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The many faces of Donkey Kong

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Before Captain N, before the Super Show, and before any of his self-titled games became hits....Mario made his first appearance in the 1981 arcade game "Donkey Kong," and then his first television appearance on CBS's one-hour arcade-inspired block of cartoons titled "Saturday Supercade." There, he played second bana.....er, second fiddle to his original nemesis, Donkey Kong, in a cartoon adaption of the game.


Yup...that's Mario, but looking at the other interpretations of the butterball in this era, I can say there have definitely been worse.


For example.....That's the Mario drawing that appeared on Atari's official Donkey Kong cart.


THIS is how Mario and Donkey Kong looked on the Intellivision. It's also why CBS was never given the rights to another Nintendo cartoon.


And THIS is how they looked in Mexico: Mario was a two-headed clown in polka-dot pajamas and DK was an evil orange with a green mohawk and a horn coming out his forehead.


And that's.....well, you get the idea by now.

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The Mario we get for an inaugural cartoon appearance is actually one of the better ones in 1983, but I wish I could say the same for this cartoon as a whole. The Donkey Kong cartoon is hard to find, and many people have been wondering how it measures up against time. Not well. In fact, Saturday Supercade as a whole was terrible--it has to be said. Fortunately, bad cartoons are more fun to write about than good ones.

The DK cartoon's introduction tries (very briefly, via one poster shown for a couple seconds) to give Donkey Kong a backstory. In this non-canonical version, DK was part of a circus and was whipped by Pauline every day until he got tired of it and escaped. Ever since then Pauline and her boyfriend Mario have been chasing him, but the ape finds at least seven ways to trip them up in every episode. This isn't to say Mario was the villain--whenever real villains showed up on Saturday Supercade, they were usually the most tired cliches possible. You'll be meeting a couple of examples shortly.

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Today's episode opens with Mario and Pauline once again chasing Donkey Kong. They're running through a ship harbor this week, so DK sees his easy escape in sneaking aboard a big yacht. But first, he has to slow down his pursuers. He finds a cart full of luggage, opens a suitcase and grabs someone's shaving cream and one sock. Then he fills the sock with cream and throws it at Mario's head. It's enough to make Mario stop running.

The animation is as weak as can be. Note that these wacky antics happen at a very slow pace--when Donkey Kong is rummaging through the suitcase, he throws several items out and they travel through the air almost in slow motion. Every time Donkey Kong appears onscreen--and it's his cartoon, so he appears a lot--he looks at the camera and goes "Eeyuh, hah huh, ooh eeh aaah hyuh hoo hyuh, ooo eeyuh hah HAH hah yuh!" It's one of the worst imitations of a primate I've ever heard, and it goes on and on.

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The ship's captain is greeting the completely unoriginal guests as they board. One is a rich Southerner named....Miss O'Hara (criminy, don't make your sources so obvious). The villains of the piece board after her; a couple of salty sea-dogs with five-o'clock shadows that cover half their faces. They don't really look like pirates, but their voices are overdone pirate impersonations. And their names are....Barnacle and Long John. There isn't a single noun, adjective or adverb in this entire cartoon that hasn't been plagiarized from somewhere else.


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"Behold, Barnacle! There be the Southern Belle!"

"Ah, she don't be much to look at, Long John..."

"Arr, matey! But she be loaded! We'll take her, and nab her dooough!"

So apparently Miss Scarlet is supposed to be homely, but there wasn't much communication between the writers and the model artists.

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"Welcome aboard, Swami!"

With the security on this voyage limited to one nearsighted ship captain, Donkey Kong got on board easily with one cheesy disguise. But he hasn't lost Mario and Pauline just yet--they hop into a large crate and are taken on board with the luggage.

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The moment I first heard Miss O'Hara's faux-accent, I knew there was a part coming where she had to yell a stylized, Penelope Pitstop scream of "Hay-lp!" I didn't have to wait long. Long John and Barnacle make their first attempt to kidnap her right away, but DK hears her screaming and ook-ooks to her rescue. He picks up two exhaust pipes (that don't appear to be connected to anything) and smacks the villains into them, then tosses them both overboard.

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"Why, ah may have lost mah glasses in that struggle, but ah know mah hero when ah see one! What a hunk of a maaaaan!" Miss Scarlet falls for her rescuer right away, having no idea he's a freakishly gigantic monkey and that there are places in the South where you can get shot for the kind of ideas she's getting.

"Ah'll let you have anythang! You just name it, it's yours!"

"Ooh oooh ooook......bananas?"

"Why, ah own the biggest banana plantation in the world!"

Wow, what are the odds? They're a perfect match!

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Back to Mario and Pauline! They know DK has to be on the ship, they just have to find him....it should be rather easy now that he's been leaving banana peels everywhere. Unfortunately Mario slips on one of them and crashes into the kiddie pool, where he-------okay, I'm sorry, but that inner tube on the right is very disturbing. You can make life preservers shaped like fantasy creatures, or cuddly animals, but you CAN'T make one shaped like a woman, okay? It just looks wrong.

It must be a rather deep kiddie pool. Consider that this is the tallest version of Mario there has ever been.

