be human. We never know who takes the throne after Koopa runs off. There’s a Luncheon Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey that’s Italian-themed, so maybe it’s part of or at least associated with the Linguine Empire.

Bonkers from Yonkers – This live-action bit doesn’t involve Yonkers in any way, but I guess whoever named it thought it was close enough to New York City to work. Mario hits his head while he and Luigi are working on some pipes, and starts thinking he’s a bird and screeching a lot. See, I told you’d they’d do more brain stuff this time. Luigi calls a head doctor, Sigmund Fruitcake, who tries to cure Mario only for him to start thinking he’s a monkey instead. Everything is restored to normal in the end, but it doesn’t seem to take much for Mario to lose his mind.

Mario and the Beanstalk – I suppose an episode based on the fairy tale makes sense, as it seems to be referenced in the first SMB, with the beanstalks that you can climb to reach treasure in the clouds. And really, this is a pretty straight adaptation of the tale to the show’s setting and characters. The gang starts out in a square cottage with a roof that looks like a mushroom cap. This was before we saw any of the Toad Houses in SMB3, which were round at the bottom like mushroom stalks. They need to get one hundred gold coins by the next day to get an extra life…er, rather, to keep the Mushroom Kingdom Orphanage open. I suppose the spaghetti dinner in the last episode didn’t provide enough. The Princess suggests hocking her jewels, and Mario tells her she already did, yet she’s still wearing some jewelry. Maybe they mean the crown jewels instead of her personal accessories. Is the assumption that King Koopa is still occupying the castle, which is why the Princess has to stay in a cottage and can’t take the money out of taxes? It’s not really clear, but they do still have a cow wearing a crown, and Mario and Luigi take her to the used cow dealer. The podcast pointed out that they just had a joke about a used carpet dealer, but we didn’t actually see that. We’re introduced to the slick-talking Dealin’ Delbert, who gives them beans in exchange for the cow, because that’s how the story goes. They’re identified as garbanzo beans, another name for chickpeas, presumably just because the word sounds kind of funny. Chickpeas don’t grow on vines, but the beanstalk grows up anyway. Mario’s initial idea is to pick a bunch of beans to sell, but he decides to pick them from the top on down, so they end up in the expected enormous castle in the sky. Luigi says the castle is bigger than the Brooklyn Public Library, by which I assume he means the main one in Grand Army Plaza, because the branches I’ve been to generally aren’t that big at all. The giant is, not surprisingly, Koopa. The Princess says, “He’s turned himself into a giant!”, but it’s never explained how. At first the oversize reptile says he wants to eat the heroes, but then decides to lock them up. There’s a bit with the Mario team trying to escape first through a door and then a window, only for Koopa to close them at the last second. Since he can close them by pulling a rope that’s right next to him, I assume he’s just messing with his prisoners. At one point, the heroes are climbing logs, and Luigi backflips up. The Marios do succeed in making Koopa sneeze by working a bellows. Hey, didn’t something like that happen in Mickey and the Beanstalk as well? Nobody tell the Disney lawyers! The gang escapes into a room with a goose in a cage laying gold coins, and Koopa locks them in, saying they’ll eventually be crushed by the coins. The goose reveals that Koopa has her under a spell, and will help them if they rescue her. Mario quickly climbs a hill of coins and bends the bars of the cage, and they escape through a crack in the floor through which part of the beanstalk had emerged. Luigi cuts down the vine with an axe that was apparently in their plumbers’ bag. I’m not sure why plumbers would need an axe. Maybe the Marios took it after removing it from one of Bowser’s bridges. The whole giant castle falls down with the beanstalk, even though something must have been supporting it before the stalk grew. Koopa lands in the water and is restored to his normal size, yelling, “It shrunk me!” I’m not sure what he’s referring to, unless it’s the water himself, meaning he shrank in the wash. He runs off and a bunch of coins fall out of the castle. The goose, now free from Koopa’s spell, tries to lay an egg for her friends to eat, but it turns out they’re still made of gold. There was a Super Mario World cartoon where Mario says he hates eggs, so I guess he wouldn’t have wanted it anyway.

Bats in the Basement – Mario and Luigi host an exchange student from Transylvania, who turns out to be a vampire named Zoltan Dracula. They eventually figure out what he is and get a book on how to get rid of a vampire, leading to a stake/steak pun and a bit about how their mother’s recipe for tomato sauce is also a vampire repellent. Zoltan, who didn’t like the place much anyway, leaves on his own. There’s a bit where Zoltan, in bat form, sings a line of “Here Comes the Sun,” so did whoever edited out the copyrighted songs miss this, or was it too short to matter?

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em – This is the only episode of this cartoon where Koopa doesn’t appear at all. I wonder what he was doing instead. Instead, the main villain is an original character, Queen Rotunda of Rotunda Land, who’s based on the Queen of Hearts, especially the Disney version. We see her at the beginning, checking up on the progress of her court magician’s love potion, which she wants to make Prince Pompadour fall in love with her. What’s weird is that there’s a Prince Pompadore who’s a character in the Oz books. I wonder if that’s a coincidence, or one of the writers actually read a Ruth Plumly Thompson book. But anyway, Mario and company are in Rotunda Land for some reason, and Mario has a device that finds hot peppers, really big ones at that. Everyone starts to pick them, only to be interrupted by some Beezos in armor, one of them riding an Ostro. These are actually the only Mario enemies to appear in this one. The Princess tries to insist the peppers were growing wild, which they weren’t; they were in an enclosed garden.

