Illumination’s animated all-things-Nintendo celebration The Super Mario Bros. Movie begins with plumber brothers Mario and Luigi splitting from their boss, Spike, and heading off into business for themselves. And any new business needs one thing: a catchy commercial.
Their first TV ad for Super Mario Bros. Plumbing feels like a wink at audience members who were concerned about Mario’s voice, since the brothers (voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) talk in thick, exaggerated Italian accents closer to their typical game voices than what they use in the rest of the movie. The ad goes old-school — it’s grainy and presented in a 1990s style. But it’s even more retro than that, and even more of an inside joke than it initially appears to be.
The commercial actually pulls from the intro theme to The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, a 1989 TV series that mixed animation and live action to create something absolutely absurd. Mario and Luigi’s family isn’t impressed by their foray into TV advertising, but I’m a huge fan — the song in that ad is a bop, frankly, and it’s a callback to the earliest TV iterations of the brothers. Wrestler Lou Albano voiced Mario in the series and played him in the live-action segments, while The Jeffersons’ Danny Wells played Luigi.
Was the show good? Depends on how you define that word. But was it entertaining? Certainly! In particular, Albano and Wells took liberties in portraying the Brooklyn-based plumbers, which certainly gave the characters a unique spin.
The live-action parts, including the Mario rap that opened the show, were real highlights. The first episode in particular opens with Albano and Wells as Mario and Luigi — with spaghetti noodles and sauce on their uniforms — meeting with Baywatch actress Nicole Eggert, who has a clogged sink. They don’t exactly fix the problem — instead, they put Eggert through a whole bunch of hijinks. (For instance, she sits on a plate of spaghetti, and later, she gets covered in cake.) It’s a real treat.
Albano, as Mario, performs another song at the end of each Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode, which unfortunately didn’t make it into the movie. The show’s music is credited to Shuki Levy and Haim Saban, known for music for kids’ TV shows like Power Rangers and Inspector Gadget. Rapper Ali Dee is credited for the new rendition of the song for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but his involvement in the original version is unclear. He’s been a longtime producer and composer on children’s entertainment as well, including the Madagascar TV spinoff All Hail King Julien and the 2010s series Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks. Dee didn’t perform the original rap, his representative confirmed to Polygon.