Who Else Caught the ‘Super Mario Super Show’ Reference in the New ‘Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Ad?
And Chris Pratt doesn't speak even once!
When Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie was first officially announced in 2018, I assumed Nintendo would do everything they could to separate it from the Mario iterations of the ’80s and ’90s. There were two: the Super Mario Bros. film from 1993, starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, and the 1989 Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, featuring a WWF Hall of Fame wrestler named “Captain” Lou Albano as Mario. However, given the teaser for The Super Mario Bros. Movie that aired during the Super Bowl, it seems—delightfully enough—that Nintendo is now okay with acknowledging their past. Or, at least, giving it a nod.
The new teaser is a commercial for the brothers’ plumbing business, and people alive in the ’80s (or, at least, people who osmosis-ed it) recognized the catchy jingle for their business: It’s “The Mario Rap,” the opening credits song for The Super Mario Super Show! It slips into the “retro and awkward local ad” vibe perfectly. To be honest, this teaser has made me more excited and optimistic for this film than anything else I’ve seen.
I’m also delighted to tell you that the website from the ad, www.smbplumbing.com, is a now a functioning website—and the phone number is a functioning number. The website in particular is laden with Nintendo references. For example, if you click on the phone number, you’ll hear the music that played on top of the GameCube logo. Why GameCube? Why not?
And why has Nintendo seemed more than happy to try to bury these old iterations in the first place? Well, both of these earlier adaptations were very weird—in a way that’s jaw-droppingly bizarre and incredibly fun for us, the general public, to take in. Interestingly, both Super Mario Bros. and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! were American productions. The Super Show’s weirdness is the same kind of weird shared by most late-’80s/early-’90s TV adaptations, just more so. You watch it and think, “Really? Nintendo okayed this? Sure, I guess.”
After all, the Super Show is the vehicle through which the infamously bad Legend of Zelda cartoon aired, which means that I now get to show you my favorite YouTube video of all time.
But Nintendo was so ashamed of Super Mario Bros., in particular, that they swore off film adaptations of their properties for decades. For this one, you think, “I cannot believe Nintendo actually okayed this?!!” Seriously: Everyone on set knew they were on a sinking ship, leading to on-set drinking and general negligence. Hoskins said he nearly died twice on set. In one of the non-life-endangering incidents, a drunk Leguizamo accelerated the Mario Bros.’ van too quickly and broke Hoskins’ finger. It’s truly an incredible experience to behold. I highly suggest you watch this flick.
I mention this not just because it’s funny and entertaining, but also because the Mario Bros.’ truck in the new teaser reminds me of that fateful truck in Super Mario Bros. Similar to the 1993 film, the ad also says that Mario and Luigi serve Brooklyn and Queens. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! specifically says they’re from Flatbush.
The closest detail from the games is New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey, which is an obvious stand-in for New York. But it’s never said that Mario’s from there. My point is, this part of Illumination’s Mario lore is taken from the ’93 film and the Super Show, not the games. Again, given Nintendo’s overall attitude of trying to act like these adaptations never existed for the last nearly three decades, I find this fascinating. And delightful!
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy therapist, embracing the your past is the key to moving forward into your future. The use of “The Mario Rap” in this ad feels like not just a fun reference, but a good omen. If Nintendo gave Illumination this okay, my hope is that their thirty-year-long stigma against their own adaptations is truly coming to an end. In other words, The Super Mario Bros. Movie might not just be an exception, but a beginning—and maybe Nintendo will partner with other studios, too. Sure, it’s unlikely, given their deep ties with Universal, but I say this in the most hopeful voice imaginable, because my greatest wish is for MAPPA to produce a Legend of Zelda anime.
For now, I’d settle with The Super Mario Bros. Movie making Chris Pratt perform a rendition of “Do The Mario!”
(featured image: Illumination / Nintendo)
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