Anyway, the Beezos arrest them and take them to the Queen, who orders them beheaded. Before anyone can carry out the sentence, Mario learns that Rotunda wants a dessert for her wedding, and makes her some hot pepper pistachio ice cream. The Queen tries it and needs water, but the first thing Mario can grab for her is the love potion, and of course she falls in love with him, locking up the others in the dungeon. She not only wants to marry the plumber against his will, but also forces him to diet and exercise. Luigi, Toad, and the Princess escape from the dungeon and make a new love potion, the ingredients for which include a Fat Boys record, and this is not the only Fat Boys reference on this show. During the wedding (which is mostly attended by people whose eyes are black dots), Mario slips the potion in Queen Rotunda and Prince Pompadour’s glasses, despite the fact that, as far as we can tell, he has no way of knowing she had feelings for the Prince or even that his brother and friends were making another potion.

Then, as a rather predictable final joke, the witch drinks the potion and falls in love with Luigi, so everyone runs away.

Will the Real Elvis Please Shut Up! – Both Mario and Luigi are practicing their Elvis impersonations for a contest, singing parodies of Elvis songs with lyrics about plumbing, and apparently they each have their own Velvet Elvis. Then the real Elvis, played by professional impersonator Fred Travalena, shows up to give them pointers. The brothers ultimately decide they don’t want to complete against each other, probably a good thing since they’re both pretty bad at it even with the tips. Also, Luigi mentions he hates catfish, which could have something to do with his reaction to the Mouth of the River’s choice of reward.

As a bit of a bonus, if you can call it that, I finally found a scan of a Nintendo Comics System story that I remember reading (at the store, which I’ll admit is kind of cheap, but I feel like I was subtly discouraged from buying things as a kid), but that I couldn’t find online unlike most of the others.

“You Again?” is a short, surreal tale that starts with Mario waking up to a note saying the Princess was kidnapped, pretty typical fare there. So he starts out through what I think is supposed to be World 1-1 of SMB2, only to be quickly knocked out by a Shy Guy, and wake up in bed again. This repeats several times, with the Princess being held in a different ridiculous scenario each time, and the Shy Guys just become more casual, eventually having tea while Mario makes another futile attempt.

They’re called aglets, Mario, even if my spellchecker doesn’t recognize the word.
Then it turns out to be Toad, awakened with a phone call from the Princess, who’s been dreaming all of this. He goes outside to get water for his morning coffee, is knocked out by the Shy Guys offscreen, and wakes up again. Pretty simple, but it works with the Mario universe in a few ways, first because SMB2 is set in the world of dreams and the ending implies Mario dreamed the adventure, but also because the constant dying and having to restart is something I’m sure everyone has experienced playing a Mario game. Also, Toad has a World’s Greatest Mushroom Retainer mug.

So, when is someone going to scan “Tanooki Suits Me”?

Posted in Animals, Beatles, Cartoons, Characters, Comics, Dreams, Fairy Tales, Food, Humor, Magic, Mario, Monsters, Music, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fearsome Furnishings

Living versions of inanimate objects are common in fiction. The Oz books have a lot of them, although most of them are friendly. There are, however, many animated objects that are deadly, especially in role-playing games. I was recently thinking of the term “doorbusters,” pretty common around this time of year. I’ve never much liked the term, because someone breaking down a door to take advantage of a sale is hardly something that should encouraged. But it made me think of the living doors in the Sealed Cave in Final Fantasy IV, which do have to be busted in order to get past them.

Every door in the cave is a Trap Door, and trying to open one triggers a battle.
The door will use one turn to target a party member, then another to use an instant-kill spell on that person. The original English translation called the spell Disrupt, but later ones call it Ninth Dimension, hinting that it’s not just killing someone but transporting them to a different dimension, appropriate for a portal.

Even back in the original FF, the Zap! spell is officially said to banish someone into another universe, although the effect is the same as a normal instant death. The Trap Doors will also sometimes bring in a Manticore and disappear.

And the boss of that same cave is a Demon Wall that tries to crush the party.
When I mentioned this on Facebook, I received a comment on how Dungeons & Dragons has Mimics, shape-shifting monsters that can take the forms of wooden or stone objects, usually treasure chests but sometimes doors as well.

Not only do they attack unwary adventurers, but they emit an adhesive that sticks to the first person to try to open them.

As D&D was heavily influential on role-playing video games, it’s not surprising that chest monsters frequently show up there, and are often called Mimics. The Dragon Quest games, starting with DQ3, have both Mimics and Canniboxes, which attack when you try to open an ersatz chest. And a chest with a eyes, teeth, and a tongue appears to be their natural form, as opposed to the D&D Mimics that are naturally amorphous and just disguise themselves as chests.

