Normally I take something dumb or weird out of the cartoon and try to put it in the weirdest, funniest, and most extreme light. But in the Christmas episode of the 1991 Super Mario World cartoon, some shit goes down that I cannot fathom as anything other than characters actively try to kill each other—and King Koopa is by no means the only culprit.
First, though, you need to know this isn’t from the cartoon that aired during Super Mario Super Show cartoon, starring former wrestler Lou Albano as a live-action Mario. Super Mario World came later, was based on the Super Nintendo game of the same name, and aired as half of a 30-minute series titled Captain N and the New Super Mario World.
Like its video game namesake, Super Mario World takes place entirely on Dinosaur Island. Unlike its namesake, the cartoon adds a lot of cavepeople as ancillary characters, mainly to give Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool (as she was still known back then), and Yoshi something to deal with besides constantly stopping the Koopa family’s silly plots. The cavepeople are not like the Flintstones; they’re not even like Captain Caveman. They’re grunting idiots entirely devoid of personality…or dialogue. The lone exception is Oogtar, a young caveboy who is a main member of the cast despite being, to use the scientific terminology, “a little shit.”
Oogtar sucks. He’s greedy, selfish, and so abrasive and unpleasant his mere presence is enough to get every other member of his tribe screaming angrily at each other, as we see at the beginning of the holiday episode, titled “The Night Before Cave Christmas.” Mario creates the titular holiday in hopes of spreading some joy and goodwill around to counteract Oogtar’s toxicity. When Luigi points out it’s only August, Mario replies, “These dumb idiots have never heard of Christmas, and they’re going to hell because they’re godless heathens anyway. Who gives a shit if we make it a summer holiday?” (I may be paraphrasing.)
Mario’s big plan is to make a lot of toys, dress up as Santa, get Yoshi to pull his sleigh, and distribute these gifts among the cavepeople in hopes they distract them from their hate. King Koopa (this was also before he was named Bowser) plans to steal all the toys and give them to his terrible children, Oogtar’s plan is also to steal all the toys for himself, because he is a little shit. But when Koopa arrives for his Christmas heist, Oogtar is forced to hide in the bag of toys that Koopa hauls away.
And now we must discuss the Bob-omb incident.
Back at his castle, King Koopa dumps all the toys and presents out on the floor, and Oogtar falls with them. The caveboy’s unrepented greed far outweighs any danger he might have felt upon realizing he’d been kidnapped by the biggest and most evil villain in his world, and Oogtar insists the presents are his. Koopa says no. Oogtar grabs a gift anyway. Koopa says he’s giving that one to his son Bully but fails to snatch the present out of Oogtar’s hands. Oogtar opens the present and discovers it’s a Bob-omb (i.e., an ambulatory, sentient bomb with a very short lifespan). Oogtar tosses the package to Koopa. The Bob-omb explodes.
There were absolutely no other presents visible in Koopa Castle, so this “gift” fell out of the bag. This means it was made and wrapped by Mario, Luigi, or Princess Toadstool, the only three people we see working creating toys in their makeshift workshop. These gifts were intended exclusively for the cavepeople, which means unless Mario, Luigi, or Princess Toadstool accidentally found and absent-mindedly gift-wrapped a bomb, which is absurd, one of the three of them has a Dexter-style Dark Passenger that wanted to kill someone.
This fact is unassailable. The question is, who was the target? Oogtar is the safest guess because he’s a little shit, but Mario had repeatedly told the caveboy that only good children get presents, implying that the plumber was considering giving Oogtar nothing, in hopes of inspiring better behavior in the future. However, only Mario—having packed the bomb himself—could kill a specific victim as he’s the one who distributes the gifts. The other option is that Mario planned to give it out to some random caveperson, which would also have been the result if Luigi or Toadstool were the murderers. And we can’t deny the possibility that a pair or even all three of them were in on it together, morbidly exulting with the knowledge that Cave Christmas would begin with a bang…and a corpse.