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The "woman" inner tube actually plays a part in the plot. Knowing Mr. Kong would never pass up another chance to rescue a pretty girl, Pauline screams for help from behind a beach chair. The hope is that Donkey Kong will think the woman with the unusually round body is calling for help instead, and once he leaps into the pool, Mario will catch him with a net.

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But it doesn't work. Instead of jumping into the pool, DK grabs a long hose and empties the water out by drinking it. Then he......




Okay, if you want to know what Donkey Kong is doing NOW, ask your mother.

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At this point, Pauline notices Donkey Kong is with Miss O'Hara. She acts noticably jealous, and SHE isn't blinded by loss of glasses. I've already seen enough in this cartoon--I'm hoping what Pauline is showing here is platonic.

DK is suddenly caught between two girls and doesn't know which one to pick--until Miss O'Hara does the picking for him, yanking the ape away from Pauline and declaring that she's going to marry him.

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She wasn't joking. Within no time, she's whipped up the ceremony, with all the yacht's guests in attendance. The ship captain/greeter is apparently also a licensed minister; is there anything he can't do?

The reaction from the guests to the identity of the groom is of total shock and horror, but Miss O'Hara is just as oblivious to the gasps as she is to the constant heavy breathing.

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The gang's all here--bringing up the train are Long John and Barnacle, scheming for another chance at Miss Scarlet's fortune. And Mario and Pauline are hiding in the cake to get the jump on DK. They can't pounce NOW, though--it wouldn't be cliche enough. They have to wait until right after the captain says "Is there anyone who feels this couple should not be wed?" Then Mario screams "I DO!!", wraps the fake icing into a lasso, and throws it at DK.

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Mario missed with the lasso, and Donkey Kong tries to bolt. But Mario tries something else--yanking the rug DK is running on from under him--and sonofagun, this time it works.

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"I FINALLY CAUGHT HIM! I FINALLY CAUGHT HIM!" Mario whoops with ecstasy. Pauline stops his celebration short to note that someone else is gone from the wedding--Miss O'Hara. Barnacle and Long John took advantage of the confusion to nab her and split!

What should they do? Call the cops? Nah....too much trouble. And the humans would never catch up to them by running. Only one being has the strength and speed to stop the two crooks and save the wealthy lass--Donkey Kong! Reluctantly, Mario agrees to let DK free just to rescue her....but he doesn't like it.

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The kidnappers have already left the boat and are rowing away! The logic of Pauline's statement is put into serious question here...you can't tell me anyone else couldn't catch up to these guys in that dinky boat. Perhaps Pauline just said that so DK would go free, for she secretly knows the ape is happiest in freedom......well, probably not, cartoons like this aren't that layered.

Donkey Kong grabs the anchor chain and turns it into a lasso (there's a lasso every three minutes in this cartoon). With marksman's accuracy, he flings it at the boat and nails the crooks!

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Caught by the tails of their dresses....how humiliating.

"OKAY, DONKEY KONG, YOU'VE PERFORMED YOUR RESCUE ACT, NOW GET BACK HERE!!" Mario screams. But yeah right....like DK was ever planning to. He climbs safely out of reach......

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Mario climbs after him, but DK jumps off into the ocean and rides away on the back of a SHARK (showoff). Mario tries to bring him back by using another lasso---hey, it hasn't been three minutes yet! They're going to kill people who are using the lassos as a drinking game...

kongcartoon46.jpg As for homely Miss O'Hara, she was brought back to deck by the captain, which now confirms he holds every single job position on that ship. Whaddya know, they fall for each other--sort of."You look FANTASTIC!" says the captain, throwing his own glasses into the sea. Shrewd playa.


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"Well, look on the bright side, Mario. You caught him once...you can do it again!"

Mario, looking haggard, replies "That's not easy when you're dealing with...."

"DONKEY KOOOOOONG!!" DK cries out Scooby-Doo style. Fade to black.


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And THIS is how they looked in Mexico: Mario was a two-headed clown in polka-dot pajamas and DK was an evil orange with a green mohawk and a horn coming out his forehead.



WOW.....they got the "MR DO'S CASTLE" art mixed up with DK!

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Don't forget, Back when DK first came out he was not yet named "Mario". The Hero of the DK arcade was simply known as "Jump Man". I'm not 100% sure when they started calling him Mario...?

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Don't forget, Back when DK first came out he was not yet named "Mario". The Hero of the DK arcade was simply known as "Jump Man". I'm not 100% sure when they started calling him Mario...?


1983 with "mario bros."?

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I actually caught that "pipe in Mario's rear" show on youtube the other day. That scene is just plain wrong no matter how you look at it :ponder:

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Great job, thanks for the cool pics! However, shouldn't the title be "The many faces of Mario" instead? :)

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i dont think its fair to call out the crappy quality of a 1980s cartoon. they were all crappy. the concept of a high quality cartoon that adults and kids could watch together didnt come around until tiny toons and animaniacs in the late 80s/early 90s.


id love to watch episodes of saturday supercade and pac man again.

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However, shouldn't the title be "The many faces of Mario" instead? :)


My thought exactly! And if it's supposed to be about Donkey Kong, why not also include the Donkey Kong Country version of the character as well?

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