Canniboxes are strong attackers, while Mimics prefer to attack with instant death spells, both of them tending to be more difficult than other enemies in the same dungeons. Later games have pots that can attack you when you search them as well.

Interestingly, the early FF games don’t have monsters that look like chests, but rather ones that hide in chests, much the same effect but quite different in form. Some of the later games do have living chests, and the Angler Whelk in FF6 wields a chest in the manner of an anglerfish’s light.

There are many other such creatures listed on TV Tropes, one that particularly interested me being the Mimicuties in Kid Icarus: Uprising, chests that can grow legs and kick Pit.

Seems like they’d be good for chorus lines. Super Mario RPG has monsters that hide in treasure boxes, including one called Hidon that’s actually a Piranha Plant, but for some reason shares a name with a boss from FF6.

The Mario games are full of normally inanimate objects that are alive, but only occasionally are they surprises. Perhaps most notable in that category is the Mad Piano in Super Mario 64.

One non-game example is the Luggage from the Discworld books, a being made of sapient pearwood that constantly follows its master around, even through time and after death, but is deadly to just about anyone else. It runs around on a bunch of feet, contains multiple dimensions, and will instantly wash clothes.
The Luggage initially belongs to Twoflower, who claims to have bought it from a magical disappearing shop, and he gives it to Rincewind at the end of The Light Fantastic. In Interesting Times, however, Luggages are pretty common in Twoflower’s home country, the Agatean Empire, although most of them aren’t as hostile as the original one. Terry Pratchett said that the idea came from D&D, although the trans-dimensional predator idea appears to be more reminiscent of a Bag of Devouring than a Mimic.

The Oz series has shape-changing Mimics in Jack Snow’s The Magical Mimics in Oz, although they take the forms of grotesque animals or people instead of inanimate objects. They can also steal the shapes of others, but for some reason only those of humans, not animals or magically animated beings. Of course, these Mimics predate the ones from D&D.

Posted in Animals, Authors, Discworld, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Focus on the Foes, Games, Jack Snow, Kid Icarus, Magic, Mario, Monsters, Oz, Oz Authors, Terry Pratchett, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words with Fairies

Under the Influence of Oz, by Marin Elizabeth Xiques and Chris Dulabone – This book is largely an attempt to reconcile the different depictions of Heartbreak Hostel and its keeper, Soulae Sunchip, between Green Goblins and Havenly Dreams. The former makes the home for goblins without any other place to go rather drab and its keeper simpering, while the latter makes it much more of a genuinely friendly environment. I’m not sure the change really needed to be explained, but it’s pretty interesting. It tells how one of the residents teams up with his hypnotist cousin and a guy named Eli Mental, the villain from Fwiirp, to cast a spell that brings out the worst in everyone’s personalities so that he can take control of the building and turn it into a luxury hotel. The Cowardly Lion and Tik-Tok show up to help save the hostel, but overall it focuses more on Goblin Grotto than on Oz.

Upon the Name of Oz, by Charles Shearer – The sequel to The Answer Lies in Oz seems at first to be only loosely related to the earlier book, but the main characters from that one make their way into the plot, in one case in disguised form. The main protagonist is Yunoo, apprentice to her father, a Master Wordsmith in a community where people craft and bottle useful collections of words. We learn that this place is across the Deadly Desert from Oz, but nobody there is aware of the famous fairyland, and only Yunoo even notices the existence of the desert. There’s a mysterious feel to it, with plenty of surrealism and humor, although the general presentation makes these aspects matter-of-fact instead of wacky. The fairy ruler of this land explains the problem in the end, and the author hints that Yunoo might feature in other tales.

I also feel I should mention that there’s a review of The Lost Tales of Oz in the Spring 2019 Baum Bugle, written by Atticus Gannaway. My stories in it do get mentioned, with “The Other Searches for the Lost Princess” said to contain an overabundance of puns and meet three dead ends by its very nature, which I suppose are both fair criticisms. The puns weren’t the point of the story, but I often did rely on them to keep things moving. Gannaway refers to my other two efforts as more successful. There’s also a general comment on how the attempts to reconcile contradictions tend to get in the way of the stories. The thing is, a lot of my stories basically start out as attempts to tie things together or explain discrepancies, but I do try to give them entertaining plots as well, because I think it’s more interesting for the reader than just presenting my theories by themselves. I will say that Joe Bongiorno has sometimes edited my references to other Oz stories to make them more obvious, which is probably fair, but I kind of wonder if subtler references are less likely to interrupt the narrative. I know a lot of Oz fans don’t much care about continuity, or at least not beyond that of the original books.

Posted in Atticus Gannaway, Book Reviews, Characters, Chris Dulabone, Humor, Magic, Marin Elizabeth Xiques, Oz, Oz Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give Me Pasta Power as Fast as You Can

Okay, nobody at all expressed interest in my reviewing individual Super Mario Bros. Super Show episodes, but I felt like doing it anyway, so here are thoughts on the first four. Each one has both a cartoon and a live-action segment, with the latter much shorter and presented on either side of the animated part. I’m going to go with the cartoon first and then the live action for each episode.