Whatever the plan was it was foiled by King Koopa, but this leads us down another dark road, perhaps even darker. Having learned this particular present was intended for Koopa’s son, Oogtar is rightly appalled that a father would send his own child a bomb for Cave Christmas. Now, since we know Mario and company packed it, you’d probably assume the king just didn’t know the gift’s contents and would become extremely grateful he didn’t accidentally harm Bully. But upon catching the gift containing the Bob-omb, King Koopa says a very odd thing: “No! You’re not supposed to go off until Christmas!” When the bomb explodes, he continues his sentence: “…morning.”
Clearly, Koopa knew that the package contained a bomb, and he was very purposefully giving it to his son. I assume he spent his ride back to Koopa Castle taking random packages out of the toy bag and shaking them to guess their contents. He must have been surprised to discover a gift-wrapped Bob-omb, but he knew exactly who he would give it to, allowing him to finally commit the filicide he’d so longed for. And while it’s messed up that Mario, Luigi, and/or Princess Toadstool wanted to murder a caveperson on their very first Christmas, it’s infinitely more messed up that Koopa wanted Bully to believe his father gave him a gift out of kindness before experiencing a second of pure terror and then exploding, presumably while the rest of the Koopa clan watched.
But back to the episode. A Santa-suited Mario and Yoshi arrive at the castle, and after facing some standard Mario video game foes (Boos, Dry Bones, Thwomps, etc.) they rescue Oogtar from a death trap King Koopa has kindly walked away from. Oogtar tries to avoid admitting he had been trying to steal all the toys, then he apologizes and tries to look repentant. When that fails he promises Mario he’ll be good from this point on, and Mario still catches the dumb idiot crossing his fingers behind his back. Oogtar sucks so bad, but he does give the episode its one delightful moment: when Yoshi flat-out tells Oogtar he’s been bad, Oogtar whips around and yells “YOSHI NO ANGEL EITHER” while pointing accusingly.
Everyone in this goddamned cartoon has a dark secret.
All that’s left is for Mario to gather up all the toys, fly home, tuck Oogtar into bed—who affirms Santa already gave him a gift by saving his life, and then wheedles that Santa could still also give him a tangible gift, you know, if he wanted to—and then deliver the presumably non-lethal presents to the rest of the cavepeople, including one to Oogtar, ensuring the caveboy faced zero consequences for his actions and learned nothing.
As far as cartoon Christmas specials go, Super Mario World has some interesting holiday ideas to impart, especially in the “any gift you receive could kill you, even if it’s given by your closest friends and relatives” area. It also teaches kids that they can be greedy monsters all year round, including on Christmas Eve itself, and still be reasonably certain they’ll get presents in the morning.
Whether they’ll still be alive that afternoon is anybody’s guess.
- Please enjoy the Super Mario World show’s introduction and its very unexpected theme song.
- I can’t tell you how much Oogtar sucks, you guys. His voice is like broken glass, and half of his limited vocabulary is made up of D-level Bart Simpson catchphrases, usually with “dino” shoved in somewhere, e.g. “Dino-bummer!”
- Mario cuts down a tree with a fishbone. It made me weirdly angry, I think because it’s so half-assed compared to Flintstones tech.
- Upon putting Oogtar in the deathtrap, King Koopa tells him, “Remember, Ootgar spelled backwards is Ratgoo!” The trap has nothing to do with rats or goo (it’s just a dinosaur in a pit) and there’s no way Oogtar has any concept of what spelling or letters are. So it’s not the best line.
- Oh, the Captain N cartoon that makes up the other half of the show is a real stinker. Mega Man and Captain N argue about whose dog is better while permanent Mega Man antagonist Dr. Wiley pretends to be good and helps build a giant peace robot. As was completely obvious, Doctor Wiley steals it and uses it for evil for about half a minute before getting defeated. It’s bad, but it has left me with haunting questions: What, exactly, is a giant “peace robot” supposed to do?
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