It's stated that by 1990 thirty percent of households owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. Based on Statistia, there were ninety-three million households in America. That's an estimated twenty-seven million Nintendo owners, many of which who were children.
Bottom line, Nintendo was big, and the company behind some of the most notable video games of the 1980's weren't about to leave money on the table. Kids were big business, and they knew it. With names like Mario, Luigi, Zelda, Link, Mega Man, Simon Belmont, and various others being common place topics on the average schoolyard playground, it was no doubt that these iconic characters were household names across the country.
With Saturday morning, and weekday cartoons still in the prime of their popularity, it seemed only a natural transition for both worlds to collide. No, it wasn't a new concept. Shows like Saturday Supercade and Pac-Man already had major success in the early 80's. Rather, what was to come would just be the next iteration.
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
The first to come was The Super Mario Bros. Super Show in 1989. What made this cartoon a unique concept was its melding of live action segments, which often featured guest stars, intermixed with animated shorts that stared the popular cast of the video game.
Fans of WWF and Nintendo found themselves in a win / win situation with Captain Lou Albino taking on the roll of Mario for both the live action and (voiced) animated segments. His co-star, but relatively unknown to most kids, was, Danny Wells. The seasoned actor portrayed Luigi in both live and animated iterations.
Each hour long show started off with the live action portions being set up for a varying circumstance, which would play out as the episode progressed. These were broken up by animated shorts of both Super Mario Bros., and The Legend Of Zelda. Additionally, when originally aired, the show also included animated sections overlaid by a popular hit from musical artists of the era. However, these were removed when the series was released on DVD, and overlaid with instrumental music.
In total, there were fifty-two episodes over one season which aired each weekday, all of which contained an all new Super Mario Bros. themed short. However, there were only thirteen The Legend Of Zelda cartoons (which only aired on Fridays), and these were repeatedly re-run throughout the series.
Shout Factory restored both the Super Mario Bros. Super Show and The Legend Of Zelda, releasing them both in 2006. Super Mario Bros. encompassed two volumes, and included the full live action segment, as well as the Mario and Lugi cartoon short. Because Shout also released all thirteen episodes of Zelda, these segments were not included within the Mario episodes, forcing you to have to buy both if you wanted the whole shebang.
NCircle obtained the rights to both series in 2012, and released them all again on DVD. However, to many fans disappointment, they removed the live action segments, retaining only the animated shorts. As such, the Shout Factory releases remain the more coveted versions for fans to purchase.
Captain N: The Game Master
While initially unrelated to the above series, but released within the same period, Captain N: The Game Master featured brand new character, Kevin Keene, and his dog Duke, as they traverse Video World, helping their Nintendo themed friends, Princess Lana, Simon Belmont, Kid Icarus, and Mega Man in their plight against Mother Brain, and her henchmen. These villains too were popular characters from the 8-bit era, King Hoppo, Eggplant Wizard, and Doctor Wiley. Other villains included Donkey Kong, Alucard, Ganon, and other Castlevania themed monsters.
While the first season of the show was a stand alone, season two paired each episode with The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3, and season three removed these in lieu of Super Mario World. In total, there were thirty-four episodes. More on season two and three below.
Shout Factory also obtained the rights to this show, and released what was called The Complete Series in 2007. However, this was not an entirely true statement, as the discs only contained seasons one and two. This was because "technically", season three was considered a separate show by the copyright holders, who would only allow for the final episodes to be released as a package deal entitled, Captain N: The Game Master And The New Super Mario World, which was also released this same year. More on this below.
Both sets are currently out of print, and on secondary markets, but can be somewhat pricey.
The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3
Changes were made to this all new series airing in 1990, which saw the exit of Captain Lou Albino and Danny Wells, and in general, the omission of live action segments. As a result, most of the animated cast features all new voice actors.
Because the show was based on the third Super Mario game, many of the power ups and characters associated with that particular game were featured. However, the episodes often took place on Earth, in what the characters referred to as, "The real world." Additionally, the series as a whole established a continuity to it, something which was lacking in its predecessors.
The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3 only ran for one season, encompassing twenty-six episodes. When aired as re-runs were separated from Captain N: The Game Master.
Due to the success of prior DVD releases, Shout Factory obtained the rights to the series, and released it in 2007. This series too originally included music segments, most noteworthy from Milli Vanilli. However, these were removed from the DVD, and replaced with music from Captain N.
The New Super Mario World
Technically, as noted above, the title is Captain N: The Game Master And The New Super Mario World, which aired as season three of Captain N in 1991. The show featured all the voice actors from The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3. However, to remain aligned with the game the series was based on, Toad was removed. What's odd is that he was replaced by an all new, and unrelated character, Oogtar.
Unlike prior series, there was no copyrighted music utilized during any of the episodes. Meaning the unaltered originals could be re-run in syndication, as well as not impact any future home video releases.
Due to the time frame in which it aired, the show is impacted by the Children's Television Act. Basically, the show had to meet certain education restriction in order to apply for license renewals, and also limit direct advertising towards youngsters.
As noted above, Shout Factory released the entire series with the Captain N episodes in 2007. What's interesting about this is that the copyright factor seems to have been forget shortly thereafter, as NCircle would later release just the Super Mario World episodes as their own DVD set in 2012.
Where I think the entire package of these DVD's has an advantage to other cartoons released these days is their overall spectrum of appeal. On one hand, you have 80's cartoon fans who will buy up pretty much any title they can get their hands on. Meanwhile, on the other hand, there is also a lot of appeal to vintage video game collectors. Then there's people like me who have an appreciation for both vintage cartoons and games, making it a win / win across the board.
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