The Bird! The Bird! – Is that title a reference to anything? Maybe to “Surfin’ Bird,” which they originally played in the episode, but it was cut for copyright reasons on later airings and the DVDs? They replace the cover songs from action or chase sequences with instrumental versions of songs from The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and it rarely seems to fit the mood. The first episode is a little different from most of the others in that, while King Koopa is there and sending his troops against Mario and company, he doesn’t really have a scheme going on. The opening narration has it that Mario and Luigi had rescued the Princess from Koopa, and were making their way through the Land of Ice trying to find magic that would drive him away and free her people. Does this take place immediately after the opening sequence, or after the events of the first game? Do the games even count in this continuity? Has Super Mario Bros. 2 occurred, and if so, is anyone surprised that the creatures from Mario’s dream are showing up as Koopa’s henchmen? The main plot involves a nearsighted Birdo who mistakes Toad for her lost chick. This Birdo can fly and lives in a nest, so is more bird-like than the ones in the games. There’s also no reference to the transsexual thing from the instructions, as I guess makes sense; she’s just female. Her idea of a flying lesson is just dropping Toad while high up in the air, so maybe it’s no particular surprise her baby was lost. Toad uses his cap as a parachute, and while he takes the cap off a few times in the cartoons, I have no idea how he got it to inflate.

Meanwhile, Mario, Luigi, and the Princess are spotted by two Flurries, who report it to Koopa; and he sends out troops to attack. We also learn that he likes his feet licked, one of several weird foot references with the character throughout the series. There was actually a page that documented a bunch of them, but I don’t know if it’s still up. When the heroes come across a Fire Flower, the Princess explains to Mario what it is; but when he touches it and gains its power, he says, “I love when that happens.” So is she really just explaining to the audience or what? Mario uses fireballs to melt ice and snow before he does that in a game; I believe SMB3 is the first where he can. Luigi’s awkwardness is emphasized. He struggles to keep his footing after making a long jump, perhaps a reference to how he controls more awkwardly in games where he moves differently from Mario, and uses a lot of malapropisms, like “They got us surrendered!” Mario saves the actual baby Birdo, and Toad, who arrives conveniently nearby after his parachute drop, returns him to his mother. The Birdo then helps drive off Koopa and his forces with vegetables, and invites the gang to her nest for dinner, which turns out to be worms.

Neatness Counts – The live-action bit has Nicole Eggert, the first guest star (she was on Charles in Charge and Baywatch, not that I ever watched either of those), show up in the Mario Brothers’ medicine cabinet for some reason. The Marios want to show how good they are at unclogging drains, and just happen to have a stopped-up sink sitting around. That’s a common thing in this show that doesn’t make any sense but is pretty much required due to the fact that the segments are limited to one set. You wouldn’t normally take a sink or toilet out of your home and take it to the plumbing shop, would you? Anyway, the sink sprays Nicole in the face, and then she steps on a cake that’s just lying around, and gets sneezed on by the somewhat anthropomorphized furnace. It’s okay, though, as she’s attending a sloppy party. Now, I don’t think that’s a thing, but if it were, I’d think guests would show up in messy-looking outfits, not covered in actual filth. But then, I’m not the one who made it up. I suppose I should also acknowledge the rumor that Mario says, “Fuck you, Luigi!” near the beginning. He obviously doesn’t, but the poor sound quality and the constant sound effects don’t help to dispel the rumor.

King Mario of Cramalot – In a very loose King Arthur parody, the gang arrives in Cramalot, a typical sort of name for this show. There’s no real joke in it; it’s not like the people there are all squished together or have to constantly study for exams. It’s just a silly-sounding take on the original name. Their reason for going there is to seek help from the wizard Mervin, who informs them that Koopa took over Cramalot after the previous king died. That’s more explanation than we generally get in these situations. The wizard tells Mario that whoever pulls the Golden Plunger from the Sacred Sink is destined to save the country and become king, and Mario succeeds. The Plunger seems to have magic powers, as Mario uses it to break out of a net. Koopa shows up and takes it, and locks everyone in a dungeon. Mervin arrives after having to buy batteries for his wand, and transports them to the Forest of Perpetual Night and Terrible Dangers, where a hand from the water throws Mario Excalibur, which is a plumber’s snake in this world.

At least it’s not Excalipoor.
It gives him the Super Mario color change, although he doesn’t shoot fireballs. While Mario duels with Bowser, the others fight off the Koopa Troopas, who become immobile when stomped or hit but don’t go inside their shells. Speaking of weird stylistic choices, there’s a particularly lazy bit of animation toward the beginning of the episode, where the characters jump over some Beezos, and then just remain suspended in midair. And when Mario tries to get Luigi to swim across the moat, his excuse is “I can’t! I’m having a baby!” After getting scared by some Trouters (which seem to be a combination of those and the more proactive Cheep-Cheeps; Trouters in SMB2 don’t really do anything other than jump up and down), he runs in the air above the moat, typical cartoon physics but poor video game physics. Those things can overlap, and obviously neither one has to be realistic. In many games, Mario can jump higher than any normal person, change direction in the air, fall from a great height without being hurt, and breathe indefinitely underwater; but there are still a lot of cartoon clichés that don’t apply. The show is inconsistent in what the rules are, which is probably to be expected, but still bothers me sometimes. After the team trashes the Troopas, Koopa throws a bottle of magic potion and first uses the line, “He who koops and runs away lives to koop another day!”, then goes through the door that disappears behind him, something he’ll do multiple times throughout the series. He does this pretty slowly, but no one ever tries to stop him. Where the doors lead is never shown. Mervin offers to let Mario stay on as king, but insists that the king has to be in shape, so Mario gives up the crown and runs away. One question is, if the original intention was to ask Mervin for help restoring the Mushroom Kingdom, why doesn’t anyone ask him? Instead, they help him and then leave. The games would eventually have their own version of Merlin with Merlon and his compatriots.

