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”?