That Time The Muppets Met Mario

Something fun, for your Sunday.

I think “Muppet Babies” might be (by default) the closest to “overrated” any of the mainline Muppet productions ever got, mostly because it was probably a certain generation of kids first exposure to the characters. Absolutely not a BAD show, by any means, but watching it again now it’s kind of unnavoidable that the ratio of preschool-moralizing to actual humor is a bit lopsided in the not-as-funny direction (also, yes… having all the character voices pitched so high starts to grate after a bit.)

But, fond memories I still have; particularly of the handful of episodes I had on tape and watched incessantly as a kid. One I only think I saw once, however, was (for obvious reasons) burned into my head just enough that before you could look these things up on the internet there was a period when I thought I’d imagined it: “It’s Only Pretendo.”

If you’re not familiar with (or don’t recall) the premise of the show, the Babies would play this or that make-believe game, which would flip back and forth between the “real world” of their nursery and elaborate visualizations of what they’re pretending is going on; often using mixed-media additions of movie and TV footage (usually public-domain, but sometimes big stuff like “Star Wars” which is why this isn’t on DVD yet.)

This episode is built around playing “Pretendo,” which you’ll gather is supposed to be a video-game console (the “lesson” turns out to be “play friendly and share” rather than “put that down and go outside,” UNHEARD OF in any other cartoon of the era where gaming was involved!) Aside from the obvious, I think the reason this one probably stuck out to me as a kid was that you almost NEVER saw video games being played by characters on TV and you definitely never saw reference to ACTUAL games. But that’s what goes on here, as the main part of the show is essentially wall-to-wall reference to Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Frogger (of course) Q*Bert and even The Power Pad(!) plus relative obscurities like Keith Courage and Fantasy Zone.

Enjoy! Part I   Part II   Part III

4 thoughts on “That Time The Muppets Met Mario

  1. Pat says:

    …Wow. I'm shocked how much I remember from that episode.

    Also, the Power Pad was a piece of junk. Even while cheating (hitting the pad with your hands rather than your feet) you still would generally go too slow for the Gold Medal. Still, it was ahead of its time.


  2. Joe says:

    One of the reasons I really liked this show as a kid was the parodies of real-world films and entertainment properties. This was a few years before I started watching Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and the like, and we didn't have on-demand access to millions of parodies courtesy of YouTube. This might be one of the first animated/children's properties to embrace parody as its central premise. But you're right, it doesn't hold up as well as later shows that used the same concept.


  3. Hyrabethian says:

    Personally – looking back – I think the biggest problem I would have now is how unoriginal most of the episode were in actual content. As much as I love and also have fond memories of the show… I have to ask, just how many episodes revolving around Star Wars did they plan on making. Even Kevin Smith has shown some resistance by not flat out making an entire movie about that trilogy. And if it wasn't Star Wars, it was some other popular 80s movie/music/cultural reference.


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