Day of the Orphan – Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, shows up at the Mario Brothers’ place identifying herself as Patty the Sad-Eyed Orphan and manipulates the plumbers into letting her hang around and setting up a birthday party for her. As they finish preparing, Patty’s parents show up at the door, and they’re obviously mad, but agree to stay for the party. It is kind of weird that a girl who ran away from home would head for a basement plumbing shop, but that sort of thing happens all the time in this show.

Butch Mario and the Luigi Kid – I had this one on VHS, so I’ve seen it quite a few times, and with the cover song (the theme from “Rawhide”) still intact. I haven’t seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but this still seems like a pretty loose parody. Mario and Luigi don’t become train robbers, for instance. From the plot description on Wikipedia, it looks like the main similarities are that they’re on the run from the law in the Old West, and a mine, explosives, and a shootout are involved in some way. Koopa has already captured the Princess and imprisoned her in a mine shaft, seemingly trying to starve her into submission. When Mario and Luigi arrive, they find out that they’re wanted outlaws, due to Koopa having taken over a nearby town and made Mouser the sheriff. Toad is there too, but apparently Koopa didn’t bother to offer a reward for him. The SMB2 boss shows up quite a bit as Koopa’s right-hand rodent, and talks with a German (or, according to some sources, Swiss) accent.

There are a lot of SMB2 elements incorporated into this version of the Wild West. The first wanted poster is found on a Pokey who wants to turn in the brothers until Mario throws a plunger in his face, Ostros are used in place of horses, and Cobrats (and in one case a Piranha Plant, before Piranha Plants that could spit fire appeared in a game) function as guns. When the gang first runs into Sheriff Mouser, they escape by jumping across a waterfall on logs. He sends his posse of Snifits after them, but they immediately go over the falls. Mario and company see some humorously specific smoke signals from the Princess and follow them to the mine, only to run away when Mouser sends a boulder toward them. They come to town and enter a building offering free Italian food, only for it to actually be the sheriff’s office where Koopa is waiting for them. This kind of trick occurs pretty often, and always seems to work on Mario. The three would-be rescuers are locked up, but Toad manages to sneak out in Mouser’s hat, which he somehow doesn’t notice has gotten heavier. Toad uses some Bob-ombs from the nearby saloon to bust out Mario and Luigi, who briefly have a cartoon blown-up look, but quickly return to normal. He bombs the saloon as well, but since Mouser was in there and he’s fine in the next scene, I guess these are the sort of bombs that destroy buildings but leave people standing. Going back to the mine, there’s a showdown between Koopa and Mario, although neither of them hit anything with their weapons because it’s a kids’ show. Well, I say that, but we never find out if the Snifits who went over the waterfall survived. Our heroes go into the mine to rescue the Princess, only to end up trapped in the shaft with her. Conveniently, there are pipes down there, so Mario and Luigi are able to use them to escape and wash away the bad guys.

All Steamed Up – Captain Lou was presumably able to use his wrestling connections to bring in a few pro wrestlers as guests, in this case Sergeant Slaughter in one of two appearances. Mario and Luigi are fixing his steam cabinet, which, like the sink in the first live-action segment, is inside their apartment, even though that doesn’t make sense. At least the Sergeant has a tank to put it on, which he claims he double-parked on top of a Chevy. Mario decides to try out the cabinet and gets trapped inside, while Slaughter forces Luigi to talk in military cadence and do 500 push-ups. When Mario finally gets out, he’s shrunk, and in this case not because an enemy ran into him.

