Travel back in time with me, dear readers, to an era when Donkey Kong was the top-billed star and Mario was merely a second stringer sidekick. That's right, we're going all the way back to 1983 when Donkey Kong and other popular arcade characters starred in the CBS Saturday morning cartoon Saturday Supercade. It was here that the world's most famous digital gorilla got his mass media start, leaving the arcades behind for television along with Frogger, Q*Bert, Pitfall Harry, Space Ace, and Kangaroo. The premise of the Donkey Kong segments of Supercade involves DK as a circus performer who escapes from his trainer (Mario) and his niece (niece?) Pauline, forcing the wayward humans to follow the big lug as he gets into trouble all over the country. Platypus Comix has preserved the classic cartoon, presenting the "Gorilla My Dreams" episode in full along with some fun commentary.
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.
But wait, there's more!
Donkey Kong Junior also had his own Supercade segment that ran a parallel storyline to his papa's plot. After tracking Donkey Kong to the circus, DK Jr. discovers that his father has escaped and gone on the run. Despondent at being abandoned by his only family, he eventually hooks up with a human by the name of Bones and the two of them scour the country on a motorcycle in search of Jr.'s dad. Truly this is epic stuff! Platypus Comix offers more commentary and an episode, "The Teddy Bear Scare".
Today, Donkey Kong Junior and Bones are at a carnival, waiting to babysit a little girl. They're doing this not because they know her, or out of goodwill, but because they need the babysitting money to continue on their journey after Donkey Kong. I knew gas was cheaper in 1983, but I didn't know it could be covered with one babysitting job. The girl's name is Patty, and Bones assures her ma she's in good hands.
Patty whines about how she'd love a prize from one of the carnival games, so Bones tries his luck. He really, really sucks--on his first try, the ball hits a support post and ricochets into his mouth. By contrast, DK Jr's Puppy Power, Monkey Muscle, has so much "umph," he throws a pitch that not only knocks over the bottles, but hits the dumbbell in the "Hit the Meter Thing With the Hammer" contraption, and lands in the milk bottle of a third game. Three wins at once! The monk is guaranteed the biggest prize in the carnival, and it's obvious what prize he's gonna wind up with.
And here I thought Captain N: The Game Master hadn't aged well. Due to the licensing issues that would have to be worked out, I doubt we'll be seeing Saturday Supercade on DVD anytime soon, so these clips may be your best chance to get a look at how cartoons based on popular video games got their start. After watching these videos I think that may well be for the best.