Mario’s Magic Carpet – While it makes sense that they’d do an Arabian Nights themed episode, what with those themes appearing in SMB2, but I have to say that this one makes even less sense than usual. The gang is traveling through the desert with a camel in search of Aladdin’s lamp, and I have to say it’s a little strange that they just use the name Aladdin instead of a goofy parody. Since they’re cartoon characters in a desert, they’re basically required by law to see wacky mirages, and they do. They finally see a swimming pool that does appear to be physically there, only it turns out to be a trampoline. I guess I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re dying of thirst, but the fact that there were no ripples and no depth should have clued them in. Then again, when the animation is lazy anyway, it’s hard to tell what’s on purpose and what isn’t. They all fall into a castle with a flip-top roof, even though it’s unlikely they all would have ended up springing the same distance in the same direction. Then again, I guess springing platforms in the games sometimes work like that. The castle belongs to Sultan Pasbah, a nasty Middle Eastern stereotype voiced by a white guy, who keeps the Princess in his harem and the others in the slave quarters. They’re able to sneak out at night, and Mario is able to take the lamp they’re looking for (nice coincidence, that) by cutting the glass around it with a pizza cutter. You’d think there would be some sort of security set up, but whatever. As they go to summon the genie, the Sultan announces that he’s planning on selling the Princess, and Koopa soon shows up to buy her. He took a little longer to show up than usual, and I’m not sure how he heard that the Princess was for sale. Pasbah does mention putting out a classified ad, but it’s still the same night, so I guess it’s just the good and bad guys happening to visit the same country at the same time again. The genie turns out to be an annoying woman who nags everybody with a New York accent (there must be more of a link between Mario and Luigi’s old home and the Mushroom Kingdom, as even Toad has a Brooklyn accent), and her magic never works the way it’s supposed to. Maybe the Sultan was aware of this, and that’s why he didn’t bother to keep the lamp guarded; but I’m sure I’m thinking about this more than the writers did. I found it odd how she was creeped out by Toad, but gasped with everyone else when Koopa was mentioned. How much news was she privy to while inside the lamp? She tries to make a magic spell but instead makes a magic smell, distracting the Sultan and allowing Koopa to make off with the Princess without paying. And that’s the last we see of Pasbah in the episode. Koopa makes a getaway on a flying carpet with a car built into it, certainly different from the ones in SMB2.

When the genie is unable to do anything to help Mario, Luigi, and Toad chase Koopa, they go to a used carpet lot. We don’t see them there, but there are plenty of scenes of the Marios haggling with sleazy salesmen later on in the show, so I guess we didn’t need one more. We see them on a rather rickety car-carpet, and we find out that Koopa’s evil plan is to dump the Princess in some quicksand. I thought he wanted to force her to surrender her kingdom, not kill her. While this isn’t the only episode where that’s the case, it’s part of why I find this one sloppy. If the Sultan hadn’t been distracted by the foul odor, would he have paid for the Princess and then just dumped her in the sand? Seems like he didn’t really think this out. The heroes do manage to save her, thanks partially to how the sand isn’t really that quick after all, but Koopa uses his carpet phone to call in some Pidgits, who for some reason eat carpets instead of riding on them. Luigi somehow knows their language, which consists simply of the word “Pidgit,” and he convinces them Koopa’s carpet is tastier.

The genie also decides to go bother Koopa instead. As terribly plotted as this one is, we are actually shown how useless the magic they’re looking for at the beginning is, so it doesn’t leave the unresolved question we had with Mervin of why they never even asked him to help liberate the Mushroom Kingdom. Obviously the genie wouldn’t have been able to help. On the other hand, they still have the carpet at the end of the episode, and there’s no indication that they go back for the camel.

Marianne and Luigeena – In the first instance of Albano and Wells cross-dressing, they play Mario and Luigi’s female cousins, who show up when the brothers are out and football player Lyle Alzado is visiting. They shamelessly flirt with him, but leave when they see Mel Gibson in the area. I guess it wasn’t as well known how he treated women back then.

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Mario Map Mysteries

I’ve been looking at the Marioverse Discord group in the past few days, and I’ve seen some interesting speculation as to where certain locations from earlier games might be on the Super Mario Odyssey world map. The thing is, at least from what I understand, the map is pretty full but you don’t actually explore that much of it in-game, instead usually visiting only a small portion of each large kingdom.

Most of these places are inspired by real-world locations: Bonneton is based on London, the Cascade Kingdom on South America, the Sand Kingdom Mexico, the Lake Kingdom on Greece, the Wooded Kingdom on the Alps, New Donk City obviously on New York, the Snow Kingdom on Siberia and Scandinavia, the Seaside Kingdom on France, and the Luncheon Kingdom on Italy. Bowser’s Kingdom is in the sky, but has classical Japanese architecture. Of course, a lot of Mushroom World locations are based on real places, Sarasaland from Super Mario Land being a good example; but the Odyssey world is big enough for the different climates to come across as a little more realistic. Obviously there’s a lot of unexplored territory on the map, and you don’t revisit places from previous games except for a tiny part of the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s typical for new games to focus on new places, but it seems like they could have at least shown the old ones. There is a map with Isle Delfino clearly pictured on it, although the location doesn’t look as tropical as it probably should be. The island from Super Mario Sunshine has a lot of Italian influence as well. The speculation I’ve seen is that Dinosaur Land from Super Mario World could be the islands to the south of the Cascade Kingdom, which also has dinosaurs.

And Sarasaland and the islands from the Donkey Kong Country games might be to the south of the Seaside Kingdom.

It’s possible, anyway.

The location of Yoshi’s Island in Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time suggests that Dinosaur Land is close to the Mushroom Kingdom (assuming that’s the same Yoshi’s Island, as I prefer to), but I don’t think that map is to scale, and I believe you access the areas in that game through portals anyway.

Another theory involved the origin of Mario Land in Super Mario Land 2, which I’ve long wondered about, as when did Mario get his own country? Well, I haven’t played any of the Mario Party games and haven’t much looked into their stories, but the one for Mario Party 2 has it that Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Wario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong decide to create a new land based on their wishes and dreams. They call it Mario Land, although Wario wants to call it Wario Land instead.

Bowser then invades it, and the others have to play mini-games in order to save it from the Koopa King. This would explain where Mario Land comes from, and why Wario is so anxious to take it over. So do the characters literally make this country by wishing for it, or is that figurative? In the Mushroom World, who knows?

Mario Party 2 features some themed lands that don’t feature in SML2, but maybe there just weren’t any castle-unlocking coins hidden there. The picture also makes it look like some of them are in the clouds.

I found it interesting that Mario Party 7 is based around Toadsworth taking his friends on a cruise around the world, and the boards are also inspired by specific real places: Venice for the Grand Canal, China for Pagoda Peak, Egypt for Pyramid Park, the United States for Neon Heights, and the Netherlands for Windmillville. I’ve seen it suggested that Pagoda Peak and Pyramid Park might be in Sarasaland, as the Chai and Birabuto Kingdoms are also based on China and Egypt, respectively.

And is the Shroom City where Mario Party Advance takes place the same as or different from Mushroom City in Mario Kart: Double Dash?

It’s almost as if Nintendo doesn’t much care about consistent geography!

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Oh, What a Joy for Every Girl and Boy

Back in September, my friend Amy wrote a post on the Beatles’ Abbey Road in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. I had meant to write some kind of reply, but I never got around to it, so I’m doing so now. While I’m hardly the Beatles enthusiast she is, I am a fan, and I remember Abbey Road being one of the first, possibly THE first, proper albums I owned. From what I remember, my parents bought it for me after I talked about my music teacher playing “Octopus’s Garden” in school. It’s actually a bit of an odd example of the album format, since a lot of it is a medley of short songs that were never completed on their own. I remember wondering why some of the songs just ended and others went right into the next thing, although even then I noticed some of the connections between them. There’s quite a bit on the album I appreciate more now, but there were a few songs I know particularly grabbed me as a kid. I recall trying to work out the lyrics to “Come Together” (the cassette I had didn’t have the lyrics in the liners), and my mom telling me about the connection to the weird but persistent rumor from the time that Paul McCartney was dead. I had no idea at the time that I think “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” was my first exposure to a song with cheerful music and dark (if absurd) lyrics. Looking back on it, I’m not sure why someone who’s “majoring in medicine” in the first verse is given the elementary school punishment of writing lines in the second, unless that’s just a difference between American and British schools. I know I liked the somewhat nonsensical words to “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” while the ones to “Because” were just weird to me. The Beatles largely have the reputation, at least in retrospect, of being a band for kids, which isn’t entirely unfair, although I also don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. That is to say, there’s a lot of bad kids’ music, but that seems to be largely because the artists are trying too hard to make it child-friendly. I remember when I bought The Annotated Mother Goose, I was surprised to find “Golden Slumbers” in there, only to later learn that it was an existing song to which Paul wrote his own music. I always appreciated the contrast between the ending “And I will sing a lullaby” with “Carry That Weight,” which is very much not something you’d use to put someone to sleep. Hey, is the weight being carried the related to the woman who was so heavy? Actually, “All Good Children Go to Heaven” was in the Mother Goose book too. There’s a definite nursery rhyme feel to a lot of Beatles songs, and in addition to the direct references here, “Hammer” is very sing-songy, “Here Comes the Sun” has a beautiful simplicity to it, and “Octopus’s Garden” is pretty much unabashedly a children’s number. I think the love songs on the record, like “Something” and the aforementioned “Because,” are more the sort of thing I grew to like, but that didn’t do as much for me as a kid. So it’s hardly ALL kiddie music, but there’s definitely a catchiness and goofiness to a lot of it that kids can really appreciate.

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Wait a Macaroni Minute!

I’ve mentioned before that I recently started listening to a podcast on the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and as such I’ve been re-watching some of the episodes as well. I’ve written about the series in a general way, but wouldn’t mind getting into some deeper analysis. I just don’t know that anyone would read it. One recurring joke in the podcast is how many times there’s no explanation for how the characters get out of a predicament, or if there is one it doesn’t make any sense. Another is the theory that pasta is a religion for Mario and Luigi. You’d think two Italian-American stereotypes would be Catholic, wouldn’t you? Hail marinara, full of grace? The word “macaroni” does likely derive from the Greek for “blessed.” There’s also this interview with writer Perry Martin, which is from last year, but I only first saw a few months ago. He discusses how the focus on parodies and the obsession with Italian food largely resulted from the fact that they had to crank the shows out quickly, which is also probably why it often doesn’t have much to do with the video games it’s based on. I’m inclined to think the writers’ bible took a fair amount for the SMB instruction booklet, as the idea that King Koopa enchanted the Mushroom Kingdom is brought up several times, mostly in the Plumber’s Log opening narrations by Mario; and a few episodes have him turning Toads and others into bricks or stones.

The booklet, at least the American one, calls the villain Bowser, but the show never uses that name. It seems like it was fairly common back then for even American fans to call him “King Koopa,” while now “Bowser” is standard; but it’s not like I have statistics to back that up. And in Japan, he’s always just been Koopa. Martin also thinks the pattycake routine Mario and Luigi sometimes do to psych themselves up comes from the Road to… movies with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The reason Mario and company are constantly on the move is generally explained as their trying to find magical assistance in driving out Koopa and freeing the Mushroom People. The manual says the Princess herself is the only one who can break the enchantment, but maybe she forgot the counter-spell. The implication given is that Koopa has pretty much conquered the Mushroom Kingdom, but the Princess remains a threat to his rule, which is why he tries to capture her and force her to surrender. But then, some episodes have him seemingly trying to kill her, which wouldn’t help much if he wants to make his conquest legal.

While many of the episodes are parodies, as I’ve said, it’s often limited to the setting and some of the characters, the basic formula for most cartoons being that Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Toad go to some themed country in search of help, and find out that Koopa is already there and has either taken over the land or is in the process of doing so, or possibly just wants to steal something. Sometimes they go to a new place specifically to stop him, but other times it just seems to be a coincidence that they show up in the same place. But then, the Mario games that existed at that point were pretty linear, so maybe both the heroes and villains are just proceeding to the next place along the line. The good guys thwart Koopa’s scheme, and he makes an escape, often but not always by throwing a bottle of potion to produce a magic door.

We never find out where the doors actually go, though; and he sometimes always manages to raise an invading force even though he rarely takes his troops with him.

Now let’s look at the opening theme, the Plumber Rap. The creators were obviously hip to what the kids in the late eighties were into. I was always confused by the line, “We’re not like the others who get all the fame.” The podcast actually did a whole bit on this, reading the Wikipedia list of famous plumbers to see how many were more famous than Mario and Luigi. They seem pretty famous even within the context of the show, as they have a lot of celebrity customers in the live-action segments, and in the cartoon they’re international heroes. The next animated bit shows Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Toad sliding down flagpoles, which is something that happens in the games but not in the show. These are some really long flagpoles, too. Then Mario runs by King Koopa, who is holding on to a pole, and breaks the bricks above his head and leaves. Koopa looks shocked by this, even though it doesn’t impact him at all. Later, as Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells dance on either side of a cartoon door, several characters run out of it, while the rap goes, “You’ll meet the Koopas, the Troopas, the Princess, and the others.” First of all, while “Koopas” can mean any of the turtle-based enemies, the show usually only uses it to refer to King Koopa, so “the Koopas” sounds kind of like a mistake they kept in, not unusual for this program. And “the others”? The only other one who comes through that door is Toad, who’s pretty significant in the animated segments. This is like when the Gilligan’s Island theme left out the Professor and Mary Ann. The part everyone seems to remember is “To the bridge!”, which I’m not sure is used correctly. But then, I’m not all that knowledgeable about musical terminology. I guess it is the part of the SMB theme that loops back around to the beginning, so maybe? Then, while Lou and Danny run past Trouters and Piranha Plants, the cartoon team rides on a flying carpet, Mario gets a star, and then they fly into a vase and out of a castle window. The vases from SMB2 are another game element that I don’t recall seeing on the show.

There’s a second rap introducing the cartoon, which is also set to the main SMB theme and includes some of the same lyrics. It explains that they “found the secret warp zone while working on the drain,” which is demonstrated by showing them being sucked down a bathtub drain. Luigi goes first, then apparently grabs on to Mario to try to get out, but ends up dragging him down too. The pipe continues far into the ground, with a pretty abstract design. So does everything from that tub end up in the Mushroom Kingdom? I don’t know. Maybe the warp is time-sensitive. As sloppy and nonsensical as the Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode “Toddler Terrors of Time Travel” was, it does seem to confirm that it was necessary for them to go down the drain at a specific time. We cut to Koopa and a bunch of his Troopas up to misbehaving, specifically in forcing the Princess and Toad toward the edge of a cliff. The Marios roll out of the pipe, and Luigi knocks out the Troopas without even intending to, after which Koopa jumps off the cliff. Hmm, kind of similar to Dorothy’s house landing on the Wicked Witch of the East. Let’s hear it for inadvertent heroism! So is this canonical to the show? Did they first meet Toad and the Princess on the edge of this cliff (and yes, I know that the games later established they knew each other as kids, but this was before all that)? What about the Marios having to fight their way through eight castles? Maybe Koopa showed up again shortly after this. And apparently the official name for the cartoon is The Super Mario Bros.

At the end, Captain Lou does the Mario, which mostly consists of his swinging his arms back and forth while transporting all over the background. For some reason, it’s a desert scene that also appeared in the opening, and Beth said it looked more like Roadrunner than Mario. Where are all the floating blocks? The only directions given in the lyrics are to “swing your arms from side to side” and “take one step, and then again,” which doesn’t sound like much of a dance. Apparently there were a few other working lyrics that didn’t make it to the finished version, about zapping and jumping. Maybe zapping refers to the teleportation, unless it relates to the Nintendo Zapper. The Captain does jump once towards the end, then stands with his legs spread and trips a little bit. I guess the show couldn’t afford to do a second take. I remember reading somewhere that the words were supposed to reference how Mario moves in the game, and I guess he does swing his arms, but it’s hardly the most noteworthy thing he does.

Until next time, everybody…well, you know what to do.

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